REAL LIFE CHICKEN
|Battery hens are given their freedom
Whilst the Chicken Run chooks dug,
catapulted and eventually flew to their freedom, battery chickens
across the South West are being liberated by one woman determined
to see them end their days in freedom.
When Jane Howorth and her husband relocated to Devon they
planned to make the most of the outdoors by keeping a handful of chickens.
But what began as a hobby, rapidly turned into a mission
- a rescue mission.
"I went to a battery farm intending to get a dozen,"
explains Jane. "I was so appalled by the conditions, I came home
with three times the amount."
Overnight Jane became a campaigner for chicken welfare
and her house became home for hundreds of battery hens.
Inside Out joins Jane, her husband and a team of volunteers
as they prepare for their biggest challenge yet - the re-homing of 1,600
A life of confinement
has become a campaigner for chicken welfare|
Twenty-four million chickens are currently battery farmed
in Britain ensuring the low prices of eggs and chicken products.
In small cages not large enough to turn around, thousands
of chickens endure the monotony of life spent eating and laying.
Once past their laying prime - the abattoir awaits.
Whilst it is easy to lay the blame with the farmers, Jane
insists that they 'are only supplying a demand for cheap eggs'.
"At one end it's the politicians who regulate the
system," explains Jane. "At the other end of the scale, it's
actually the consumer who purchases the products."
Jane always works with the full co-operation of the farmer
and in her latest rescue it is the farmer's retirement that paves the
chickens' way to freedom.
17-month-old chickens have spent over a year in their cages|
Whilst the chickens' escape may not be as dramatic as
their feathered counterparts in the animated film Chicken Run (no catapults
to be found here), the result is every bit as satisfying.
"I have a tremendous sense of relief that I'm taking
them out," enthuses Jane.
"All it does is remind me why I do what I do."
For the 1,600 hens, this is their first taste of the outdoors
- not surprisingly, open space is a little daunting for them.
Most have forgotten how to walk and need a helping hand
Mobility is further limited by their long nails.
Living on wire mesh flooring, there is no solid surface
to naturally grind the chickens' nails down. For some hens, their nails
are so long, their feet are distorted, so one of Jane's first jobs is
Sick hens are taken to Jane's make-shift hospital wing
for some much needed care and attention.
Home sweet home
|Chicken Farming Facts|
There are currently over 20 million
battery hens in Britain.
A hen enters a cage at 20 weeks
and will remain in the cage for an average of 52 weeks before
Each hen has less space than an
A4 piece of paper in which to move around, leaving:
- no room to flap and stretch
- no means to dust bathe
- no perch on which to roost
- no nest to lay an egg in (they never actually see what they
70% of eggs produced in the UK still
come from battery hens.
Only 6% are produced by barn reared
24% are produced by free range hens.
On average a battery hen lays only
15 more eggs a year than a hen that has been kept in barn or free
Once restored to full health and acclimatised to their
free range surroundings, all 1,600 chickens find new and permanent homes.
The chickens will live out their days ranging free with
several more laying years ahead of them.
Jane's tireless efforts on behalf of chicken welfare do
not end there. Jane is currently setting up a nationwide network of re-homing
To get involved in the network, or to simply find out
more about Jane's work visit www.thehenshouse.co.uk
Despite a rising demand for organic produce and an RSPCA
survey confirming that 86% of consumers are opposed to the battery system,
70% of British eggs are still produced at battery farms.
The discrepancy in numbers arises from the use of battery
laid eggs in processed foods including mayonnaise, quiche and cakes.
In short, if the packaging does not label the eggs as
free range, the product contains battery eggs.
In order to fashion a change in the industry the responsibility
falls to the consumer to let their money do the talking, as Jane explains.
"It's only if the consumer makes the choice and decides
not to support this industry that it will make a difference."