Jane Howorth runs a charity called the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), in mid-Devon which collects hens that battery farmers don't want and invites members of the public to give them a new home.
As reported in The Daily Telegraph of 23 July 2005
she has found places for 12,000 birds.
"They go from one extreme to the other," says Howorth. "For the first year of their life they're in cages with less floorspace than an A4 piece of paper, and the next minute they're being installed in the most sumptuous hen-houses you've ever seen; we call them Peckingham Palaces. Some families custom-build Wendy Houses for their hens, while others favour the eglu, a trendy sort of henhouse shaped like an igloo."
And it's all done at such speed: two hours after they've been brought from their cages to the Trust's headquarters at Chulmleigh, near Tiverton, the hens will be leaving again with new owners.
One minute, they're these terrified creatures walking out into the sunshine for the first time ever, the next they're scurrying around all over the place."
"We do vet people before letting them have our hens, and we do most definitely turn people away - particularly if egg production comes too high up on their agenda," says Howorth.
"In actual fact, we can't guarantee how many eggs, if any, they will produce. One thing that does help, though, is if you feed them tasty things: cooked pasta, cooked rice and vegetables go down particularly well. And if you hang up half a melon in the hen-house, they'll reward you richly when it comes to laying."
Naturally, Jane Howarth wants to see an end to battery farming and says, "It's not just a matter of refusing to buy battery-farmed eggs either; it's about writing to big companies and asking them to stop using battery eggs in products such as mayonnaise."
Chickens are highly socially birds and anyone wishing to adopt up to 4 hens, can contact the British Hen Welfare Trust, Hope Chapel, Rose Ash, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RF; www.bhwt.org.uk