While the holiday season, marked by festive family gatherings and belt-testingly bountiful meals, just might be the most joyful time of the year, for the millions of factory chickens who end up on our tables, the air is decidedly less merry. But amid the season's great fowl-feed has come a bit of good news for a fortunate two-thousand former battery hens in Coventry, England. Thanks to local chicken advocates and heaps of hen-loving residents, a sizable flock of birds once slated for the slaughterhouse now have real homes following the largest chicken adoption drives ever conducted in the UK.
On New Year's Day a new chicken-welfare law will begin to require farmers to provide more humane conditions for their battery hens -- by making modest upgrades to the size of their cages, along with providing nesting boxes and perches for them to rest on. For some farmers, complying with the new ordinance means they'd have to reduce the number of chickens they keep. But instead of sitting by and watching the birds be killed for the sake of the bottom-line, animal advocates in England's West Midlands County pushed to find the surplus hens new homes throughout the community.
With the help of the British Hens Welfare Trust and bird devotee Ian Farrar, two-thousand would-be chicken dinners were gifted a new lease on life as part of one of the largest re-homing efforts of its kind. From across the region, hundreds of locals volunteered to become caregivers to the formerly unloved battery chickens.
“These are the last hens and they’re going to die otherwise because any hens remaining after New Year’s Eve will have to be killed. The response has been amazing," Ian Farrar tells the Coventry Telegraph. “We always knew that people in the Midlands love their hens.”
This isn't the first time Farrar has gotten involved in such a chicken-friendly adoption program. In the last few years, he's helped find over 30 thousand unwanted hens new homes across the UK -- though this is recent effort, conducted in just the last few weeks of the year, is his biggest undertaking yet, thanks in part to an air-conditioned bus he's using to transport the birds from factory farms to loving homes.
“It’s the biggest hen re-homing event the country has ever seen. We’ve gone from hoping we could save a few hundred to having homes ready and waiting for all 2,200 girls the farmer has left, so not a single hen will be left behind. It’s really very heart-warming,” says Farrar.
Although for many this time of year might seem empty without a bird on the table, perhaps the true spirit of the season is better paired with a full heart and home rather than a full belly.