Cock-a-doodle-doo you have a home for a hen?

Fresh Start for Hens
Fresh Start for Hens
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It’s not only dogs and cats that need loving homes, but hens too.

And that’s why Melton woman Emma Mitchell gives her spare time to helping a charity which saves the feathered creatures from slaughter.

Emma Mitchell, Fresh Start for Hens

Emma Mitchell, Fresh Start for Hens

Emma, 48, joined the Fresh Start for Hens (FSFH) group and now acts as a collection point during ‘rescue days’ during which birds are rehomed.

She said: “I’ve always had an interest in animal welfare and decided I wanted to try my hand at chicken keeping around five years ago, so applied to rehome some ex-battery hens through Fresh Start for Hens. That’s how my first flock of five hens arrived with me. I took to it immediately and maintained contact with FSFH through their very active facebook group.

“When my partner and I moved to Melton three years ago, I applied to become a volunteer and to provide a local collection point for rescue days, as there was a gap in coverage for this area. I was immediately accepted; we moved into the house in the February and I was hosting my first collection point six weeks later, in March 2013.”

Many of the FSFH volunteers have jobs and families, including Emma, who is a full-time mental health nurse in the NHS.

She said: “We give whatever time we can spare to the organisation. My own role is as a member of the national reservations team and a member of the ‘farm team’ as well as being a local collection point host.

“We liaise with farmers in identifying flocks of hens which are due for slaughter and work with farms throughout the country. Slaughter age for commercial hens in the UK is 72 weeks, despite their natural life span being much longer. When we have an identified flock for rehoming, the hens are widely advertised by the volunteer team.”

Online reservations are taken at a minimum donation of £2.50 each. As FSFH is a not-for-profit organisation, the donation covers the farmer’s purchase price, van hire and fuel to collect and distribute them and vet fees for any sick or injured hens.

Emma said: “We have a no cull policy and don’t leave them behind even if they appear too sick to re-home.”

FSFH has more than 100 collection points nationally, operated from volunteers’ back gardens. They are held roughly every six weeks throughout the spring, summer and autumn, and less frequently during the winter.

Hens are rehomed the day they are collected from farms. Emma explained: “We collect them around 6am, drive them to their collection points where they’re fed and watered and their rehomers will collect them the same afternoon, so they’re all safe in back yard coops and gardens by that evening.

“We usually take between 1,500-3,000 hens on each rescue day so it’s quite a large operation. We’ve rescued and rehomed 44,683 hens overall, around 13,000 of which were last year.”

l The next three ‘rescue days’ are February 27 and March 19 and 26, with more than 6,000 hens available. Visit www.fsfh.org.uk for more information.