Necky the hen - Picture by Niamh Cubie
Ireland’s chicken-rescuing charity, LittleHill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, is calling on kind-hearted Kilkenny residents to offer caring homes to caged hens that are currently facing slaughter. Over three weekends in October, the charity’s volunteers aim to bring hundreds of rescued chickens to various towns across the county for adoption.
But why are these animals facing death? At commercial egg farms, hens are kept until they reach about a year and a half old, at which point their productivity decreases, but only very slightly. This small reduction in eggs renders the birds unprofitable, so they are routinely culled and replaced by a younger flock.
To save hens from this unfortunate fate, LittleHill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary has been rescuing hens from a number of Irish egg farms for the past few years. Before each rescue effort, the charity first needs to secure happy homes for the animals, where they can experience long and happy lives, outside the confines of factory farm cages.
“We started rescuing hens as I hated the fact that most of these girls are killed without ever knowing a moment of kindness, or even seeing the outside world,” explains Susan Anderson, founder of the charity. “They are just over a year old, so the majority will live for a few more years, often providing their new owners with five to six delicious cruelty-free eggs per week.”
But an ethical breakfast is just one benefit of sharing your life with these feathered ladies. Many of those who adopt hens report that they soon become much-loved family pets.
“They are such funny little characters with such different personalities; so nosey and curious and quite adventurous,” said Mary Cowman, who lives near Thomastown. “When they learn to trust you and let you pet them, that feels so nice!”
Mary also told The Kilkenny People how rewarding it was to see her hens transform from pale, featherless, anxious critters into beautiful, confident and happy birds. “The feathers grow back quite quickly and their little crowns turn a lovely red again,” she said. “Their confidence and curiosity develop too. When you see them making new pals with the other hens, or lazing around in the sunshine, taking dust baths, it is so sweet. It’s very satisfying.”
To acquire your own fine flock, the charity asks prospective adopters to send a private message to their Facebook page, LittleHill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary, stating the collection town, date and the number of hens they would like to reserve.
Local pick-up locations include Urlingford on October 12th, Kilkenny and Thomastown on October 13th, Callan on October 19th, Castlecomer on October 26th and Graguenamanagh on October 28th. Those without a Facebook page can book through a friend’s account.
So, what must people do to prepare for their new arrivals? “You need a nice warm hen house or shed that can be locked at night, and a secure outdoor area that will keep them safe from foxes and dogs,” says Mary. “Other than that, it’s easy!”