National Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June) is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution volunteers make to the country and last year celebrated its 30th anniversary. Volunteers are a vital part of our work and we are always on the lookout for new people to join our team.
Early mornings, loading and unloading hens, greeting re-homers, old and new, getting covered in mud and poo …oh, and saving lives – it’s all in a day’s work as a BHWT volunteer!
Gaynor Davies, Head of Ops and Devon Co-ordinator, first began volunteering with us over 6 years ago. Gaynor explains, “I first became involved with the BHWT as a hands-on volunteer on Devon re-homing days. I found the experience incredibly rewarding, so please don’t let the thought of getting covered in chicken poo put you off!
By 2008 I found myself Co-ordinator of both the South Zeal and Chulmleigh hen collection points in Devon, I think this happened because I am naturally quite an organised person and enjoy seeing a well-managed team working together, or it might be just because I was mad enough to offer!
Re-homing days always involve an early start. I will have been told the day before by Hen Central how many crates I need to load onto my vehicle and how many lucky hens I am collecting from the farm. So once I have prepared my farm clothes, disinfected my boots, dug out my mobile phone and plugged in my sat nav I head off to meet my team at the local farm. We always arrive on-time and pride ourselves on our speed and efficiency!
Each team member is allocated a task – taking hens out of cages, running them to the packers, loading into crates or moving crates onto vehicles. As many as 2,000 hens can be easily starting on their way to a free range home in as little as two hours.
We drive back to our local pop-up hen collection point, usually a volunteer’s home and in this case my home. The crates are unloaded from the vehicle, then the hens taken out of crates and placed in a secure barn with food and water. Whilst some of the team stay with the hens, watching for any with problems that may want a little extra TLC, the others start the vital job of pressure washing and disinfecting the hen crates. Biosecurity is really important and the farmers that we work with know that they can trust us to be ‘farm clean’.
When we have a spare moment we grab a cuppa and often one of the team has brought homemade cakes (free range eggs of course!)
The re-homers then start to arrive in some semblance of a pre-arranged order/delete and are ticked off the list by our admin volunteer at ‘Chicken Check-in’ as we like to call it, I think the Berkshire team first came up with this snappy title/delete and other volunteers give advice as needed.
The volunteering job everyone wants is the very/delete important task of handing the girls over to the excited re-homers, it’s my favourite part of the day and gives a feel good factor like no other! Boxes, dog crates and cat baskets are loaded, donations given and photos taken, but it’s not until we wave the last few hens goodbye that we can finally start to relax.
It is a fast and sometimes exhausting process, but the friendship and camaraderie that builds up between team members is brilliant and the feeling of having done something amazing gives you a buzz that lasts long after the last hen has been popped into the back of someone’s car.
After the barn is swept, feeders washed and stored for another day, goodbyes said and hugs exchanged it’s off to have a long hot shower and a well-earned glass of something cold.”
Volunteering isn’t for everyone and we don’t expect everyone to help every time, but if you think you might be interested in giving us the very valuable gift of your time, please take a look at our Current Volunteer Vacancies or email Gaynor Davies.