Chicken & Egg Issue 10 - Spring 2015 - page 17

When I first started this charity, in fact even
before
I started this charity it was of
paramount importance to me that any
farmer I came across would be afforded
the same respect I give to anyone else.
That premise has stood firm throughout
the charity’s first ten years, and I find it
gratifying that when I meet industry
members now, rather than step away
from me looking somewhat
uncomfortable (yes you did!), they are
now happy to engage in conversation
and discuss points of mutual interest. It’s
taken a long time, but it’s been worth the
wait.
I’m always honest when I talk to farmers;
they know that my long term aim is to see
all laying hens have access outdoors, that
they be kept in small flocks with good
range enrichment and high standards of
stockmanship. That’s the ideal. But whilst
the demand for cheaper eggs remains,
and eggs from caged hens are widely in
demand within the processed food
sector, I remain staunchly in support of
those eggs being produced in the UK.
One remit of the charity has always been
to give the girls that don’t get the chance
to enjoy the pleasures of life outside that
golden opportunity to experience chasing
insects through the air, rootling for grubs in
a compost heap, etc. And it stands to
reason that if it wasn’t for the trust that has
slowly built over the past ten years
between the charity and the industry, we
wouldn’t be anywhere near helping our
half a millionth hen, we’d probably have
saved just a few hundred from slaughter
instead.
Helping colony hens will
always
be our
priority, for no other reason than the ‘high’
it gives to watch a hen who has never
experienced sunshine slowly slump as she
settles for a sunbathe. But the second ten
years of the charity’s growth is all about
working with and promoting the small
flock free range farmers too.
We are finding increasingly that small
independent farmers ask us to take their
flocks - usually less than 1,000 birds. And
whilst there is a truth in acknowledging
that it saves a farmer money to give us
their small flocks, we are aware there are
farmers who genuinely care about the
fate of their hens, and who would prefer
them to have a happy end after their
laying cycle rather than the alternative.
It seems appropriate therefore to start
helping those farmers we want to see
flourish, and as such we have decided to
actively support them by offering some
small flocks of free range hens for
adoption; after all, free range
commercial hens go to slaughter too.
Whilst we do not anticipate taking large
numbers of hens from free range units
(we currently home 95% colony birds),
where we have a gap in supply of colony
hens, we won't turn down the opportunity
to help their fellow free rangers.
Of course you play a role in this too, and
we hope you will agree with our rationale
by adopting hens from those farmers we
want most to help. We will, naturally,
always advise you which system your
birds come from.
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