Our history

The British Hen Welfare Trust was set up in 2005 to educate the public about laying hen welfare. 

Best known for our rehoming initiative, we have found pet homes for over 730,000 commercial laying hens destined for slaughter. Jane Howorth, the Trust’s Founder, was moved by a Panorama documentary in 1979 which illustrated the stark conditions inside battery cages. Her remit from the outset was to be pragmatic in educating consumers whilst being respectful supporting the British egg industry.

By 2008 the charity had already helped nearly 62,000 hens and after appearing with Jamie Oliver on Jamie’s Fowl Dinners, a Channel 4 programme about the poultry industry, there was a surge in interest.  The charity’s national network of volunteers grew rapidly and the number of hens being adopted grew rapidly in tandem.

In 2010 we featured in a BBC2 documentary presented by Jimmy Doherty, The Private Life of Chickens about hens’ behaviour and psychology. Following the show we saw another significant increase in their popularity.

As well as finding homes for hens the charity began a positive campaign to improve hen welfare through consumer shopping baskets, encouraging people to check food labels. In 2011 the charity played a huge part in Hellmann’s switching to free-range eggs in its mayonnaise, improving the quality of life for tens of thousands of hens. Consumer influence at its most powerful.

Being chosen as the BVNA’s official charity of the year in 2015 was a proud moment for the team. In January 2016 Jane was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for her services to chicken welfare and during the same month we rehomed our 500,000th hen, Dee.

In 2017 the charity launched a schools education programme designed to engage and inspire the next generation of young hen keepers.

The following year, in November 2018, the charity was thrilled to be named JustGiving’s Charity of the Year.

Looking to the future, and with so many hens being kept as much-loved family pets, the charity is excited to be working with top avian vets to improve pet hen health in 2020 and beyond.