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Our Journey

Since 2005, the British Hen Welfare Trust has been saving and rehoming commercial laying hens throughout the United Kingdom. Working closely with leaders in the egg industry, the BHWT designed and developed the existing rehoming model.

December 1979

Jane Howorth watches a Panorama documentary, Down on the Factory Farm, about the living conditions of domestic livestock, including caged commercial laying hens, inspiring her to dedicate her future to helping hens.


April 1995

Jane moves to Devon and saves her first hens from slaughter, including one very special hen, Vicky.

Jane Howorth Westcountry Retirement Home

October 2003

Jane places an advert in a local paper offering people the chance to rehome hens, under the name Westcountry Retirement Home & Re-homing Centre for Battery Hens. She receives thousands of responses.

April 2005

Jane officially launches the Battery Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), the country’s first dedicated hen charity.

Jamie's Fowl Dinners

January 2008

Jane appears on Jamie’s Fowl Dinners, the Channel 4 programme featuring Jamie Oliver and the truth about the chicken industry, sparking a surge in interest in rehoming hens.

March 2010

The charity is re-named the British Hen Welfare Trust.

BHWT 250,000th Hen

31 December 2011

Laying hens were taken out of their barren battery cages for the last time and the BHWT rehomed its 250,000th hen.

1 January 2012

The use of barren battery cages is banned across the United Kingdom.

Ian Farrar, Sam Morgan, Gaynor Davies

October 2015

The BHWT is named the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) Charity of the Year for 2015/2016.

BHWT 500,000th Hen

January 2016

The BHWT rehomes its 500,000th hen, called Dee.

Jane holding MBE square

May 2016

Jane accepts her MBE, awarded in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

Just Giving Awards Credit Oliver Dixon

January 2018

The BHWT is named the JustGiving Charity of the Year.

BHWT's 750,000th Hen

December 2019

The BHWT’s 750,000th hen is saved from slaughter and wings her way to a free-range retirement in Northumberland.

poultry vet

February 2020

The BHWT launches a funding scheme for ground-breaking research to improve pet hen health.

BHWT Devon 500th Rehoming Day

Coming Soon...

Our new ‘Hen Central’ Devon Centre will be open to the public! The Centre will house our hen-centric hen hospital as well as ultra-modern meeting rooms to hold online and personal hen-keeping courses for beginners and experienced keepers alike. Watch this space!

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 755,000 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.