Sunday, 15 December 2019 marked a huge milestone for the BHWT, as we rehomed our 750,000th hen in Gateshead! The lucky lady went to live with the Clifton family and was spoilt rotten with goodies from Feldy, easichick, Higgidy, Seedball, ChickenGuard and Allen & Page. We must say a huge thank you to all our supporters for helping change so many lives – here’s looking forward to hen number 1 million!
Never could our founder Jane have imagined when she placed an ad in her local free paper that in 17 years’ time she would have saved over 750,000 hens from slaughter.
The British Hen Welfare Trust was founded in 2005, but it’s important to look back before that date to truly appreciate the milestones which have led the charity to where it is today. It was back in 1977 that Jane watched a Panorama documentary called Down on the Factory Farm, which highlighted the living conditions of farmed animals, including caged commercial hens, and which sparked her passion for all things poultry.
But it wasn’t until 1995 that a move to Devon allowed Jane to rehome her first flock of ex-bats, including a special hen called Vicky with whom Jane formed a very special bond.
Come 2003 and Jane made the first move towards dedicating the rest of her life to poultry when she placed an ad in a local paper offering people the chance to rehome a hen who had ‘never seen the sunshine and never tasted grass’. From that point on Jane’s phone didn’t stop ringing, and it was in 2005 that the charity, then known as the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, was founded.
Three years of hard work involving long days, thousands of chickens and hundreds of willing volunteers caught the attention of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who then involved Jane in an episode of Jamie’s Fowl Dinners, a Channel 4 programme about the poultry industry.
Her appearance on the programme resulted in a surge of interest in the charity, and it wasn’t long before Jane rehomed her 100,000th hen in 2009. As a ban on battery cages was on the horizon, the BHWT decided to rebrand and in March 2010 became the British Hen Welfare Trust to better reflect the aims of the charity and leave behind the negative connotations of the word ‘battery’.
In the same year Jane and the charity featured on Jimmy Doherty’s BBC2 programme, The Private Life of Chickens, which further cemented the BHWT as a respected voice on all things chicken. On 31 December 2011 you’d have found Jane and our Head of Operations, Gaynor Davies, taking the last few battery hens out of their cages, and the following morning the system was banned across the country.
With hundreds of thousands of hens now rehomed, the charity turned its attention to improving veterinary treatment for pet hens and, in 2015 was named the British Veterinary Nursing Association’s Charity of the Year, securing articles about our beloved hens in veterinary press and raising awareness of laying hens among a wider audience.
January 2016 marked two major milestones in the charity’s history, with our founder Jane being awarded an MBE for her service to hen welfare as well as watching our 500,000th hen wing her way to a free-range retirement.
It was all glitz and glamour come November 2018 as the BHWT attended the JustGiving Award ceremony in London, and was crowned Charity of the Year 2018.
A year later and the charity rehomed its three quarters of a millionth hen at the end of 2019, just in time for a new decade to begin in which we have already launched our Improving Pet Hen Health programme. Not only that, we are getting ready to officially open our Hen Welfare, Education and Visitor Centre here in Rose Ash.
It’s been an incredible journey so far, and one we can’t wait to continue, with all our supporters by our side, without whom, none of this would have been possible. And for that, you have our Mother Hen’s resounding thanks.