The country’s leading chicken charity has announced it will offer research grants to veterinarians and vet and agricultural students to improve pet hen health across the globe.
The British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), founded in 2005, is working with avian specialists to commission research projects that will help improve diagnosis and treatment for chickens, increasing the quality of welfare and longevity of pet hens.
Applications will be open from 1st February 2020, and will be sent to the BHWT’s scientific review panel, chaired by Dr Neil Homer-Forbes BVetMed Dip ECZM (avian) FRCVS and including Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe BSc (Hons) MSc PhD, Dr Tom Bailey BSc, BVSc, MSc, PhD, CertZooMed, MRCVS, Dr Tom Dutton BVM&S CertAVP(ZM) DipECZM(avian) MRCVS, Mark Elliott BVSc. VetMFHom. MRCVS.MLIHM. PCH. DSH. RSHom, Dr Tariq Abou-Zahr BVSc CertAVP(ZooMed) MRCVS and Marcella Perversi MRCVS.
The applications will be scrutinised for suitability, viability and merit by the panel and will also be shared with the Royal Veterinary College Ethical Review Board before grants of between £1,000 and £3,000 are awarded. The panel will be looking for projects that have a rapid and positive impact on the way diseases in hens are diagnosed, managed and treated in general practice as well as at specialist level.
The charity, which has rehomed more than 750,000 commercial hens otherwise destined for slaughter, has played a significant role in increasing welfare standards and the level of care for pet hens since its inception, and played a part in ensuring the end of the barren battery cage in 2012.
Jane Howorth MBE, founder and CEO of the BHWT said: “The scientific evidence and knowledge around pet hen health is currently very limited, which means that thousands of hens each year are either being unnecessarily euthanised or misdiagnosed. These new research grants will take hen health to the next level across the UK, providing practitioners with a wealth of material and guidance that has never been available before. Our hope is that these projects will increase knowledge about both common and rare disorders, resulting in better care and diagnosis and ultimately providing hens with a longer life expectancy.
She continued: “We like to think that our research will travel across the globe and reach veterinarians in other countries as we know hen knowledge is inadequate elsewhere in the world too. We want to help as many hens as possible and provide reassurance for every chicken keeper out there that their lovely birds will be treated with the same love, respect and expertise as their beloved dogs and cats.”
A recent study carried out in England found that there are now one million hen keepers in the UK alone, and chickens have crept their way up to become the sixth most popular household pet. As a result, vets are seeing more hens in their treatment rooms, despite the lack of scientific knowledge surrounding treatment.
Marcella Perversi MRCVS, veterinarian at West Ridge Veterinary Practice in Winkleigh and member BHWT’s scientific review panel said: “Whilst I’m not an avian specialist vet, I’ve been treating an increasing number of chickens over the past 15 years, and have become very interested in developing new procedures to give every chicken the best chance at a healthy free-range future. There are some incredible avian specialists out there, but for average hen keepers cost can unfortunately be a barrier to seeking the treatment their hen needs. These new projects will increase knowledge amongst general veterinarians and will therefore mean that even more chicken owners will have access to excellent care for their pets.”
Results from the research will be published in peer-reviewed scientific or veterinary journals as well as in journals such as Veterinary Practice, In Practice, VNJ or the Vet Times, so as to reach vets and veterinary nurses at the sharp end of hen welfare. Successful applicants will also be expected to provide a brief article outlining their research and findings for the BHWT’s Chicken & Egg magazine.
Applications for grants will open on 1st February 2020 and will be available via the BHWT website.