Every team should have a farm team. Farm teams should ideally constitute at least two or three volunteers who will accompany the collection driver and assist with catching, carrying hens and loading crates. This often involves an early start but the feel-good factor is tremendous. If you are interested in putting your name forward, please contact email@example.com or speak to your co-ord. Having said this if you do agree to a farm collection please do try and attend unless there is a very good reason for dropping out. We calculate timings based on the number of helpers at the farm: fewer helpers make for a longer, more tiring day for the other volunteers and a delay in arriving at the rehoming point.
Getting farm timings right is a fine art. We use experience and local knowledge, but we can only really guestimate how long a shed or colony will take to empty based on the farm conditions, weather, balance of new and experienced volunteers and sometimes the non-cooperation of the birds themselves. Nobody likes to get back to base late, flustered and stressed to find a queue of rehomers already waiting (we all know they tend to arrive early anyway). Conversely in the freezing winter weather volunteers don’t appreciate waiting around for an hour before the first rehomer arrives. It is preferable to factor in more time than needed to allow for unforeseen hold ups, break downs, road works etc so please be patient, take a flask with a hot drink and wear warm clothing in winter.
Farms can be dangerous places and although we do our best to risk assess farms and anticipate problems, all farms have their own peculiarities and hazards.
Generally, we try to appoint a Farm Lead familiar with the farm, in advance, to manage the depopulation process and liaise with farm staff.
It’s important your team arrives on time at the farm so that the Farm Lead can give a short health and safety briefing before depopulation starts. Please allow time for unexpected delays on route.
The Farm Lead briefing will cover the specific farm working method for the day and will avoid confusion and delay when hen catching begins. Once catching is underway please pay close attention to instructions from the Farm Lead while working in the manner that has been briefed.
We could not do the work we do and save more than 60,000 hens every year without the cooperation and goodwill of our farmers.
Truth be told, the farmers don’t need to let us in, especially when we disrupt their working day far more than the professional hauliers do. We need them to be on side.
Therefore, we ask that you always remain professional and polite when visiting the farms. Never say anything detrimental that could be overheard by the farm staff. Whatever your private thoughts are about the way hens may be kept, the conditions at specific farms or the industry as a whole; voicing your opinions during a depopulation is not helpful, appropriate or acceptable as a BHWT volunteer.
Farmers talk to each other, and our reputation could quickly be lost, as could our ability to work with the farmers to save the hens from slaughter. Obviously, nobody wants that to happen.
Why do we raise this? Because recently we had feedback from a farmer that one of his staff had overheard inappropriate and, for him, upsetting comments from one of our volunteers. We know how difficult it can sometimes be to see birds in poor condition, but it is vital we hold back our views whilst at a farm.
If you have visited a farm and you have concerns, then please email me.
It is vital that we arrive at farms with clean crates. Crates swapped in a crate exchange need to be fit for immediate use at the next farm, not left for the exchanging team to re-wash and disinfect. Please see our guide to crate washing on the VIP for a more in-depth explanation of crate washing to read at your leisure.
Farmers are extremely cautious now that Avian Influenza is playing such a big part in our lives. We could be turned away if biosecurity is poor and that means hens not being rehomed; perish the thought.
Would your team benefit from additional holding space for hens on adoption days?
We are trying to secure funding for walk-in runs for use on adoption days. The runs are available several sizes and have separate sections; stable doors, security porches and covers etc, to provide shade and shelter. Please take a look at them here and let me know if this is an item that may benefit your adoption days. Thanks in advance for your input!
All donations made for extra hens on a rehoming day need to be recorded against the rehomers who made them. This is really important because as a charity we are subject to audits on donation procedures meaning all donations should be accurately allocated.
Taking money on the rehoming day should be carried out by one person who has had training and is dedicated to the task on the day to enable them to focus on it entirely.
It’s also important to record donations against the correct rehomer so we can claim Gift Aid where appropriate; it’s a great income stream for the charity and costs the rehomer nothing.
For guidance on this please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rehoming has now restarted, hooray! The free-range farms we are visiting while still in flock down have had to keep their hens inside since late November and internal ground conditions are poor in many instances. As a result, you may be seeing hens with hard compacted mud balls on their toes. These are a mixture of mud and faeces and they set as hard as concrete. Please do not be tempted to soak these mud balls off. It takes hours for the mud to soften sufficiently, and the birds will not appreciate being held in a water bath for ages. The easiest way is to use a pair of dog nail clippers or secateurs. Very carefully chipping away at the outside until the ball is small enough to work loose. Getting a couple of team members to concentrate on doing this while others rehome is the most efficient way and takes the pressure off those handing the hens to rehomers. Take it slowly and avoid cutting across, always work parallel to where the nail will be lying. (See photos)
I’m sure most of us have been to farms where a good proportion of the hens that come out are small and feather bare almost to the point of being oven ready. In the same run of cages there may be a few hens that are well feathered and plump almost like show birds. Rehomers will sometimes ask if they can have mostly well feathered hens (especially during the winter) but also one of the baldies because they look so pathetic. As a general rule I am always reluctant to mix & match in this way. Assessing body condition and feather scoring can save a lot of problems further down the line. A bald hen will be more likely to suffer bullying from her stronger sisters, especially when her new feather quills come back in.
In cold weather always try and give the less well feathered hens to people with a stable of barn that they can keep them in initially and avoid giving the little scraps to first timers who may not spot the signs of a hen not doing well.
Following a review at leadership team level, we have changed our 3-hen minimum adoption number to allow for greater flexibility. This takes into account the increasing number of free-range hens being adopted, the improvement in fitness and also run sizes being offered on some purchased hen houses. You may find that adopters are only booked for 2 hens or even 1 hen if the adoption is for a companion to an existing hen. We always try to ensure that the correct number of hens for the size of housing are booked and would advise against offering additional hens to rehomers without establishing they have enough space to accommodate additional birds comfortably.
We love seeing the posts that you put up on Facebook after rehoming days they fill us with pride and give us a warm fuzzy feeling. It would be really helpful if you could also post on the BHWT volunteers page so that all the teams, not just people that are friends with you, get to see them. We can all learn so much from each other and the Official volunteers page is an excellent place to compare notes.
Safeguarding doesn’t only cover children in school situations, it also covers vulnerable adults on rehoming days. If you have any urgent concerns or have seen something that worries you about the safety of another volunteer or rehomer speak to your coordinator on the day. If you feel that the situation can wait until normal office hours, please contact Stuart.email@example.com Stuart will be able to assist you.
Our office is now open at weekends with our experienced rehoming team member Louise Seddon able to help with lost timings, missing directions, hen health queries and more. Louise’s contact details are pinned to the top of our BHWT official volunteer group Facebook page. Louise has been a coordinator herself and understands the sort of issues that volunteers can face on rehoming days.