Hen Charity Leads the Way in Facilitating First Research into Pet Chickens

The British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) is once again leading the way in hen welfare by launching a pioneering new forum to facilitate research into pet chickens.

This online forum, nicknamed The Coop, will pave the way for ground-breaking studies by scientists and researchers around the world into hen welfare and hen keeping.

Hens have been sadly neglected by the world of evidence-based academic research, with only two known papers written about their welfare – one of which concluded that there was a need for more research.

Now, the tide appears to be turning and researchers are beginning to study our backyard flocks.

As well as providing an online space for scientists and researchers to communicate and share their studies, the BHWT is also promoting their research surveys to its supporters to help them gain insight into frontline hen-keeping.

Jane Howorth MBE, Founder of the BHWT, says, “It is wonderful to see the world of academic research realising what we’ve always known – that our pet hens matter! They are just as deserving of scientific studies as our other animal companions who have been more extensively researched.

“The research about to be undertaken ranges from exploring how hens benefit our mental health to seeking good veterinary care and appropriate drugs. They will also examine how the pet hen population has grown over the years and reasons for keeping them, and which homegrown remedies are used and which work.

“We have European Council-funded research being carried out on non-human life in London and Delhi and a close look at end-of-life options and decisions. Calls and emails into our Hen Helpline will also be analysed so we can better understand what health problems our adopted hens face and better inform our adopters on how to handle them.”

Some of the first research to be supported by the BHWT will be a study called ‘From the Backyard to our Beds’ by Jenny Mace BSc, MSc AWSEL, FHEA, Visiting Lecturer on the MSc in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law at the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester. 

The survey by Jenny, who has previously adopted ex-battery hens, will collect much-needed data on the care-taking practices and attitudes towards chickens of non-commercial chicken carers. 

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Jenny says, “This is your opportunity to participate in the most comprehensive survey to date about backyard chicken keeping/rescuing! To my knowledge, this research constitutes the first quantitative study to distinguish between ex-commercial and ‘standard’ chickens. It is also the first to enquire about some niche care-taking practices, such as the use of hormonal implants as a possible means of healthcare in hens.

“The results should be fascinating and I urge all backyard chicken keepers/rescuers to make sure their experiences are captured by filling out this survey. Thank you so much!”

The BHWT will also be supporting work undertaken by Keiran Ragoonanan, a student at the Royal Veterinary College in London, who is investigating backyard chicken husbandry and feeding practices in the UK.

His survey, which will aim to answer what kinds of chickens are being kept, for what purposes, how they are housed, what they are fed and what enrichment is provided, can be filled in here

Keiran says, “Knowing how the nation’s chickens are kept will shed light on how we can improve the lives of these fantastic birds. Hopefully, my research alongside the other research on The Coop will increase the quality of care for chickens so that it is up to par with our other beloved companion animals.”

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Ultimately the result of all this research will be used by academia and shared out amongst peers, trade, poultry keepers and the public.

Jane adds, “I am so proud of what is being done to improve the welfare of our pet hens and deeply grateful to all the researchers shining their spotlight on these wonderful creatures.”

For more information visit: https://www.bhwt.org.uk/hen-health/take-part-in-ground-breaking-research-to-help-pet-chickens/

For photos and to arrange interviews please contact:

Kathryn Howard: PR Officer
Direct line:  01884 840631
E: Kathryn.howard@bhwt.co.uk

Notes to Editors

The British Hen Welfare Trust [BHWT] has been rescuing hens from slaughter and rehoming them throughout the United Kingdom since 2005. Working closely with leaders in the egg industry, the BHWT designed and developed the original rehoming model, and has rehomed over 807,000 hens to date.

In addition to it’s rehoming efforts, the BHWT works closely with government agencies and veterinary institutions to develop programmes and practices to improve hen welfare. The BHWT has also developed an education programme providing resources to schools to help pupils explore food, farming and animal welfare. Additionally, the BHWT is researching and developing a Hens as Therapy programme to assist those suffering with mental health.

The BHWT provides online information and expert guidance for pet hen keepers and offers a hen helpline for advice on caring for sick birds.