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Student vets volunteer to get hands-on with chickens in need of new homes

A group of veterinary students enjoyed some hands-on experience with chickens by volunteering with the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT).

The British and American students from the University of Glasgow gave up part of their weekend to help at a BHWT rehoming day in Denny.

The volunteering trip was also one of the first events held by the new Association of Avian Medicine (AAM) set up by vet students at the university.

Cameron Clark, a first-year vet student and co-founder of the AAM, said, “It was a great opportunity to not only help with the re-homing but also get hands-on with the birds because at vet school we get little experience handling poultry. Plus, all the people there were so knowledgeable about chickens and husbandry that it was great to speak with them and pull on some of the knowledge they had to offer.

“I would love to go on and specialise in poultry or avian veterinary. I’ve had hens since I was nine years old, and I was given a few to start off with; I’ve been fascinated ever since.”

The AAM is a chapter of the Association of Avian Veterinarians and currently has around 80 members, although the official membership process is still being finalised. The association hopes to arrange more events, such as talks from a commercial poultry rearer and a lecturer from The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh.

To continue his quest for more specialist poultry knowledge, Cameron is also in the process of applying for one of six grants available from the BHWT for veterinary students and vet nurses doing research that will improve and benefit the quality of health, welfare, and longevity of pet chickens.

Cameron added, “Over the summer I hope to carry out a four to six-week-long project using a small group of hens to examine environmental enrichment and behaviour using pecker blocks, treat blocks, and cameras.

“I think grants like this are an amazing opportunity for people to get real hands-on time with birds and do research that will help us to learn so much more about their behaviour and gain more knowledge on how we can suggest improvements in their welfare.

“I hope that with grants like these and the establishment of the AAM, there’s more opportunity than ever to expand specialist knowledge of birds and make connections with lecturers and professors who have the knowledge to share but don’t have the opportunity within the curriculum to do so.”

The BHWT has six grants of up to £3,000 available, one of which is being co-funded by the prestigious British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) PetSavers.

There are two rounds of grants to apply for. The deadline for the first round is December 15, 2021. The deadline for the second round is July 15, 2022.

To find out more about the grants visit our small grants webpage.

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 900,000 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.