Rehoming Team Coordinator
We are the British Hen Welfare Trust and since 2005 we have been saving and rehoming ex-caged laying hens throughout the United Kingdom. Working closely with leaders in the egg industry, we designed and developed the original rehoming model for ex-caged hens, and so far have found homes for over 800,000 hens to date.
We’re looking for volunteer drivers to load and transport hens from commercial farms (assisted by other BHWT volunteers), and deliver them to our rehoming sites throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
Each rehoming site conducts approximately 10 events a year which are generally held on weekends.
As a volunteer driver you will travel to commercial farms and rehoming points within your designated area. Ideally you will be used to driving some distances towing a trailer or driving a van. We will provide training and support, both remotely from Hen Central, and face to face with our local volunteer team coordinator leads.
A day in the life of Lucia, one of our Rehoming Team Coordinators
A hen rehoming day is pretty simple – you need to make sure that hens get from the farm at A to your rehoming centre at B, and then from B you will wave them off on their journey to C. When you leave A you want to leave a happy farmer behind; at B you want to be working with a happy team, and when the hens are driven off to C you want them to be travelling with happy adopters. The coordinator’s job is to make space for all this happiness to grow! Simples!
Or maybe not….there’s always those pesky details! If the farmer is to be happy you need to arrive on time, with plenty of volunteers who know what they are doing and sufficient crates which are clean. Farmers start work REALLY early, so ‘on time’ is almost always 8am. And the farms are unlikely to be anywhere near you – to get there for 8am you will be setting your alarm for the joyless time of 5am (and I know as I write this that there are other coordinators out there who will be saying “5 am? I’ve usually been on the road for half an hour by then!”). In my team we have lots of people who are happy (well, willing. OK then – prepared, for the hens) to get up at this time, so our trips to the farm are quite good fun (or were before COVID) with everybody piling into a car for a dawn trip down an empty motorway.
At the farm you need to collect the hens quickly and kindly. Collecting hens requires a degree physical fitness, but nothing too scary. The more volunteers you can bring along, the less each individual has to work, and the quicker the process will be. There will be several other BHWT teams there too – you won’t be on your own.
Once back at your site it is up to you as coordinator to decide how to run the rehomings and once the team is organised it swings into action. I love this bit: the hens are counted out of the crates and released, crates are emptied, washed and stacked. The adopter’s car park is marked out and signs are put up. Spare boxes are prepared for those adopters who bring inadequate ones. Poorly hens are identified and put in a separate pen.
After the whirl of people busying around, suddenly everything is ready for the adopters. The coordinator’s role is also to make sure nothing gets overlooked, and make random decisions confidently (“this poorly hen can be rehomed if we find the right adopter, but that one is too poorly and can’t be rehomed today”; “we arrived back later than expected and the hens haven’t had enough of a chance to eat yet – rehoming will start in 30 minutes”).
Once the adopters start arriving I snuggle even more deeply into my back seat; everybody on the team knows what to do and does it. If we are short-handed I will fill the hole, but we very rarely are. Again my job is to be on hand to answer adopter’s questions (“Do I need to worm the hens? Will she get on with my cockerel?”), and to make decisions. If an adopter is interested in taking a poorly hen I talk to them and try to decide if they can offer what the hen needs. On the extremely rare occasions when there is an awkward adopter (about 2 out of the hundreds we’ve seen) I deal with them.
As the number of hens in the holding pen gets lower I start doing chicken maths, which is much harder than normal maths. Normal numbers stay still, but chickens move around and hide behind each other. The aim is for the last adopter to arrive for, say, four hens, and for you to have exactly four hens left in the pen. It is amazing how you can count 144 birds into crates at the farm, take out 148 at your rehoming site, keep three back as poorlies not to be rehomed, then have 142 birds to rehome!
Nowadays adopters pay for their birds in advance, which has had a miraculous effect on attendance. It is now pretty rare to have people simply not turn up because they have changed their mind, but they do manage to get the wrong date, or the wrong time, so it is worth ringing as soon as they are late to see if they are on their way. And there is always the odd adopter who is under the impression that if they find the time slot they were given inconvenient, they can amble up whenever they please, possibly several hours later. When you have been up since 5 in the morning and there are just three lonesome hens left, waiting for an adopter who is late and who has just told you that they couldn’t make the time allotted so they thought they’d come after tea, and all the rest of the team has gone home because there is no point everybody waiting for the late person, and you are cold and covered in hen poo and want to go home too and have a shower….well, that is a conversation that will test your politeness to the limit.
As well as being the last to leave, as a coordinator my rehoming ‘day’ is much longer than a day. There is a certain amount of organising beforehand: getting adopter lists ready, making sure there is enough hen food, making sure you have a driver and enough volunteers for the day.
After a rehoming there is the paperwork. I guess people become coordinators because we want to help hens, and we want to really get stuck in; we are happy to get up early, wallow in mud, heave crates around, have chickens poo on us, and generally work hard. Paperwork doesn’t really get a look-in. I am not a natural form-filler-inner, and I guess many other coordinators aren’t either. There is no way to pretend that this bit is fun, but Hen Central need records for tracking and tracing chickens, which has been going on for a lot longer than tracking and tracing humans. It’s really not too bad.
Having leftover hens is a bit time-consuming, although Hen Central will find adopters for them as fast as they can. Poorly hens can completely take over your life; I think that most coordinators end up doing at least some of the poorly caring, and looking after poorly hens can be wonderful – seeing a thin, sick bird blossom into life once placed in a good environment is magical.
I hope you can tell from the way I have written this that I really enjoy rehoming days, and being a coordinator. The main reason they are such happy days is because of the team I work with; Everybody in it is lovely and it is pure pleasure to work alongside people you like for such a very worthwhile purpose. In the morning you take hens that are just part of a flock of a few thousand – they are not even a number – and by the afternoon, because of you and your team, they have names, and people to look after them who will notice their personalities and feed them treats and try to make them happy.
I feel utterly supported by the people at Hen Central. I have not yet had a problem that I can’t bat to them and have them deal with it. They are very good at accepting from you what you can give, and finding a way around those things you can’t do. I imagine there are very few problems they haven’t seen and dealt with before; and if you do manage to find one, well – that is just good practice for them!
In summary: I’d say the only absolutely essential characteristic for a BHWT coordinator is that you need to be somebody who doesn’t panic, whatever happens. You need to be able to act as though you are cool and calm and collected and know what you are doing even when you don’t. You need a lovely team around you, a mobile phone, and a really loud alarm clock.
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