WHEN thinking of the perfect gift idea for Christmas, the idea of a new pet often comes up.

That new pet is often a new puppy or kitten, or perhaps even a guinea pig, but seldom is a chicken considered.

But recently various organisations have popped up that specialise in the rehoming of former farm hens.

National group Fresh Start for Hens, based nationally, and Red Hen Rehoming, based in Wem, are two such organisations that help to save hens from the chopping block.

Commercially, all laying hens are slaughtered at the age of 72 weeks, when their production drops slightly.

Both of these organisations work with farmers to purchase these ‘spent’ hens to find them new homes.

Holly Southern, who oversees Fresh Start for Hens in Oswestry, says rescued hens take on a new life when rescued.

“I’ve been keeping a few garden hens for a number of years and when I first rehomed some hens in 2016 from Fresh Start For Hens. I learnt a lot from speaking to their team,” said Holly.

“I knew I had to get involved and do my bit to help spread the word about the plight of the commercial hen.

“So I’ve been been running Oswestry’s collection point since 2016, with several rehomes each year, along with support for our local rehomers.”

Holly says it’s sad that perfectly good hens can be turned into pet food before the end of their lifespan.

“All commercial egg laying hens are seen in the industry as past their best at 72 weeks old, they are sent to the processors at this age because their egg laying drops below six eggs a week,” added Holly.

“It is so sad that their lives are worth so little and are sold for cheap pies or pet food, when they could actually live a further two to five years still laying eggs.”

But fortunately once rehomed, most hens fully adapt to their new life.

“Once rehomed it’s amazing to see these little hens blossom and becoming a big part of people’s families, just like a cat or dog!” said Holly.

“They adapt amazingly well to a back garden-life, and provide hours of fun antics. They develop their own little personalities and are actually very intelligent animals when given the chance.”

Meanwhile, Linda Fulwell from Red Hen Rehoming has been helping hens find a new home at Glyndwr University in Wrexham.

They are being looked after by students on the university’s land-based courses under the guidance of lecturers on Glyndwr’s BSc Hons Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Conservation Science course – including programme leader Angela Winstanley.

“Red Hen Rehoming is a small registered charity, that looks to rehome about 350 ex-commercial hens three to four times a year,” said Linda.

“We rehome these girls as pets and we were delighted when Angela got in touch and said the university wanted to give a home to five and they would be cared for by students.

“We’ll keep in touch and see how they are doing and, hopefully, it will encourage others to want to give a home to a few, to save them from slaughter.

“They make lovely pets, with their own individual personalities – we’re sure this will have been noticed by the students.

“For anyone wanting to know more, we have a Facebook page and a website.”

Both organisations offer rehoming sessions throughout the year, with Fresh Start for Hens next session taking place in Oswestry and Crewe on Saturday, November 30, with more in the new year.