We’d been looking forward to this day for a while – the first British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) re-homing at Overton for over 6 months!
Due to location availability and the avian influenza restrictions this was the first re-homing since September 2016, when we brought back Pip, Ruby and Willow. Since volunteering in 2015 we’ve enjoyed these days – there’s a lot to do, but the time flies by, and these days are extra special when we take hens back home with us – which has happened a few times!
We arrived at Home Farm at 11:30, and could see the marquee already up. I spoke to Lesley, the co-ordinator, as we’d reserved 6 hens but wanted to take more. There were 540 hens coming to the farm with 526 reservations, and I was hoping we could take an extra 4, giving us 10 in total. Lesley said that would be fine and put an extra 4 against my name.
The hens arrived around 12 midday from a farm in Gloucestershire that morning and the first task was to unload the crates of hens from the van. The usual numbers re-homed at Overton are around 300, so with 540 hens today, it was going to take a bit longer; there are 12 hens per crate, so there were a lot of crates to unload and carry to the marquee. The marquee can only hold around 400 hens so we had to keep around 20 crates to one side, in the shade, to keep numbers to a sensible level.
The hens being lifted out of the crates is always a busy time; we want to get all of the hens out as soon as possible to get them out of the crates. After all of the crates have been unloaded though we make sure there are minimal people in the marquee with the hens, to give them time to settle down. They have access to food and water, and it’s at this time that the volunteers can start to observe the hens to make sure there are no poorly birds and that despite the mass of hens, none are being squashed.
The Hens are off to Their Homes
Shortly afterwards the adopters start to arrive. There are 4 time slots that people are asked to arrive in, depending on surname, so that this is split evenly throughout the day, usually these are 30 minute slots, but with so many hens today, the slots were 1 hour.
The next 4 hours flew by! Sarah spent most of the time in the marquee picking up the hens to hand over to another volunteer who would put the hen in a crate or carrier, and I would help carry the hens to awaiting cars, or clean the crates ready for stacking for the next time. In those 4 hours we put our 10 hens in our carrying cage.
The Last Hens
Our 10 hens waited patiently for us to finish as the final crates were washed and the last group of re-homers came to pick up their hens. There were a few people that didn’t turn up, and in cases like this we phone them to remind them they’ve reserved hens and check they’re still coming, and in most cases the re-homers are running late. There were a couple of extra hens at the end and our group that was originally going to be 6 hens, became 12!
A final task to help take down the marquee, goodbyes to the other volunteers, and our volunteering day was finished. We put the 3 boxes of hens in the car, turned the air conditioning up for them and us, then carefully drove home, keen to get the new girls settled in to their new environment in the remaining 2 hours of daylight.
A very enjoyable and rewarding day for us. The number of hens re-homed was almost double the number that usually get collected from Overton, but whilst we were tired, it was a satisfying tiredness, knowing that there were over 500 hens off to new homes and a world awaited them full of green grass and sunshine.