By Nelly Berg
An animal charity is calling on Galwegians to consider providing a happy home for hens in need.
During the month of October, LittleHill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary will bring hundreds of rescued chickens to various towns and villages throughout County Galway, for adoption.
Once they reach about 15 months of age, commercial egg-laying hens are routinely slaughtered to make way for a younger, more productive flock.
At a number of egg farms around the country, the Kildare-based charity tries to save and re-home as many of these ‘spent’ chickens as possible, giving them the chance to experience long and happy lives, outside the cage.
“We began rescuing hens a few years ago, as I hated the fact that these girls are killed without ever knowing a moment of kindness, or experiencing the outside world – the grass or the sky,” explained Susan Anderson, founder of LittleHill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary.
“They are just over a year old, so most will live for a few more years, laying five or six eggs a week.”
However, an ethical source of eggs is just one advantage of sharing your life with these creatures, as many hen adopters confess that they become valued family members.
“Our feathered girls are the day to day responsibility of our three boys,” said Rhonda Oates, a chicken keeper based near Castleblakeney in County Galway. “A few chats and cuddles are part of the norm! We seriously
wouldn’t be without them.”
Debbie Donnelly of Kilconnell also considers her hens to be an important part of her family.
“We have a few cheeky hens who happily come into our house and wander around,” she told Galway Daily. “The hens definitely rule the roost above the cats and dogs, who are all afraid of them!”
Many hen adopters also report how fulfilling it can be to watch their new pets transform from scruffy, pale and miserable creatures into stunning, confident characters with hilarious personalities.
Charlotte Sandberg, who keeps hens at her home in Moycullen, explained: “They are in such a terribly sad state when they are first rescued. It’s really shocking how poorly they have been treated, but within weeks they have grown all their feathers back and learn how to be happy, free chickens. It’s so rewarding to watch the process.”
So, what does it take to become a successful chicken keeper?
Rhonda recommends buying a fox- proof chicken coop, which can be purchased online from several merchants around the country.
Hens also need an outdoor area that they can roam about in, although Susan explains that it doesn’t need to be very large: “There are many adopters based in Galway city, whose hens are thriving in their small back gardens.”
In October, LittleHill’s volunteers will bring hens to Ballinasloe and Gort on the 13th , Tuam on the 19th, Athenry, Galway city and Maam Cross on the 20th and Headford, Clifden, Oranmore and Tuam on the 27th .
To collect hens at one of these locations, prospective adopters are asked to send a private message to the charity’s Facebook page, LittleHill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary, stating their preferred pick-up location, date and the number of hens they would like to adopt.
Those without a Facebook account can book hens through a friend or relative’s page.