Give a few hens a happy home this Christmas!

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Necky the hen. Photo by Niamh Cubie

By Nelly Berg

Thousands of caged hens are destined for the slaughterhouse this month, and they’re hoping for a Christmas miracle!

During the festive season, LittleHill Animal Rescue hopes to save as many of these ladies as possible, but only if they can secure happy homes for them.

The charity is calling on compassionate people throughout County Galway to make space in their lives a few birds, so that they can enjoy a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

“We are driving to every corner of Ireland to try to save these girls from the slaughterhouse and get them into their own homes for Christmas – please help us,” said Susan Anderson, LittleHill’s founder.

Nelly and hens – photo by Louise Wallace

But why are these chickens bound for the abattoir? Commercial egg-laying hens are routinely slaughtered and replaced at about 15 to 18 months of age, when their laying dips slightly.

“Their productivity might only drop by a mere 15 percent at this young age,” explained Susan. “But this means they are no longer profitable for farmers to keep.”

For the past few years, Susan and her team of volunteers have been rescuing and re homing hens from a number of egg farms. In this way, the birds can live long and happy lives as much-loved pets, who thank their new families with delicious, cruelty-free eggs.

Many hen adopters report how their rescue hens have provided company and ‘hentertainment’ during the pandemic.

“During the lockdown, our hens gave us a routine and a sense of normality,” said Vivienne McCormack, who lives near Loughrea. “To see them carry on as normal in their own cheeky way without a bother was more than comforting at a time of fear, uncertainty and isolation.

We also rescued more hens during lockdown, and to see them thrive and recover from their horrific cage lives gave an enormous sense of hope at a time when we are all vulnerable.”

LittleHill’s volunteers will be transporting hens to Gort and Portumna on December 5th; Loughrea, Galway city, Tuam, Spiddal, Clifden and Oughterard and Moycullen on the 19th of December; and Athenry on December 20th.

To offer a happy home, potential adopters must send a private message to the charity’s Facebook page, “LittleHill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary”, stating the number of hens they would like to reserve and the collection town.

Those without a Facebook account can ask a friend or relative to make the booking on their behalf. An adoption fee of six euro per hen applies, which covers the charity’s expenses.