A group of rescued hens, who had been destined for slaughter, have been given their first taste of outdoor life, thanks to specially knitted jumpers.
The one-year-old birds, who were rescued by students from Reaseheath College in Nantwich, had previously been used in commercial egg laying and were rescued by the British Hen Welfare Trust.
The 12 hens had been kept in an intensively managed indoor system, so had never experienced the outside world. Their feathers hadn't grown properly to protect them from the winter chill, so the special jumpers were knitted so they could get a taste of freedom.
The jumpers are taken off at night, and the birds are on their way to growing plumage that will keep them warm in the future.
Head Keeper Lauren Lane said: “I’m delighted how the students and their extended families rallied round to knit jumpers for these hens, and also with the high quality of the enrichment opportunities provided by our undergraduates. The hens responded very quickly by showing natural behaviour such as perching and scratching the ground, and will hopefully go on to enjoy long and happy lives with us.”
The hens are regularly monitored by Reaseheath experts and the zoo’s onsite vet.
Francesca Taffs, from the British Hen Welfare Trust, said: “We’re delighted to see how well the hens have settled in at Reaseheath. It looks like they’re being thoroughly spoilt which is the kind of life we want for all our ex-battery hens.
"We also think they look rather fetching in their jumpers! While the jumpers are not something we would generally recommend for re-homer use, it’s clear these little ladies are being monitored and cared for closely. They’ve got a great free range life ahead of them!"
The rescued hens are earning their keep by laying eggs for the others animals at the mini zoo.