Saturday, 28 February 2009

Chicken update

Our six new hens are doing very well indeed. They have settled in quite happily to their new life and have realised that, like Nick Park's Chicken Run chickens, there's more to life than just laying a daily egg.

They came from a free range egg unit near Tregaron that had been producing eggs for Tesco and needed to clear out 3,500 or so of these hens to make way for a fresh batch. The farmer had to get rid of them or, on February 23rd, they had an appointment with a slaughterman at a chicken sandwich paste factory.

So homes were needed for 3,500 redundant layers. A tall order you might think, but this is where the local Freecycle network and Brian's colleague Neris came into the equation.

The farmer had been offered 7p for each bird from the sandwich paste factory. Instead he offered them at £1 each on Freecycle.

Neris heard about the birds' plight and decided to get involved. She works with Brian at police HQ and was in the position of being able to publicise the chickens' plight to every single police employee throughout Dyfed and Powys. She has friends working for both Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire county councils too and they passed on the details of the hens to their colleagues. Neris was a determined woman; she made sure everyone knew about the birds; she even arranged collection for some.

Although the farmer was selling the hens at £1 each, he gave many away; we wanted and paid for four, we got six. He did that over and over again. I should imagine that anyone who went there for a bird or two got a few more than they bargained for. So he must have made about 50p per bird overall instead of the 7p he would have got from the chicken paste manufacturer.

It is now the end of February. All 3,500 chickens missed their appointment to be transformed into pots of chicken sandwich paste. In the end the farmer was left with 80 birds which he has kept on as layers to scratch about in a spare field and lay the occasional egg for farm gate sales. I think he was probably a little overwhelmed at the way the whole thing snowballed. He never expected to get rid of 3,500 unwanted birds, let alone have so many of them make new homes with members of the local police force!

But it all starts again. At the end of March he is to restock with another 3,500 point of lay pullets at a cost £7 each to lay eggs for Tesco and in 72 weeks time those birds will be old has-beens too.


  1. How wonderful to hear that the chickens were rescued!

  2. A good story. The provenance of food is gaining importance, and that has to be a great thing for all the animals and also for the future of farming..
    I have 2 old girls [Burford browns]just laying a bit, and my younger ordinary ones [which I hatched as eggs] are escaping daily over the electric fence and we can't at present find their nest...
    hey ho the joys of small scale chicken keeping..
    I think the herd of cattle or flock of sheep can be easier than these few.. at least so far they have escaped Monsieur Reynard!! [ Mnnn I probably speak too soon]

  3. Your new hens will serve you four years - my three, ex-layers from our daughter's organic egg enterprise, are still just hanging in four years on. Best eggs in the world, and they understand 'our' routine. Best of luck with yours. And what a wonderful 'word-of-mouth' to have those 3,500 all snapped up.

  4. What a wonderful story. If I were closer I'd sign up for some birds too.

  5. Hooray to all who rescued the hens and hooray to the farmer for being prepared to go with the flow - yes he made more money (and he is in business to make money so that's good too) but he also gave more than he had to! I'm looking forward to hearing how your girls fare in the years to come.... warm wishes to you and your girls V xx

  6. Brilliant story - how ridiculous that he has to restock so often. Mine are a year old and are still laying like billio, and I expect they will for some time to come.
    Well done for taking some.


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