Christmas Cheer For Battery Hens?
The British Hen Welfare Trust has issued an urgent plea to the public to re-home some hens for Christmas.
From January 2012, the barren ‘battery’ cage will be abolished in the UK in line with the EU directive. As a result, hens will have to be removed from their barren cages by 31st December. Most British egg farmers have already made the switch to enriched cages, but a further 2-4 million hens currently in barren cages will still be heading for slaughter this Christmas.
The British Hen Welfare Trust, which has so far re-homed nearly 300,000 commercial laying hens, aims to educate the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare, and encourages support for the British egg industry. It has already secured access to thousands of hens from farms in the run up to Christmas and is appealing to the public to provide homes for them.
With a network of volunteer co-ordinators across the UK, the charity will be holding a series of re-homing days over November and December in locations spanning from Cornwall to Northumberland in England, across into Wales.
Founder of the British Hen Welfare Trust Jane Howorth said: “Whilst it is great news that the era of barren cages is coming to an end, the sad news is that many of the hens who have lived all their life in barren cages will be sent to slaughter by Christmas, unless we can find homes for them.”
More and more households are taking up hen-keeping as a hobby that all the family can enjoy. Giving a happy home to ex-battery hens can be particularly rewarding - from the pleasure of seeing the hens experience their first taste of sunshine and grass, to the joy of collecting freshly laid eggs! Keeping hens requires time, but it isn’t difficult. The hens come fully vaccinated and the vast majority are healthy and laying reasonably well. The hens sometimes look a bit threadbare, but most people are surprised that the majority of birds don't look too bad and they usually start to re-feather within a few weeks. The hens are bred for docility and you will find they are gentle, endearing, inquisitive and very friendly. And they are hardy birds, so as long as a few simple steps are taken to ensure they have good weather protection, they are fine to be kept in the winter months.
All you need is an outbuilding or chicken house or coop that is predator-proof, and a regular supply of food and water. The British Hen Welfare Trust’s Careline and website are on hand to offer information and guidance.
Jane Howorth concluded: “If you are interested in re-homing some hens, we would love to hear from you. All our re-homing locations and dates can be found on our website. Christmas is traditionally a busy time for family festivities, and keeping hens isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds at this time of year. But consider it as a fun new hobby for Christmas for all the family. By adopting some hens, you will be giving them – and your family – the best Christmas present they have ever had!”
To find out more about re-homing, hen sponsorship and the benefits of free-ranging, please contact the British Hen Welfare Trust on:
email firstname.lastname@example.org , log on to www.bhwt.org.uk or tel: 01769 580310
New BHWT survey reveals changing egg-buying habits
For many years, consumers have become accustomed to the idea that when it comes to eggs, ‘brown are best’. But why? Results of a survey into the habits and preferences of 1700 chicken-keepers interviewed by the British Hen Welfare Trust, revealed that 85% of respondents don’t actually mind what colour their eggs are. Indeed, 95% said the colour made no difference at all to taste, and a mere 13% expressed a preference for brown eggs.
So why do consumers demand brown eggs?
The reason why free-range hens can sometimes lay pale shelled eggs is not fully understood, but one theory suggests that it is linked to a hen’s exposure to strong sunlight. Whilst white eggs are commonplace overseas, they are deemed to be ‘substandard’ by the UK food industry, and end up being downgraded, resulting in financial loss for free-range egg farmers. According to The BHWT survey, the taste is unaffected and pale eggs are not an issue. Retailers take note!
The national survey also revealed that over 81% of respondents read food labelling on processed food products, and a staggering 98% want to see improved labelling specifying country of origin and production method used. When eating out, 95% of people said it mattered to them to know if the food they were tucking into contained eggs from caged hens, and whilst not everyone would feel comfortable asking about the provenance of the eggs every time, a whopping 98% said it would support establishments that used British free range eggs.
The British Hen Welfare Trust, which headed up the survey, is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens, educates the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare, and encourages support for the British egg industry. The survey explored all aspects of hen-keeping, from feeding and laying habits to predation and veterinary care. But it was the response to buying and eating habits that most surprised the charity’s Founder, Jane Howorth: “It is wonderful to know that hen-keepers across the country are real ambassadors for free-range eggs – not just in their own back yard, but in shops and restaurants too. And these people are spreading the word amongst friends, family and neighbours about the importance of insisting on free-range eggs, not just in shell eggs, but in all the food we buy containing egg products."
In fact it is estimated that in the UK, 60% of eggs produced by caged hens are consumed in the form of every day processed food, such as mayonnaise, cakes, pancakes, pasta, ready meals, quiche, ice-cream and confectionary.
Of the three billion eggs that are processed every year (taken out of their shells and sold as liquid egg in the food industry), around 80% are being used by processed food manufacturers, and the remaining 20% end up in the food service sector - restaurants, pubs, takeaways etc. Approximately one billion of these eggs are currently imported from overseas.
As new measures come into force from January 2012 that will make barren (battery) cages illegal in the EU, egg farmers will be obliged to replace them with ‘enriched cages’ which house up to 90 birds. British farmers are ready for this change – but many countries will not be ready, and there is a risk that illegal caged eggs from non-compliant countries will still be imported, putting British farmers at a disadvantage.
Jane Howorth said: “We don’t consider the enriched cage to be as high welfare as free range and organic systems. However, it is an improvement over the current battery cage system and we would rather people buy British eggs rather than imported battery eggs from outside the EU where welfare is out of our control."
She concluded: “Whilst the survey we carried out was amongst hen-keepers, we are very encouraged by the general findings. As more and more people become aware about the use of eggs as ingredients in processed foods, and insist on higher welfare, this can only be good news for the British free range egg industry. And of course the hens that provide the food on our table in the first place."
The British Hen Welfare Trust is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens, educates the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare, and encourages support for the British egg industry. Its ultimate aim is to see consumers and food manufacturers buying only UK produced free range eggs, resulting in a strong British egg industry where all commercial laying hens enjoy a good quality life.
To find out more or to support the work of the British Hen Welfare Trust please email email@example.com, log on to www.bhwt.org.uk
or tel: 01769 580310Jane Howorth, Founder of British Hen Welfare Trust
Discover Organic this September
This September the Soil Association is celebrating a month long festival of all things organic, with events taking place across the country.
The Soil Association promotes healthy soil, healthy people and a healthy planet - add healthy animals into the mix and you can see why The Smallholder Range and The Organic Feed Company support this organisation. There are lots of ways to celebrate Organic September, from visiting an organic farm, eating in an organic restaurant or learning a new skill to discover an organic way of life.
To find out more about what's going on in your area visit the website at www.soilassociation.org
, follow them on Twitter @SoilAssociation or find them on Facebook.
Smallholder Range has new fact sheets
The Smallholder Range has teamed up with Smallholder Magazine
to present a series of informative fact sheets on a variety of subjects.
Starting in the most recent August edition of Smallholder, the first cut-out-and-keep fact sheet highlights the problem of laminitis in horses, ponies and donkeys and provides some tips for prevention.
As the grass has a new flush of growth into the autumn, laminitis is a real problem for equines, who can suffer form the excess sugar stored in the grass during growth periods. However, some simple management techniques can help prevent this potentially deadly condition, helping smallholders to manage their stock better. The fact sheets also provide information on what to look for if you suspect your horse or donkey could have laminitis, and the steps you must take to help.
RWAS Smallholder & Garden Festival proved popular
More than 26,000 people enjoyed a great weekend of livestock, farming heritage, dogs shows and flowers on the weekend of 21st and 22nd May, and The Smallholder Range was there to give out feeding advice too.
With so much on offer to suit everyone, the Royal Welsh Smallholder and Garden Festival certainly drew in the crowds. One of the interesting features of the Festival are the many workshops, talks and question and answer sessions on smallholding, horticultural, environmental and countryside matters, providing informtaion for anyone keen to take up a country way of life. With the emphasis on greener, sustainable living, interest in the Allen & Page stand was good, thanks to The Smallholder Range's completely natural and non-GM animal feeds. With the 'Healthy Hens, Wonderful Eggs' challenge also proving popular, the nutrition and sales team manning the stand were certainly kept busy. Marketing Manager Clara Baillie-Lane says: "This year's show was a great success and we had a lot of interest in our range of feed for a variety of smallholding animals. We pride ourselves on offering top quality advice so that the animals stay happy and healthy, with a good diet forming a solid bedrock for all round health."
More information and a full report of this year's show can be found in the next issue of Smallholder Magazine or read online news at www.smallholder.co.ukTo find out where The Smallholder Range stand is going next visit our calendar page.