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Feb 26, 2011

Earlier today I took Tiny Hen to the vet. She was 4 years and 2 months old having been rescued from the trip to slaughter that faces all end of lay hens on 2nd Aug. 2008. Battery hens only live 1 year 7 months before they're considered uneconomic and slaughtered without ever seeing the sun, dust bathing, scratching about in the soil and even being able to stretch out their wings. Tiny and the other 3 hens we rescued that day were lucky.

She had struggled when hands had gripped her in her cage; how did she know she was going to be one of the lucky oh-so-few to be saved, not slaughtered that day. So when we found her she had a badly bruised leg which took a couple of weeks to heal. But Tiny was a survivor and was soon exploring the garden and discovering how good life is when you're a Free Bird.

About a year into her new life Tiny developed a respiratory infection and was so ill that I'd even 'phoned the vet to arrange euthanasia. Tiny and another ailing hen were in a small isolation run. Being short of painkillers, but living in the West Country we did have a flagon of local scrumpy (farm brewed rough cider). Chickens like cider vinegar, it's good for their digestion, Tiny and Attila were ill, so what harm could the scrumpy do? The birds gulped it down with relish and the little hen who had been at Death's door, brightened up, so much so, that I happily cancelled that appointment with the vet.

Always a small hen, Tiny was never going to be high in the pecking order of her flock, but she knew how to make friends and influence chickens.

Top hen is Roxy, a venerable old Rhode Island Red. Tiny was always at Roxy's side and Roxy always looked after her. During winter 2009  Roxy had to spend 3 weeks indoors recovering from fowl arthritis. "Would she still be top chicken when she returned to the flock? Would they even remember her?" We needn't have worried. Roxy strode out into the garden calling to the flock. Tiny dashed up to her and assumed the submission posture of the hen to the cockerel while Roxy did the dropped wing, "Flamenco dance" of the cockerel around her. Whatever the precise nature of their relationship, they were inseparable until yesterday.

Tiny had been ill for a few days and antibiotics weren't making any difference, infact yesterday, Tiny Hen stood at the pop-hatch to her house and couldn't bring herself to walk down the ramp. I brought her indoors and placed her in one of our Hospital Wing large boxes on a warm bed of straw. She drank some poultry tonic but didn't want to eat. Her breathing was laboured, and by this morning she was worse, so I made that hard last decision and arranged to see the vet. Telling myself that we might try some different antibiotics, but knowing really that time was up for Tiny.

I held Tiny after the vet had examined her and the final injection had been given. Slowly and quietly she drifted off as I smoothed her feathers. I told the vet her story and that of some of the other rescued hens who live with us. Tiny Hen was the last of our first group of rescued ex-batts, since then their have been many others, all characters and all deserving of a better life than fate and people deealt them.

Please don't feel sad for Tiny Hen. She had 2 years 7 months of good life as a rescued garden hen. Rather shed a tear and promise to do something to help all the hundreds of thousands of birds who are caged, abused and slaughtered so that we can have cheap meat and eggs.

Tiny Hen now rests next to her favourite sunbathing and dust-bathing site. This afternoon we let the "Office Girls" out to explore the garden. 4 little hens rescued in January 2011.

Follow the link and sign the petition to persuade all members of the EU to adhere to the cage ban in 2012.

This link takes you to the website of the British Hen Welfare Trust. See what you can do to help hens just like Tiny Hen.

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Posted: Feb 26, 2011 6:36am
Jan 14, 2011
Focus: Environment
Action Request: Petition
Location: United Kingdom

For those U.K. members who haven't yet signed up to this, please use the link to sign the petition against discard of fishing catch. The problem has been highlighted in this week's series of T.V. progs by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - half the fish caught by E.U. fishing vessels are thrown back into the sea dead as they exceed allocated quotas for the fishermen. There are also links to the tuna campaign as well.  Even if you don't eat fish you can still make your voice heard about the way other people catch them.

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Posted: Jan 14, 2011 7:55am
May 5, 2010

Please forward this to all your U.K. resident friends who can vote in our General Election tomorrow.

I have an e-mail from the conservative candidtate in our constituency - Stroud, Neil Carmichael. My e-mail to him and his reply are below.

rom: Julie

Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 2:27 PM
Subject: Vote Cruelty Free

Dear Neil Carmichael

I am writing to ask you to pledge your support for Vote Cruelty Free.

Vote Cruelty Free is a new non-partisan, coalition of non-governmental organisations working together to ensure the political process reflects public concern for animal protection.

Its members are the BUAV, Compassion in World Farming, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Respect for Animals. Vote Cruelty Free covers a broad range of animal welfare issues including wild and marine animals, animal experimentation, cruel sports, the fur trade and farming.

Vote Cruelty Free believes that bringing the animal protection movement together and working directly with candidates and elected officials is an effective way to achieve positive change for animals in the political arena.

You should have received a Vote Cruelty Free manifesto by post which gives more detail about the campaign. Please go to and pledge your support for animal protection.

Julie D

Dear Julie
Thank you for your email.

Conservatives are strongly committed to raising animal welfare standards in the UK and internationally. We established the Farm Animal Welfare Council, an independent advisory body which reviews the welfare of farm animals and advises Government of changes necessary.  We called for the Animal Welfare Act, worked hard to improve the legislation, and now believe the legislation must be properly enforced.  We support a ban on conventional battery cages for laying hens and will work within the EU and internationally to achieve common agreement on further measures to improve animal welfare.  We are concerned by the upward trend in the use of animals in scientific procedures, and support the concept of the ‘three R’s’ of refinement, reduction and replacement – to replace animals in research with non-animal alternatives, reduce the number of animals in experiments and refine procedures to minimise suffering.  There should be an end to animal testing on household products.  Conservatives will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act, on a free vote, with a government bill in government time. 

Best wishes


Neil Carmichael


The highlights are mine  -amongst the waffle this Tory candidate writes that a Conservative Govt. will give up official govt. time to an attempty to bring back huinting with dogs - that's fox hunting, stag hunting, hare coursing... and all the horror that entails.


Please check out the website - it's run by Brian May, you might recall him as the guitarist with Queen. He's a sound chap and determined to fight against the re-introduction of legal bloodsports into Britain.


A vote for the Conservatives tomorrow, or a vote which might be in line with your conscience - Green Party or LibDem  - in a constituency where it splits the vote against the Tories, will let Cameron's lot in with dire consequences for our wildlife.


All the best to you all, I'm a bit busy today and tomorrow!



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Posted: May 5, 2010 9:21am
Jan 24, 2010

The picture is of our latest group of rescued ex-battery hens, collected on Sat. 16th Jan 2010. The animal charity who collected them from the farm work closely with egg producers and campaign for consumers to be willing to pay a little extra to enable farmers to switch to higher welfare standards of poultry-keeping.


The farm these hens came from was reportedly one of the worst, but has gone out of business. Unfortunately for these hens this added to their suffering as they should have been sent for slaughter, or in the case of the lucky few, rescued, on the previous Saturday had it not been for the snow which prevented access to the farm. The birds were already exhausted as farmers keep hens longer over the Christmas period to ensure they have birds in lay and producing eggs for the Christmas market. The rescue co-ordinator reported to me that the farm in question operated the Pyramid system whereby the dropping from the top row of cages fall on the second tier of cages and the droppings from the birds in both first and second tiers fall on the birds in the third tier with results you can imagine. Add to this the fact that many more of the birds on this rescue were underweight than normal and it seems likely that the farmer ran out of feed as he had not planned to keep the birds for this final week.


The 4 hens I am now looking after were some of the weakest. They have hardly any feathers. Not only do the conditions of the battery system cause birds to lose their feathers, but a cruel way of inducing a moult is to deprive a hen of food and water. One of the hens is virtually bald, possibly as a consequence of the starvation she may have suffered before rescue.  Another bird was so weak that we had to fee her with sugar solution and poultry tonic for the first 2 days. She is now able to feed and drink unaided but is still frail. All 4 hens are now living indoors in a double poultry show cage with clean litter, food and drink ad-lib and a heat lamp to keep them warm. They have seen daylight and sunshine for the first time in their lives.


At first they were terrified when we approached them with the frailest letting out a heart-rending alarm call as we lifted her out to administer fluids. The strongest hen ran about squawking frantically until the other bird returned. Yesterday, for the first time they started making normal hen sounds and the baldest bird even trilled  (the sound a hen makes when she is happy) as she stood under the heat lamp.


They are watching me type this, with interest rather than fear; I just hope they all manage to survive to enjoy a normal life, with feathers, out in the garden with our other hens.


If you ever feel tempted to purchase eggs from caged hens or feel that you’d really not rather fuss about reading labels or asking awkward questions about the origin of eggs in the ingredients of processed foods, please remember these birds and all the thousands every day that aren’t rescued.


Best wishes


Julie and the chickens.


 - Why the “Floppets”? Rory named them. All ex-battery hens have large floppy pale combs. They help to dissipate the heat inside the intensive poultry sheds. With time they become smaller.

More photos of these hens are on my page. Please feel free to forward this to anyone else that you think would be interested.


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Posted: Jan 24, 2010 5:55am
Sep 6, 2009

The photo shows Lavender, an Orpington hen with her companion Rose who was rescued from slaughter as an end of lay battery hen in Jan. 2009. When she first arrived with us Rose had few feathers, was unable to walk up a ramp to the chicken house and had been de-beaked to prevent birds jammed into cages fom pecking each other. Here in the U.K. a campaign has been launched by celebrity chef and small-holder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to alert the public to the conditions in which meat chickens are also reared. It follows on from his actions to increase public awareness about the way intensive poultry farms treat egg-layers as well as broilers. The campaign has the title "Chicken Out" and has gained great media coverage here including T.V. programmes.

Have a look at the web site and especially the 39 day blog following the pitiful life of a broiler bird:

This is compared to the conditions in which free range birds are kept on commercial farms in the U.K.: 

The treatment suffered by these birds has got worse over the years as consumers have demanded cheaper food and lost touch with the means of its production, prefering to see meat packaged in plastic film on supermarket trays rather than running about before it is killed, or even still looking like the animal it once was. The profit margins for farmers are also cut to the limit by buyers operating for the supermarkets so the options for space, clean conditions  and anything beyond the basic growing of a crop is given up. We sell our backyard eggs with bits of straw and feathers attached from the hens laying in comfortable nest boxes. These eggs would not be acceptable to a commercial egg-packing plant, neither would eggs which have been washed to remove straw or dirt. Eggs which are odd shapes or colours are also unacceptable and rejected eggs are sold at a loss to go into processed foods as liquid egg. Think about this when you next buy a perfect box of identically shaped eggs from the supermarket; that's assuming you don't already buy a motley assortment of eggs of various shapes, sizes and colours direct from a small poultry-keeper.

Keeping meat birds on free range needs more workers and more attention to the birds, even though free range birds have lower mortality rates than intensively produced indoor birds. Obviously stocking densities are also lower so if you want the bird you eat to have had room to run about, dust bath and behave like a bird you will have to accept paying more for it.

We used to have dual purpose poultry back at the start of the 20th century. The hens laid eggs, a few cockerels were kept for breeding and the remaining male birds were fattened up over 5-6 months as meat birds. Chicken was an occasional treat for special dinners. Not only do old fashioned dual purpose or utility fowl take longer to mature than modern hybrid birds, the hens lay fewer eggs, say 220/year compared to 350 eggs but the birds aren't burned out after a year and can carry on laying for several seasons. I am told by those who eat meat that they also taste better. If we lobbied to persuade farmers and retailers to stock utility birds there would be no need for the horrors of unwanted male chicks being slaughtered at hatcheries for egg laying birds. There would also be no need for the horrors suffered by a poor mutated broiler bird as it grows so fast it can't support its over-sized breast on it's legs.

Oh yes, that 39 day blog, well that's how long an intensively reared broiler bird lives, from hatching to slaughter...

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Posted: Sep 6, 2009 8:49am


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Julie D.
, 2, 2 children
Dursley, United Kingdom
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