Breast foot forward: campaign under way to knit jumpers for 7,000 hens

Campaign to save retiring battery birds from slaughter

One of the clucky ones... a free range hen on a farm. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

One of the clucky ones... a free range hen on a farm. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

A country-wide knitting campaign is under way to clothe 7,000 caged hens to be released from a battery farm later this week.

Animal rescuers plan to the birds from the slaughterhouse and have launched a “hen jumper” knitting campaign to keep the featherless creatures cosy.

The hens have lived in “dark, desolate, barren cages for just over a year” according to LittleHill Animal Rescue, and many will emerge with no feathers to protect them from plummeting temperatures.

Knitting enthusiasts lead by LittleHill Rescue patron, Father Ted star Pauline McGlynn are sharing patterns for the tiny jumpers, including “Little Red Hen”, “Hennis the Menace” and “Orange is the new Black.”

The woolly body-warmers include gaps for the chicken’s wings to help keep out the chill until their feathers grow back.

“Their beaks are clipped, they’ve never stretched their wings and their feathers haven’t grown because they’ve just been involved in laying eggs for their entire little lives. When they come out they are bald and it’s really cold so I’m knitting jumpers for them,” Pauline McGlynn told RTÉ’s John Murray show.

“So there’s a band of ladies and gentlemen all round Ireland knitting little jumpers at the moment for these hens,” she said.

At 16 months, the hens enter a fallow period where they cease laying temporarily, prompting farmers to send them to slaughter.

“We are saving them from the slaughterhouse and they are going to go to homes all around the country,” Pauline said.

The Kildare based LittleHill charity has found homes for a phenomenal 3,000 hens through its “hen hotline”, but are seeking homes for a further 4,000 hens to be spared slaughter on Saturday.

“They have never seen the outside world, felt the sun on their back or any kindness, and we are racing against the slaughterhouse truck which will arrive early December if we do not get them out first,” charity organisers posted on the LittleHill Animal Rescue Facebook page.

A nominal €5 adoption fee is asked towards costs and anyone interested in re-homing the hens can call the Hen Hotline on 085 8353 077.

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