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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Cumbrian chicken lovers on mission to re-house hens

Chicken-lovers have gone on a crusade to rehouse 5,000 hens.

Chicken photo

The poultry are currently living on a farm in the Scaleby area, where they are used to produce eggs for commercial sale.

In scenes reminiscent of the DreamWorks Pictures’ film Chicken Run – where any chicken who does not meet Mrs Tweedy’s quota of eggs will be fried, baked or boiled – the feathered creatures are making one last bid for freedom.

Instead of being led by American rooster Rocky and his love interest Ginger, this escape is being coordinated by Ryan Casson – with support from his friend Laura.

The Scaleby chickens are coming to the end of their “commercial viability” and are destined for the slaughterhouse unless they can be rehomed.

Ryan Casson, 34, from Upperby, has the modest aim of finding loving homes for 100 of the birds, but admitted he would ideally see them all given a chance at life.

“A couple of years ago I was talking about getting some chickens,” he explained, “and a friend knew a friend who knew somebody selling ex-production hens.

“Every year this farmer will get a young flock in, and he keeps them for about 72 weeks and then they are not considered commercially viable, so he gets a new batch in.

“Last time there were about 5,000 of them.”

Ryan said the farmer told him he would much rather see the birds live out the rest of their lives in peace rather than be sent to slaughter for meat, but he cannot hold onto the chickens indefinitely.

A deadline has been set for this Saturday, otherwise the hens are expected to be sent to slaughter on Monday.

At just 50p per chicken, Ryan insisted they are the perfect option for anyone looking to begin keeping chickens or to replenish a flock.

“They are all bedraggled and stuff when you get them,” he explained, “but then they look as good as new in a few months.

“Mine have been brilliant: they are really inquisitive.

“They are almost like dogs... but they look very different! I’d take more, but I have to draw the line somewhere.”

He said the egg yield is also still good with the rescued hens, it just may not be as high as is needed for a business.

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