Ex-commercial laying hens are not generally afforded the same healthcare as other pets, despite being the fourth most populous type of pet in the UK, since the Covid pandemic. Pet hen treatment is not a feature of vets’ training, so often hen owners are given poor veterinary support and told that the only option is to have their pets put to sleep.
To address this, the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) decided to launch the Improving Pet Hen Health initiative which enables keepers to administer basic treatment at home and ensures vets and vet nurses feel more confident when presented with a pet hen.
As part of the scheme, BHWT relaunched its Hen Helpline in 2021, which now offers hen health support to all chicken keepers in the UK, with staff undergoing training to be able to deal with calls effectively and offer appropriate guidance.
Last year, the charity launched a six-week free online learning course on poultry health in partnership with the University of Nottingham. The course can be taken by anyone with an interest in poultry although it is directed towards vets and vet students.
In addition, the charity offers six grants to vets and vet nurses that aim to stimulate hen health research. It has also been working on a poultry veterinary guide that will be available to all vet practices across the UK and offered worldwide through subscription. The guide will enable vets to check symptoms, and diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Since January 2021, BHWT has received 2,916 calls from hen keepers covering all manner of behavioural and hen health issues. In a survey of 1,100 supporters, the service received an average score of 8.4 out of 10. Meanwhile, the online course has been completed by over 2,000 people from 49 countries.
The initiative has helped improve the lives of thousands of hens, both through hen keepers being able to access appropriate guidance at home and vets feeling more confident about diagnosing and administering treatments in practice.
Charity Awards judge Karin Woodley said that as well as helping people to look after their own hens in their gardens, the Trust was educating them on how to care for hens that had been rescued from cages. “And it was replicable and sustainable because of the training materials. I thought they were really good – I fell in love with them entirely!”
Judge Chris Sherwood added: “They are signalling that even relatively small charities can review and refresh their service offer for changing times. That’s a really good thing to highlight.”
CC Reg no. 1147356