AN ANIMAL rescue centre and sanctuary based in County Kildare have been desperately seeking help from the public to save the lives of hundreds of hens that the charity rescued from commercial egg farms.
Little Hill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary, based in Co Kildare, recently took hundreds of ex-commercial hens who, after just one year of life, would otherwise have been sent on to be slaughtered-- a common practice on egg farms.
The rescued hens were now seeing sunlight and roaming free for the first time-- but with a couple of hundred rescued hens already spread across the sanctuary, Little Hill was now on a desperate mission to find homes for these girls.
For several weeks now, the rescue centre has been driving across the country, from Monaghan to Cork, Dublin to Galway and everywhere in between to bring the formerly caged hens to their new homes.
But sadly, often people who have offered the hens a home never show up to the drop-off point-- and the chooks are driven round the country before being brought back to the sanctuary.
We spoke to Susan at Little Hill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary about the wonderful work the charity does.
The rescue centre cares for all sorts of animals-- dogs, cats, horses and donkeys, but as Susan says, "We have a special interest in farm animals that don't get a second chance."
The hen rescue campaign started when Susan was helping with a hen rescue and the rescuer asked the her to take a few hens-- and in her words, "So I did and it grew from there!
"We found that loads of people were willing to help us and they were delighted with these little hens," she adds.
As the campaign grew, other farmers who would otherwise have sent their former commercial egg-laying hens to slaughter started contacting the rescue to offer the birds a second chance.
But while the sanctuary works as hard as they can to publicise their campaign and find homes for every commercial hen, sometimes it simply doesn't work.
"We had to leave 200 hens behind [in the egg farm] last weekend," Susan admits. "We just didn't have the home offers.
"We had loads of hens here in foster already and we didn't have any space left and had to leave them behind."
"They should have been killed on Monday morning but I asked the farmer to give us one more week.
"We put up another Facebook post and today we have homes for all the little hens.
"This is all down to pieces of publicity and people sharing the posts-- we can't thank people enough."
"We're the last chance for these hens. If we say no, there's nobody else willing to take them. There could be hundreds if not thousands of hens in each particular farm, and if we don't take them the farmer sends them off in the slaughterhouse truck."
"People think we have a team of staff but we don't-- there's about three of us trying t do all the admin and most of the animal work, and at the weekends we drive around the country with the hens trying to find homes for them.
"If people go to the Facebook page and private message with offers of homes, or help or donate to our vet bills or food bills we'd be so grateful."
And what of the people who would love to save these hens but have never owned any before?
"The hens are really, really easy to look after," Susan tells us. "Of course there are a few things you need-- a fox and dog-proof, dry, warm, draft-free, shed or stable and a little run outside. And when you're there you can let them out around the garden and they'll keep it bug-free.
"And tick-free-- they're the best tick-clearers. They are just the best at eliminating ticks."
The rescue will be travelling across the country this Sunday with some of the hundreds of hens that are currently being fostered at the sanctuary, and if you'd like to offer some of them a good life, you can do so by private messaging the Facebook page.
"We always have about four-to-five hundred hens at the sanctuary that would be delighted with homes," Susan says. "The more homes the merrier this Sunday would be terrific."
"We do ask for an adoption fee for each hen to stop them from getting into the wrong hands. It's €6 adoption per hen-- we have huge costs with vet fees and feeding costs and every little helps.
"We have a lot of animals. We have dogs who are permanent residents at the sanctuary because they're too bold-- they've bitten people. They have to be kept in the manner they're accustomed to for the rest of their lives.
"We're completely no-kill. If an animal comes to us and it's not re-homable it stays with us forever. So we're so grateful for any help.
"These hens are fantastic, and everyone who adopts them loves them. You'll get your own, lovely, cruelty-free healthy eggs every morning and you'll know exactly what went into that breakfast."
For more information, to donate, volunteer or offer a home, you can visit Little Hill Animal Sanctuary here.
This Sunday the hen-mobile will be visiting Waterford, Blessington, Carlow, Dungarvan, Fermoy, Kill Co. Kildare, Kilternan, Naas, Newcastle Co Dublin, Tallaght and Youghal.