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A charity has issued an urgent plea to AG readers to adopt hens for their gardens – after it emerged up to four million birds will be slaughtered this month.

An EU directive means that battery cages must be abolished in the UK by January. All birds have to be removed from their tiny cages before New Year.

The British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), which has re-homed nearly 300,000 hens, believes that millions will be needlessly killed.

BHWT founder Jane Howorth said: “While it is great that the era of barren cages is ending, the sad news is that many hens who have lived their lives in tiny cages will be slaughtered by Christmas unless we can find homes for them.”

Jane said hen-keeping was a rewarding hobby.

“Keeping hens requires time, but isn’t difficult. Hens come vaccinated and the vast majority are healthy and laying well.

“The hens sometimes look a bit threadbare but usually start to re-feather within a few weeks. They’re bred for docility and are gentle, endearing, inquisitive and friendly. All are hardy birds so as long as they have good weather protection, they are fine to keep in the winter months.”

Gardeners interested in adopting hens should call the BHWT on (01769) 580310 as soon as possible.

Go to www.bhwt.org.uk for details of re-homing locations and dates.