Published: 08:00, 03 May 2013
Chickens will soon be strutting their stuff and shaking their tail feathers in a range of colourful handmade jumpers produced in Ashford.
The mini jumpers are being knitted by a group of sixth-formers at the Towers School in Kennington, for ex-battery hens which have lost their feathers.
Gemma Newington, the teacher of the personal social and health education class, said: “We were learning about the rights of animals when we stumbled across a few charities that take in donated jumpers for chickens. We felt so sorry for them and decided to have a go at knitting a few ourselves.”
Ex-battery hens lose their feathers when they get bored while in tightly packed cages, as they pluck out each other’s feathers.
So knitting woollen outfits has become a popular answer for chilly, bald chickens.
Lauren Chandler, 16, one of the students who has been knitting jumpers said: “I am finding it rather difficult to knit a mini jumper for a chicken but I am trying my best to get it right because I know it is for a good cause.
“Although, when I tell people I am knitting a jumper for a chicken they think I am either lying or completely bonkers.”
Battery cages are now banned under EU law, but hens are still kept for egg-laying in small cages up until 18 months of age.
After this they produce fewer eggs and so are slaughtered for use in pet food, or rescued. Charities like the British Hen Welfare Trust and Fresh Start aim to rehome these ex-battery and commercial hens as pets to give them a better and longer life.
Julie Smith, who works a hen rescuer and rehomer for Fresh Start in Kent, keeps 13 ex-commercial hens as pets and encourages more people to do so.
She said: “The hens are so friendly and it is so therapeutic to watch them running around. They sit on my lap just like any other pet. I want them to have the life that they deserve.”
But, some feel that knitted jumpers should only be used in the most extreme cases of baldness, to provide extra warmth.
Wendy Reynolds, part of the rehoming team at the British Hen Welfare Trust said: “People must be careful with chickens in jumpers. If the jumper gets wet in the rain, they can make the chicken even colder, and the jumpers shouldn’t be used as a long tern solution as this can hinder feather regrowth.”
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