An animal charity which has rescued 260 chickens from slaughter is calling for people to knit ‘chickinis’ to keep them warm this winter.
Some of the birds have arrived with very few feathers because they have been picked on by the more dominant hens, so Raystede in Ringmer has been spreading the word about its chickini knitting pattern.
When chickens reach 72 weeks in age, their capacity to produce eggs commercially reduces and they are sent to be slaughtered by farms.
Raystede chief executive Nigel Mason said: “Over the year, we take in hens that are ex battery, ex barn and ex layers from free range farms.
“Wherever they come from it’s a stark reality that they will be sent off to slaughter at just 72 weeks old and we believe all of them deserve a chance of a longer life.
“Our 260 most recent arrivals have come from a free range farm that strives to ensure that as many of its birds as possible are rehomed.
“I’m pleased to say that on this occasion, all 5,000 from the farm were rescued and we are proud to have played our part in that.”
Raystede said the birds with very few feathers had most likely lost them because the more dominant birds peck the weaker ones.
The term ‘pecking order’ comes from the strict way that hens reinforce their social hierarchy.
Hens at the bottom of the hierarchy can suffer quite extreme feather pecking from more ‘senior’ birds .
Feather pecking is common in commercial flocks of chickens, turkeys and pheasants and can range from gentle to severe.
Raystede rescues a large number of chickens from a farm twice a year and puts them up for rehoming.
Nigel added: “Some of the hens arrived with very few feathers and with winter upon us, we want to make sure they are warm.
“A couple of years ago one of our volunteers found a knitting pattern for chicken jumpers on the internet and we christened them ‘chickinis’, but we are running low on them and need more.”
The appeal for chickinis has already been proving popular on Facebook, with more than 300 people liking it and more than 200 sharing the appeal for people to knit the outfits.
The pattern can be found at www.raystede.org/chickens but you can also help towards their care by texting HENS11 £2/£4/£6/£8 or £10 to 70070.
To rehome a chicken email email@example.com or call Raystede 01825 840252.
The pecking order is established early in a chicken’s life when raised in a flock. Young chicks peck and bully one another when they are around food. The stronger chicks get to eat first, or eat the best foods and treats. Once the birds know their place in the social hierarchy the flock becomes peaceful as each bird knows who they can and cannot push around, although the pecking order is never permanent as birds seek to climb higher up the pecking order. It is normal behaviour for chickens to peck each other but severe feather pecking is an abnormal behaviour which can lead to injury.