New home for 'last battery hen'
A chicken described as Britain's "last battery hen" has been given a new home, marking the end of an era for commercial laying hens, a charity has said.
The hen, which has been named Liberty, will enjoy her retirement at a farm in Chulmleigh, Devon, where she will join around 60 other ex-battery hens.
An EU directive abolishing the barren (battery) cage system comes into effect on January 1 when egg producers will have to provide hens with larger cages enabling them to spread their wings and move around.
The British Hen Welfare Trust, set up in 2005, has re-homed thousands of hens across the country.
The charity's founder, Jane Howorth, said: "Today is a major milestone in the life of the commercial laying hen in Britain and I'm pleased that improved welfare changes are being implemented. It's an emotional day for us at the British Hen Welfare Trust, as one chapter closes and a new one begins."
The trust launched an appeal to the public in November to help re-home as many of the last batch of battery hens as possible, and has re-homed nearly 15,000 hens.
But, Ms Howorth added there are still a number of challenges ahead of them: "These things are never simple, and whilst Britain is complying with the new legislation, many overseas countries are not, and we will continue to see battery eggs imported into the UK, many of which will end up in processed food," she said.
"This will provide a challenge for British farmers who will struggle to compete with lower welfare, cheaper egg imports from abroad. So we urge consumers to continue supporting our British farmers and always insist on British - and wherever possible - free range eggs."
The trust added that under the new regulations cages can hold up to 90 birds, but they must have space to spread their wings, perch and be able to go from one end of the cage to the other, with 750 square centimetres of space for each bird.
The old-style cages had just 550 square centimetres of space - less than a sheet of A4 paper.