The British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) is launching a forum to facilitate research into the welfare of pet chickens.

According to the charity, hens have been badly neglected by the world of evidence-based academic research, with only two known papers written about their welfare. 

However, researchers are now starting to take an interest and it is hoped that the new forum, nicknamed The Coop, will pave the way for ground-breaking studies around the world into hen welfare and hen keeping.

Jane Howorth MBE, Founder of the BHWT, said: “The research about to be undertaken ranges from exploring how hens benefit our mental health to seeking good veterinary care and appropriate drugs. They will also examine how the pet hen population has grown over the years and reasons for keeping them, and which homegrown remedies are used and which work. 

One of the first bits of research to be supported by the BHWT is a study called ‘From the Backyard to our Beds’ by Jenny Mace BSc, MSc AWSEL, FHEA, Visiting Lecturer on the MSc in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law at the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester. 

The survey will collect data on the care-taking practices and attitudes towards chickens of non-commercial chicken carers, and you can take part here:  

Jenny said: “To my knowledge, this research constitutes the first quantitative study to distinguish between ex-commercial and ‘standard’ chickens. It is also the first to enquire about some niche care-taking practices, such as the use of hormonal implants as a possible means of healthcare in hens. 

“The results should be fascinating and I urge all backyard chicken keepers/rescuers to make sure their experiences are captured by filling out this survey. Thank you so much!”

The BHWT is also supporting work undertaken by Keiran Ragoonanan, a student at the Royal Veterinary College in London, who is investigating backyard chicken husbandry and feeding practices in the UK.

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