Remembering Dolly Clare

Very sad news this week – one of our dear ex-battery hens, Dolly Clare, died.  She’d been ill for two weeks and, although we thought she was going to pull through at one stage, she went downhill rapidly.

When we brought Dolly home in February, she was thin and pale and rather threadbare:

She didn’t know what to make of her new free-range life but she soon blossomed and became a real beauty with pale golden feathers and a sweet, inquisitive nature.  I loved the way she’d follow me around the garden, her little ‘bawps’ letting me know she was nearby.

She loved wending her way through the flower beds:

and sneaking into the kitchen:

and enjoyed a yoghurty treat:

and she loved pecking around after the rain, not caring if her beak got muddy:

She also adored her afternoon corn and would gobble it so fast that she would invariably sneeze!  In fact, we made a video of her and it’s been viewed over a thousand times on Youtube!

I’m so glad to have met Dolly Clare but I feel that her 7 months of freedom were all too short and I wish that she’d had longer with us.  Unfortunately, ex-battery hens often have a short life-span because they are worked so hard for the first 18 months of their lives – their bodies used up by a demanding industry.  That’s why it’s so important for us to choose free-range eggs when we shop and when we eat out.  We must always ask questions about our food and demand high-quality animal welfare and support organisations like Compassion in World Farming and The British Hen Welfare Trust.  It’s the least we can do for the extraordinary animals that we share this world with.

Locked up in Trafalgar Square!

On Tuesday – one of the hottest days of the year so far – I had the dubious pleasure of being locked away in a tiny cage in Trafalgar Square.  Why?  To show members of the public the appalling conditions which millions of hens are still enduring.  Here I am, trapped in a cage with Bill Oddie!

I’d been asked to join the wonderful people from Compassion in World Farming who organised a petition-signing and march to support the ban on barren battery cages for hens.  The ban is meant to come into effect in January 2012 but several European countries say they won’t be ready.  But we have to make sure it goes through – no excuses, no delays!

We marched around Trafalgar Square, down the length of Whitehall and through Westminster before handing in our petition and documents to the European Commission and DEFRA.

It was a brilliant day and I felt very privileged to have met so many people who are passionate about animal welfare.  My own four ex-battery hens  – Dotty, Minnie, Alice and Dolly Clare – would like to thank everyone who took part.

If you’d like to see a short film about our day, visit the CIWF site here.

March in April

As you may know, we recently rehomed four ex-battery chickens from the British Hen Welfare Trust.  It’s over two months since we brought them home and they’ve really settled into their new lives well.  I adore them and can’t imagine life without them now. 

However, there are still millions of chickens kept in tiny battery cages – not just in our country but all over Europe.  There’s meant to be a ban on caged chickens which should come into force in January 2012 but several countries are dragging their heels and say they won’t be ready.

To help make sure this ban goes ahead, Compassion in World Farming are staging an event in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday 19th from 11 am.  There will be human-sized cages and guess who’s agreed to be locked up in one of them?  ME!  So, if you want to come and see me finding out what life is really like for a battery hen, come along on Tuesday.  There’ll be a petition you can sign and you can also join in the march to deliver it to DEFRA.  TV presenter and conservationist Bill Oddie will be there too!  So do try and join us and make your voice heard.

If you can’t make the big day, you can still help make a difference here.  On behalf of myself, Dotty, Minnie, Alice, Dolly Clare and caged chickens everywhere, THANK YOU!