Friendly, inquisitive, and social, chickens have made wonderful animal companions for humans throughout history – and it’s not hard to see why. We care for a number of rescued hens here at Goodheart Farm Animal Sanctuary, and it brings us great joy to see them running through the grass, dust bathing in the aviary, or cosying up to sleep in their coop.

Chicken care at Goodheart

Join Animal Care Assistant Izzy and Dorothy the hen to learn all about the high standard of care we give all our rescued chickens here at the sanctuary.

Lockdown lifts for our feathered friends

On 1st of April 2021, Avian Flu restrictions were lifted, meaning that our rescued birds could be let out again after nearly four months of lockdown! It makes us very happy to see them out enjoying the sanctuary to its fullest once again.

Fascinating chicken behaviours

Farmed vs Free

Most chickens have a natural lifespan of around 10 years but same may live up to 15 years! Hens rescued from industry sadly may not live this long, even when kept as pets, due to their stressful start in life.

In an intensive egg laying system, hens will typically be slaughtered when their egg production declines (typically around 1.5 years old). In intensive industrial systems, broiler hens (those reared for meat) are slaughtered when they are just over a month old.

Natural life expectancy
15 years
Chickens reared for meat
1 month
Chickens reared for meat
1 month
The life of a laying hen

Life in an intensive farming system

  • Caged systems make up 48% of UK egg production. In these systems, hens are kept in cramped, poorly ventilated systems with no access to natural light.
  • Broiler hens have their eggs removed immediately and placed in an incubator for 21 days until they hatch. The day-old chicks are then put into huge, overcrowded, dimly lit sheds holding tens of thousands of hens
  • The floors of the sheds are covered in litter to absorb droppings and are only cleaned when the chickens are sent for slaughter. The birds’ eyes and respiratory systems can be damaged by the ammonia from the droppings which can also cause painful burns on their chest and feet called hock burns
  • Because of the speed that intensively reared chickens grow, they spend much of their time lying down unable to move as their legs aren’t strong enough to hold the weight of their heavy bodies.

Life at our sanctuary

  • At Goodheart, our chickens are fully free range. During the day, they have free roam of the sanctuary site and can often be seen dust-bathing in the barn or scratching in the soil for tasty insects.
  • At night, our chickens are kept in secure pens with constant access to an outside area with plenty of space, food, water, perches, and enrichment opportunities.
  • We health-check and weigh our chickens regularly and keep an eye on their social hierarchy to make sure that no individual hen is being bullied by more dominant birds.
Is it ethical to eat backyard hen eggs

What do you do with the eggs your hens lay?

Over the years, humans have selectively bred hens to lay much more frequently than they would in the wild  – several hundred a year! This takes a huge toll on a hen’s body and uses up a lot of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, which is used to form the egg’s shell.  This is why conditions such as osteoporosis are such a common occurrence within commercial egg farms, with as many as 86% of egg-laying hens in the UK suffering a fracture!¹

As a result, we feed the eggs our rescued hens lay back to them, either raw or boiled with their shell on, allowing them to regain some of the vitamins and minerals lost in the laying process.

The Goodheart Home for Rescued Hens

Learn more about our exciting new project helping us rescue hundreds more hens in desperate need of our help.

Find out why hens need our help and how you can support our work...


Learn about the egg industry and how hens are treated. 

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Social structurePigs are social animals, preferring to live in female-led groups. Young males (boars) will leave this group and join another when it is time to mate.

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