The owner of a community organisation saving caged hens from slaughter has urged schools to “think twice” before hatching their own chicks.
Alison Thorpe, who set up Amberswood-based Lucky Hens Rescue, is concerned about the number of birds born in school-hatching projects.
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Companies provide eggs, incubators and other equipment to schools and nurseries, so the children can see them hatch, hold the chicks and learn about them.
But Mrs Thorpe is worried about the care given to the animals and what happens to them when the project is over.
Some of the birds have been taken to Lucky Hens, where Mrs Thorpe and her team of volunteers have worked to find them new homes.
She said: “It has been going on for a long time but seems to be becoming more popular. People are keeping chickens and they see it as a good thing, but schools who have done this in the past have stopped now.”
She urged school staff to consider everything involved before they decide to launch the project.
She said: “Please think twice. You are bringing unwanted lives into the world. Not many people want the boys - they are killed at a day old - and most of the companies won’t rehome. Please think carefully before you bring a life into the world.”
Mrs Thorpe has concerns about the welfare of the chicks, after hearing about one whose leg became injured during the hatching process, as the mother was not there to turn the egg in the nest.
In some instances, the chicks are cared for at the school or taken home as pets by staff or parents once the project is over.
But Mrs Thorpe is worried about those that are returned to the hatching company.
She says the chicks cannot be taken to commercial farms in case they have infections and may be killed instead.
The team at Lucky Hens has been working to find alternative homes for the chicks, recently helping five hatches in just a week.
She would prefer schools and nurseries to work with Lucky Hens to teach their pupils about the birds, rather than hatch their own eggs.
Mrs Thorpe, who has found new homes for more than 25,000 hens in the past 10 years, said: “The children should know they are not just disposable items, they are live creatures and they can’t just get rid of them. They need looking after like a cat or a dog or a rabbit.”
She is also backing an online petition calling for school-hatching projects to be banned.