26 January 2023
Chickens in the Classroom
BVNA have recently developed a Welfare of Pets in Schools Toolkit – a new resource available to veterinary professionals, schools and parents to promote responsible pet ownership, especially in a school environment. The toolkit includes podcasts, downloadable resources and signposting to information from pet welfare organisations.
Gaynor Davies, Head of Operations and Welfare at the British Hen Welfare Trust, kindly contributed to the content on the toolkit:
Gaynor began her career in a multi-centre London small animal clinic where she trained and ultimately became Head Nurse. After 33 years a move to Devon led her to volunteer for the BHWT before eventually taking on the Head of Operations and Welfare role for the charity. In her spare time, she studied for and was awarded an honour’s degree with the Open University and gained her A-SQP qualification. Other interests include acting and singing in the local village choir as well as a passion for Borzoi (Russian Wolfhounds) which she has shown and raced.
At its core, the British Hen Welfare Trust’s work aims to improve the lives of laying hens, both within the commercial sector and for those lucky birds who are rehomed with a loving family. Founded in 2005 by Jane Howorth MBE, the charity has to date rehomed more than 900,000 hens who were otherwise destined for slaughter. However, from what began as a rehoming charity, the BHWT has gone on to achieve so much more and is now considered an important voice within the commercial egg laying industry and among pet hen owners.
Not content with rehoming tens of thousands of hens each year, Jane made it her mission to influence the general public’s shopping baskets which, in turn, directly impacted welfare conditions for egg laying hens, and still does today. In addition, she soon realised that the healthcare pet hens were being offered once out of the commercial system was severely lacking, and so was born the charity’s improving pet hen health project. A free six-week poultry course, created in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, is now available for vets and pet hen keepers alike, and on the way is a Poultry Veterinary Guide which can be used in vet clinics across the UK to directly improve pet hen treatments. Education has been a primary part of the Trust’s work, and so getting hens into classrooms had to be a natural progression also.
Schools across the country often make the decision to buy or adopt a class pet and chick hatching is an incredibly popular option for many – something the BHWT wanted to change from an ethical standpoint. Not only do the eggs and chicks sometimes suffer from a lack of attentiveness within a class setting but there is the additional problem of what to do with hatched cockerels which are most often unwanted. To combat these issues the Trust devised its very own curriculum-linked education programme, aimed to be used in primary schools as a way of not just teaching children about animal welfare, but to support literacy, numeracy, science, SEAL and more.
Each resource pack contains a number of lessons aimed at EYFS, KS1 and KS2 and all are entirely free for schools to download from the Trust’s website. In addition, the charity encourages schools to consider adopting their own small flock of hens to live on site, instead of choosing a chick hatching programme. Adopting a small flock of hens is a wonderful opportunity to develop team working, a sense of personal responsibility, financial literacy, a good awareness of hygiene and personal safety, and a huge range of curriculum-supporting skills. It can bring different age groups, staff, parents, and the local community together and enrich school life in positive and unexpected ways.
Combining the charity’s education resources with adopting a flock of hens offers a unique and ethical way of bringing animals into the classroom, helping to reduce anxiety and stress in pupils as well as building confidence when caring for animals and encouraging empathy towards them.
Listen to Kim Rathbone interviewing Gaynor here: https://soundcloud.com/user-689463605/welfare-of-pets-in-school-chickens-in-the-classroom-podcast/s-EyTrBX0aWay?si=ef929680b0c14a4fa040d2f5b166cb52&utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing
Thank you to the British Hen Welfare Trust https://www.bhwt.org.uk/ for contributing to this project.