Nicki Murphy had her heart stolen about three or four years ago... by a battery hen.
It may have been the hen that arrived looking, as Nicki describes it, “like an oven ready chicken on the shelf in Asda”.
Or perhaps it was one of the disabled ex-battery chickens that she keeps as pets.
One has a scissor beak, there are birds recovering from a broken leg while another needs crop massage to help it digest its food.
Nicki is obviously an animal lover as, in addition to her 21 hens, she has two dogs, a couple of turkeys and ducks at her Quadring Fen home, along with a dove with a broken wing.
Caring seems to come naturally to Nicki, who formerly worked in the pharmaceuticals industry, but she says: “It’s just my way of giving back.”
Now Nicki has become the Lincolnshire re-homing coordinator for ex-commerical chicken re-homing organisation Fresh Start for Hens.
The national charity is expecting to take delivery of around 2,000 hens at the end of the month and Nicki is one of the coordinators who has found new homes for them.
She says: “I currently have 21 hens of which most are ‘batties’ including a couple who are recovering from broken legs due to their time in the awful conditions that these girls are subjected to.
“I had hens years ago and I got four normal chickens and thought about rescuing ex-batteries and that was it, my heart was stolen. That was three or four years ago.”
Fresh Start for Hens says as long as there are still hens in cages, they will continue to re-home as many hens as possible with the help of volunteers.
The organisation buys hens from farmers just before their slaughter date – Nicki says chickens are typically bought by farms at around 16 to 18 weeks and spend 18 months laying eggs.
Once their useful egg-laying life is over, the birds tend to go for slaughter.
Of those that are re-homed, a very few don’t live very long because of the shock.
However, Nicki says: “They can lead a perfectly normal life. The odd one or two never lay again, but most of them will lay and lay throughout the year.
“They are very easy to look after and they are very friendly. Although they don’t really know human contact they are very happy to eat out of your hand. They are such characters.
“You don’t need a big garden, though it’s great if they can free range and wander about, but some people have them in small runs.”
The organisation regularly takes in hens for re-homing. For more information or to place a reservation visit freshstartforhens.co.uk