Chicken Out! supporters like you are doing a fantastic job of spreading the free-range message. Here are some great examples of how you’re making a difference to chicken welfare.
Sue and colleagues at the Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust have had huge success spreading the free range message at work. Sue explains “The Trust holds regular Health Awareness Events for staff. We have been actively promoting ‘Chicken Out’ since the outset of the campaign, using the events to raise awareness of the conditions in which intensively farmed chickens are kept and the benefits of opting for a free range alternative. We have also taken advantage of the opportunity to sign up over a hundred staff members to the campaign, given out recipes for making economical meals using free range chicken and have given a signed copy of Hugh’s book as a raffle prize”.
Sue has also put Chicken Out! into practice at home, with her very own free range brood. She tells us “I moved into the countryside three years ago and, as a result of your campaign, I borrowed a small incubator, hatched some eggs and now keep my own chickens. I have a cockerel and two hens and they have both been laying nearly every day during the winter. I haven’t bought an egg for two years now and often give them away to neighbours, friends and family.”
John, from Tasmania, tells us that intensive farming is a problem there despite the “clean-green” image. But he says that “on the positive side, and thanks in no small part to campaigns such as Chicken Out!, people in Tasmania are talking and acting.”
John has felt the effect of the campaign personally: “Since my wife and I have been watching the River Cottage series we have changed many of our eating habits and these days grow as much as we can and ask our butcher, green grocer, and fish shop where our produce originated.” He was also pleased to learn that Tasmania’s largest chicken farmer has bowed to public demand and introduced free-range poultry. “They have also had to employ special representatives to try to convince all of the reputable butchers in Tasmania that their free-range products are indeed what they claim”, he explains. “Slowly the movement to better eating and farming practices is filtering through society, and is gaining momentum. People are now listening and asking, and are refusing products which don't stand up to scrutiny. The retailers are now also listening, and farmers must therefore also comply. Are we on the road to animal and human salvation? Maybe, just maybe, yes.”
Lesley has found a great way of sharing the rewards – and challenges – of keeping chickens, and especially rescued battery hens. She tells us “My partner and I are fairly new to keeping chickens and after a few funny incidents and demand from our friends, I decided to write a regular newsletter. I support your campaign and wish you well.” Read an extract from Lesley’s ‘ Chicken Nuggets’ newsletter here.
It seems that cooking is a great way to spread the free-range message. Amy tells us: “Cooking's a big hobby of mine, and I do volunteer demos in a two-acre kitchen garden at Doddington Hall using ingredients from the garden. 50-60 people come to the demos, and each time I tell them (without preaching I hope!), that they should use free-range chicken and eggs. I also explain how they can make more costly free-range chicken go further. Eat roast chicken, use up the leftovers for a Thai curry with a cheap home-made paste, make stock and use this for soup in the winter or a fab risotto in the summer. You get the picture I am sure!”
Amy is also a volunteer contributor to BBC Lincolnshire radio. “I am on the radio 2 or 3 times a month. Each time I mention chicken I stipulate free-range and I always tell them they must use free range eggs.” Plus, when Amy discovered that a day spa she’d visited didn’t serve free-range chicken, she wrote to ask them to consider changing this. As she points out, “if you spend all day being pampered in luxury how can you enjoy lunching on some poor creature who has spent its life in a cage?”
Diane, from Dorset, is a very long-standing advocate for free-range. “I’m a pensioner”, she explains, “but have been against caged/intensively farmed chickens since the age of nine. My parents and I visited my godparents who had chickens, and I assumed I’d see them in the garden. Oh dear.
"I was shown into a garage, where rows of cramped cages contained sad looking birds. I was horrified, threw a tantrum, was told off and had to go without tea. This was circa 1952.” Diane extends her “wholehearted support” to the campaign. “We all miss Hugh here in Dorset, since he defected to Devon!” she remarks, “but people like myself totally support Chicken Out!, and try to spread the word.”
“We got our own chickens in October 2009”, explains Sophie. “A large encouraging factor was Hugh's River Cottage programmes and also the Chicken Out! and Jamie Oliver programmes. We now have a happy flock of rescued / unwanted chickens who we love and, as we live at Riverside Cottage, we now have Riverside Cottage eggs!” Sophie has also found that leading by example can change other people’s egg-buying habits…
“Since I got my chickens, my neighbours have decided to stop buying eggs from the shop and are getting their own rescue hens. A lot of my friends are also becoming converts and thinking about getting their own chickens. And I’m going to use the eggs in a barter system to pay friends in return for our car-share scheme for getting the kids to school and back, so they're good for the environment too!”
Finally, Sophie is planning to spread the net even wider “I will certainly be asking restaurants about their ingredients when we go in the future, and am going to find out what they use in the school's cooking. If it's not free-range then they need to change!”
“My best 'win' over the last year has been recruiting my mum to the Chicken Out! Campaign”, says Debbie. “My mum is a meek, mild mannered 75 year old lady who hates confrontation and wouldn't say 'boo to a goose'!...
However, this campaign has really motivated her into a battling granny! She routinely asks her local supermarket why they sell cheap chickens...Don't underestimate the power of the older generation to influence their peers – my Mum is a great advocate for chicken welfare!”
Karen has found a high-rise way to help her father enjoy his own free-range eggs. “We wanted to encourage my dad to keep his own chickens”, she tells us. “We know it’s something he’s enjoyed in the past but, unfortunately, he gave up keeping hens when he lost all his ‘ladies’ after a visit from Mr Fox!
“We thought a new high rise hen house might be the solution as the hens would have somewhere safe to get out of the way of danger. So we dug a hole and cemented a sturdy wooden post in to the ground and built a platform on which to attach his old hen house. We also made a ladder for the chickens to climb up. All we have to do now is get some new ladies to move in! Dad will get so much pleasure out of having fresh delicious eggs and just watching the birds (they can be very absorbing!) We would like to thank Hugh for his inspirational 'Chickenopolis' which gave us the inspiration for this project. Keep up the good work!”
Why not tell us how you’re making a difference for chicken welfare? Email us or simply add your story to the ‘comments’ section below!
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