Twelve bald hens are staying warm this winter thanks to thoughtful students who have knitted the hens some woolly jumpers.
The adorable hens, who had never been outside before, are being cared for by staff and students at the Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire.
As the pictures show, by wearing their matching jumpers the hens are now able to enjoy their first taste of freedom in an outdoor enclosure.
Kitted out with climbing frames and rope lines, the enclosure was designed and built by members of the Free Voice Zoological Innovation Society, a student society.
The hens, who are just over a year old, were adopted from the British Hen Welfare Trust, a national rehoming charity for commercial laying hens which are destined for slaughter.
Speaking about how the hens took to the outside world, head keeper, Lauren Lane said:
“The hens responded very quickly by showing natural behaviour such as perching and scratching the ground, and will hopefully go on to enjoy long and happy lives with us.
“I’m delighted how the students and their extended families rallied round to knit jumpers for these hens, and also with the high quality of the enrichment opportunities provided by our undergraduates.
The jumpers are only needed by the minority of hens who have poor feathering and are removed at night when the hens are indoors.
The hens has not developed their feathers properly due to never having been outside before.
Most of the hens have responded well to the college’s high standards of housing and nutrition, have grown new feathers and do not require additional help to keep warm.
Francesca Taffs, Communications Officer for the British Hen Welfare Trust, said:
“We’re delighted to see how well the hens have settled in at Reaseheath. It looks like they’re being thoroughly spoilt which is the kind of life we want for all our ex-battery hens.
“We also think they look rather fetching in their jumpers! While the jumpers are not something we would generally recommend for re-homer use, it’s clear these little ladies are being monitored and cared for closely. They’ve got a great free range life ahead of them!”
Emily Allcock, who is studying for a Foundation Degree in Zoo Management, said: “This has been a really great project to be involved in. My mum thought I was joking when I asked her for help in knitting the hen’s jumpers, but then she got involved too!”