Chickens Help Parishioners Achieve Their Eco Goals

Rescue chickens get a second chance at happiness

Chickens Help Parishioners Achieve Their Eco Goals

The Wylde Green United Reformed Church in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, England, adopted chickens in 2021 as part of a commitment to enhance and protect the environment, and care for creation.

It’s part of a project to revitalise a field at the back of the church, where they’ve done a lot of native planting to attract pollinating insects. They also use green energy where possible, held an eco-fair, and have a lot of plans for the future of the site as a community resource. They’ve made eco-friendly adjustments to their buildings and land and achieved the minimum standard to receive a Bronze Eco-Church Award.

Money for the project was raised through a church service for pets, where people brought their cats, dogs, and even stick insects!

Why they adopted hens

Reverend Chris Dowd explains why they decided to adopt hens. “I’d had chickens from the British Hen Welfare (BHWT) Trust personally in the past. I was interested in it for our Eco-Church project.

“I realised that the BHWT didn’t rehome chickens in the Birmingham area, so I had a conversation with them about this and offered to be a host site. This meant they would be able to rehome chickens from our church.

“The Trust collects egg-laying hens from poultry farms at the end of their commercial lives, and brings them to our church for collection by their new owners. They’re only there for a day, then they go to their new homes.

“So far we’ve rehomed a couple of hundred hens. We had to stop due to the bird flu outbreak, which was frustrating. But one day a month, usually on Sunday afternoons, we accept the hens and pass them over to their new adopters.

“It’s a practical way of doing something for the community. It shows what we believe, while we’re doing good things. It’s a way we can reach out and convince people to take an interest in the church.

“We also have six pet hens at the Manse. It’s lovely keeping our own hens. They’ve never experienced kindness, but suddenly they become pets, and their little personalities come out. They come running up to see us and one of ours likes being picked up and scratched. It’s lovely to see commodity animals becoming beloved pets.”

People travel from all over the region to adopt hens

Chris is looking forward to doing more hen rehomings and moving their eco-agenda forward. He wants to create more usable community spaces to bring people together and celebrate the natural environment.

“Birmingham is quite big, so people come from all over the West Midlands to adopt their hens. Our large field behind the church has been laid fallow for ten years. Our aim is to revitalise it, first with wildflower planting, then with chicken rehoming, and finally, with community activities.

“Over the past two years, it’s been difficult to do everything we’d hoped because of the pandemic. But as we come out of the pandemic, hopefully we’ll get the field used more. We’ve got two tennis courts in bad condition, not usable. We hope to put astro-turf down and use them as a multi-purpose games area.

“We’d like to open up one court for mums and kids to play on during the day. We’ve had community events, carols, fireworks and we had a bonfire over Christmas. It was really fun. I’d never seen most of the people who came to the Christmas event, so it was a great outreach activity, bringing new people to the church.”

The Eco-Church Award

The Eco-Church Award program is an environmental stewardship scheme run by A Rocha, an international network of environmental organizations with a Christian ethos.

“To get our award, we were judged by how well we’re doing on a range of environmental areas,” Chris says. “In a big old Victorian barn like ours, the windows rattle. It’s hard to meet the heat efficiency targets, but we’ve got a fair trade shop, an eco-group, and we had an eco-fair with three or four thousand attendees last year. There were lots of stalls and talks about eco-living.

“We need to be celebrating this amazing earth and we need to look after it. It’s a moral issue to change our lives so future generations don’t have to pay the price for our failure to look after the planet.”

Rehoming hens is a delight

Chris and the team get a lot of satisfaction from rehoming hens. “It’s lovely to be able to help people connect with animals. Kids get excited about collecting their chickens and you know they’re going to be loved and looked after. The alternative is that they end up as pet food.

“My parents grew beef cattle in Australia, so I’m familiar with animal farming as a way of life. But the factory farming industry upsets me. The animals have very poor lives before we rehome them. It’s lovely to do something positive. The eggs are much nicer, and if you get carried away and adopt too many chickens, you end up eating a lot of omlettes!”

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