This week, I am feeling very virtuous. Nope, I haven’t been on some sort of uber-bootcamp with a starvation diet of one lettuce leaf and a cherry tomato a day.
If I had, I would not only be a shadow of my former self, but the shadow of my shadow’s shadow, if you get me.
I am lucky that, on the occasion of a severe and sudden food shortage in the Borders, I would be very able to live quite happily for some time off my, ahem, own reserves.
And I’m not talking about the fat of the land.
Anyhoo, neither am I virtuous because I did some thoughtful civic deed, like hang back from taking that last parking space in Kelso square thus allowing a nana who looked like she’d come straight from the set of the Shredded Wheat advert to park her Nissan Micra.
No, it is a virtuous chook thing we are about to do.
We are going to rescue some chickens. No, they are not trapped down a mineshaft or lost somewhere in the Arctic Circle with low supplies.
They are being liberated from a life of egg production to come and live with us and have a life of, erm, egg production.
Oh, and being ‘kissed’ by the cockerel, as The Young Mistress very charmingly puts it.
The notion of chicken rescue conjures up images of bald, forlorn battery hens in teeny, weeny cramped cages, popping out eggs that roll down into a chute with countless other eggs from the rows of countless other chickens.
But this is not quite the case these days.
Battery farming of chickens in teeny tiny cages is now illegal in the UK and there are now ‘enriched cages’, which to me sound like a bit of an oxymoron.
An enriched cage, since the new EU legislation came into force in 2012, is a cage which has to have perches, a nest and a scratching area.
This all sounds lovely – until you realise that an ‘enriched cage’ only gives a hen nine per cent more useable space overall.
In fact, in total, there is less useable space than a sheet of A4 paper.
Other systems are barn and free-range.
Barns sound quite nice, but even these relatively lucky chooks are in colonies of no more than 4,000, at a density rate of nine birds per square metre. Even the luckiest chooks – the free-rangers – have, by law, daytime access to 4 square metres of range (outside space) per hen.
So, what happens when these hens start to miss the odd day of their eye-popping egg-a-day schedule?
Well, at 17 months they are either culled, or the lucky ones are ‘rescued’ by feather-mummies and folk like me.
It’s a win-win situation for the farmers.
They get paid either way and then simply restock. And it’s a win-win for the lucky – and yes, probably still balding despite these higher welfare standards – hens which find themselves bundled into cat carriers and driven to their new homes where the feather-mummies will handfeed them mealworms every morning.
OK, so we’re not exactly hand-feeders, but we have high welfare standards and we’re looking forward to our new – well, slightly used – arrivals.
Rescue Day is next month. Watch this space.
If you would like to rehome a hen too, contact Wing and a Prayer Rescue through Facebook.