If you've had a pet, whether a goldfish or horses and everything in between, you know that they truly become part of the family.

April is National Pet Month so the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) is encouraging the public to re-home a hen and experience keeping pets of the feathered kind. After all, what other pet can give you eggs as a thank you?

If you need convincing, the numbers speak volumes. Chickens are now the UK’s seventh most popular pet (PFMA 2017) but, despite this, 16 million of them are kept in cages in the UK.

There are around 19 billion chickens worldwide, outstripping humans by nearly 3:1 (UN 2011).

An ex-bat could lay you up to six fresh eggs a week and the average ex-bat can live between four to six years. Eggs from ex-bats generally get larger as they get older and a ‘very large egg’ is anything over 73g.

BHWT re-homes over 50,000 ex-commercial hens destined for slaughter every year and they all go on to become much-loved family pets. That love is proven by the fact that 50% of those who adopt ex-bats through the BHWT go on to do so for at least a second time, with some re-homing three, four and five times over (Hensus, 2017).

The charity asked its supporters what it is that keeps them coming back over and over again.

Melanie Green said: “I love my hens because they are always up to mischief, they eat their greens and they make me smile when I am down.” Similarly, Zoe Hale added: “I love my hens because they cheer me up and make me happy when I watch them!”

Julie Longden gave an insight as to how her hens have changed her outside space: “I love my hens because we now have a whole new vibe going on at the bottom of our garden... It’s all love, fun and freedom.”

As many supporters would agree, Carol Smith explained keeping ex-bats is just as much about what you get back: “I love my hens because they love me as much as I love them – unconditionally.”

Alison Cook said she had multiple reasons for adopting ex-bats: “I love my hens for a million reasons: they have the funniest run ever, they follow me round as I am momma hen, they chat away and they’re genuinely grateful for their life with me and leave me a little present every day.”