The British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) has commenced work on it's first facility dedicated to the welfare of ex-battery hens.

Affectionately named 'Project Vicky', the 250 square metre contemporary building will offer a state-of-the-art rehoming centre, as well as provide space for educational institutions, businesses, vets and other professionals to visit and learn more.

Situated at the charity’s headquarters in Rose Ash, North Devon, the facility will be a UK first and has been designed and will be furnished purely with chickens in mind. It will boast a fully-equipped veterinary clinic and will have access to specialist veterinary surgeons to treat any chicken that requires extra care and attention.

Most of the hens rehomed by the BHWT have lived in cages for 18 months standing on wire and have never had access to the outdoors.

The centre will comprise two distinct parts; allowing one end to be used for rehoming, while the other will feature a central coop for hens - with a walkway around the outside to allow for demonstrations. The walkway will include one-way glass so as not to overwhelm the hens when their visitors arrive.

In addition to the downstairs elements of the building, it will also feature a second floor with ample office space, future-proofing the charity’s expansion.

'Project Vicky' will allow the charity to help hens not just in Devon but also in a much broader sense via its educational work.

The charity’s education team is putting together information and course material with a view to training veterinary students around the country both online and with instructional visits to the new facility.

It is expected that the project will be welcoming its first batch of hens rescued from slaughter by the end of 2019.

It has been fully-funded by public donations. Jane Howorth MBE, Founder of the BHWT and the driving force behind the new centre, said: “Project Vicky has been a long time coming, and it’s thanks to every single person who has ever rehomed hens from us, fundraised for us or simply spread the word about our beloved hens to their friends and family.

“Vicky was among the first flock I rehomed in 1995 and the bond I formed with her led me to realise that chickens are far from being just farm animals, they are intelligent, full of character and individuality and make the most wonderful pets - in the same way as cats and dogs.

“Vicky would be so proud of what has been achieved in her name.”