National Geographic : 2011 Aug
VISIONS | PHOTO JOURNAL Homes for Hens Does a coddled hen catch your eye? It is a curious sight. But it also represents a serious issue. Year-and-a-half-old hens in British battery farms---known as factory farms in the U.S. ---are deemed expendable, despite having several years to live and many eggs to give. These images show how folks are opening their hearts and homes to these refugee birds. I've always gravitated toward offbeat subjects and people. So when I learned about rescue hens, I could imagine a great visual story about a quirkily important cause. What's more, unlike some animal-rights activists, the battery-hen advocates I've met in London and southern England are refreshingly open-minded, working with the farms to adopt hens and reform the system. Next year European laws will ban conventional battery cages. Some of England's 11.1 million battery hens will move to bigger digs. Many will need to be "re-homed." I hope the humor and humaneness in these photographs raise awareness of the situation. In Kent, England, a rescued hen--- nearly featherless after life on an industrial farm--- wears a hand-knit sweater. It may take months to regrow plumage. • Ed Thompson THE PHOTOGRAPHER Ed Thompson More of the London- based photographer's work can be seen at edwardthompson.co.uk.