HUNDREDS of Hampshire hens have been slaughtered due to an outbreak of bird flu.

The British Hen Welfare Trust has been forced to let 12,000 hens go to slaughter instead of re-homing them as backyard pets due to the threat of Avian Flu.

Re-homings were due to take place at locations across the country, including in Hampshire.

More than 300 hens were due to be re-homed at various locations in Denmead on January 22.

But The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced an Avian Flu Prevention Zone for 30 days requiring all captive poultry to be kept indoors.

The prevention zone has been subsequently extended until February 28.

Defra’s announcement means it is now illegal to hold any poultry gathering or to allow hens to free range.

As a result around 12,000 hens which were due to be collected by the British Hen Welfare Trust in December, January and February have now gone to slaughter.

Charity founder Jane Howorth MBE said: “We are best known for saving the lives of thousands of hens intended for slaughter so this is a difficult time for us.

“However, we take pride in acting responsibly and agree that Defra’s decision to extend the prevention zone to help protect national backyard and commercial poultry was the right one.

“Everything we do as a charity revolves around hen welfare so we are greatly saddened that 12,000 hens didn’t get their chance to enjoy a free range retirement, but we are looking forward to March when we hope that thousands will be able to enjoy the spring sunshine for the first time.

“We must thank our supporters who have been understanding and continue to patiently wait for their hens, as the hens themselves are patiently waiting for their chance to become family pets”

The charity reminds hen keepers that the outbreak of Avian Flu was found within a backyard flock and that it is currently illegal to allow birds outside.

They urge everyone keeping backyard hens to stay within the law and to protect their birds by keeping them under cover. To be put on a waiting list to re-home hens, call the charity on 01884 860084.