A crack team is embarking on a daring mission to save ex-battery hens and give them a home.

Commercial hens are slaughtered after about a year of laying, when their production drops below the six eggs a week required to make them profitable.

Hen Rehomers is a national charity set up by animal lovers to save battery hens from ending up as ingredients in pet food, baby food or cheap chicken pies.

The Oxfordshire branch of the charity is currently compiling a database of those who would be willing to take on hens.

The team of volunteers purchase hens — sometimes as many as 2,000 at a time — from farmers around the country just before their slaughter date. Lucie Eadon, from Shipton-under-Wychwood, near Burford, is the Oxford co-ordinator of the rescue mission and has rehomed seven hens herself — Gloria, Hopalong, Sacha, Shirley, Brenda, Geraldine and Kareena.

She said: “When we first got our girls they were in a bit of a sorry state and it was quite sad watching them learning how to use their wings for the first time.

“We didn’t really expect to get any eggs from them at all, but we were so proud when they started laying.

“Now we get about nine eggs a week between them.”

The team compiles a waiting list of people who want to adopt hens and once the rescue has been completed the birds are distributed to their new homes by project workers.

Ms Eadon said the hens were not hard to look after.

She said: “We are lucky because we have quite a large run for them, but you don’t need much space.

“They are kind of like a living compost too, because you can feed them all your kit-chen scraps and their manure is great for the garden.

“Foxes can be a problem, but we have set a wind-up radio next to them and the sound of the talking and music seems to trick the foxes into keeping away.

“We also find a nice bit of Classic FM soothes and encourages the girls to lay a bit more.”

Hen Rehomers’ next rescue mission, from a secret location, is planned for January 24.

The charity asks for a minimum donation of £1 per bird from people rehoming the hens.

For more information, visit henrehomers.net awilliams@oxfordmail.co.uk