FIVE friends have created Scotland’s answer to the hit movie Chicken Run – saving 3,000 birds from slaughter in just 15 months.
The pals – who call themselves Wing & A Prayer Rescue – buy doomed chickens from farmers and rehome the reprieved birds as pets.
Most chickens are sent for slaughter at 18 months when their egg production starts to reduce.
But the Edinburgh-based chicken rescue has been able to give the birds four or more years of happy retirement in a family home.
Some of the birds were rescued barely any hour before leaving the farm for the slaughter house.
The Nick Park movie Chicken Run, released in 2000, featured a farmyard full of chickens who escape certain death at the hands of Mr Tweedy by making a plane.
Fiona McGravie started the rescue scheme because she could not stand the thought of so many thousands of healthy birds being killed.
She and her friends, whose base is in the Balerno area of the city, approach farmers and negotiate a price for the birds’ release.
Farmers typically get paid around 25p a bird by slaughter houses.
New owners, who adopt these rescue birds as pets, donate £3.50 each to help cover running costs.
Fiona says that while she is a vegetarian other founders eat meat and their guiding principle is animal welfare.
She said: “We started it as there wasn’t a rescue in Scotland at that time. We’re committed to helping improve the outlook of these animals’ lives and people are really keen to help and rehome.”
She added: “We’ve rehomed thousands of birds already and I know one has even lived to seven years old which is great for a commercial bird.
“We’re all volunteers and we’re working tirelessly all the time but it’s really great fun and they make fantastic pets with cracking personalities.”
One rescued bird, called Maisie Goodchicken, proved such a hit that she even made firm friends with Fiona’s family dog, Colin.
The pair can regularly be found cuddling up on the couch.
Homes for the birds are checked before hand and owners are made to sign a “rehoming agreement” pledging to care for the birds properly.
It seems the birds are proving a success as well, Fiona said, as adopters keep coming back for more birds to add to their suburban pastures.
She said: “I always wanted to rescue battery chickens since I was a teenager and my husband grew up with chickens and ducks because of his allergies.”
Fiona added that the film Chicken Run had her “in floods of tears”.
She said: “That one chicken that gets sent to the slaughter is just so sad because the chickens we help are in the same boat. Fantastic film though.”