Moira student Barbara Mladek has been presented with an award at the prestigious International Fund for Animal Welfare Animal Action awards.
A South Eastern Regional College (SERC) Animal Management student the award is to recognise her tireless efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home ex-battery and commercially farmed chickens.
Barbara set up Northern Ireland Battery Hen Rescue (known as Nut House Hen Rescue and Re-homing Centre) in 2011, after buying her first four hens and since then has saved more than 4,000 others.
Her aim in setting up the centre with partner Sam Moffett was to give the hens a new quality of life which many battery hens never experience.
All new admissions are given a thorough health check on arrival before beginning the adoption process and some hens with particular needs, which would be difficult to re-home are given permanent refuge at Nut House.
A number of egg producers now alert Barbara and her team of 30 volunteers when their next wave of hens are due to retire and they can collect them all for re-homing rather than see the hens face likely slaughter.
Barbara is so devoted to her chickens that she has changed her name by deed poll to Barbara ‘Mama Hen’ Mladek.
With her partner’s help, amputee chickens can now even be fitted with prosthetic beaks and feet.
Barbara said: “I always wanted four hens and when I got them I just fell in love with them and wanted to help more. Every time you lose one it takes a little bit of your heart but most can be rescued and given a new start.”