An injured veteran who scooped gold at the Invictus Games has rehomed 100 hens destined for slaughter to provide therapy for fellow ex-servicemen.

AJ Pingram, who served as a Marine Engineer in the Royal Navy, had the hens delivered by the British Hen Welfare Trust, a national charity which rehomes over 60,000 birds per year. His care farm is already home to other furry and feathered friends including cats, alpacas, turkeys and ducks.

In rehoming the hens from the BHWT AJ has not only given them a better life, but he plans to improve other people’s lives too through the concept of hens as therapy. The care farm is helping hens and helping heroes.

AJ was already familiar with keeping chickens and says they helped hugely with his rehabilitation after leaving the Royal Navy. He explained: “Having the chickens meant I had to go outside and look after them even when I didn’t want to look after myself.

“Their lives mattered to me, so I would go outside to feed and clean them and collect the eggs. Then they started to recognise me and come running to say hello and see what food I had. I would sit and they would get on my lap and go to sleep; it was lovely and so calming.”

After hearing about the BHWT on Facebook AJ, who is a Help for Heroes ambassador, decided to get in touch. The hens he rehomed had been living in cages for 18 months laying eggs to be sold in the supermarket or to be put into processed foods and would have been destined for slaughter otherwise.

AJ’s care farm will provide rehabilitation for fellow injured veterans through animal interaction and developing outdoor skills such as farming and tree surgery, with the idea that they can then find new careers or hobbies to aid their physical and mental recovery.

Hens as therapy is a concept long promoted by the BHWT, whose supporters say their pets have helped them through mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and even bereavement.

Jane Howorth MBE, founder of the charity, said: “I’m thrilled that our hens will be doing so much good in such a wonderful, caring environment. AJ has given these hens a new lease of life and in turn they can help change the lives of the injured veterans visiting the care farm. A real happy ending for all involved.”