Four rehomed chickens are providing relief from the traumas of homelessness, substance abuse and mental anguish at a centre in Watford.

New Hope, in Queen’s Road, provides beds for 60 people each night, as well as helping hundreds more through support and development services.

Staff at the centre took on the ex-commercial feathered friends from the British Hen Welfare Trust in 2015 as a way of bringing people staying at the centre together to look after them.

Ian Bond, who supervises the centre’s community market garden, said Hope, Henrietta, Hatti and Harriet fitted in straight away, and are now affectionately known as “the girls”.

“Our girls are very well loved by almost everyone who spends time at the garden,” he said.

“As well as providing opportunities for nurturing and care, they offer a lightness and relief from the traumas of homelessness, substance abuse and mental ill health.”

The hens are looked after by New Hope’s service users who take it in turns cleaning out the hen house and offering the girls affection.

Ian said people find them quite comical and have a lot of love for them, even sitting and talking quietly to them when they think no-one is watching.

Ian added: “They have been loved and cared for warmly by our service users, been the subject of a poem written during one of our poetry sessions and have been used as a way of encouraging wider engagement for our gardening workshops for those not drawn to gardening but who have a love for animals.

“The hens — as they go about their days, weathering the winter, always happy for a bit of sunlight and the chance to have a dust bath — provide a reassuring presence which encourages expressions of love, something vitally important for the healing journey of recovery.”