LIFE for battery hens is often cruel and miserable.

Cooped up in tiny, wire cages, unable to stretch their wings, the birds are farmed for their eggs until they are slaughtered.

When Harpenden author Heather Trefusis learned it was possible to adopt ex-battery hens, she wasted no time in rehoming a clutch of four in her garden.

And the cheeky chickens provided the perfect inspiration for her first series of children's books.

"When you first get them they’ve hardly got any feathers, they’re really skinny and pale and miserable and then they become really happy and lovely pets to have," says the 34-year-old, who previously lived in Radlett.

She continues: "I was so surprised, because – well, you think a chicken is a chicken, but actually they've got loads of personality."

The Four Little Hens series tells the tale of Heather's four chickens: Henrietta, Delilah, Pollyanna and Josephine, and have been brought to life with illustrations by Joanna Scott.

For each book sold, 20p will be donated to the British Hen Welfare Trust - a charity which rehomes commercial laying eggs, educates consumers about the treatment of caged hens and campaigns for better support for British farmers.

Mother-of-one Heather is passionate about animal welfare and says: "I just think it’s sad – these lovely creatures lead a miserable life in these battery farms. They’re in the battery farms until they’re about a year and a half, but then they’ve still got years ahead of them.

"So if people give them a lovely home in their back garden they can have a few years after working hard of just relaxing and sunbathing and digging in the dirt. It really is rewarding to see them flourish."

The Four Little Hens series is out now. Details: