HUNDREDS of hens were saved from death twice in one day thanks to a pair of Almondsbury-based traffic officers.

A van belonging to the British Hen Welfare Trust carrying 230 battery hens were being transported down the M5 to be rehomed as pets in the Devon area when a rear tyre blew.

Fortunately the incident was spotted by Nick Wiltshire and Steve Mason, traffic officers for Highways England, who pulled onto the slip road on junction 24 behind the van to help.

Noticing the tyre was still smoking, the officers suggested to the drivers, trust founder Jane Howorth MBE and volunteer Jacqui Pateman-Jones, that the hens be removed from the van as quickly as possible.

The 16 crates and additional cat baskets containing the hens were taken out of the truck with just minutes to spare as the tyre caught fire, a blaze which quickly spread, engulfing the vehicle.

The slipway was then closed while the fire was managed and the burnt-out van was recovered.

Mr Wiltshire said: “We are there to ensure the safety of road users on our network and on that day we were just doing our job really.

“It was quite lucky that we happened to be there at the time as the situation escalated quickly – and the van was completely burned out.

“As for the hens, they had already been saved from slaughter so I guess you could say they were saved twice in a day. Some of them had been laying in the crates, and I think that must have been the first free range eggs those chickens had laid.”

Jane Howorth said: “We can’t thank the two Highways England traffic officers enough – they can be very proud of their work.

“All the hens have now been adopted and have settled into their new homes, so it was a happy ending all round – apart from the van. But hopefully we will end up with something bigger and better to transport our feathered friends.”