CLUCKY pensioners have hatched a golden egg after being awarded £1m pounds in lottery funding.

The HenPower project, based in Tyneside, was awarded the grant from the National Silver Dreams Fund beating competition from 1,300 other registered charities from across the UK.

The bird-brained project works to integrate hens into older people’s care settings. ‘Hensioners’ are then encouraged to take part in hen-based activities and help in the day to day care of the hens.

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Set up in 2012, the project run by Equal Arts aims to combat loneliness and help improve the health of older people, specifically older men, in their care environments.

A four year plan for the funding will see the project expanding to the whole of the North-East and providing distance learning support, allowing it to go national.

Douglas Hunter, Director of the Equal Arts charity, was surprised at being awarded the grant.

He said: “When we first put in for the grant we had no idea we would even get to the final shortlist, never mind be awarded the £1m.

"This really is the first of many great things to come, we cannot wait to begin expanding the project.

“We get so many enquiries about the work we are doing from all across the UK and even internationally with this much needed funding we can start taking action.”

Alan Richards, 78, ‘hensioner’ and resident at Wood Green Housing Scheme, said: “At first, I was dead against the project. But then I came along to the meeting and didn’t realise there were so many breeds of hen. I just came more interested on it and started reading up on it all.

“I really enjoy the project now. I never thought that at my age I would be going along to hen auctions bidding for chickens or sitting on a chair blow-drying chickens.

“It has been a lifeline for me. I come down every day to make sure the hens are being fed and at night to see them being put to bed. And I love the eggs, they’re far better than the ones you get in the shops.”