A brood of rescue chickens has been removed from the Tarka Trail, despite around 800 people signing a petition to keep them there.

But those in support of the chickens have hit back at Devon County Council for ‘spitefully’ removing the fencing and pen that were there.

The council evicted the ex-battery hens because it claimed owner Louie Brownsell was using the land without permission.

Louie said the council had removed the items on Thursday and in doing so, had uncovered a sinkhole on the piece of land and left four-inch nails sticking up from the ground.

“They wanted the chickens gone for health and safety reasons and now they have left it like this; it’s dangerous,” he said.

Louie Brownsell with two of the hens he has rescued.Louie Brownsell with two of the hens he has rescued.

“Someone is going to get hurt and then they will have a lawsuit on their hands.”

Louie said the chickens had been moved to a nearby garden after DCC threatened to take him to court for occupying the land illegally.

“People have been outraged that the chickens have gone,” Louie added.

His friend Allen Wilson said he could not understand why the council had gone to such lengths to remove the chickens and the shed that was on the land.

“It is a total waste of time and money,” he said.

“We’ve got potholes all over the county and they’re prepared to throw thousands-of-pounds fighting a court case about a few chickens which aren’t doing anybody any harm.”

Peter Christie, town and district councillor, who also keeps his own chickens, added: “I’m astonished that the county council can spend money on chickens when we’ve had a landslip at Chudleigh Fort for six years and they keep telling us there is no money to clear it.”

County councillor for Bideford East, Linda Hellyer, said she believed the matter had been resolved now the chickens were happily moved to the walled garden.

She said she was not aware the fencing had been removed and she would ask council officers to make the site safe.

“My interest was that it was a nice thing to do to rehome the battery chickens and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them,” she said.

“Now that I know that they are safe and well, I think the matter is closed.”