Thieves seemed to have turned their attention to commercial layers following the reported recent theft of more than 500 free-range hens from a farm near York.

Reported in the Yorkshire Post, on 24 August 2009, the thieves are thought to have broken into the free range layer unit after forcing open a padlocked gate. An additional 30 birds were killed in the process,

Police have described the theft as unusual and are trying to identify a two-tonne brown and silver 4×4 seen in the area.

This is because until then, thieves have targeted smaller numbers of more valuable breeding stock, rather than large numbers of commercial stock.

The latest theft comes just weeks after a police warning to owners to remain vigilant in June after a spate of poultry thefts across the UK.

These included a case handled by North Yorkshire police where breeding birds (worth a total of £500) were taken from Airy Hill, near Filey.

Further south in the same month saw birds, totalling £2000 in value, stolen from a pen near Chatteris in Cambridgeshire. Nearby in March, six free-range birds were taken from outside a bungalow, while in a separate incident two birds were taken from a front garden in a another part of the town by two men in a passing car.