A FAILED arson attack on 30 plucky hens left farm staff distressed and confused.

Thugs set fire to a chicken coop at Woodlands Farm, Shooters Hill, at around 5am on June 7 leaving staff to foot a £2,000 bill.

Around 30 birds were caged in a 10m by 5m wooden shed packed with flammable hay but miraculously managed to dodge the flames and escape into an adjoining chicken run.

Fire crews from Plumstead and Eltham managed to stop the blaze from spreading to a nearby apartment housing to two adults and children as well a neighbouring pig barn.

Woodlands Farm manager David Jones said: "They [the arsonists] didn’t know the animals would get away.

"The fire was very very intense at the time - they would have been burnt completely.

"We are just lucky the chickens survived.

"They weren’t upset - quite glad of their freedom - and by the time I got there at 7am they were enjoying themselves." The scorched shed was built by volunteers of the Woodlands Farm Trust a few years ago who paid for the materials themselves.

Mr Jones said: "Unfortunately it was too late to save the shed - we will need to raise around £2,000.

"The volunteers put a tremendous amount of work in. It is quite distressing for some of them."

Police are treating the case as arson and believe an accelerant such as petrol was used to fan the flames.

The 90 acre farm has been the target of small hedgerow fires before but staff are puzzled by this attack on the farm buildings themselves which are hidden behind locked gates.

David Jones said: "We have no idea who did it.

"It’s an odd time too because you would expect to see children or youths hopefully tucked up in bed."

Woodlands Farm is hosting an open day with falconry and vintage farm engines on July 1.