THOUSANDS of chickens were left stranded on the hard shoulder of the M4 following a five-vehicle crash during rush-hour.

The incident took place at about 8.30am today just one mile away from junction 16 of the M4 eastbound, when an articulated lorry carrying the poultry collided with a van and caused a major pile-up.

One lane of the motorway was shut for more than an hour.

Police, firefighters and Ambulance crews rushed to the scene, where drivers had got out of their vehicles as the traffic came to a standstill and tailbacks went for miles.

One woman, who was driving a Suzuki Swift, was taken to Great Western Hospital with minor injuries, while the lorry, van and other car drivers were treated at the roadside.

Fire crews moved the wreckage on to the hard shoulder and used water jets and a fan to keep the unharmed chickens cool before a recovery truck arrived just before 11am.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “The incident caused a lot of congestion and the slip road came to a complete standstill. We sent several units down to assist.

“By 10.50am, recovery units were on the way and once the vehicles had been moved to the hard shoulder the first lane re-opened again.”

A spokesman for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said: “We were called to junction 17 and 16 eastbound at 8.35am and dispatched fire engines and an emergency support unit.

“There was a collision involving a heavy goods vehicle carrying 3,500 chickens, a light goods vehicle and three cars. “Everyone was out of their vehicles safely when we arrived.

“One woman was taken to GWH with minor injuries.

“We used a hose reel jet and a fan to keep the chickens cool and help keep them in a happy condition until an appropriate vehicle was found for recovery.”

A spokesman for Great Western Ambulance Service said: “We had an emergency care practitioner, who has enhanced diagnostic skills.

“They were able to assess and clear most of the people from the scene. “An ambulance arrived to take one woman to hospital.”

Anyone with any information on the incident should contact Wiltshire Police on 101.