Thanks to CBS This Morning for coming out to visit our sanctuary for their piece on urban chicken farming. Education director Marji Beach is featured, along with caregiver Jan handing out some chicken treats.
Adopting chickens as companions can be a wonderful experience. Chickens require special care, though, and should only be added as companions into homes capable of providing for their needs. There are many problems with hatcheries (which weren’t included in the short piece) supplying backyard chickens including the death of many rooster chicks, the incorrect sexing of chicks (so people end up with roosters), the intense confinement and slaughter of parent birds, the transport of chicks through the postal service, and the dangers of having chickens without any knowledge of their proper care.
Animal Place does adopt out chickens to pre-screened adoptive homes. We treat the placement of our rescued hens the same as a dog rescue treats the placement of their puppy mill rescues…we are saving these animals from unspeakable cruelty and horrific deaths and want to see them live happy lives in permanent homes.
Please do your research before acquiring chickens. They are not for everyone. But for those who can, chickens can make fantastic companion animals!
Adoption Chronicles. An update from another chicken adopter, Alice Chen: “Dust bathing a few hours after getting to new home. I love them. We took head shots of each girl so that we can learn to distinguish them and call them by their names.”
Caregivers Jan, Alicia, Anna and Celeste pose with the 500th rescued hen we moved to a new barn today! The process was lots of work bur they are enjoying their new digs.
Friday from the Field (we feature a photo taken by an animal caregiver) is from caregiver Anna: “This girl enjoyed getting dirty in a nice mud bath to cool off in the summer heat.”
The hen is one of 3,000 Animal Place saved from slaughter at a standard California egg farm. 1,150 #hensonaplane flew across the country last week. We still have >2,000 (we already had rescued hens we saved 3,000 more) available for adoption.
Great photos and article by the Daily Republic. Check it out!
If you want to see what it looks like for people to “love” nonhumans when they only mean “some nonhumans”, check this out.
So, we rescued 3,000 hens last month. Why 3,000? Originally we agreed to 2,000 because that is what we felt we could handle for adoptions in California, Oregon, and Washington. A private donor called and asked if we could save more. We mentioned that we could if there was a way to get hens to the east coast. It is harder for east coast sanctuaries to rescue “spent laying” hens and we knew they would love to participate in this rescue. So we reached out to the sanctuaries and came up with 1,000 additional hens we could rescue.
1,000 lives were liberated from cages. They were not gassed. If they survived gassing, their necks were not wrung by workers. Their bodies were not dumped in their feces, then in a landfill*. They will live. That is meaningful - to the hens, to us.
Here’s the disconnect. When our story was published to MSN.com, reading the comments would lead you to believe we were committing a grievous crime against humanity by saving these hens.
Now go and read this story of 367 Pit Bulls saved from the horrors of dog fighting. Suddenly a bevvy of “animal lovers” come out to defend the abused dogs.
(This is my Pit Bull Mina being mugged by the most annoying foster puppy ever)
Probably some of the same commenters who made positive remarks about saving Pit Bulls from dog fighting left negative remarks about saving White Leghorn hens from slaughter.
And if we called them out on it, they would argue vehemently, perhaps violently, about how saving chickens from torture is bad but saving dogs from torture is good. That’s probably because most people eat eggs and eat chickens and it’s pretty hard to celebrate saving chickens from slaughter if you still enjoy eating slaughtered chickens.
Cognitive dissonance is powerful. It’s pretty ugly to witness too. I saw those hens being gassed and a worker about to break a hen’s neck. I watched as their bodies were callously and casually flung to the ground. I witnessed them live in cages so freaking small, their battered wings barely had feathers left. Decomposed hens were being stepped on by the living. I glimpsed bloodied and shit-covered eggs rolling down conveyor belts. I touched mangled beaks and broken bodies.
Dog fighting is ugly. I love the 15-yr-old Pit Bull who I share my home with and cannot fathom harming her the way dog fighters hurt Pit Bulls. It is no more ugly than egg farming. It isn’t. A dog’s ability to feel pain and fear is no different than a bird’s. A dog’s ability to learn new behaviors, a new way of living, is no different than a chicken’s. The act of fighting a dog is illegal while the act of cutting off a hen’s beak is not. Both want to live. Both want to be free of pain and suffering. To oppose that for one group of nonhumans because you don’t like them or you benefit from their slaughter makes zero sense. Zero.
-Marji Beach, Education Director
(This Pit Bull would like you to stop fighting her kind and stop eating her friends on the bales of straw)
*It was a miscommunication that lead to the erroneous claim that these hens would have been sold for human or nonhuman consumption. Egg farmers in California have to pay people to kill their unwanted hens. It is cheaper to gas hens than to pay people to transport them to slaughterhouses, then pay the slaughterhouse to kill them. So virtually all “spent laying” hens (white leghorns) are gassed and dumped.
Roxy Kushner is one of our wonderful interns. She spent three months in the animal care department at Animal Place and is leaving September 1. She was part of the 2-day 3,000 hen rescue effort. Here is her story.
Our alarm is set for four in the morning so we can head to the farm before the sun even rises to begin our rescue mission. Seeing the egg-laying farm for the first time is a bit surreal; I had only ever seen photos of these kinds of places, but it is even worse in person, which may be partly due to the fact that I can actually smell the wretched odor of feces and death paired with feeling the chicken lice crawling along my arms. As soon as we arrive, we quickly set up our vans and crates next to the shed we will be taking birds from for the day and right away begin to liberate the hens.
I kneel next to a pile of poop three feet high that just almost reaches the bottoms of the tiny cages these beautiful girls are so cruelly forced to live in for the first two years of their lives. Fellow intern Anna is passing me hens that she is pulling out of the cages and into their first breaths of freedom. I place them into a temporary crate which we will use to move them to our sanctuary where they can learn how to be real chickens and follow the instincts they have been forced to suppress their whole lives. All is going well with situating them in their crates until I look to my right. In the kneeling position I am in I can see under the rows and rows of cages and into the many other sheds that imprison thousands of other hens. In this shed where I kneel are compassionate people all here to liberate as many chickens as we can from their confinement; but two sheds down from us is a farm worker yanking hens out of their cages, carrying them by their feet while they hang upside down in fear, and throwing them into the back of a truck. Once the truck is full, the farmer takes these hens to be gassed to death, which is what this and most other farms do when the hens can no longer produce enough eggs to create a profit. I was warned we would see this kind of atrocity, but nothing could prepare me for the real thing. I become sidetracked and lose focus on the hens Anna is passing to me. Some escape my arms and I am frightened they will run free and end up being eaten by a predator. These girls, however, have never even touched the ground before or had the opportunity to take more than one step in any direction; they don’t know what to do with all the space around them and provide me with no battle in recapturing them and placing them in our crates. I know I need to regain focus so that we can continue our mission of saving 3,000 hens from the only miserable life they have known.
We fill up van after van with about twenty-four crates in each, and soon we are reaching our capacity. We have only two crates left, but around fifty more girls left in this shed. We know there is no way we can fit them all, but how can we ever choose which ones to take and which ones to leave behind to a sure death? I slow down and I look at each of the girls left and tell them they are beautiful and I love them and that they will be moving on to a better place very soon—that soon they will be liberated from their misery. We fill up the two crates, trying to pick girls that are alone in a cage so that we don’t separate any friends. The girls are reluctant to leave their cages, but once I finally have them out, they nestle into my arms’ embrace, rest their head on my hands, and curl their toes around my fingers. This, I realize, is the first time these hens have been treated with any sort of compassion or kindness in their lives, and I just hope they know this is the beginning of a whole new life in which they will be surrounded by caring people that want only the best for them. I try to focus solely on the girls we are able to liberate, but I can’t help but tear up as I realize there are about thirty girls left in this shed who will be destined to death, along with thousands more throughout the farm. I cry as I carry the lucky ones to our crates, but I am happy for the 3,000 girls we are able to save, because we have at least made a difference for these girls.
No longer and never again will these 3,000 girls experience the fear and confinement they experienced at this egg-laying farm. No more wire cage to sleep on; now they have straw and dirt and perches. No more being cramped next to one or two other girls who they can never escape; now they can establish a pecking order and run away if a girl is bugging them. No more being trapped inside an extremely hot shed; now they can sunbathe at liberty and nap in the shade when they feel too hot. No more being thought of as an item that produces income; now these beautiful girls are loved and fed and cared for by people who consider them a part of their family.
It has only been a few short weeks that we have had the hens here at our sanctuary, but it has been amazing to witness their progression. They still fear human presence, but are slowly becoming accustomed to us and even beginning to approach us, but not quite long enough to get a pet in. One highlight of their progression was the day I witnessed them take their first steps outside, which was unfamiliar and a bit overwhelming for them at first, but now all of them have begun to dust bathe, nap in the sun, and hang out under the trees, amidst the rocks. I am also beginning to see their personalities emerge, some being much more outgoing and curious than others, deciding they’re thirsty just as I begin to clean out their waters or chasing after me as I carry their feeders. Others seem to have established their dominancy, such as Joy—the only brown hen among thousands of white ones—who seems to pick on all the other girls if they get too close for comfort. Most of these girls are slowly becoming strong and healthy as we work to help rehabilitate them so they can soon be adopted out. I feel very lucky to observe this progression and I can actually see the girls right now as I look out the window of my house; they are outside their barn, soaking in the last rays of sunshine as the sun sets, surely appreciating their new lives as liberated hens who are free to act upon their instincts, flap their wings, lay in the sun, and admire the beauty of sweet freedom.