Tag Archives: Chicken

Volunteering to Help Birds is a Rewarding Experience

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A rescued hen is held with gentle hands.

A rescued hen is held in gentle hands.

Animal Place is a sanctuary located in Grass Valley California which gives shelter and care to rescued farmed animals. Rescue Ranch, their sister property in Vacaville California, recently received 1500 hens from an egg production facility and saved them from the usual fate of slaughter. About 15 volunteers showed up on a sunny Saturday morning to help with hen health checks. When the hens arrive at Rescue Ranch they are able for the first time to touch the earth, experience the warm sunshine and move about freely as normal chickens. Each has spent the entire portion of their short lives in dirty, crowded and terrifying conditions… until now.

Volunteers begin to quietly round up the hens.

Volunteers begin to quietly round up the hens.

On this day we were assisting with a phase two health check. During phase one, when the hens first arrive, they are individually checked for injuries and illness. Volunteers trim their toenails which often grow unusually long due to confinement. Some of the birds have broken bones, lacerations and injuries related to brutal handling and transport. Most birds have visible feather loss and are crawling with mites from their inability to move around naturally and dust bathe. All the hens have amputated beaks, a painful procedure which impairs their ability to eat and drink. There are no male chickens present because all of them were separated from the females at the hatchery and killed as day-old chicks. The hens are emotionally fragile from their trauma and physically weak from the constant egg laying which saps their bodies of much needed calcium and nutrients.

The hens receive a dose of medication.

Hens receive a dose of medication from the wonderful Rescue Ranch staff and volunteers.

We assisted with phase two by gently collecting the hens and passing them off to Rescue Ranch staff for medication. Then the birds were released into the barnyard where they could enjoy socializing with their sisters out under the shady trees. Afterwards all of us volunteers celebrated by cleaning the barns!

The hens enjoy hanging out at the feeders.

The hens enjoy hanging out at the feeders.

Once the hens are strong enough they are put up for adoption by Rescue Ranch and also through some of the local humane societies. If you can provide a safe forever home to some of these girls (which they truly deserve after all they have been through!) please contact Animal Place through henrescuers.org. I also recommend volunteering which is a deeply rewarding experience. To hold a bird who has never been treated gently and feel her body relax trustfully in your arms is a sweet gift indeed.

-Singing Luna 8/25/2015

Seed for thought: Consider how our consumer choices impact the lives of animals!


This YouTube video is from a hen rescue in Canada. The rescuers were so devoted it appears that they prepared their living room (!) to keep the hens in during their recovery. Please Note: although the video shows chickens being carried by their feet this is not a recommended way to carry birds.

Sanctuary Resident Roosters: Cedric and Sebastian

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Cedric and Sebastian are two roosters who enjoy spending time together. (Photo:©Skyfeather Studio

Roosters can bond with each other as buddies and enjoy spending time together.

Cedric and Sebastian are two of Roostersong Sanctuary’s longtime residents. They were adopted from the Marin Humane Society in 2006 and recently celebrated their 8th Hatch-day! Originally from a larger group of socialized mixed-gender birds, they decided to become best buddies shortly after arriving at Roostersong.

Socializing new chickens into an existing flock is possible if one has patience and takes the time to observe the interaction between birds. Chickens develop complex social groups and use their own basic form of logical reasoning to understand where they might fit into a flock’s hierarchy. Roosters may buddy-up to gain a higher ranking within the flock. These rooster teams might choose to mate with hens when the opportunity presents itself but will mainly keep company with each other.

Cedric and Sebastian partake in daily chicken activities with the general flock but also go off on their own to forage for food. They take dirt baths together, protect each other and have their own special coop in the Chicken Resort. Both have mellowed with age and have sweet, quirky personalities. It is a sad truth that most animals are youngsters when they are slaughtered. We rarely have the benefit of knowing them as seasoned adults and lose out on experiencing their unique elder-wisdom which can only come with years lived.

Cedric eyes his Hatchday gift.

Cedric eyes his Hatch-day snack dispenser wondering why there is a picture of a dog on his box!

Feathered proprietors of the famous Buk Buk Bed and Breakfast Inn at Roostersong Sanctuary. (Photo: ©Skyfeather Studio)

Feathered proprietors of the famous “Buk Buk” Bed and Breakfast Inn at Roostersong Sanctuary where meals are always a delicious vegetarian fare.

-Singing Luna 9/27/2014

Seed for thought: Consider adopting a rooster from your local shelter or Humane Society!


Chicken Spa!

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Chicken Spa (©Jazelle/Skyfeather Studio)

Every so often it is a good idea to schedule a Chicken Spa day. The hens will thank you and so will those macho rooster boys. Following are the three components that I generally use:

1. Nail Care – Chickens have three toes in the front of their feet and one in the back (except the Silkie breed has five toes!). Chickens generally don’t need to have their nails clipped if they are given enough room to roam and scratch about the yard. This activity will serve as a natural nail file for your birds. As a chicken ages and gets less active she may need help with a trim now and then.

These dog nail clippers can be purchased at a pet supply store.

These dog nail clippers can be purchased at a pet supply store and work well for trimming chickens toenails.

It is best to have a helper who can hold your bird so you can position the clippers accurately around the end of the nail. There is a vein and nerves in the quick of the nail so you want to make sure to avoid cutting into the quick. With light-colored nails you can usually see the darkened area of the vein. Birds with darker feet and nails are not as easy but sometimes holding the nail up to a light will show the end of the vein. I would suggest trimming conservatively the first time until you feel comfortable with the process.

This hen was rescued from a factory farm and lived most of her life in a wire cage. This can cause the nails to grow to an unhealthy length that can impede walking.

This hen was rescued from a factory farm and lived most of her life in a wire cage which caused her nails to grow to an unhealthy length. This can lead to problems with walking.

You will know the nails are too long if they begin to curl at the ends. I would start by trimming off just the tip of the nail. This may be all that your bird needs to free up her natural movement so that she can take over regular maintenance herself by scratching and filing her nails on the ground. If you do accidentally nip the quick, apply pressure to the end of the nail for a minute or so to stop any bleeding (immediately administer a chicken treat to the beak area!). Nail trimming is also a good way to get your bird used to being handled and also enables you to check for any other possible health issues at the same time such as leg mites and bumble foot.

Chickens love to dust bathe as a social activity. Flipping the dirt through their feathers also has health benefits.

Chickens love to dust bathe as a social activity. Flipping the dirt through their feathers also has health benefits for them.

2. Dust Bath – Chickens love to get down into a pile of loose dirt and sift it into their feathers. They appear to be so blissful when “bathing” it makes me want to come back as a chicken just to experience this happy place of being. I provide a bin in the chicken yard filled with organic soil purchased from the local recycling center. Mixing in a little sand helps keeps the dirt loose. I find that my flock enjoys bathing together as a social activity and they often preen each other while engaged in their “puppy pile”. It also gives them the opportunity to peck gravel bits up for their crops. Chickens have oil glands in their skin which help keep their feathers healthy and shiny. The dirt particles are said to help soak up the old oil which then can be dislodged during preening. Adding some fresh rosemary, lavender and/or catnip to the dirt may also help discourage feather mites and ticks. And lucky for you, the fact that your resident chickens prefer dirt to water bathing also means they will not be expecting you to hang out the monogrammed towels afterward!

At the "Hapi-Chik Lodge" it's always Spa Day! (Photo:©Skyfeather Studio)

At the “Hapi-Chik Lodge” it’s always Spa Day! (Photo:©Skyfeather Studio)

3. Massage – That’s right, are you surprised? Many creatures thrive with gentle touch and chickens are no exception. I find that massage is very calming for my birds and also inspires their trust in me for being handled. Start with holding a hen (or rooster) on your lap and making small circular movements around the crop and chest area. If they are comfortable with this move into the lower chest area and up into the indentation where the legs connect with the body. This seems to be a particularly receptive area for chickens and I can feel them melt into my hand at this point. Continue up underneath the wing and if your bird is calm enough she’ll allow you to knead the thin area of skin and muscle where her wings attach. None of my chickens respond well to having their necks massaged but they will sometimes enjoy the area around their comb (because they can’t reach it themselves?). There also seems to be a sweet spot on their face just below the eyes, where rubbing gently in a small circle with a fingertip will get them to close a blissful lid. Massage helps aid circulation and is an opportunity to spend quality time getting to know your bird. Experiment to see if you can tell what they like and don’t like. I have one little roo who follows me around until I pick him up to give him his regular wing-shoulder rub!

Here are some other sites which go into more depth on nail trimming:

http://ultimatefowl.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/199/

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/trimming-your-chickens-nails-beaks-spurs-tutorial

-Singing Luna 12/21/2013

Seed for Thought: What makes your chickens happy?

Rooster Duties

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Roosters are valuable guardians of the flock and will courageously keep predators away. (Photo:©Jazelle)

Roosters are valuable guardians of the flock and will courageously keep predators away.

Chickens enjoy social interaction much like humans. Roosters contribute to an important natural social structure in the flock and perform certain “duties” which they take very seriously. Roosters will keep an instinctual eye out for predators and make a distinctive alarm call when danger is near. Contrary to the stereotype, they are also quite courageous in confronting creatures much larger and stronger than themselves to protect their flock. I have observed roosters escorting hens around the yard, finding food for them and partaking in communal dust baths. I have also noticed that a rooster will “attend” a hen when she goes into the nest to lay an egg. I am not exactly sure what transpires during this quiet interaction between the two, but he will stand attentively alongside the nest until the egg is laid. When the egg arrives he will jubilantly announce the event followed by the entire flock joining in the chorus.

Roosters have a certain call they give to tell the hens that they have found food.

Roosters have a certain call they give to tell hens that they have found food. Often they will stand aside and act as a look-out while the hen eats.

Roosters will keep a hen company while she is on the nest laying her egg. (Photo: "Zak & Zinnia", ©Skyfeather Studio)

Roosters will keep a hen company while she is laying her egg.

-Singing Luna 12/10/2013

Seed for Thought: What valuable rooster behaviors have you observed in your flock?

These Hens are Free at Last!

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Hens at the Marin Humane Society enjoy shelter, sunshine and gossip around the water cooler.

Hens at the Marin Humane Society enjoy shelter, sunshine and gossip around the water cooler.

New residents of Roostersong Sanctuary are four hens adopted from the Marin Humane Society. These four girls originally came from a group of 3,000 birds that were rescued from a battery cage egg farm. Volunteers from Animal Place saved them from slaughter in spring of 2013 and they were brought to Rescue Ranch in Vacaville to recover. Along with Rescue Ranch several Humane Societies in California helped with the responsibility of finding homes for the hens. Some were even airlifted to sanctuaries on the east coast thanks to a kind-hearted and generous donor who paid for their airfare!

The hens Denise, Cynthia, Carole, and Addie (honoring four little girls who were killed on September 15th in a church bombing fifty years ago) came home to Roostersong Sanctuary in September. All four were lively and healthy thanks to the excellent care they received at Rescue Ranch and Marin Humane Society. It will take longer to heal the emotional scars caused by over-crowding and confinement. Any sudden movements will send them into a collective panic so I have learned to move in slow motion when I’m around them. One of them leaves me a beautiful white egg every day even though I have told them all that they are retired now and never have to lay another egg! The boys at Roostersong are quite smitten with the new residents (more about that later). It feels like a drop in the bucket to be able to give forever homes to only four out of 3,000 but at least for these lucky girls they will know how good life can really be.

Arriving at Roostersong Sanctuary, their new forever home, Denise, Cynthia,Carole and Addie venture out to explore and have a snack!

Having arrived at their new forever home at Roostersong Sanctuary, Denise, Cynthia, Carole and Addie venture out to explore.

The hens free range and make friends with the other residents of the sanctuary.

The hens free range and make friends with the other residents of the sanctuary.

For more information about adopting rescued hens go to:

http://animalplace.org

http://animalplace.org/helping-hens-rescue

See the documentary about the Four Little Girls the hens were named after:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118540/

-Singing Luna 11/28/2013

Seed for Thought: Have you ever taken an action which saved an animal’s life?