Tag Archives: Humane society

Caring for Blind Chickens

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SamPetunias.Jazelle

Sam is my 10 year old rescue rooster who has been blind for the last 3 years.

Blindness can be the beginning of a new life. Sam was adopted from the local Humane Society along with his brother, Isan in 2006. Isan began developing visual problems early and went blind in 2011. Both boys had several vet visits including to an eye specialist (who generously donated her time!) Cataracts were ruled out along with other various ailments. After blood work showed that they had a genetic condition which compromised their immune systems the condition was blamed on an infection caused possibly by a virus. Isan eventually developed respiratory problems and passed away in 2014.

Sam had once held the top position in the chicken yard hierarchy. Once his eyesight was gone he was no longer respected by the other birds and he was unable to protect himself. Chickens are considered prey animals and generally hide any ailments as a survival strategy. Eyesight is essential for chickens to stay safe, find food and water and to socialize. Sam had lost this ability, so like his brother before him I made the decision to have him become a House Chicken. Since then Sam has thrived indoors and even his vet is amazed at his longevity. Here are a few suggestions should you find yourself in a similar situation with your bird:

#1) Create a Space. I purchased a pet carrier that was roomy enough for Sam to move freely, stretch and crow but small enough that he would feel secure and able to find his food and water easily. The dishes snap onto the door of the carrier so I was able to adjust the height to fit his needs. The trays also cannot be knocked over and he knows exactly where to find them. Straw is used as bedding and is changed daily. I had considered the option of “chicken pants” which many people use successfully  for indoor birds but decided against them as a safety issue. Wandering about the house blindly could be hazardous for Sam.

#2) Create a Routine. All creatures (including us humans) feel secure with a predictable routine which indicates normalcy and security. With Sam I try to create a certain rhythm so things happen at the same time of day. Whether it is feeding him or taking him out for a stretch, his internal clock can depend on these events. Routine can become boring even for chickens so I try to add some surprises into his day to keep things interesting such as including a new ingredient in his food tray or giving him a bath (he loves the blow-drying part).

#3) Provide Healthy Food. I have put Sam on a healthy diet to which I credit his robustness. One third of his food is commercial poultry pellets with a sprinkling of Poultry Conditioner (which is high in vitamins). I add a layer of raw sunflower seeds (good source of protein, calcium, iron and fiber). On top of that I put his greens cut into beak-size pieces (kale, parsley, broccoli and sometimes brussels sprouts, cucumber and cabbage). I also add a few dry cranberries, blueberries (antioxidants) and apple then sprinkle with sesame or flax seeds (omega-3s). This is pretty much how I eat (vegetarian, sans the Poultry Chow of course!) and setting aside a small portion for him is no big deal. Luckily Sam has a great appetite and always cleans his plate!

#4) Give Touch Therapy. All beings thrive with love and attention. Sam’s blindness has also decreased his physical mobility so massaging him around his wing and leg joints helps to stimulate blood flow to the muscles. He especially enjoys belly rubs! Petting and holding your blind bird is another way of reassuring them that all is safe and secure.

#5) Allow Fresh Air & Sunshine.  Sam’s indoor carrier is next to a window where he continues get fresh air and sunlight. It allows him to hear and vocally connect with the other chickens (he still competes in crowing contests with his rooster buddies). I also have a small outdoor enclosure for Sam and in nice weather put him out when I am at home to keep an eye on him. This enables him to socialize with the resident flock without the risk of any of them hurting him. An easy outdoor enclosure can be created with portable pet fencing and aviary netting or tarp clipped over the top (shown below).

The main point is that blindness doesn’t have to mean the end of quality of life for your bird. As with any disability adjustments can be made to provide continued enjoyment of life for all involved!

SamRexPortableFence.Jazelle

Portable pet fencing provides an easy way for Sam to socialize in a safe environment.

-Singing Luna 3/7/2016

Seed for thought: With proper care chickens can live from 15-20 years!

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Annabella, a Hen with a Joy for Life

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Annabella arrived at Roostersong Sanctuary in December 2008 with her four sisters.

Annabella arrived at Roostersong Sanctuary in December 2008 with her four sisters.

Annabella was one of five factory farm hens adopted from the Humane Society in December of 2008. When I first brought the girls home to Roostersong Sanctuary they were a bedraggled bunch with patches of bare skin, scabbed combs and missing tails. I could not imagine what they must have been through before their rescue. Although they received good veterinary care before I adopted them they continued to have health issues related to their stressful early lives and one by one I lost four to reproductive organ failure (a common ailment with factory raised hens). The fifth hen, Annabella seemed determined to survive and she thrived with a vibrancy that was truly inspiring. Annabella loved to run and fly and I enjoyed witnessing her exuberance (she had a strange skipping motion when she ran due to her years of living crammed into a battery cage). It took a few years before she was comfortable being touched and I was so honored when she finally allowed me to hold her and stroke her feathers! She lived long enough to become friends with my recent factory rescue hens and in the evening they would be roosting together side by side in the coop. I have known and lost many birds over the years but this one did not make me sad. She had five extra years under our care and she lived them to the fullest. During her time with us I watched her blossom and gain trust. She taught me a lot about the resilience of the spirit and of finding the courage to rise above the limitations that are initially given us.

Annabella, fully feathered, enjoying the spring grass in 2009.

Annabella, fully feathered, enjoying the spring grass in 2009.

-Singing Luna 1/12/2013

Seed for thought: What is your earliest memory of feeling compassion toward someone?

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?