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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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!
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.
-Singing Luna 1/12/2013
Seed for thought: What is your earliest memory of feeling compassion toward someone?
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 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 laying her egg.
-Singing Luna 12/10/2013
Seed for Thought: What valuable rooster behaviors have you observed in your flock?