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October Chicken Rescue

There is no greater joy, and no greater heartache, than rescue. The day of the chicken rescue, we found that to be true. The confronting scene before us, 60,000 hens in cages, cramped in the dark and the dust, rows and rows piled from floor to ceiling. The excitement of being able to save some. But realizing that meant leaving behind the majority. Worse, only saving 3 from every cage of 5. That is haunting stuff. But for the girls who won the lottery, their lives changed forever.

Early on Friday morning we gave 261 battery hens their first glance of the sun. They squinted and squirmed in the light, overwhelmed by the openness around. They had been in those cages from 5 days old, and were now 18 months old. Every experience was brand new.

All chickens are individuals, and so you could see them all react differently to this new found freedom. Some would push their friends away, while others would reach through the enclosures to their other friends. Some even took it all in their stride and started sunbaking! They were scared, curious and hurting all at the same time. You would be too, for they had no idea that such a good life lay ahead.

In battery farms, there is often a ‘deadpile’ on the floor at the end of the cages, where the bodies of birds who couldn’t cope with the conditions are thrown for disposal at a later date. When we were inside, we found 2 girls ontop of this pile, alive, and consequently rushed them outside. One girl was incredibly weak and cold, but she at least got to experience the grass and the sun before she passed on peacefully. The other was more alert and interested, enjoying peaking in the grass, but her body would not move, she was completely immobile (more on her later).

From the farm, we transported our rescues to Beerwah Feed & Fodder, where our team of volunteers began the gargantuan task of health checking every single bird. They were due to go to their new forever homes tomorrow, and we couldn’t send any that were ill or injured home without treatment. The going was slow, but with 3 health checkers we chugged along.

We carefully inspected each hen all over, starting with their eyes and making our way over their whole face, neck and body. We extended each wing to check for breaks, and manipulated each leg to do the same. We tested their grip strength and found many that had broken toes (they stick out at weird angles instead of wrapping around our fingers as they should). Careful to take notice of any abnormal breathing sounds, we made sure they are clear of obvious infections and that they didn’t have any eggs stuck (a common eventual fate for all battery hens). Once we were happy, and had checked that they can walk (some make it very clear from the get go that not only can they walk, but they can RUN!), we clip their nails, and administer worming and ectoparasite treatments. Then they get to stretch and explore as we continue the rest of the health checks. Between checks bit is wonderful to see them stretching their legs for the first time, dust bathing for the first time, basically acting like chickens for the very first time!

It was not all happiness, for we did find several injuries, and some girls were so sick that they were past saving. Of 261 saved, 3 were lost, 8 had broken wings, 3 could not weight bear at all, 4 had respiratory infections and numerous more had old breaks, including malformed beaks and crooked legs. Most had substantial amounts of feather loss, with the most naked tending to be the most frightened and flighty, as a result of the bullying they had endured in the cages.

The day was not just about health checks, but we spent countless hours providing fresh food, water and comfortable bedding. They were ravenous, after a lifetime of surviving off the bare minimum. They were overjoyed to get to taste their own eggs for the first time too, such a nutritious treat!

While no hen that comes from a battery cage can be deemed completely healthy, the vast majority were stable enough to be rehomed over the coming two days. Dozens of families came and collected their new companions, excitement obvious on the faces of many. The hens had mixed emotions, so much had changed in such a short space of time, but without a doubt they would all be having the time of their lives soon in their forever homes, forever safe.

While we don’t often get to see what becomes of the hens in their new homes, this time we can share an update on one of them. Two of the volunteers who helped with health checks adopted one of the girls with a broken wing, and named her Evie. She was to be a friend to their old hen who had recently lost her sister to ovarian cancer. She has embraced life in the great outdoors with open wing (just one, the other needs to be wrapped for 8 weeks in order to heal!) She is curious and speedy, and while at first she was nervous, she finds great strength and encouragement through her older friend. She adores dust baths, is obsessed with trying new foods, and embraces the rain; what a treat a shower is when you’ve spent your life indoors!

How about the chicken who was found on the dead pile? Hers is perhaps the greatest success story of all! From the moment she was rescued, she has only gone from strength to strength, now able to get herself around without assistance! All 3 immobile hens are now up at moving, and all the others are healing up marvelously. Once they are all healthy they will be able to join the existing flock in the recently refurbished chicken coop!

Chicken rescue is always a highlight of our year, and we can’t wait to do it all over again in 2024. It wouldn’t be possible without our chicken champions, our volunteers, our avian veterinarian and our wonderful “mother clucker” families, so on behalf of all of the hens, thank you for everything that you do.

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2 comentários

Sandra Blakiston
Sandra Blakiston
05 de nov. de 2023

How does RSPCA allow battery hens these inhumane chicken farms


Janet Wickens
Janet Wickens
03 de nov. de 2023

Nup to the Cup as usual for me.

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