Prevalent in our society are some deep misconceptions about turkeys: that they lack intelligence, that they don’t have personalities, that there can be no kinship between humans and these animals who appear so very different from us. For eight years, Hildy walked up to people bearing such assumptions and completely disarmed them.
Louise is Free from Harm‚’s latest hen rescue. We responded to a call from Chicago Animal Control and Care who found her on the streets of Chicago. She has a beak deformity from having been debeaked earlier in her life. She has already been successfully treated for an upper respiratory infection and biting lice. She’s active, alert and eating well, though still frail, underweight and may have a crop (digestion) issue that the vet will need to check on.
When a sanctuary spends $50,000 of its hard-earned donations to transport 1,150 “spent” egg-laying chickens who have seen nothing but the inside of a battery cage across the country to give them a second chance at life, some people say things like, “it should be illegal,” or “what a waste of resources” or “are these people crazy?” But when the poultry industry spends millions shipping live chicks in the mail and makes a big profit on their lives to boot, no one has a problem with that.
Visiting a sanctuary is a vastly different experience than visiting a farm. Farms value animals to the extent that they produce a profitable product via their flesh, mammary gland secretions or ovulation. Visiting animals on farms does not produce any “breakthrough” in our understanding of animals. On the contrary, most people simply walk away from a farm reaffirming what they have been taught: animals don’t object to being used as “resources.” It’s natural and sanctified by ancient traditions.
We believe it is vitally important for people to connect with living, happy animals who have been rescued from commercial farming. Seeing these animals in a sanctuary environment allows people to understand the animals’ true natures and to observe them as individuals who lead rich and complex lives, when permitted to thrive. In short, witnessing animals in a sanctuary setting “re-sensitizes” and “reprograms” our minds. In the process, we rediscover the wonder and empathy we had for animals as children, before we were taught not to care.
Lucinda, our latest rescue found last month on the brink of starvation, has been rehabilitating at the home of one of our rescue heroines, Melissa Summer Pena. Lucinda’s getting stronger and healthier each day, and as she progresses, her personality is really starting to blossom. She’s taken quite a fondness for Melissa, following her all around the house and talking to her all the while. And she’s even taken to one of Melissa’s dogs, Travis!
Some of you may recall that our wonderful hen Sweet Pea needed to have exploratory surgery in March to determine the cause of a large and growing mass in her abdomen. Fortunately it was not a tumor, but the news was nevertheless sobering. An egg had ruptured through her oviduct and into her abdomen. Her liver was very enlarged and damaged and masses of fatty tissue were forming around it — a condition called fatty liver disease. Weeks after the surgery, the swelling and redness began to come back and worsen. Yesterday we took her back the vet again. Learn more about Sweet Pea’s condition and how you can help.
In her short life, Edith experienced the kindest and cruelest of humanity. She clearly judged people she encountered as individuals, trusting and bonding with us as her new caregivers immediately, even after someone cruelly discarded her like trash. But the kind person who rescued her offered her a second chance. The least we can do is acknowledge that animals like Edith are also individuals. And perhaps we can learn a valuable lesson from her as well — that we too should judge others (both human and non human animals) as individuals.
Our heroine, Melissa Summer Pena, rescued Lucinda today from Chicago Animal Control and Care (a kill shelter), describing her as the sickest looking bird she’s seen. In addition to being severely underweight, emaciated, drooping her head and eyes closed, she has a terrible biting mite infection. She’s been treated with mite powder and needs to see the vet in the morning. Lucinda’s beak has also been amputated, a common practice by egg farmers.
“I do what I do simply because I cannot go back outside to the sanctuary and look them in the eye without conveying the information that I feel they would want me to convey: that using them, for any reason, harms them. Irretrievably in most cases. There is no humane use of another.” — Sandra Higgins of Eden Farm Sanctuary
My personal opinion and that of people I know who have rescued enriched colony caged hens is that there is no difference in health between the battery and colony caged hens. I also believe from evidence I have seen that there is not much difference between barn versus free range hens either. Because of the laws, free range hens can be kept indoors in barns with not much room to move around (like broiler chickens), and this is marketed as “free range.”
I got a call from a Facebook friend that a chicken had been found in a plastic bag on the street near another Chicago poultry market — still alive, as if she were just trash. The kind young man named Javier who’d first taken her home realized, after a few weeks, that he could not properly provide for her as a companion in his apartment. Please read the details of her story and consider making a tax-deductible donation to help her out.
I had an unexpected visit from a new neighbor and her two children who were really interested in meeting the Free from Harm chickens. The mother, Joanna, had taken her children to a working farm called Prairie Crossing where they have “free range” organically-raised hens. This gave them an opportunity to compare what life is like for chickens on a small organic working farm to my backyard urban sanctuary, as I like to call it.
People often ask me why I have chickens. “Is it for the eggs?,” they ask. Now of course, what this question implies is that there is no other value to chickens than the eggs they produce. In fact, I find people far more interested in the fancy colors and sizes of chicken eggs than I do about the birds who lay them. Isn’t that interesting? We’re a culture that is fascinated with objects. And the egg is perhaps the most poignant symbol of fertility in many cultures, including our own. And in a way, this symbol has distracted us from something much more important which I hope to touch on here.
Sweet Pea is one of the adopted chickens in our care since 2009 who now needs surgery and hospitalization for a condition due to her egg laying. This video covers Sweet Pea’s recent visit to the vet for an initial exam. If you would like to help, we welcome your donations. You can make a donation at freefromharm.org. See the donate option in the main menu. Thanks in advance! And please share this video to educate others about egg laying hens. As Sweet Pea’s situation demonstrates, there is no such thing as a “cruelty-free” egg.
“What do you do with all the eggs if you don’t eat them?” is the most common question I get about the chickens in my care. The assumption underlying this question is that chickens lay eggs in the same way that fruit falls from trees. Now the truth of the matter: The hen’s reproductive systems is manipulated by breeders to produce those eggs through selective and genetic breeding technologies that push the limits of the bird’s capacity to reproduce, and her body can only keep up for a short window of her life (1 to 2 years).
Henry is a very young pigeon we found on the ground on a bitterly cold night a few weeks ago outside of a friend’s Chicago apartment building. He was unable to walk due to what we later discovered was a serious bite injury. Upon examination, our bird vet immediately discovered that his wound was so infected, he had become septic and could have died within hours had he not been treated.
No one knows the horrors of illicit backyard slaughter farming in Southern Florida like Richard “Kudo” Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) in South Florida. In the last couple of years, he has been instrumental in shutting down 90 illegal slaughter farms. He estimates that there are about 150 still in operation in Miami-Dade County alone and another 700-to-900 scattered throughout the rest of the state.
Angelica was found wandering the city streets of Chicago and was picked up by Chicago Animal Control and Care late last Wednesday night. A dedicated Chicago animal rescuer, Melissa Pena, got her out of there on Thanksgiving day as staff would be minimal over the holiday weekend, and CACC kills animals shortly after they are picked up if no home can be found. Melissa contacted us to alert us of her urgent need for a medical care and a safe home.