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An inspirational chicken
Written by Jodi Ruckley   
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 00:00

With LorraineA couple of years ago when I was living in Australia, I participated in a rescue of battery hens on the central coast of NSW. It was a large scale farm with many sheds and was typical of many other battery hen farms around the globe. We walked through rows and rows of cages inside the shed where lights were on even though it was the early hours of the morning. Three to four hens lived crammed together in a tiny cage, all with their beaks cut off.

We worked quickly to find hens that were in need of help i.e. those that are sick, dying, or in need of food or water. Unfortunately, one does not have to search very hard to find hens that fall into one of these categories. I remember how small the cage openings were at the front. It was challenging to gently take a chicken from the cage as the opening was so small. I shuddered to think what happens when the chickens reach the age where they are no longer laying eggs and they pull thousands of chickens from the cages to pile them onto trucks to send to abattoirs. Ultimately the economics of the situation would mean little care is taken and the chickens would under go a truly traumatic process.

Each of us had carried one to two chickens outside to the early hours of the morning and walked back towards the cars. I was holding a beautiful girl who was in a particularly bad way. She was not moving much and when lifting her left wing you could see through to her ribs and bones, much of her flesh and feathers were missing. I consciously held her with the loving intention of helping a smooth transition for her to pass on.

At one point the sun rose over the horizon and I turned away from the sun. I wanted to shield her eyes from the bright light, knowing she had never seen such brightness in her life and it could be disturbing. Funnily enough, she craned her head around me to look at the sun. It was such a beautiful moment. Her will to live was evident, despite the challenging health conditions she was faced with. I was sad to say goodbye when the moment came to put her in the car, but happy that soon she would be at peace. She would go to the vet, and if she survived (which I doubted), she would then go to live with Lorraine and Chris, along with her other rescued chicken friends.

Recently whilst I was in France an image of a chicken flashed into my mind. That’s what often happens when an animal is trying to get in contact with me. It was her and she said it would be a good idea to visit her. So I made some enquiries and found out where she was living. I contacted Lorraine, and she remembered her distinctly as she was in such a bad way. When they visited the vet, he had said to Lorraine “you can see her hip, it’s her bone, she cannot live”. Lorraine knew differently, that she wanted to live. And she did. She remembers that she healed beautifully, so much in fact you could not tell her from the other chickens and had no sign of any injury.

When I visited, I loved the yard created for the 30 chickens that live there. What I liked most is that they liked it. They told me their social system can work in this environment. There are lots of trees and bits and pieces in the yard, so they can really explore, look under things, find surprises, and it arouses their senses. They have their friends and they are left to themselves. They like it.

We wondered how we would find her. Truthfully, I half expected to walk in and for her to come running/flying up to me, (well what can I say I can be a drama queen lol). Life never turns out the way we expect (thankfully). I asked Lorraine if we could both hold the intention of our chicken friend making her self known to us and a few seconds later she came to Lorraine. Her beak was shortened by the process of debeaking, confirming she was from a battery farm and increasing the likelihood that it could be her. Lorraine held her first (pictured) and then I held her in my arms. She felt calm and settled and my heart lit up with joy. I knew it was her and it felt so good to hold her in my arms knowing she was now living her life in the way in which she wanted. She was happy and healthy.

And in dedication to her I am going to share a little bit more of the story from the morning of the rescue. Another activist and I went for breakfast with a group of her friends. Naturally they asked what we had been doing and we shared the story of the battery hen farm, the horrific conditions and the positivity in that some of these chickens would now be able to live out their lives, free in the way they would like.

Most of them ordered and ate eggs for breakfast. More than likely they were eggs from a battery farm as these are what are used in cafes, shops and the hundreds of products like cakes and pastries that contain eggs. I felt so disappointed. I could not understand how they could eat eggs after listening to this story. I thought just for once could they not buy eggs? These were all very lovely, friendly, open minded people. I can only assume hearing about chickens in a cage and eating eggs are considered to be unrelated. I would ask people to consider that there is no difference. When one buys battery eggs one is directly supporting the caging of chickens and the battery farm industry. Decide what is acceptable to you and reflect this in your buying habits.

For more information visit www.goveg.com/factoryFarming_chickens_egg.asp