This was a post posted in March of this year. I am re posting it, as it gives a good idea of what the majority of our hens have gone through, and the partial process of rehabilitation.
On Sunday I went to Zandspruit to rescue 4 chickens. 3 for a woman in Kyalami (who responded to our article in animal voice, and so generously made space in her home for some hens), and 1 for Ralf in Parkhurst. My usual seller was not there. The guy who was there had the chickens in very low-roofed cages. They had no water and no food, and Sunday was hot.
These chickens are ex laying hens who have been in a battery farm for just over a year. At 2 days they would have had their beaks seared short with a burning blade – no anaesthetic. This is to ensure that in their crowded conditions, they do not start to cannibalize each other.
These hens have been deprived of a mother figure, and so have not learned many of the things they should have. For 300 days they live in a shed in a wire cage no bigger then an A4 piece of paper. They may have had to eat food off a conveyor belt or trough in front of them. They would have stood on wire, slept on wire and lay on wire. Light is manipulated to get an extra egg or two a week.
After 300 days their bodies stop egg laying for a period of 90 days. It is not economically viable to feed them through this period, so the farmers (are they really farmers? do they deserve that title? Farmers conjure up images for me of nice, warm people, who care and love their cow called Daisy, and chicken called Henny Penny) send them to cull depots. The process of transportation is traumatic and rough, and these chickens are deprived of enough food and water.
At the cull depot the hens are sold to informal traders, who use whatever rudimentary form of transportation and housing they have to get them to the townships and informal settlements for re sale. Again these chickens are not given adequate water, food and shelter from the elements. This is how they spend their last days awaiting their inevitable backyard slaughter.
The handling of the chickens is also coarse. The chickens are pulled in and out of the cage by their legs (often causing breakages or dislocations). They are carried by their legs and often their legs are bound with old plastic, wire…whatever is easily available.
Our rescue on Sunday was challenging. The cage had a very low roof, and it was therefore difficult to get the struggling hens out with care. At first the seller started the process. However, I could see that legs were going to be damaged as he yanked the first hen to the door by her foot. I took over, and gently prized each one out holding their wriggling bodies.
These particular hens were dehydrated, anorexically thin and terrified (not uncommon). They are missing a lot of their feathers.
Please be aware of what you are supporting when you buy non free range eggs (well thats another story, but it is marginally better than non free range eggs). Also be aware of supermarket chains using non free range products in their baked goods.
Once we had got the 4 into the box I had brought to transport them in, I paid, and then started the process (which I always do) of begging, pleading, asking, chatting, preaching, cajoling, negotiating a better life for these hens pre death. The ones left. Food is not something I can always negotiate, as it is expensive and therefore unlikely to happen. We can usually get water to the hens. This particular seller was very open to getting water for them – whether this was his attempt at appeasing me for future good customer relations, or whether he will continue to water in my absence, I do not know.
This makes me think of a quote I heard, ‘if we are to kill animals, let them not long for death before we do kill them’
Having got the 4 chickens back to the farm, I put them into a grassy enclosure we have created with a dog kennel with straw for shelter. We placed a number of bowls of water and food around the enclosure, and left them to unwind. It takes time for the hens to recognise the bowls we are giving them as water and food. I observed them for an hour or two until dark. I was not satisfied with their intake of water, given that their combs were drooping due to lack of nutrients and dehydration.
I crop fed the 4 of them with the assistance of my husband Nick. Crop feeding is a process of inserting a tube down the throat into the crop (a holding tank for food situated on the right hand side of the chest), and syringing food directly into the crop via the tube. Crop feeding is an invasive procedure, and can be dangerous if you get the tube into the lungs and not the crop. I gave them a watery mixture of pronutro, pro biotics, calcium and nutri calm. Crops full we put them to bed. I could also sleep better knowing they had some nutrients and most importantly fluid in them. This would increase chance of survival till morning.
The 4 hens spent the next day feeling sun on their backs for the first time, grass under their feet, and having easy access to food and water. They are traumatized, tired, sore and unfit from spending no time in their lives roaming around. They slept much of the day, ate and drank, and 2 even managed to produce an egg each. Nick and I trimmed their excessively long toe nails, which grow unhindered in the wire cages. The hens have no opportunity to wear them down through scratching and walking. Their nails are often so long, it cripples them.
They are now back in Parkhurst, under observation for a day or two. Once I am sure they are not harbouring any viruses, and they are eating and drinking adequately, they will go to their new and loving homes.
Ralf sent me this mail last night
“Everybody here at the parkhurst branch of FarawayFarm is very excited and ready to welcome her to a life of comfort and peace.
I am so moved by his compassion and empathy, and so grateful for other people in the world who feel the way that I do.
If you are wanting to rescue and rehab your own chickens, or provide a home for an already rescued pair of hens or more. Please contact me on this blog, and we will endeavour to do all we can to assist you through this process. It will change your life, and your hens! So much joy in store for you both.
The Kyalami chicks are called Do, Re, and Me. Ralfs chick is called Prude. She had a friend called Trude. All the girls are doing excellently. They escaped death by a few minutes. The ones we left behind were not so lucky.
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