I found her October 31st 2010 amongst a seething mass of broiler chicks destined for slaughter, 34 deg celc heat, no water, no food. I pleaded with the guy who owned them to take all 50, but he would not agree. We managed to get them food and water. I grabbed one amongst the many – she had a big tear in her side. He allowed me to take her to treat. I called her Muk Muk (named by Danni Curry from A…us). I nursed her to health, and she grew to 6kgs. She was genetically modified to go from 0 to slaughter in 6 weeks. At 6 months Muk got heart problems, as broilers are prone to – in desperation my vet and I tried putting her onto dog heart meds. It worked and Muk was like a new gal. This morning I found her at 5am dead in the garden under a bush. I am not sure what happened, and will never know, but I suspect she had a heart attack and died. She was my baby – she loved sitting on my lap while I massaged her large, often sore body. Muk Muk wanted cuddles all the time, and would pull at my clothes till I loved her. My staff adored her, and her big body, and big personality has left a massive hole in our lives. She leaves her chicken friends Lesego, Cindy and Daisy. I sat with the three of them and Muks body later in the morning. They stared at her, pecked her gently, sat on her – they engaged with her, and they knew. My heart today is shattered. Its days like today, that I do not want to do this work anymore and deal with this imperfect world and all its cruelty – however a wise friend reminded me this morning, that this is what has happened before, and closing my heart to stop further pain will not benefit anyone, including future chickens. So today I sit with the pain of losing my dear Muks, and imagine a world without her cuddles and soft head in my hair. I do acknowledge that Muks passing has made a space for another chicken in need – but not today – it is too sore. RIP beautiful, beautiful Muk Muk – my life was richer with you in it.
We recently removed 3 broilers from a company that runs kids educational classes, after a distressed mother phoned us. This is the letter we wrote to them. The 3 broilers are healing, and have gone to their forever home. A small holding where they will live (free range) with a few other rescue chickens under the superb care of Fiona. Fiona has named them Fauna, Flora and Merryweather. Broilers are genetically modified to grow from 0 to slaughter in 6 weeks. Their bodies are under enormous strain and proper ligament and muscle is not laid down – causing growing pains, ligmament and tendon collapse, immature digestive systems, heart and organ problems. So these girls needed a special home, where they can be monitored closely, and have access to vet care. When one eats chicken, this is what you are eating – free range or not.
Dear (organisation name has been left out to protect identity)
Firstly I need to thank you for so willingly handing over your chickens that you bought for farm week. This was the humane and compassionate thing to do.
All three of those chickens are in very poor condition and in urgent need of veterinary care. While you did not cause their injuries, and where unaware of what you had bought from Yeoville and had no intention of prolonging suffering – they have suffered unnecessarily for the period they have been with you, and would have continued to deteriorate in condition over the week, with possible death during the week. I am glad we were alerted to their plight.
I would like to use this letter as a review process so that you are able to make more informed decisions (in this area) in future.
These chickens are broilers. Genetically modified for the meat industry to go from 0 to slaughter in 6 weeks. The accelerated growth causes all kinds of unpleasant complications for these birds – severe growing pains, lameness, heart failure, organ failure and general discomfort. All chickens sold in supermarkets are broilers.
These particular birds have been kept alive in very bad conditions for longer than 6 weeks, and have been transported and handled in a rough way.
The result is
- ammonia burns on their feet and legs
- open infected sores under their feet
- the one has a broken and severed bone on her wing tip
- severe bruising
- lesions and tearing of skin
- broken and bleeding feather shafts
- Diarrhoea (not uncommon to broilers because of their immature and compromised digestive systems)
- The one has severe bumble foot, an infection which has moved into her joints – very painful, and probably a case for euthanasia.
- Not enough access to water
- Transported and caged in hot summer weather with no access to water
- When chickens are stressed they open mouth breath and lose vast quantities of fluid through their mouths
- Once electrolyte levels are imbalanced they lose thirst reflex and stop drinking (as humans do)
- ‘Institutionalised’ chickens (from a factory farm), often don’t recognise a new container of water to the one they are used to, and therefore probably did not recognise your bowl of water as water. Once I had shown them the water, they drank a huge quantity today.
I have concerns about you running farm week on yearly basis and using live animals in education. I hope you will be open to hearing these concerns and giving them due consideration
- Live animals in education is becoming increasingly outdated – the message that comes through is that animals are products or commodities at our disposal, and that compassion for their well being is secondary to our needs. Just exposing children to animals in a cage does not educate them in any meaningful way. The message to your mums and ultimately to the kids, is that compassion is key, and therefore we don’t bring live animals into a stressful environment.
- What was going to happen to these 3 chickens post your use of them?
- Where were your chickens sleeping/ going to sleep this week?
- In this case with little knowledge of the industry, no knowledge of your source supply of the chickens, and little knowledge about their needs – you unknowingly put your kids and mums at potential risk, and the welfare and basic needs of these three chickens were not catered for (again I stress that I understand that you did not do this with poor intention)
- Veterinary care is specialised and therefore challenging for you to assess their needs and level of health.
- Regardless of where you source them from next year, they will still undergo stress being moved for a week from their current environment to your environment, and continued stress as they are exposed to unfamiliar crowds of mums and kids who make a noise and crowd around their surround. They have no way of escape and no way of understanding that they are safe. Chickens cannot distinguish between the apocalypse, and a crowd of enthusiastic children closing in on them.
If you have any questions, or would like any additional information on the chicken industry – both egg and meat, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kind Regards, and thank you again for doing the right thing for them.