It is with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our beautiful Della who died of a heart attack during the night. Your life was too short precious girl, and the odds where stacked against you. We gave you as much as we could while you were with us, however your selectively bred body and your impoverished miserable life before we got you, left you too vulnerable. Our darling Della I am so sorry that you were born for meat, and that’s all you were seen as while you were deprived of water and food. I am sorry that you were cruelly exposed to the winter elements. I am sorry that humans continue to eat chickens and create a market for your suffering. I am sorry our lives didn’t collide sooner. I am grateful we had the time we did together. Della will be sorely missed by our family, but most of all by myself and my wonderful sister Karen who witnessed her suffering the day we got her, and assisted nursing and loving her for subsequent weeks. RIP Della.
Announcing the arrival of baby Pippa!
Delivered into my arms by my friend and colleague in rescue, Janine, who grabbed Pippa when she fell out of the cage in a recent rescue.
This is Pippa, a 4 week old broiler baby.
What is a broiler?
A broiler is a chicken specifically designed for the meat industry and genetically modified to go from 0 to slaughter in 4 to 6 weeks. These chickens are designed for their meaty breast and thighs and for accelerated growth to minimize the cost of rearing to slaughter age.
What does this mean?
For Pippa and the billions of other broiler babies shackled for slaughter at this young age, it means they never get to know the love and protection of a mama hen, they suffer the pain and discomfort of accelerated growth (think growing pains continuously x 10), the associated difficulty walking having to support their bourgeoning weight on ill equipped baby legs (often leaving them lame by slaughter age). Heart troubles later down the line when their organs can no longer support their massive weight gain.
What does this mean for rehabbers and carers of these intelligent, curious and affectionate birds?
For us, it means being full time mama to a baby chick in a large body. Their bodies might be ‘mature’, but their psychological development and needs remains that of a tiny chick. It means constant care, an early regime of heart Meds for the broiler, and a broken heart for their carers when they leave us, their lives often cut short by heart failure somewhere between 6 months and 14 months.
We watch them become more sedentary, less able to partake in natural chicken behavior, and the steady decline of quality of life of our beloved babies. Sometimes we need to preempt heart failure and make that difficult decision to euthanase. It means we look at people who choose to eat chicken with confusion, and those who continue to eat chicken when they have the facts with horror. Not judgement, just plain disbelief. Why why why would you choose to contribute to this cruel industry when you know better.
What does this mean for you as a chicken eater?
Chicken eaters are eating baby chickens regardless of wether they are free range or not. ALL chickens slaughtered for meat are broilers. They have all experienced the trauma of transport and horror of slaughter. It’s not an easy or nice end, and it is certainly not a comfortable life prior to that. Don’t be conned into believing these babies have a good life and swift end.
For me, today I love and hold Pippa, offer her the safety of my wing, and tell her I will make her as loved and comfortable as I can for her short life with us. I start to steel my heart today for the inevitable loss to come.
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.
SPCA went to inspect Muks Muks previous home. Broilers did have food and water at time of visit. Pleased that they had followed through on my chat to them on Sunday, but also means SPCA not able to confiscate. Lack of shelter not deemed to be adequate. Owners have been given till today to either send chicks to abbatoir, or provide proper shelter.