Written by a Chicken Foster Carer
In late 2019 Bella, Scrappy, Shane, Winnie, and Wrinkles were rescued from a caged chicken egg farm. They have since made a wonderful recovery after living tragic lives trapped in tiny barren cages for the first 18 months of their lives. For those who aren’t familiar with what a caged chicken egg farm is, it is exactly as the name implies. The sheds are full with thousands upon thousands of individuals, who are all crammed into tiny wire cages with 4-5 others. The cages have a sloping wire floor (can you imagine how much that would hurt their feet?) and they are unable to do anything that would make their lives a little bit more comfortable. They can’t even stretch their wings properly. The caged system was designed to provide cheap eggs to consumers.
As a chicken foster carer, Bella, Scrappy, Shane, Winnie, and Wrinkles came to me with 7 other girls, to be cared for until they became well enough to go to their permanent homes. They were all sick with respiratory illness, resulting in swollen eyes and gurgling chests, causing them to constantly cough up mucous. Some of the chickens’ eyes were so badly swollen, that they were completely closed shut. With lots of love and care, they flourished from weak, unhealthy, and scared chickens to fully feathered, robust, cheeky, inquisitive girls. They were all treated with antibiotics and given lots of supportive care, and in time recovered from their respiratory illness.
Sadly, Summer, passed away due to tumours in her uterus – this is very common in egg-laying chickens. Due to the stresses their bodies go through in order to lay an unnaturally large amount of eggs that their bodies were never designed to cope with. Unfortunately for Sunny, it was too late to operate on her, but she passed away surrounded by love. Every one of the chickens had egg-laying issues, causing them to be very unwell, suffering from soft-shelled eggs that can’t pass and therefore become stuck in their body causing egg yolk peritonitis. To treat this, they were each implanted with a hormone chip to stop them from laying for about 6-months. The implant gave their bodies a desperately needed break from laying, providing them with time to recover and rebuild their strength. Without the implants, they would have died.
The chickens adapted to their newfound freedom in no time, immediately exploring their surroundings and getting to do what chickens love to do. Their days are filled with scratching around in the dirt, fossicking amongst the grass looking for insects, dust bathing, soaking up the warmth of the sun, nesting in amongst straw when they could lay eggs. They relish in the freedom of doing whatever they desire.
At night they slept in warm cosy straw filled beds, inside a lovely insulated house – a far cry from the farm they came from. During the day they eat lots of extra treats, such as corn, watermelon, grapes, rice, pasta, kale, and silver beet, and whatever eggs they did lay were fed back to them. The shell provides chickens with extra calcium for laying their eggs!
Like humans and companion animals, such as cats and dogs, chickens have their own unique personality. They each have different temperaments, some are very social and bold, instantly becoming your best friend and wanting to be close, while others are more reserved and interested in doing their own thing. Some are very alert to what’s happening around them, others not quite so. Some are loud, others are quiet, and some like to chatter more than others. They have different voices and make different sounds that distinguish them from each other, just as people’s voices do! All animals have personalities and by taking the time to spend with them clearly demonstrates this.
It is now 9-months on, and 6 of the chickens have been rehomed to wonderful families. Bella, Scrappy, Shane, Winnie, and Wrinkles are still with me and let’s face it, it looks like they will live here permanently, sometimes fosters fail!
Bella and Shane will often jump up onto my lap to say hello and just relax with me, by settling in and watching the antics of the backyard until they fall asleep. They like to be close to me most of the time, following me wherever I go. When Shane is scared by something she will run to me, jump onto my lap, and climb up onto my shoulder for protection. Whenever I dig in the garden she will come running like a lightning bolt, eager to see what bugs she can find. Scrappy was in poor condition when she arrived and her respiratory illness was severe, although she recovered she has a lingering constant chestiness as a result of the illness. She is a happy girl. Winnie complains a lot and she has a bit of a screechy voice hence her name, she is independent and likes to do her own thing. Wrinkles is probably the quietest of the bunch, I called her Wrinkles because her face is particularly so.
Whenever I sit with them, they all love to peck at my pants, and they will do this for a long time. We suspect this behaviour is due to the traumatic environment they came from and that this repetitive pecking behaviour probably provided them with some relief from the sheer boredom of being trapped in a cage.
I absolutely love the girls and whilst they are with me I do my utmost best to give them a life worth living, trying to make up for the deprivation they had to endure as caged chicken egg layers. They all love life now. Every moment is full of joy for them, purely because they get to do what every chicken should be able to do – if they choose – and because they are given freedom, love, care, and respect for the lovely animals who they are. In return, I get the privilege of witnessing their recovery from such sad lives. There is nothing more one could ask for and something I am very thankful for. There is nothing better than being kind to animals.