Two of them. They arrived Thursday, July 12, 2012 at about 10 pm. They left the San Francisco area, vet paperwork to cross the border in hand, at 8 am. They made a few stops along the way where some of their rescue chicken friends went to their new homes. Our home is the most northern adoption site, so a rescue operation in northern Washington (Pasado Safe Haven) was coming and meeting here to collect the 50 hens they were taking. By the time they arrived, everyone was anxious, excited and tired. The hen truck drivers looked exhausted. So dedicated they are.
Here is a picture of the back of the truck. The hens were peacefully sleeping in large dog crates. Each dog crate had only 3-4 hens in it and there was pine shavings and food / water in there. It was cool and quiet in the truck and our new hens were fast asleep when they arrived.
The dog crates you can see contain the 52 hens who arrived at our house. The remaining (now empty) crates were piled at the very front of the truck.
Their rescue is a BIG DEAL. You must remember: these are factory farm chickens. You know, the animal almost nobody thinks about. The very same animal who is literally NOT protected in any way by federal legislation throughout her life and is EXEMPT from federal legislation at her death. Most of the world never pauses to think about the factory farm hen, forced to live her entire rotten and pathetic life in a tiny cage, crowded with others, unable to spread her wings, not allowed to take dust baths or scratch the ground. She is forced to live on wire, her toes grow around the wire. She is pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and is debeaked (without pain killer) so she can't harm her fellow captees out of frustration (i.e. she can't peck another hen). She is trapped with 50,000 or more other hens in a windowless, poorly ventilated warehouse. The manure pits below fill up and release toxic fumes that burn her windpipe. She pumps out perfect white egg after perfect white egg until she is "spent" - which means she is killed. That is it. She only sees the light of day as she is being carried out to the transport truck, upside down, by her brittle legs. She only feels the wind as she is being transported at 50+ miles an hour down the freeway. She has no protection from the elements on that trip. She is taken out of her final measly cage at the end, hung upside down, electrocuted, defeathered (sometimes still alive), and then ground up. She is the factory farm chicken.
So when I heard the NEWS was coming to our house to do a piece - even a small piece - I celebrated.
To get a better understanding of the magnitude of the rescue effort, please watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TeoK850oSU. The Farm Sanctuary shelter director talks about the efforts from start to finish.
Animal Place and Farm Sanctuary really stepped up for these chickens. They fought local authorities who didn't want to allow them in to rescue the birds who were still alive. They showed dignity and respect to the still-alive birds and mourned those who had died already. There was even a human or two who donned a full hazmat suit and WADED THROUGH THE MANURE PITS to rescue trapped birds who were literally suffocating to death. I believe they found 4 or 5 like that. These humans are amazing.
On July 12, we took our two hens into our backyard to our beautiful coop. I had set up a private section for them in the protected coop. I put chicken wire around it and a huge box for them to sleep in. Here they are, huddled up next to each other:
That first night, they slept separated from our (very spoiled) hens.
The day is finally here! I got word from the shelter worker that the new hens will be arriving TOMORROW!!! The shelter worker is using our house as a meeting point so our new hens plus FIFTY more will arrive sometime around 8pm tomorrow. The other 50 will continue their journey up to a shelter in Washington state where they will be forever safe. Our two new girls will be introduced to our resident (read: spoiled rotten) hens. Hopefully the introduction goes smoothly.
I will post photos of the new hens. They are factory farm survivors. They have been debeaked. Their combs probably fall over, a sign of unhappiness and sickness (think dolphin dorsal fins). I don't know what color they are or how old they are. Or what they've been subjected to. But I can't wait to give them a wonderful home where they will (soon) learn what it's like to roam a wonderful backyard.
Currently, we share our space with three hens. Their names are Eeniemeenie, Miniemo and Alice. E & M were named by my husband's grandma. Her name is Alice.
E & M are black sexlinks. Alice is a Rhode Island Red. All three of them were born in December 2009 on a farm near wine-country ORegon. They started laying eggs in April / May 2010. We built them their current beautiful coop in September 2010 and it was featured in Portland's 2011 Tour de Coops, a tour of local chicken coops. So far, knock on wood, it has been entirely predator-proof. We dug down about a foot and lay wood beams so predators cannot easily dig under. The chicken wire is secured in two ways, and sits between 2 x 4s and lattice. The roof is nailed on so predators can't pry their way in. The henhouse is on stilts so rats can't live underneath it. We are very proud of it, and it is pretty to look at as a bonus!