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500 hens saved from gas chamber in California

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500 battered and abused brown leghorn hens now have something to crow about after rescued from a Central Valley, CA egg farm where they were slated to be gassed to death for not producing enough eggs. The chickens, estimated to be between 1-1/2 to 2 years old were reportedly bred to produce 300 eggs a year, as opposed to the 40 or so a regular hen would lay. Once they begin to lay less, they are generally disposed of by farmers. However, these lucky ladies will now have a chance to live out their lives at a 60-acre farm in Vacaville, where many of the birds have experienced being in sunlight for the first time.

"They're a little loopy when they first get here," said Kim Sturla, director of Animal Place,which has rescued more than 14,000 hens from California egg farms during the past 25 years. "It's almost impossible to adequately describe what they've suffered. Many of the rescued hens come to us with a load of medical ills, including parasites, atrophied muscles, nails that have grown more than an inch long and, in some cases, cancer of their reproductive organs from spending their lives in cramped wire cages where they are unable to flap their wings or even turn around. In fact, many are so weak that they can’t walk and are afraid to move away from each other. In addition, their beaks are clipped so they can’t peck at each other. But after they've been here a few weeks, they usually look pretty good. They start to enjoy themselves and act like normal chickens," Sturla continued.

Despite the abuse reported by Animal Place, the United Egg Producers trade group maintains that while most of California's 18.3 million egg-laying hens (which are raised on traditional egg farms, as opposed cage-less or range free farms, they “live safe, healthy lives. They may be crowded, but they're protected from predators and avian diseases like bird flu, and receive regular medical care.”

Note: California Proposition 2, passed in 2008, mandates that that hens and other farm animals “ be housed with enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.”