Thanks to Animal Place Sanctuary in Vacaville, Calif. and a very generous anonymous donor, 1,150 two-year-old rescued hens flew a 2,300 mile red-eye trip to New York via their own chartered plane, arriving Thursday morning. Now they're off to the second and final phase of their journey where they will be heading to nine different area sanctuaries to scratch in the sand, stretch their wings, and live as nature intended hens to live.
In July, two California egg farmers going out of business surrendered 3,000 birds to the Animal Place Sanctuary instead of slaughtering them. Then there was the process of rehabilitating the hens as most had never been out of a cage and were in poor physical shape. Some were barely able to stand.
For egg laying hens, life is far from ideal and in many more cases-far from humane. As the chicks hatch from incubators, they are placed on a conveyor belt where the males are tossed into a macerating machine and ground up alive. Millions of hens will live in tiny cages crammed with eight other hens, after their beaks are snipped to keep them from pecking at each other, in their grossly overcrowded cages. Their feet will eventually become shredded from the wire, and as they are constantly laying eggs because of artificial light, their bodies wear out. At that time, approximately two-years of age, the hens are too small and skinny to become part of the food chain, and they are then gassed and thrown away.
According to the SF Gate.com, the United Egg Producers are working with the Humane Society of the United States seeking federal legislation for hen welfare.
Meanwhile, according to the educational director for the Animal Place Sanctuary, Marji Beach:
"Since 2010, Animal Place has rescued about 12,000 hens from farms around California. Some stay at the group's sanctuaries in Vacaville and Grass Valley, but most are adopted by the public. The hens still lay eggs, but closer to the rate of a regular hen, about 50 to 60 a year."
And for those who wonder just how smart a hen might be, research shows these birds have a sophisticated social behavior - thus a "pecking order." The birds are able to recognize one another, communicate, and solve problems. Each one has their own unique personality.
Most hens do get adopted, and they make wonderful pets. They eat bugs, help with compost piles, and make great companions - not only that but can lay fresh eggs.
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