Saturday, May 28, 2011

These Hens Are The Best

I'm very proud of the Rescue Ranch program we started late last year. We work with egg farmers to offer an alternative to slaughter by taking in "spent" laying hens and then rehoming them into permanent, companion homes. Obviously we only work with a very small percentage of farmers and thus only save a tiny portion of the 400 million egg-laying hens in the country and the 18 million in California alone. But to date, we've saved and re-homed or retained at the sanctuary 1,912 chickens. More than 1,500 of those chickens were rescued in the first five months of this year.

These hens in the video are some of the sweetest birds alive. Watching them makes my heart ache for those we cannot save. While we struggle to create a kinder world through our outreach and education, we also strive to help the farmed animals already in existence. This is one way to do just that.

It is hard to see in the video, but these hens have been de-beaked, a portion of their nerve-sensitive and blood rich beaks were cut off at the hatchery. It is standard practice...and these hens did not come from an intensively confined farm. De-beaking is done on a range of different types of farms, even some of the more pastoral ones.

The hens are ISA Browns. They have been bred to be incredibly curious, docile, and of course, grotesquely absurd producers of eggs. On average, they will lay 250-300 eggs a year. A normal hen would lay 20-40. A lower producing layer would lay 120. Instead of living 8-10 years like other standard sized birds, these hens are lucky to survive to age six. Their reproductive system is not made to handle this egg production, so they often die of egg-related diseases, including most commonly ovarian cancer.

I love these hens something fierce.

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