Since then, these are some of the firsts they've experience:
- Touching the earth - these hens lived in wire metal cages so small they could not spread their wings.
- Breathing fresh(er) air - on the egg farm, the fecal matter dropped from the cages was NEVER removed. It stood 3.5 feet high, nearly brushing the cages. The stench was unbearable. I know, I was there.
- Perching - chickens have an instinctive desire to hop up on something above the ground at night. For 2 years, they lived in a cage and had no access to perches.
- Nesting - I wish there was a comparable instinctive behavior in humans, so you could relate more. For a hen, nesting is VITAL to her well-being. A cage provides no nest.
- Feeling the sun - while they lived in an open-sided shed, they never had direct access to sunlight or sunbathing.
- Dustbathing - another innate behavior chickens engage in to reduce parasite loads.
- Choices! - can you imagine living in an airplane, seatbelted into your seat...for two years? Probably not, but you can probably understand that your choices would be very limited. Now these hens can decide which stall to sleep in, where to lay an egg, who to hang out with, etc.
And now, for the first time ever, these hens experienced snow! It's quite a joy to watch.
These hens are from Animal Place. (And to be clear, I work for Animal Place as their education director and am totally biased in favor of these awesome birds).
When I was in college, I was vegetarian. I ditched dairy in honor of a mother cow and her stolen baby - her bellow of sorrow left its mark. If witnessing the separation of mother from child was the norm for the dairy industry, what about the egg industry? I researched and bore witness and decided eggs were not necessary for my survival...but omitting them from my diet was a just decision and an act of compassion for the hens and rooster chicks (the 150-200 million ground up alive upon hatching). These hens lived two years in misery, driven nearly insane from deprivation and torture. That they now leap in joy, explore in curiosity, stumble forth and touch snow? What a freaking amazing gift, world.