Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Chicken Show: Touching Snow

I want to preface this video with something - these hens have experienced firsts that you and I take for granted. (And by "take for granted", I mean basic necessities we may expect, like being able to walk outside our homes if we want...I don't mean we take for granted perching on hay bales or anything). They were rescued from an egg farm four months ago.

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.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Mina Show - The Seizure

It's been one full week since Mina had her first-ever seizure.

The seizure was a terrifying experience, more for me than for Mina. Curled up next to me, Mina suddenly arched back. She was star-gazing, her head arched back staring vacantly off into space. I thought she was choking, it mimicked that one other terrifying moment years past when I had to pull a chunk of food from her nearly unconscious, twitching form. I found nothing in her mouth.

The panic set in, my belief she was dying so entrenched that I just started screaming her name and shaking her. I was at my parents, visiting over Thanksgiving, and my dad had to physically pull me away. Mina flopped to her side, her front legs paddling wildly. And all I could do was cry her name.

It was a long ten seconds. She was unconscious during the seizure and when she awoke, it was to three of her favorite people comforting her. Confused, she could only remain on the couch. It took about three hours for her to completely recover.

I imagine if you are used to the horror of a seizure, you develop coping mechanisms. I also imagine that for many people the first time witnessing a seizure, well, it must have been my same experience - watching someone you love lose control of their bodies, spasms wracking their body.

Mina is fine now. I am left wondering what to do. She has not had another seizure. Her sleep patterns have altered since the seizure. When she falls asleep, she goes under deeper and takes longer to come out of it. I don't know if there is any correlation but it is the only odd behavior change I've seen.

I took her to the vet for bloodwork and chest x-rays (heart disease can cause seizures too). Her heart and chest look great. Her liver and kidney levels are fine. Her thyroid is low but she is already hypothyroid, on medication, and it is an unlikely cause of a seizure.

So I'm left with the unknown. I don't care for that feeling too much.