A heart for hens: the Turlock rescue operation

Creature or commodity?  The chickens you eat are slaughtered at six or seven weeks of age and the ones whose eggs you buy at the grocery are “discarded” after one or, at most, two seasons of laying. In a nation hungry for its protein, you can see how the lines get blurred.

But last week, a line was crossed, one so egregious that mainstream news picked up the shocking story: Turlock, CA egg farmer Andy Keung Cheung abandoned 50,000 hens when he reportedly ran out of money to feed them. He just walked away and left them to starve.

Starving hens at A&L Poultry near Turlock (image from sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

According to the Modesto Bee “Authorities say the hens had not been fed in more than two weeks. About one-third died of starvation, while thousands were in such poor condition they had to be euthanized.”

And these are some of the lucky ones: this is how they lived. (image from news10.net)

Two organizations, Animal Place and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary staged a spontaneous and heroic rescue operation. Upon arrival at the farm, their volunteers discovered that 20,000 hens had died and the remainder were being gassed. The rescue organizations convinced authorities to release the healthier surviving hens and the word quickly spread that nearly 4,500 hens had been saved.

A volunteer holds one of the rescued hens (image from animalplace.org)

I heard about it via Hope’s Twitter feed since she follows MyPetChicken, who tweeted a plea for donations to help the surviving hens. I was so horrified by the story that I managed to make a donation from my Blackberry via my PayPal account while I was walking down the street (who says modern technology is not sublime?)

One lucky cluck: a surviving hen (image from animalplace.org)

I received an appreciative email from Kim Sturla at Animal Place, thanking me for my donation and providing an update on the rescue operation. Kim shared that their “exhausted small staff and volunteers have been working around the clock” to save as many of the starving, debeaked hens as possible. And she mentioned that the food bill alone is $300 a day until the birds are healthy enough to be adopted out.

The ethical issues of battery chicken farming are complicated and difficult. I won’t even begin to debate them here. I can even summon up an iota (only an iota, nothing more) of compassion for Mr. Cheung, who perhaps was at the end of his financial and emotional tether when he walked away from the birds that represented his livelihood. But, as a backyard flock owner, my heart is with the hens and with these organizations who saved the lives of so many of them this week. May all those little ladies find loving homes soon!

This photo says it all. An Animal Place volunteer snuggles with a rescued hen. (image from animalplace.org)

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
This entry was posted in All Things Poultry, Pain and Misery, Sad and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A heart for hens: the Turlock rescue operation

  1. Katherine says:

    Good heavens. I had to skim the article b/c it was too upsetting (I know – ostrich in the sand and all, but still… I need to function today and not just sit in the corner, curled up and weeping.) BUT, I did donate to both places (and Harvest Home needs to make it easier to donate… but perhaps they have bigger issues to deal with and I commend them for that.)

  2. Folks today are too far from their food and the contributes to all of this. It is one of the reasons I really like the return of backyard flocks.

    I just hope that folks have given thought to what they are going to do with their hens later. Will they be responsible or will it become another problem like dogs and cats in shelters/pounds?

  3. Pamela Gilbert says:

    Very upsetting article. How can people be so cruel?

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