Saturday, 14 August 2010

The first day of freedom

This afternoon I finally did something I have desperately wanted to do for a very long time.Ten years ago I was moved to tears when I read about the work of the Farm Animal Sanctuary, a charity that saves desperately wretched farm animals from slaughter and, instead, nurses them back to health, allowing them to live out their natural lives in happy homes where the abattoir is not looming on the horizon.
One story in particular affected me so deeply I knew that one day I would have to do my bit. A volunteer from the sanctuary found a hen that had been left to die in a filthy pen with only rotting chicken carcasses for company. It was cowering in a corner, depressed, sick, dehydrated and desperate. The volunteer sat down to try and coax it away from its perch of rotting flesh but didn't have to wait long. The pathetic creature scuttled over, clambered onto the proffered lap and settled down to enjoy some warmth and sympathetic companionship. This lucky hen went on to enjoy a full and happy life.

Rescue Mission
So today I rescued four battery hens from certain death with a little help from the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT).
The rescue mission began with a drive across Dartmoor to Chulmleigh, the headquarters of the BHWT. There, we were joined by a number of fellow rescuers whose stream of cars drove around the farm to the collection point where we were greeted by the fantastic BHWT team.
We were, I must admit, quite surprised with how well the hens actually looked. They seemed to have plenty of feathers and didn't look anywhere near as sick as we had prepared ourselves for. However, looks can be deceptive and these hens have had a particularly tough life so far. Battery farms normally keep hens for the first year or so of their lives. Our little brave girls had to be subjected to just under two years in those awful conditions and were only looking better than we had expected because they had come into their second set of feathers recently. These were poorly hens and with a life expectancy of only two or three years I wanted to get them home and to  freedom as soon as possible.

Natural instincts
What really amazed me, and almost brought me to tears, was how their basic natural instincts kicked in the very moment we released them. They had never seen grass before, but immediately began to peck at it. And without any instruction three of them made their own way into the coop. I'm sure the last one would have done too, but I wanted to help her out on her first traumatic day outside the cage. So, all tucked up I left my girls for their first night of proper sleep. Who knows? Will we be collecting their first freedom eggs in the morning?

Our hens' first day of freedom is captured in this video. It begins at the BHWT collection centre and ends as I tuck them up for bed after their first day of freedom. You'll notice I have put them in their own smaller pen within a much larger enclosure. This is, I assure you, far much more space than they have ever experienced, and after a month or so of building up their health and strength they will be able to join the other hens, plus one cockerel, in the large enclosure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great blog, keep it up!