On February 24, Farm Sanctuary, Animal Place, and Harvest Home joined together to rescue hens at a factory farm in Modesto, California, where 50,000 hens used for egg production had been abandoned and left to starve for two weeks.
Orland Shelter Director, Tara Oresick, has been overseeing the rehabilitation of hundreds of hens with the help of our staff and volunteers. Tara writes:
During the first few days following the rescue, many of the hens needed fluids and tube feedings… some were even presenting signs of renal failure and shock. Unfortunately, for some of the hens, too much damage had been done — their frail bodies were shutting down.
By the fourth day, most of the remaining hens really started to perk up, and they continue to grow stronger and more active each day. In the beginning, if you found a hen lying on her side, it was because she was too weak to stand. Now, if you find a hen on her side, it’s almost always because she’s dust bathing or basking in a beam of sunlight!
We still have about 25 hens in smaller, warmer pens we built in the barn. These hens were the weakest and needed the most individual care. Some have decided on their own that they are healthy enough to live with the main group, and they fly out of their pens to be with the other hens! Most will probably be strong enough to join the main flock in the coming days.
Vivian and Scarlet are two of the hens who need ongoing supportive care. Vivian was very weak from the very beginning, but over the past three days she has improved significantly. Until recently, she needed to be held and hand-fed in order to eat because she was too weak to stand and eat on her own. A few days ago, we took her outside to see how she would respond to being in the sun and having dirt to scratch in. She was still weaker and less active than the others, but she was able to stand all by herself! And, if that wasn’t exciting enough, she then started grooming herself! Today she was standing on her own when we came in to feed her.
Scarlet — the only red hen who needed supportive care — is still not doing well. Each day we give her fluids, vitamins, antibiotics, and tube-feed her. She needs to be kept in a warm place away from the stronger hens who can easily knock her over. We are hoping she’ll pull through and start showing signs of improvement like Vivian, but these girls have been through so much, and it’s hard to know the extent of the damage done to their little bodies.
We are still treating all the hens for poultry mites. We’ll check them regularly until we’re confident that they are gone. On warm days, we open up the door to the yard. At first, no one wanted to go outside. Finally, one brave hen ventured out, followed by a few more. Now, every day, more of the hens seem interested in going outside to explore their new surroundings. When I see them dust bathing or running around flapping their wings, I have to remind myself that they are the same girls we carried from the A&L Poultry warehouse. Their resilience is truly inspiring.
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