Battery Farm Rehabilitation

It was mid 1980's. I had taken the dogs to the beach for an afternoon, and was driving back to the farm. On the side of the road, out the front of a take away barbeque chicken shop, I saw a home made sign. "Chooks for sale. $1 each."  I had a couple of hens, and thought a couple more would be nice. The price was certainly a bargain. I had no idea of the nightmare I was soon to be exposed to.

I went into the shop, and instantly decided I would NEVER buy food from a shop like this. It was grimy, the walls and counter were greasy and black. The sweaty, greasy man serving was just - dirty looking. I asked him about the chooks he had for sale, and he called a woman to take over in the shop while I followed him out the back. We trudged up a paddock to where there was an enclosed tin shed. The smell of ammonia was strong. He opened the shed door, and the smell got so strong I could barely catch my breath. There was row upon row  of cages around 1 foot (30cms) square. In each cage were 4 chooks. They had been debeaked, had completely plucked the feathers from each other through boredom, and in a majority of cages they were stumbling over the dead bodies of others. The bottom of the cages was wire mesh, so the **** just fell through to the floor. There were dead bodies thrown onto the mounds of **** under the cages too.

It was the worst thing I had ever witnessed. It was a nightmare for me. I couldn't get my head around what these animals were suffering. "How many you want?" I was asked. I somehow got my mind functioning again, and asked him if I could return soon - I needed to find out how many I could take. I drove to the nearest bank, and checked my account. I had $70. I withdrew the lot, drove home and loaded the car with every cage, crate and container I could find. I went back and purchased 70 chooks. He actually gave me 71. As well as being a monster, he couldn't count!

I got the chooks home. My little hens already had a quite luxurious shed to sleep and lay their eggs in, so all I needed was to make some more laying boxes and there would be plenty of room for all. They were free range during the day. When I first put them in to the shed, they all tightly squeezed together in one corner under the perch. It was what they were used to. Their feet were curled from clinging on to the wire on the bottom of their cages.

Over the next 4 - 6 weeks,after being treated for worms and mites and given lots of love and attention, the chooks gradually learned to scratch in the dirt and peck for insects and grains. They ventured up and began to perch on their roosts at night. They discovered the joy of dust baths - the flurries of flying dust could reduce me to a giggling heap, they would just go crazy, dust and dirt flying everywhere but over them. They eventually mastered that art as well. One day, about 6 months after they came to live with me, I suddenly noticed that all of them were now completely covered in the most luxurious, glossy FEATHERS!! I was overjoyed to discover I was surrounded by plumage of every imaginable colour. Glossy white, rich brown, irridescent black, mottled patchwork colours - they were beautiful girls. I am fully aware that chooks have no lips, but I swear my girls had even learned the art of smiling. They would talk to me. I would utter soft "brr brr brrk's" and they would scurry over to me, cooing and blinking, to see what treats I had this time. I would do the rounds, followed by a swarm of fat feathered chooks, as I overturned logs and rocks, and they would dive and devour the exposed bugs and slugs. They laid more eggs than I could give away. The pig had a diet rich in eggs, and I had to start baking and giving away quiches and cakes, as a way of using all the eggs. The only sign of their previous life that was never eradicated was their beaks. They never grew back, they were always on show as a stark reminder of the nightmare these beautiful, gentle, funny little creatures had been through.

If you buy eggs, please buy free range. I know it is more difficult with cooked chicken, but with a bit of effort you can also buy your meat from free range suppliers. The cruelty of a battery farm is something you can't comprehend unless you actually witness it.

Soozles Soozles
46-50, F
3 Responses Mar 7, 2010

When I was a child, my family raised chickens for meat and eggs...while all the birds eventually made their way across the chopping block, they had a pretty darn good life before that event. <br />
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I remember one morning very early, in the summer, I went out to the chicken pen and there was a bald eagle sitting on the edge of the fence and staring down through the wire mesh at the ground where our bantam rooster was doing his little challenge posture dance, just daring that eagle to come down and do the dance of spurs with him! The downdraft from the eagle's wings when he took off knocked the banty off his feet, but he hopped right back up. Not an ounce of fear in that little featherhead.

Your compassion is just great. You have such a good heart and i just wish there were others like you. Wonderful!!

Thanks sss and destiny. Even though it was over 20 years ago, I can still smell the stench, and see the horror in that shed. Sadly, it still happens. We still allow animals (not only chooks) to be kept in these conditions. I have since had birds rescued from large scale battery farms. One I shall never forget was Sumo Chook. She was 8 weeks old, but because of the hormones she had been fed, was the size of a LARGE adult hen. It took weeks for her to just learn how to walk. It should never be allowed to happen, to any creature!