Thursday, October 8, 2009

are you ready for your morning cry?

this morning i was reading the toronto star, which usually is a rag and has a lot to make fun of(well, specifically, a lot of rosie dimanno to make fun of).

but i actually read something so amazing: "how bald chickens help troubled kids"

about 43 battery hens were rescued from a southern ontario industrial hatchery. the hens weren't even rescued by animal rights activist but by a "middle man"-- somebody who worked at the hatchery(or at least that's what it sounds like).

the normal practise is to kill these hens after one year because they've already hit and passed their peak production age. they lay fewer eggs. these chickens were lucky because their cages--the battery, hence the name battery hen-- was in the middle row, so their liberator didn't have to lean down or reach up to pull them out of their cage.

the battery cages are the size of a microwave oven and when they arrived at the farm "they had never walked, or roosted, or flapped their wings."

according to cathal kelly "most of them have no feathers, their puckered skin rubbed raw against cage bars. the combs on the tops of their heads – the prime spot where a chicken releases body heat – cover their faces like hoods, overdeveloped because of the sweaty conditions inside the hatchery."

so these little hens were sent to cobble stone sanctuary, a farm outside of stratford, to start their new lives as free-ish birds.

free-ish because they've lived their lives in captivity and so adjusting to the outside world is a bit of a struggle for them. "at first, they huddled in the corners of shepherd's coop on shaky legs. they slept piled on top of each other or wedged into cat carriers." they're scared of just about everything and because they were missing so many feathers they were probably cold all of the time.

at least there's a quick solution for the cold problem: tiny chicken sweaters.

tiny, chicken, sweaters.

volunteers sewed little tiny chicken sweaters to keep the hens warm. as they adjust to their new lives, fed properly, are kept warm and safe, these little chickens are growing back their feathers and down.

this story is already pretty amazing on its own. but then there's this: christen shepard, the woman who runs the farm sanctuary, thought it would be a good idea to allow some children living in group home nearby to come visit the chickens as therapy.

there are four boys, 8-12, and they visit the chickens once a week. they are crown wards and according to the article cannot be identified in any way "lest their own families figure out where they are."

the thought behind the chicken therapy was that it would help teach the boys empathy but apparently they were naturals with the chickens, and they worry that the chickens are upset or that their sweaters are too tight. now the boys spend all week looking forward to their trip to visit the farm.

because there are 43 hens and the farm is operating at a deficit the majority of the birds will be adopted out, but the boys will get to choose one each and the four they choose will be permanent residents.

at the end of the article they describe how the chickens went outside their coop for the first time ever, all grass and sunshine:

"when you see a chicken in the sunshine ... stretching its wings out," says shepherd, "it's hard to deny a chicken that."

indeed. and why would you want to? probably now you should just wipe the tears out of your eyes and go to the cobble stone website (HERE) where they have information about donations and volunteering. maybe even consider adoptiong a little chicken and its little tiny chicken sweater.

just in case the picture of the little tiny sweater isn't enough for you, there's a video:

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