The price of cheap chicken meat and eggs comes at a high price for millions of chickens treated cruelly each and every day. Battery hens are the name for hens used for the mass production of eggs. These hens are kept in tiny cages without room to even spread their wings. After about 1 year to 18 months of age, when egg production decreases, they are sent to slaughter. Most of these hens never get a taste of sunlight, nor fresh air, let alone any kind of exercise. Battery hens live in cramped cages with just wire under their feet their entire lives. Three hens, however, have been given sanctuary instead of death, and a second chance at life.
It’s a hard life
While most farms slaughter battery hens at approximately 18 months of age, one particular farm releases battery hens to people who want to give them homes. That’s where Megan Mostacci comes into this story.
Megan Mostacci is the co-founder of Black Goat Farm and Sanctuary. She explained, “They have no room to walk or stretch their wings and stand on a wire bottom.” Mostacci rescued 3 hens that reached the age of egg decreased production.
All three got names
The three nameless hens, now named Sophia, Rose, and Dorothy (After the stars of the sitcom “The Golden Girls”) were ready to be sent to slaughter when they were released to Mostacci’s care. The trio is now learning that life is full of good things, not just bad.
When The Golden Girls arrived at the sanctuary, the first taste of freedom they were given was to be released from their carrier in a safe indoor area. However, the hens appeared afraid of what would happen to them if they stepped out into an open space. Mostacci explains, “When they came home they didn’t want to leave the carrier I had them in. They had never been out before.”
The girls needed some time before they had enough courage to explore life out of their carrier. The smallest hen finally took the first step to freedom. Mostacci recalls, “It took a while and they did come out…Little Sophia was first out the door!”
The other two eventually followed their brave leader, Sophia. But those first few steps were anything but joyful looking. “I had put down lots of fresh shavings and they had no clue what to do,” Mostacci explained.
“They walked so weirdly because they weren’t used to being able to walk. Because they were so weak too. They would flap their wings and fall over.”
Because the birds had never had enough room to flap their wings, they lacked coordination, skill, and muscle. All three of these elements would develop with time.
As the hens began to trust and explore their roomy indoor environment, after 3 weeks the time came for them to be introduced to the outside world. Again, little Sophia proved to be the bravest of the three.
“She was the only one brave enough at this time to venture out,” Mostacci said. “She climbed the woodpile and stood there — taking in the big world.”
Mostacci continued to show the hens kindness as their trust grew. “I brought them treats and all sorts of stuff but they didn’t understand it was food,” Mostacci remembered. With the trust came increased enjoyment of their new environment and life. “They are still shy with [going] outside but love the feeling of sun,” Mostacci said.
Sophia even began to assert herself against birds several times bigger than her. Mostacci joked, “Sophia has no issues pushing our big turkey boys out of the way so she can eat first,”
Attitude is Everything!
Sophia, Rose, and Dorothy arrived in poor physical shape and perhaps in an even worse mental state. But with time as they grew in courage and began to trust, their physical appearance healed too. “Their feathers are growing back. They are walking normally,” Mostacci said, “and they are so feisty!”
If you’d like to see fewer battery hens in the world, buy your eggs from free-range chickens preferably at local farms in your area. Chickens are made to peck for food, spread their wings and run around. Less demand for cage raised eggs will help to decrease cruel living conditions for hens.