Small Gifts

Just 12 days ago, I rescued 5 chickens from the production factory at the end of my rural road. They look a hot mess! Most had all their tail feathers plucked off from the very aggressive fertilization schedule (roosters can be vicious). Their sole job was high production of fertilized eggs for the hatchery. They laid as many as 10 - 12 eggs per day, every day for the past 9 months. They were crammed in a chicken house with no more than 8.5” x 11” space per chicken (that’s a sheet of paper) with lights on 24/7 since sunlight influences egg production. Never outside under the sun. They don’t know how to roost, scratch and rarely make any noise.

The first week, I kept them in their coop. Their only light was the sun. I wanted their new home to be fully imprinted on them. They were overfed with fresh feed, meal worms, cracked corn, soluble and insoluble grit and fresh water with a dose of apple cider vinegar for health.

After the first week, I began to open the coop door and threw 5 grain feed (said to encourage scratching) to lure them out. It work - they scratched and then stepped out, cautiously, onto the cement floor of the barn. I noticed some feathers were beginning to come back. Their comb and waffles are getting a darker pink, turning towards red. They had survived potential predators and my chicken-raising ignorance.

Three days ago, a small chicken run was delivered. I put it together to encourage more outside (grass) time under some protection but haven’t figured out how to get them in there just yet. It’ll come to me!

Yesterday, as I opened the coop door and left the barn door opened as we’ve done all this second week, 3 of the 5 stepped onto the grass and even began to walk behind the barn. I was so excited. I can see progress. Their stress level is certainly diminishing and they are doing well as a result.

As I went to the coop to close them in for the night, I noticed Martha (the only chicken with all her feathers) was up on the table in the plastic bin I left there. She had JUST laid an egg! My first egg! I felt so honored to have been there just when it happened and to know which chicken to credit. I had suspected Martha would be the first since, evidenced by her full feathers, she probably didn’t go through as much trauma and stress in the factory as the others.

Martha lays extra large eggs. I had a dozen extra large eggs from the grocers and, in comparison, her’s are larger. This egg is beige. I was told by the factory owner these chickens lay brown eggs. So whether this is “brown” to her or they still need some adjusting to get all things back to normal, I don’t know. I’m just thrilled (as you can see in the photo above!) to have my first eggs from chickens who would have been shot dead 12 days ago. I feel so good about what I and these chickens have done!