The broken nails and wear and tear on Sandye’s body were clues to her guardian about the hard life she had led. But when she was introduced to the flock of other rescued animals at the house, Sandye quickly put her past life behind her and happily established herself as the “mother hen.” She even became the protector when one of her companions got sick. Last week Sandye developed a life-threatening condition as a result of her breeding. It showed her owner the cruelty of the life she had previously led.
This story was shared with me by Robert Grillo, founder and editor of Free from Harm.
Sandye (pictured above) is one of Grillo’s four adopted hens that he rescued after her owner at a commercial egg farm didn’t think she was producing enough.
Grillo said, “While I knew little more than this, her physical appearance told me a lot. Some of her nails were missing. She had been debeaked. Her comb on the top of her head looked like it had been cut off. And her feathers were sparse, coarse and hard to the touch. It was not too difficult to conclude that her life had been rough up to this point.”
During the past year Sandye happily settled into life at Grillo’s home with three other adopted hens. She attended to the other birds and her physical appearance dramatically improved. And when one of the other hens became egg bound and sick, Sandye stayed close until the bird was well again.
Last week Grillo noticed that Sandye wasn’t acting like herself, so they made a trip to the veterinarian. Grillo said he thought they would be given medication and be on their way, but the vet explained that Sandye was very sick.
As a result of her breeding for use at a commercial farm, Sandye had developed “fluid buildup and inflammation in her uterus and it was putting pressure on her lungs.” The hen received a variety of injections from hormones to antibiotics and nutrients and had to remain at the veterinary hospital.
“I’ve learned from poultry welfare experts that egg-laying hens like Sandye have been bred to increase egg production well beyond what their normal physiology can handle,” said Grillo.
“Today, the commercial poultry industry breeds them in this way, knowing that a percentage of them will fall ill and die from uterine prolapse and other reproductive disorders, but that’s the calculated loss they are willing to take.”
Hens at commercial farms are forced to lay so many eggs over a one or two year period, they deplete their bodies of calcium and are at risk of developing osteoporosis and other diseases. After they are no longer useful, most farmers sell the hens for slaughter.
According to Farm Sanctuary there are more than 280 million egg laying hens in the U.S. Most are confined in battery cages which are small wire cages stacked in on top of each other and lined in rows inside large warehouses. Under USDA guidelines each hen is allowed four inches of “feeder space” and packed four to a cage. Hens are bred to lay more than 250 eggs per year.
Grillo said when left up to nature, hens lay eggs only a few times a year and nurse their young to adulthood.
Sandye is getting stronger and will overcome this illness. Grillo looks forward to having her back tending to her flock.
Free from Harm is dedicated to educating the public about farm animal issues, factory farming and protecting the planet by making the right food choices.
Picture courtesy of Free from Harm