1,500 Hens Freed From Cages For First Time Ever

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Hundreds of chickens who had spent their entire lives in the cramped cages of a factory farm have finally been given the chance to experience what it's like to be free.

This week, farm animal sanctuary volunteers in California carried out a rescue of epic proportion, delivering to safety about 1,500 battery hens from a facility that had viewed them as mere commodities from the moment they hatched. There, their existence was one of constant discomfort and misery, denied even the most basic semblance of a natural life.

Christine Morrissey

"The chickens at this particular farm lived in a barren, unsanitary environment," Christine Morrissey of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary told The Dodo. "Rows upon rows of tiny cages, where the chicken would basically just have enough room to turn around - nothing more, nothing less. They weren't able to spread their wings, or be comfortable in any way. It was a very dirty environment which they could not escape."

Having outlived their usefulness for egg production, the chickens had been slated to be killed and disposed of. But that all changed on Thursday.

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Given access to the unwanted chickens, volunteers from Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary and Animal Place Sanctuary intervened on the birds' behalf. One by one, each hen was liberated from her stark cage to be whisked off to a new life of peace and comfort on the sanctuaries' grounds - a far cry from their former conditions.

"They will come in contact with grass and soil, establish a pecking order in a more natural environment. That's probably the best part of being involved in these types of rescues, just being able to improve their lives in such dramatic way," Morrissey said. "This is probably the most dramatic kind of rescue in terms of changing an animal's life, from living in a tiny cage to having full access to the great outdoors."

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It's difficult to overstate what a difference the rescue makes in the lives of these hundreds of birds, most of whom have likely never set foot on a natural surface or felt the warmth of unobstructed sunlight on their feathers.

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More than just improving the lives of chickens, another goal of rescues like the one undertaken this week is to change people's minds about them. After all, these rescued birds account for a tiny fraction of animals like them in the exact same conditions on factory farms throughout the country.

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Through these chickens, meek as they may be, a larger story can begin to emerge.

"Most people have no concept of how chickens lives are on factory farms. I think we can gain the most ground by sharing their individual stories through rescues like these to inspire people to be more compassionate, and to make more compassionate choices in their dietary choices," Morrissey said.

"To most Americans and farmers, chickens are merely economic units, commodities. They're referred to as 'flocks,' not individual animals. When we take these animals out, we are shifting the paradigm from exploiting the animals for human interests, to make them individuals in the public eye."Facebook/Animal Place

Rescues like the one that took place this week will forever change the outlook for the chickens themselves, who have comfortable lives to look forward to now. But for the countless others still languishing on factory farms, the only thing that can offer hope from their grim fate may be a change in public awareness.

"These animals suffer, and enjoy happiness just like we do," said Morrissey. "Hopefully we can inspire people make changes in their own lives that can impact the welfare of chickens and other farm animals."

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To learn more about this rescue, and to find out how you can help, visit the sanctuaries' website in the links below:

Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary

Animal Place Sanctuary