6 min read

Helen: The Brave Hen Who Escaped Slaughter

<p>Photo by Justin Van Kleeck</p>

North Carolina is one of the largest poultry producing states in the U.S., including both meat birds (called "broilers" by the industry) and laying hens. As a result, in the case of meat birds, many millions of chickens are hatched, raised in large sheds for about six weeks, and then shipped off to be slaughtered for wings, breasts, and other familiar processed chicken products.This industrialized assembly line is as efficient as it is cruel, and very few birds make it out alive.

Helen is one inspiring exception.

Helen, as we came to call her, was found by two compassionate people alongside a rural road. One of them, a vegan, made the heroic choice to turn around and check on the bird whom she thought might have moved as they were driving by. They found her along with two other young hens who had fallen off of a transport truck en route to slaughter. Helen's companions did not survive the escape.

Somehow, Helen survived. Her rescuers reached out to their vegan friends, who put them in touch with us at Triangle Chance for All. We are a small non-profit organization outside of Chapel Hill, and we run a "microsanctuary" that focuses on chickens. We rushed to pick Helen up in order to provide her with whatever care she would most certainly need.

When our avian vet began to treat Helen, we realized the scope of her injuries, including a bad laceration on her neck, a compound fracture of one wing, a fracture in the other wing, a shattered leg, and other physical trauma, on top of being starved and dehydrated (which is common practice during transport).

On the day of her rescue, after being stabilized and given pain medications and antiobiotics, Helen underwent about three and a half hours of surgery to suture her neck laceration and set her severely fractured wing with pins. Despite all that she has been through, her heart stayed strong throughout and she remained stable. We brought her home to monitor her and keep her comfortable.

Her blood work looked a little better than we expected, and the vet felt strongly (as did we) that after all she had been through, Helen deserved a fighting chance to get better. Her bravery and strength have inspired everyone who has read her story thus far, and we are doing everything we can to get her well again.

She has a long road ahead, including another surgery to treat her wing further and to fix her fractured leg, but she has made it so far already. Indeed, in the wee hours of that first morning with us, Helen began to drink water on her own, and soon thereafter her appetite returned and she began eating on her own. Voraciously. It was a clear turning point that motivated us even more to see her heal.

Helen is one tough hen, and her story puts a face to the suffering of the billions of chickens who are born only to be slaughtered after just a few weeks, while still babies, because humans want to consume their flesh. Helen's escape reveals that every single chicken is an individual, and no animal deserves to be used for food or any other purpose. Helen has gotten a chance that so few of her fellow chickens get--and all because she had the strength to break free of the cage taking her to her death.