Working in teams, one person reaches inside the cage and cups their palms over each bird's back to make sure her wings are protected. The hen is handed over to another volunteer who places the newly liberated bird into a transport crate.
The birds are scared and vocalize loudly while we catch them. Some attempt to hang onto the cage with their overgrown nails. They don't know we are the rescuers, not the people working at the neighboring shed, who pull the birds out by their legs to be gassed and then trashed.
And then there are the dead and dying. One of our interns comes up to me, sobbing. In her arms is a dead bird. She apologizes for her tears as she hands the bird over – not knowing what else to do with the body – only that she does not want to leave her inside the cage.
After all 1,500 birds are rescued and secured in transport crates, we load them into our vehicles to make the long drive to Animal Place's rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption site in Vacaville, CA.
A new team of volunteers welcomes the hens' arrival. Each vehicle is directed to a different barn, crates are unloaded, and carried to the appropriate stall. The crates are then opened, welcoming these freshly liberated hens to a new world.