Room to Roam: The Importance of SanctuaryPosted by Ariana Huemer, ALDF Guest Blogger on November 15, 2014
Hen Harbor was conceived of as a place for hens rescued from the egg industry to live out their remaining days in safety and sanctuary. These are the stories of how Hen Harbor’s residents found sanctuary.
Hen Harbor’s founding member is Cinnamon, a hen rescued from a factory egg-farm in Turlock, California in 2012, where she had been left with 50,000 other hens to starve to death inside cages. Cinnamon was one of 4,000 hens still alive when rescuers came for them.
Three years later, owing to chronic health issues, Cinnamon spends much of her time as a house hen, but she also enjoys the company of Hen Harbor’s nearly 100 other rescued birds—chickens, ducks, and geese—who roam the sanctuary’s three acres.
Egg Farm Escapees
Like Cinnamon, most of Hen Harbor’s residents are refugees from factory egg-farms. Before arriving at Hen Harbor, they spent their whole lives locked inside barren wire cages, unable to spread their wings or even take more than a step in any direction. Had they not been rescued by Hen Harbor, they would have been gassed, composted, or even ground up alive—as are all egg-industry birds—when they were only 18 months old.
At Hen Harbor, these rescued hens spend their days roaming the sanctuary, dust-bathing, and hunting for worms, watched over by a cadre of rescued roosters, many of whom were seized from cockfighting operations. At night, they perch in their spacious, warm, predator-proof barn.
Egg Industry Aftermath
But even after their rescue, the nightmares of the egg industry continue to haunt these birds. Because they were bred to lay so excessively (over 300 eggs per year, versus 12 per year for a wild hen), their reproductive tracts age 20 times faster than the rest of their bodies.
Ovarian cancer kills many of the hens, but just as many fall victim to impacted oviducts—which, in short, is a condition in which eggs get stuck inside the hen. Without surgery to remove the eggs, the hen will die slowly and painfully. Many, if not most, animal sanctuaries euthanize hens once they reach this stage. But Hen Harbor does not believe in euthanizing animals who can otherwise be saved with treatment. Consequently, 90% of our operating expenses go directly to veterinary care.
Roosters, Ducks, and Geese Galore
In the last year, Hen Harbor has rescued close to 80 ducks and geese. While most have been re-homed at a larger sanctuary with a lake, there are three ducks and three geese—all dumped Easter pets—who are permanent residents. We are in the process of constructing a pond for them that will be replenished year-round by the natural spring that runs through the property.
Finally, Ian Puffypants, Small Steven, and Carter are three special roosters who were brought to Hen Harbor by ALDF rescuers, after they were abandoned at a park. Although three of their brothers were killed by predators before they could be saved, these three survivors—who were unwanted artifacts of the current backyard chicken fad—are forever safe at Hen Harbor.