Room to Roam: The Importance of Sanctuary

Posted 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.

Turlock Trauma

hen-harbor-hen-230pxHen 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.

31 thoughts on “Room to Roam: The Importance of Sanctuary

  1. Diane Myers says:

    They look wonderful. We have a wonderful place down here called Edgar’s Mission, that rescues farm animals, including chooks. I could watch them all day. Bouquets to you all ♥

  2. Karlene Dancingwolf says:

    I’m happy for the rescued hens. Thank you for al your efforts to provide safety, meaning and dignity for these wonderful creatures. May they live out their lives in peace and happiness.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post about chickens and the importance of sanctuaries. Hen Harbor is a lovely sanctuary! Ariana puts her heart and soul in making that place home for all the residents. They truly are “forever safe.”

  4. Adam says:

    Thank you, ALDF for giving credit to the heroes at small sanctuaries. They are caring for those whose lives are just as valuable as yours and mine. Chickens are exploited and abused every day, and we appreciate you recognizing these wonderful individuals.

    Hen Harbor is just such a sanctuary that has touched my heart. How can we donate to them? Thanks!!

  5. Zoe says:

    Thanks for highlighting a small sanctuary like Hen Harbor. Also, thanks for caring about chickens!
    – Zoe

  6. Rachel Stamps says:

    Thank you, Hen Harbor for all you do for one of the most abused species on this earth. While all factory farmed animals are subject to unspeakable torment and torture, there are NO regulations in place for poultry. These highly intelligent, emotional beings have no protection at all in industry. Thank you SO MUCH for all you do to give these beings the kind of life all of them should have. Bless you and your work.

  7. Rachel Waite says:

    Thank you for highlighting these grassroots efforts for chickens! Is there more information on how to donate to Hen Harbor? This is a great article.

  8. Wendy McHaddad says:

    Thank you for this article. How can I donate to Hen Harbor? It looks like they are doing great work.

  9. Valerie St.Denis says:

    What a wonderful organization! Could you post a link as to how I may make a donation to Hen Harbor please? Thank you for caring for these much deserving birds.

  10. Susan Alderman says:

    Thank you for covering Hen Harbor and their efforts. I rescue chickens and other birds as well. They are often forgotten and their suffering and exploitation is so horrific. Their plight is unknown to the mainstream as well, making it all the more appalling.

  11. Karley Bodis says:

    So happy for Cinnamon! She’s beautiful! Thank you guys for highlighting a sanctuary that specializes in hen care. Hens are so sweet!!! That must really be hard on the nonprofit to have most of their expenses to be vet care. Wish there was a link to donate to Hen Harbor!

  12. adrienne ramirez says:

    Thank you so much for featuring this small sanctuary and thank you for caring about the animals. Is there anyway that I can donate to this organization or find out more information, so that I can donate or possibly help out in some way? Thanks again.

  13. Afa says:

    Thank you so much for this article! It is important to raise awareness of the plight of farm animals and the significant impact that sanctuaries can offer…literally between life and death. I hope more people will know about abd support the selfless and life changing with for organizations like Hen Harbor. Thank you!

  14. Elizabeth Sharp says:

    What a wonderful organization! Thank you so much for being the voice and caretaker for these overlooked feathered friends. Where can I send a donation?

  15. Wayne says:

    Wonderful blog post about a wonderful sanctuary. Thanks for posting.

  16. Diane Gandee Sorbi says:

    Thank you for this excellent post highlighting the importance of small sanctuaries. Hen Harbor is a wonderful place, and I’m happy to support Ariana’s tireless work on behalf of those beautiful hens.

  17. Jonny Spear says:

    This is a nice article. Animal sanctuaries are really important for our society to have. I have learned from bird sanctuaries such as this one that birds have interesting individual personalities. Thanks.

  18. Savannah Jhee says:

    Thank you for taking the time to bring attention to such a worthy cause. Articles like this one really help spread awareness and understanding of a cause many would surely support, once learning about it.
    I hope more attention can be brought to this subject.
    I see it’s been requested already by a few, but is there a link handy for donations towards Hen Harbor?

  19. Melissa says:

    Thank you for drawing attention to the need for animal sanctuaries and thank you Hen Harbor for all you do to care for these often-neglected animals who are usually only thought of as food or egg-machines. But they are not, they are individuals with unique personalities deserving of care, love, safety and freedom, just like the dogs and cats we share our homes with, as they are no different.

  20. Sean says:

    I’ve known Ariana for 15 years, she has limitless compassion for animals and does everything she can for the hens at Hen Harbor. Please help, she cannot do it without donations, she puts everything toward helping the animals.

  21. Jewel says:

    Dedication to the long term care of these hens is a very emotionally and monetarily taxing job. This work is certainly not for the weak. Running a sanctuary and dedicating yourself to the medical well being of these abused birds is a full time job that small sanctuaries do not typically have paid employees for or the resources of the larger sanctuaries that often do not dedicate themselves to the long term medical care of the birds they rescue.

    I know at Hen Harbor these hens are given everything the sanctuary has to offer just so these birds can have one more day of freedom.

  22. jbv says:

    Thank you so much for doing this write up about Hen Harbor. Ariana is so amazing at what she does and puts all of her heart into helping every animal she can. They could really use more support and I’m happy sanctuaries exist, just like this one!

  23. Kara says:

    Thank you so much, ALDF, for putting the spotlight on a small sanctuary such as Hen Harbor! Hen Harbor is an incredible place! Thank you! :)

  24. Will says:

    How do I donate to Hen Harbor??

  25. ALDF says:

    If you want to learn more, Hen Harbor’s website is linked above in the article.

  26. Thanks for the blog. It’s so important to acknowledge the #1 most exploited land animal on this planet. I’m glad there are places like Hen Harbor that focus on these animals that the industry continues to abuse and imprison.

  27. Susan Larsen says:

    Thank you so much for your hard work and for raising awareness about the egg industry.

  28. Reagan Kimball says:

    Thank you ALDF for highlighting Hen Harbor and all the work this small grassroots sanctuary does and thank you for caring about chickens!! Does hen Harbor have a website or a place to donate to online?

  29. Liane says:

    Thank you for this great article about ex laying hens and about the lovely sanctuary taking care of them. Hen Harbor is doing a great job caring for these hens and also adressing the problems that they deal with. This is of great importance: not a lot of people know this or recognise the illnesses (many rescued hens suffer and die from it). It is amazing that all these hens get a chance: not a lot of sanctuaries do this and it really cost a lot of money…. hopefully they receive many donations!

  30. Kirsten Rosenberg says:

    So glad to read about the vital work Hen Harbor is doing! A big “thank you” to ALDF for highlighting this sanctuary and bringing much-needed attention to the plight of chickens!

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