Chickens who are bred for meat (technically "Jumbo Cornish Crossbreeds" but usually referred to as "broilers"), don't live very long. They are bred to be large enough for "processing" at only 6 weeks old. According to the University of Arkansas, if humans grew at a similar rate, a 6.6-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months. You can just imagine all the health issues that come with such rapid growth and unnatural size.
On Sunday, a new hen arrived and my world changed again. I am swimming languidly, luxuriously, in the warm sea of new love. I can't get her off of my mind, and I don't want to. I revel in her intelligent, sensitive gaze... her vibrance... her spunk. Oh yes, Enid is the chicken of my dreams and I am beyond thrilled to have her here at the sanctuary with us.
Enid and I met once before, briefly, in September 2012, just over a year ago. It was just after she and 249 of her flock-mates fell off of a moving truck headed to the slaughterhouse. She was dazed and frightened and I doubt very much that she remembers me. I however, remember her well. I was deeply moved by the incredible web of karma that brought Enid and her flock to that moment in time. They had been forced to spend the first six weeks of their lives in a love-deprived, drug-filled haze in a dark, dirty warehouse, only to fall off of a moving truck just in time to escape meeting an incredibly painful and frightening end. Then they found themselves surrounded by well-meaning people, who coddled the little birds as the precious beings they are.
Enid was lucky enough to be adopted by a big-hearted couple, Jen and John Washicosky. Jen and John understood the sensitive and intelligent nature of chickens. They took beautiful care of Enid and her sisters, Billina and Octavia.
However, chickens that are bred for meat (technically "Jumbo Cornish Crossbreeds" but usually referred to as "broilers"), don't live very long. They are bred to be large enough for "processing" at only 6 weeks old. According to the University of Arkansas, if humans grew at a similar rate, a 6.6-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months (source: Chickens Used for Food). You can just imagine all the health issues that come with such rapid growth and unnatural size.
Sadly, Billina's time on earth came to an end in August, and Octavia crossed over this past Saturday. Enid lost her two sisters just a few months apart and she was devastated. From years of time spent living with and observing chickens, I can tell you that they are incredibly intelligent and sensitive beings. They develop deep bonds, show great care and compassion, and they grieve over the loss of loved ones in the same way that we do. Enid cried audibly, refused food, and spent the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday in her hen-house alone, mourning her sisters.
Enid cuddles with Octavia
Photo by Jen Washicosky
Enid's adoptive human family, although they loved her deeply, knew the best thing for her would be to live with other chickens, and so they brought her to Indraloka Sunday evening. Enid was not the first of the chickens from this accident that made their way back to Indraloka, after having been adopted by others but that is another story for another day.
Today is Enid's day.
Sherman, one of our lovely roosters, fell immediately in love and entertained Enid by prancing proudly back and forth in front of her as he cooed and explained where all the yummy food is to be found. Enid watch in calm amusement.
Then Thelma and Louise, the turkeys, approached. Thelma took umbrage that another female had entered her territory and, fluffing up her feathers, began to make intimidating noises. Enid never cowered, never shrank away, and never got angry. She simply stood herself up to her whole height and looked Thelma in the eye. Thelma backed right down and the three are now fast friends.
Then Sheba, our pea hen, approach. Sheba is quite certain that she is Queen of Indraloka, and never hesitates to assert her authority over the other birds. Interestingly, Enid was already standing at her full height, with great dignity, by the time Sheba arrived to greet her. They looked one another in the eye, completely silent, for a full 90 seconds. Then Sheba pivoted on her elegant left foot and glided away.
Sheba, Queen of Indraloka
Late that night, I saw a different side of Enid.
Amidst the snoring of pigs, as the ducks and geese slept with their heads tucked primly under their wings, and as all the other chickens cooed in dreamland, Enid let her guard down. She was breathing heavily and her comb was very pale. It was plain that her heart had already become quite weak. I stroked her soft feathers and said, "I'm going to take care of you. I know you don't feel well, and I know you've just lost your family. But you're here now, and I promise you I'll be here for you every day of your life."
The look she gave me was merciful and tender as she said with her eyes, "I won't be here much longer, my dear. I've simply come home to die." We sat in the sleep-filled barn, the light of the full moon streaming through the window and my hand resting on her back. Together, we cried at the beauty of autumn and the brief, sacred journey of life.
Indra is the founder of Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, an all-species safe haven for animals that would otherwise have been euthanized or slaughtered. Indraloka is founded on two principles: 1) the earth itself and all life are sacred and 2) we are all related. Indraloka supports animal rescue groups by providing a lifetime home for animals that are otherwise unadoptable, and also rescues farm animals from cruelty. Indra has dedicated her life to helping previously traumatized animals heal and rediscover joy, love, and trust. In the process, the animals she set out to help have become her greatest healers and teachers.
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