These three are my very first hens. When they were about 10 weeks old (September 2012), they fell off a truck headed for slaughter. The truck never stopped as the crates of birds scattered all across the three lanes of cars. About 250 chickens total hit the highway. After their fall, the PA Dept of Transportation brought them to the local animal shelter to wait and see if anyone claimed them. About 57 birds died as a result of their injuries. The remaining birds, after 72 hours of no one stepping up to claim them, were to be sent to different farm rescue groups.
I am a long time volunteer with my local shelter, and asked for three hens, which I was given. It's been an incredible journey learning about how to best care for birds that weren't expected to live this long. They defy the odds each day they wake up, stretch their wings and walk on their thick legs. On Christmas Eve, 2012, I found the first egg. Since then, I get about three to five eggs a week... even in the dead of winter, which this year was really harsh and bitter cold. I am in awe of them.
My girls are:
Enid - the brave one. She was first to step towards me at the animal shelter. She was the first one to step out of the dog crate into the grass. She was the first to lay an egg. She is always the first one to try new foods (she lives for meal worms and bananas). She was the first to find her voice, too. She sings, squawks, cackles and her morning squeaking is particularly interesting! It's like she thanks the day for arriving, just for her.
Octavia - the kind one. She was the tamest of the three from the start; I had never picked up a chicken in my life until I lifted her. She stands on my feet, cooing at me until I pet her. She lets me weave my hand into her soft feathers, discovering the amazing structure that is the living chicken. She is also the poorest in health, in that she is the fattest. Being broiler (meat) birds, they are at a disadvantage from the start of their life. They are artificially fattened, and selected for meat processing early in their life because they are not intended to live longer than 12 weeks. So, Octavia can be wobbly, pants a lot, and is very heat sensitive. Sometimes she has to lie down to catch her breath. Octavia loves cantaloupe. Whenever someone wants to meet one of our chickens, I know I can rely on Octavia to be sweet.
Billina - the survivor. Obviously they've all overcome such incredible odds in their life so far... every day with a broiler bird is a blessing. Billina was in the worst shape. She had missing toenails, a road burned underside and a deep gash near her vent. I wasn't sure how long she'd make it before succumbing to infection. She was nasty in temperament, too... she'd chase me and peck at me. She survived, though. She's the thinnest, which is to her benefit now. Since laying eggs her demeanor has softened and she's tame now. She flies the highest and farthest, she runs the fastest and she is the first to get to the patch of clover when I let them free range at night. She's amazing.