Breffni is an unusual resident at Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary in that she was rescued when she was still an egg. This was prior to Eden having a no-breeding policy. My sister had visited a Petting Farm and Breeding facility with her young child the previous year. One of the attractions advertised at the Petting Farm was ‘Hold a Chick’ which gave children the opportunity to hold the newly hatched chicks, presumably for entertainment or supposed educational value. A huge number of chicks were hatched in industrial sized incubators. One chick was taken from the incubator and placed in the child’s hand whereupon (because he was enamoured or excited) he accidentally squeezed her to death.
The chick lost her life, the only life she had, before it had even begun.
An accident such as this could be horribly traumatising to any child, aware of what they had done.
Children learn little about the natural lives of chicks by witnessing them housed in industrial incubators, without their mothers, bred for the purpose of human entertainment and profit. The most informative education a child can receive is to witness chicks in their natural environment; for the most part this education is most ethically and informatively achieved through the use of media such as video.
Instead of being hatched in that incubator and used for entertainment or for breeding, Breffni was hatched by Sara, one of hens at Eden who was trying to hatch unfertilized eggs. Breffni grew up with the benefit of natural maternal nurturing, and learned appropriate avian skills and social interaction from her mother.
This is reflected in Breffni’s personality and life today. When we go into the sanctuary she runs to us on her long legs like an awkward schoolgirl with her head outstretched and her mass of beautiful feathers shaking as she comes to see what treats we have for her. She eats out of our hands but she is highly independent and moments later she moves back to her chicken friends. She has a deep, guttural voice but does not hesitate to emit a shrill wail when displeased. She is the dominant female among her group of hens, enabled by her large size, strong feet and legs, and a beak that has incredible power. She spends her days foraging for food in the grassy hills at Eden. She loves having a dust bath and in summer she sits down with one wing outstretched to catch the sun’s rays, with a look of intense pleasure in her eyes. She has pride of place beside Mike, the oldest rooster at Eden, on the perch in her house where she sleeps every night.