By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Chickens, rescued by Animal Place, dust bathingHere’s a simple little story that’s been making the rounds and tugging at heart strings.

It’s about 1,150 chickens who were retired (at age 2) from battery cages in California. The group was rescued by the Animal Place in Grass Valley, Calif., and flown to a variety of sanctuaries such as Lollypop Farm in Rochester and elsewhere in upstate New York last week. (See the list of new homes below.)

“This is the first time adult birds have ever been flown across the country,” says Kim Sturla, executive director of Animal Place. “A generous donor offered to fly the hens across the country and we jumped at the opportunity.”

Watch these hens as they’re released to walk in grass and spread their wings for the first time in their lives.

If you’re concerned about the cruelty of factory egg farms, where laying hens are kept in tiny battery cages in dark warehouses for their entire lives, there are steps you can take to remove your support of the inhumane conditions. You can find a local farmer’s market and buy eggs from a reputable small operator who maintains a free-range flock. (Ask to see pictures of their chickens, a knowledgeable producer will gladly crow about her hens.)

You can buy organic eggs, as well, supporting livestock production that has to meet higher standards. Organic egg farmers must allow their chickens to walk around and get some outside air and exposure, though many animal rights advocates say that the tiny screened porches that qualify as “outside” are woefully inadequate.

A hen "porch" for outdoor access. (Photo: Cornucopia Institute.)

A hen “porch” for outdoor access. (Photo: Cornucopia Institute.)

Soon, the USDA and FDA may even make it harder for producers who let their chickens actually run outdoors. The FDA wants to clamp down on these operations in the name of reducing salmonella, even though the Cornucopia Institute reports that food contamination is more likely to occur in the big closed-door operations.

You can bet this change, making it harder for small producers with free range hens while maintaining the screened porch loophole for industrial scale operations, is the result of who’s got the biggest lobbying force in Washington.

Cornucopia urges consumers and organic farmers to  follow these developments at the FDA.

“This is collusion between two Obama administration agencies to significantly and permanently weaken the integrity of the organic standards,” says Mark Kastel, co-director of The Cornucopia Institute, an organic farm advocacy group.

“By giving the OK to use covered porches as ‘outdoor access,’ and putting additional burdens on producers with legitimate outdoor runs or pasture, the recommendations in this food safety document decisively tilt the playing field to industrial-scale producers.”

But back to our freed chickens. The 1,150 chickens flown to New York were part of a larger group of about 3,000 saved by Animal Place from the routine euthanasia that laying hens face once their prime laying days are past.

Sanctuaries taking in the 1,150 hens included:

Farm Sanctuary – taking in 500 hens
Susie Coston
National Shelter Director


Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
Jenny Brown
845-679-5955 (office)
845-706-1151 (cell)


Catskill Animal Sanctuary – taking in 200 hens
Kathy Stevens


Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, Inc. – taking in 200 hens
Annette Fisher
330-281-1387 (cell)
330-296-5914 (office)


UPC – taking in 50 hens
Karen Davis


SASHA – taking in 100 hens
Christine Wagner
Assistant Director


Lollypop Farm, Humane Society of Greater Rochester – taking in 80 hens
Joanna Dychton
Farm and Safety Manager
585-223-1330 x 266


VINE – taking in 20 hens
Miriam Jones


Coming Home Animal Sanctuary – taking in 6 hens
Laura George, DVM
Executive Director


Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network