The first door was locked. So was the second. And the third.
Damn! Months earlier, they'd been tipped off about a hen factory
in Maryland. A fireman who went there to put out a fire told UPC
he'd never seen anything like it--that was the last egg he'd ever
eat. Dressed in black and armed with a video camera, they made
the two-hour trip. In the back of the truck were blankets, pillow
cases, a camcorder, camera, vision goggles, gloves, surgical
masks, a flashlight, and a pry bar.
At one o'clock a.m., they made their journey across the
field to the compound. Ten minutes and two fences later, they
stood before 5 buildings. A few trucks and trailers were
The fifth door opened. They went in. Inside, the buildings
were attached to one another by a hall through which the eggs
went by a conveyer belt to a sixth building where they were
crated and loaded on trucks. What they experienced was so
horrible one couldn't imagine it. No wonder the workers wore full
face ventilators. The air was vile with ammonia, 90 degrees,
dusty, moist, and sickening.
They went on with their plan. First they filmed the place.
Rows of cages the size of a doormat to the floor, each one
stuffed with debeaked hens with spindly long claws and limp,
lifeless wattles. They walked slowly down the aisles filming
these poor souls. Occasionally a hen started when the camera went
off; otherwise they barely moved.
Stage two, the rescue. They decided to take ten hens, but
which ones? In the end it was random. They selected a bank of
cages and pulled out the pillow cases. They slid open the gate on
top of a cage. It was narrower than the hens' bodies. It took
them longer to carefully pull out one terrified hen clinging to
the wire than it would have taken the catchers to empty several
cages. They put ten hens in three pillow cases and took off. Ten
minutes after running and stumbling across the field in the dark,
they gently opened the pillow cases into the back of the truck.
The hens lay still the entire ride back. Maybe they would
die but at least they were out of there. They were weak, but as
time showed, tough. A couple of hours later, they were at United
Poultry Concerns. Free at last!
Three months later in June, the change in these hens is
amazing. In March they were ravaged, scraggly bodies with doughy
combs and murky eyes. Now they run around the yard on their
strong little legs with snowy feathers, red combs, bright eyes,
and claws almost normal. Sweet Pea, Portia, Pearl, and Pia perch
together every night. What's especially wonderful is to walk
outside and see two or three of these beautiful hens resting
quietly in the branches of a tree.
United Poultry Concerns provides a permanent sanctuary for
rescued chickens. Please consider making a generous gift to
ensure that hens like Sweet Pea, Portia, Pearl, and Pia will
continue to find a haven at United Poultry Concerns. With your
loving gift, United Poultry Concerns can ensure that many more
hens will be free at last.
From left to right: In the two months following their rescue,
the hens became healthier and happier in their new home.