By Mary Haller
During the summer I discovered that a little market where I shopped in Pennsylvania had a group of eight chickens stuck out back in a filthy 7X7-foot pen. There was a big red rooster and seven pretty hens, all different colors. The owner didn’t want them – a relative had left them there – so disclaiming responsibility, she threw carrot peels to the chickens, saying, “They’ll eat anything if they’re hungry enough.”
With that, I started visiting the chickens every day. Their droppings had piled and hardened, and the place was a mess where the rain dripped in, so I scraped and dug and mucked as best I could while the chickens watched the amazing spectacle of someone caring for them – finally! Oh, and I brought them leafy green lettuce, grapes, fresh grains, seeds and water after talking to Karen Davis at United Poultry Concerns about what to feed them. When they saw me coming they’d run to the gate to greet me, and especially did they love corn on the cob, eating it eagerly out of my hand. Karen, meanwhile, arranged for a driver to pick them up and take them to UPC’s sanctuary in Virginia.
But first let me tell you that the Rhode Island Red rooster was quite handsome – which he seemed to realize when I brought him a mirror one day. Standing in front of that mirror in the mud, he preened himself and carefully checked his feathers. And he watched his seven hens to make sure no harm came to them. If I picked up a hen and she squawked too loud, he’d rush over and peck at my ankles! And when it started to get dark, he’d lead everyone up to where they all slept together, everyone softly clucking and peeping as it got darker.
Early in the morning on September 3, John Huber came from Lancaster, PA to pick up the chickens and take them to United Poultry Concerns. He was very gentle with them, and I could tell that even though they were a bit scared at being picked up and placed in the cages in the van, they knew something good was happening to them.
I miss these little creatures and would have kept them if I could. Caring for them, I remembered what fun it was to have chickens around. I would talk to these chickens while I fed them, and they would cock their little heads and look up at me, as if they were really listening to what I had to say. – Mary Haller
UPC Postscript: Mary’s chickens are doing great! They have a big L-shaped porch all to themselves and their own fenced yard down the back steps. Their names are Troubadour, Eleanor, Isobel, Rosemary, Mandy, Maisie, Taffy, and Paisley. We thank Mary Haller and John Huber for safeguarding these chickens who will live happily for the rest of their lives at United Poultry Concerns.