Friday, October 16, 2009

& then there was one

Earlier this year I ordered many hens from large hatchery that I have ordered from before. I have been very happy with them in the distant past, moderately happy in the recent past but after this last time, I will never order with them again.

This year the chicks arrived a week early: when an order is placed, you specify which week you want the order; live animals arriving the wrong week is never good. I was able to rearrange my schedule & deal with them but it gets worse.

The order was incorrect: the order had been updated not quite a month before it actually shipped (& more than a month before it should have shipped) but the order reflected only one change, the others had not been made. Further there were birds in the box that had never been ordered. You do get one free random chick with every order but we got more than that. Also, they were not free; there was a charge for every bird in the box. We ordered only hens & got three roosters.

It was the final error that was the clincher though. Of the eight of one breed that that did arrive (& had been ordered) four of them were badly injured. Not from shipping but from sorting. It turns out that sexing baby birds is a lot like reading PAP smear slides-you get paid by the quantity not the quality of your work. While all eight of these chick were indeed female, as ordered, the four had broken legs, broken wings, etc.

It has been a miserable summer watching them slowly get worse. One died the first week but the others not for months. Two of them grew almost as normal but with their limbs twisted around at strange angles. One remained smaller than the others, but was the most active. The two that died over the past few weeks had been doing well, able to sit up, eat. They had plenty of fresh water & food, a safe dry place within the hen house (a rabbit hutch with hay on the bottom. They slowly lost use of their legs & finally had to be washed gently 2 or 3 times a day because they could not move away from their own poop. The first little one had no name but the others were Twyla (because her one leg stuck straight out like a dancer) & Cowhocks (because her two broken legs often got hooked around each other). Tallulah remains & is still able to stand, with one leg dramatically stretched, as though she is making a grand entrance.

//in the picture is the first identified broken bird. The floor of the box is covered in a layer of feed (so she does not have to move to it), she has her own heat lamp & has been placed near the cage holding the other babies so their peeping will keep her company. That black circle in the box with her is a bottle cap. It was the only water container small enough that she tipped it over would not dowse her. She only lasted a few days, but the other three grew (two better than the other) & eventually moved to a hay-lined rabbit hutch in the henhouse with their sisters, Tallulah now lives there alone.


  1. How awful! As someone who only buys organic eggs from free range chickens, this makes me physically ill! Is there anywhere you can report this? Does it even matter to anyone? I feel awful for what you went through.

  2. I'm sorry to say no one much cares about animals that will be food. I think we are all so squeamish about knowing something we eat, we pretend it never was alive & that somehow makes it worse.

    In happier news, Tallualah went out with the other girls for about 30 minutes yesterday & did very well, ate lots of greens & made happy chicken noises.