This is our third year featuring Chicken Run Rescue (CRR) as part of our Giving Back program, and I was excited to hang out with the birds again! Chicken Run is the only urban chicken rescue of its kind, rescuing and rehoming birds that are victims of neglect, abuse and abandonment, right here in Minneapolis. Founded in 2001, they’ve rescued almost 1,000 birds to date.
Last year we focused on roosters, and this year we’re highlighting special cases of abuse and neglect. I love photographing chickens so much – they’re incredibly sculptural and prehistoric-looking, and covered in interesting patterns and textures. This year’s birds are their stories are included below:
(All stories and descriptions by Mary Britton Clouse, from CRR)
Mavis Davis’s beak was deformed at birth, likely due to bad nutrition from her mother. She had been living in a dirty, unheated shed in Minneapolis, and the times when there was food, she wasn’t able to eat it. She was emaciated and weak, running to anyone who came into the yard to beg for food. A neighbor, who had been feeding Mavis when she could, knew she wouldn’t survive the winter, and convinced the owner to surrender her to Chicken Run. We took her to our avian vet, hoping for a prosthetic beak, but he felt that her deformity was too extreme, so we manage it with frequent trips to the vet to trim it. She was hand fed for months to gain weight, and now all our food is prepared wet and soft in a food processor so she is able to feed herself. She has a deslorelin implant to shut down her egg laying and prevent ovarian cancer. She LOVES food frantically, and will never forget what hunger feels like. She is happy and healthy and has 4 best friend hens we call “Mavis’s Gang.” Like all special needs birds here, she is permanent family.
Mavis got her last name “Davis” after Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, the first and most important chicken advocacy organization in the United States. Although, since she can’t pronounce her V’s and S’s with her beak, we call her Mabiff Dabiff.
Elisa was abandoned in Minnehaha Park in below zero weather. Clearly left there to die – bald from feather loss (most likely from overcrowding) and discarded. Thanks to three wonderful University of Minnesota freshmen who happened upon her, she was tucked in a warm jacket and rode the light rail to safety. The students found no help from the authorities they contacted, but they eventually found their way to us, and we are so very grateful for their persistence. Elisa had frostbite and was almost bald, yet appeared deliriously happy to be here. She is now best friends with a tiny hen named Renee, and her new feathers are coming in like gangbusters. She also has the deslorelin implant.
Gemma DePew had been advertised on craigslist as: “Free Chicken…if you would like to end her misery and make use of her meat, please come and pick her up ASAP.” We had just lost another Australorpe hen from ovarian cancer the same day the ad was posted, so we felt she was meant to be here. When we went to pick up Gemma, the owner didn’t know what was wrong with her, and thought it might be cancer. She was itchy and miserable, and being picked on by the other birds in their tiny coop. The vet determined she simply had lice, and within a day of treatment, her condition started to improve.
Gemma is now safe and loved at CRR, with her best friend, Paloma, and boyfriend, Claude. She, too, has a deslorelin implant. She should have beautiful, silky new feathers by summer’s end.
Hedley was terrified of almost everything at first, but settled in eventually. He taught us how he wished to be picked up and held, and what a fragile soul he is. Sadly, he was surrendered to animal control because, at 4 months old, his owners discovered the baby chick they raised was a male. We tried to persuade his original family to simply add a rooster to their backyard chicken permit (it is legal to have roosters in Minneapolis). They said they loved him, but thought it would be too much trouble. He was very sad and insecure when he arrived, and while he’s still skittish, he now has a “big brother,” LaSalle, as his constant companion. They are both lovely boys whose only crimes are being boys.
Paloma and her sister, Rosa Cabeza, were impounded because there were too many birds in their backyard coop. Neither her original owner nor the staff at animal control realized she was blind. We’ve learned how to accommodate differently abled birds – special needs birds are near and dear to our hearts – and we noticed right away how she bobbed her head to focus. She has cataracts in both eyes – likely from abnormal development as an embryo. We consulted a vet eye specialist but surgery for cataracts like hers are not correctable. She may have starved before it became apparent with less experienced caregivers. She was hand fed for quite some time till she gained enough weight to let her self feed. She now has a deslorelin implant like the other hens. She is sweet and fearless about her lack of vision – just like Mr. Magoo. Paloma enjoys blundering about in her safe and happy home at CRR with her best friend, Gemma, and a boyfriend named Claude to keep her company.
(We featured Obie last year as well) In the winter of 2013, Obie was picked up by animal control from a backyard in North Minneapolis, where he was found with no shelter and nearly unconscious from emaciation and exposure. (Chickens are tropical birds, not designed to live in our Minnesota climate.) Shelter staff did’t think he’d survive his first night. He eventually lost all of his toes to frostbite. He arrived at CRR at the same time as a hen named Jeanne and it was love at first sight. Click here to see a darling video of Obie and his first girlfriend Jeanne. Obie is spunky, attentive and flirtatious but gentle with the girls (orange girls like Jeanne are his favorite). He is cuddly and fun with people, and has a best friend named Perry, a little Silkie. They go everywhere and do everything together, including looking after the “orange” girls.
Eddie was first named “Britt” after a favorite volunteer, but as she grew up, her personality shone like a beacon. Always at the center of the chaos – overturning a treat bowl or balancing on someone’s head – Leave It To Beaver’s fun trouble maker, Eddie Haskell, was a much better name for her.
Eddie’s entire upper beak was cut off when she was a day old chick at a hatchery. This is done so that when the birds are kept in overcrowded spaces, they are less able to injure each other when pecking in frustration. (The chicks often die from this trauma.) About 70% of our rescues have been “debeaked” to some degree, and Eddie’s is the most severe we have ever had. She was very young and malnourished when she was picked up by animal control in Minneapolis as a stray. She is unable to pick up food, so she needed to be hand fed when she arrived here until she gained enough weight to see if she could self-feed. All of the food we prepare daily for the birds is processed and moistened, so those with bad beaks can eat the same as those with normal beaks. Eddie has 3 best friends- Shirley, Shopper and Rosa. They are a tight knit team that moves as one trouble making beast, so we call them the “Swirling Eddies.” All of them have had deslorelin implants to shut down their egg laying and prevent ovarian cancer.
Xavier is the most talkative bird we have ever met. Not so much with crowing, just a constant, running commentary about what he’s eating and what he’s seeing: he loves burbling about good food like an overenthusiastic food critic, flirting with the girls, talking trash with the boys, and skipping about, flapping his enormous wattles during his free time. When he was about 6 months old (when a chicken’s sex becomes apparent) he was abandoned in South Minneapolis and picked up as a stray. He was out long enough in mid-December to lose the very tips of his comb to frostbite, but he’s healed nicely and looks maahh-velous!
He’s healthy, happy, easy to pick up and hold, and companionable as all get out. He loves looking out of windows, especially if there is a hen on the other side. Xavier is the happiest, most cheerful boy we have even known. He skips, runs up and down stairs, giggles, and is so wonderful with people that we always let him be the host when we have visitors. He is very sweet with the girls, and his only crime is being a boy. For every backyard hen, there is a dead or abandoned rooster like Xavier.
Be sure to follow Chicken Run Rescue’s Facebook page for updates on their birds, and check out their website for lots of great information about caring for chickens.