Struggling Iowa Egg Farmer Allows Animal Group to Fly 1,000 Hens to CA Sanctuary

Jaime Ramirez wears a mask as protection against COVID-19 to feed his hens in Chia, Colomb
AP Photo/Ivan Valencia

The coronavirus outbreak has led to disruptions in the food supply chain in the United States, leading some farmers and ranchers to destroy animals to keep their operations sustainable. But the final destination for 1,000 laying hens rescued from a struggling Iowa egg farm is an animal sanctuary in Grass Valley, California.

Animal Place

The lucky chickens were rescued by Animal Place, described in a press release as “California’s oldest and largest sanctuary for farmed animals.” The group took 1,000 of the more than 100,000 facing a “depopulation plan” and flew them by charted aircraft to their new home. The flights were paid for by a “generous donor,” a press release announcing the rescue said.

“Given the distance and the logistics, our staff and supporters had to step up even more than usual,”  Animal Place Executive Director Kim Sturla said in the press release.

Hannah Beins, animal care director at Animal Place, said in the press release:

The entire process, from the 27-hour drive, arriving at the farm at 3 a.m., loading and unloading full crates from the planes and vehicles, and going straight to caring for them once we arrived at the sanctuary was the most exhausting experience I’ve ever had. I would do it again in a heartbeat, because until their rescue these hens never got to touch grass or feel the sunshine, and now they can live out the rest of their lives as chickens should.

The animal rights group criticized egg farmers for keeping the hens in cages and replacing them when they age and egg production drops.

In fact, many egg farmers are keeping their birds “cage free,” and in Michigan and Oregon chicken cages will be illegal in 2025 and 2024, respectively, media outlets reported.

Many businesses that use eggs are only using cage-free suppliers, including Walmart, McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, Hyatt Hotels, and Unilever.

Many people who are vegetarian or vegan reject eating eggs because they believe it to be consuming a potential chicken when, in fact, only chicken eggs that have been fertilized contain a chicken embryo. 

“The lucky 1,000 will be nursed back to health and then adopted into backyard flocks throughout California,” the press release said. “Any hens who are too ill to be adopted will remain at the sanctuary and receive lifelong care.”

“To celebrate 1,000 lives saved, Animal Place is serving 1,000 vegan lunches to local farmworkers and their families,” the press release said.

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