Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

sweater-wearing chickens

Last weekend when we headed to the chicken barn, Terry pointed out the turkey and chicken wearing sweaters. The turkey is older, and gets cold easily. The chicken came to the sanctuary only recently, and hasn’t had a chance to grow all of the feathers that are invariably missing from the chickens who had lived in cages. And so Terry makes them sweaters so that they are more comfortable.

I love these details.

Dave said today, “every time a chicken comes in the winter missing feathers, I know I’m going to lose another sweater.” heh. It’s for the greater good, Dave!

I think I might get him a Dave t-shirt to compensate!

Two conversations I have had recently seem to be linked to things I’ve been turning over in my mind lately. One was an issue that, I believe, is common to all activists – a pervasive idea that taking care of ourselves means neglecting the animals. We discussed this idea, and how the opposite is true. We’re better able to be effective activists if we’ve taken care of ourselves.

To accomplish this means that we take the time for ourselves to: get enough sleep, eat properly, get exercise, relax. And other things besides. What we don’t necessarily take into account is the effect that simply being happy and interested in others can have. We might never know when we spark people to make changes in their lives. The people who convinced me to go vegetarian never knew, for example.

The second conversation was really more a statement Terry was making today about sanctuary work and burnout. “We’re lucky, we’re the happy ending,” she said. And I think that says more about her and Dave, and how well they are able to take care of themselves, each other. The sanctuary is a very nurturing, peaceful place, not just for the animals, but for those of us who volunteer and spend time there. I think that, in general, people who run sanctuaries are just as likely to burn out as anyone else, perhaps more so.

And this leads me to the thought that I’ve been trying to reconcile lately – that enjoying something doesn’t negate the impact, the effectiveness, doesn’t disqualify it from being “activism.” It seems logical that if we do what we enjoy, what we’re good at, we’re going to be most effective. That if we enjoy it, we’re going to keep doing it, we’ll pass on that joy to the people around us, and be more effective that way.

Yet there is part of me that feels it should be a big sacrifice. I’m trying to change that part of me, to instead feel productive and effective in enjoying the things I do.

This is one of the aspects where I think Terry and Dave have really got things down – they enjoy the sanctuary (except for the paperwork), and they focus on the fact that they are, indeed, the happy ending for the 200 animals who live with them. They focus their energy there, and on the outreach they do, rather than on the million things they can’t control or change or impact. And they’re happy.

And if their chickens need sweaters, their chickens get sweaters.

chicken wearing a sweater

Oh, and I feel like I’m always pushing pattrice’s book, Aftershock, but seriously, we all need to read it and reread it.


10 responses to “sweater-wearing chickens

  1. Ari February 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    This totally made my day. Wonderful post.

  2. Deb February 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Ari! The sweaters make me smile. 🙂

  3. Kay Evans February 5, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I got your link from pattrice’s SuperWeed blog. Great site. Thanks for posting the photo of the chicken sweaters. Can you please tell me more about them, such as how and where they fasten? Our sanctuary is in a mild climate, but with occasional cold spells. I feel that some of our chickens (and now the 3 turkeys who arrived on New Year’s Day!) could benefit from a sweater. Thank you so much! Kay in NC

  4. Deb February 5, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Kay, I sent Terry of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary your information and questions, and she said she’d contact you directly about the sweater-making so you could ask her any additional questions you might have after she describes how she does it. I checked out your link – congrats on your brand new website!

  5. Pingback: tangible impact « Invisible Voices

  6. nothoney November 18, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Yeah, this is an old post but it’s a really good one so Imma comment on it.

    When I first started volunteering at the National Zoo, I loved it because I really felt I was making a difference for endangered wildlife. Then, after nearly two years of three 3-hour shifts every month and numerous events, I started to feel unhappy. I found myself talking to the same uninterested people who were there only to entertain their kids for a couple of hours. They had zero interest in changing their lives to help save a few endangered species, and seemed mostly interested in whether or not giant pandas are aggressive or as cuddly as they look.

    I burned out. So much, in fact, that I haven’t been back to the zoo since my last shift on September 17. That’s sad because there are many things, mostly the wildlife, that I love about the National Zoo. There are just as many things that I wanted to change but felt I made no headway at all.

    Now, when I leave the sanctuary on Saturday afternoons I feel really positive. I may not be educating the public any longer, but I’m making a positive difference in the lives of the animals living there. Plus, I have a really good time with y’all and I’m anticipating an enormous ribbing the first time a mouse jumps out at me from under a water dish and I scream bloody murder. It’s a little soul healing every time I’m there and that appears to be something I needed especially when faced with possible elephant culls in South Africa, or the continued existence of bear bile farms in China and Vietnam, the fate of mountain gorillas in DRC’s Virunga National Park where a war is raging, and on and on.

    So yeah, I think it’s OK to be happy in one’s activism (as long as you don’t get TOO rosy about it). 🙂


  7. Pam February 11, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Where do I find a pattern to make these sweaters?

  8. Deb February 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Pam, I’m going to post Terry’s instructions, hopefully tomorrow. I have to find them in my email, but they’re pretty straight forward, and easy, from the sounds of it!

  9. Pingback: Chicken Sweater: Instructions « Invisible Voices

  10. VDE October 15, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    That is so amazing! :)!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: