Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Foggy Morning, Treats, and The Show-Stealing Hen


When I first arrived at the sanctuary this past Saturday, Emily was up near the entrance to the sheep yard. She was done with her medicine and had been released out of the sheep yard, but she was staying close hoping to be spoiled with more food! I guess she wasn’t too disappointed to be in the sheep yard for those weeks.

The rest of the cows were hanging out on the hillside near her. It’s been neat to have them hanging out so close to the sheep yard. Of course the sheep don’t really agree – I guess cows are pretty intimidating if you’re a sheep…

Two people showed up while we were in the horse barn to meet and spend some time with Darcy and Tally. They sponsored these two as gifts for Valentine’s Day, if I recall the story correctly. They are friends of one of the other volunteers, Sheryl, and I think Sheryl recommended Tally and Darcy specifically because they are close companions, especially in the years since Darcy lost the final bit of vision to a degenerative eye disease. Tally wears a halter with a bell on it, and Darcy uses that to help him keep track of where she is, and to follow her. Sometimes he gets separated, and then he’ll call to the rest of the horses and the two mules. Tally will emerge from wherever they had been and lead him to the group. It really is sweet.


So their sponsors came and got to meet them for the first time, and fed them some treats (apples for everyone but Darcy, who prefers carrots). Of course Dexter, Sal and Gloria got some apples too, or there would have been a mutiny!

Gloria waiting for her apple

In the chicken yard I spent some time hanging out with the “beta barn” chickens. The main yard has two barns, and the smaller one is called the “Beta Barn” after the painting of a Beta fish that hangs inside. The barn was donated, and the person donating it requested that the portrait of his beloved fish hang inside. For a while when I first started volunteering, I thought the main barn was the “alpha barn”!

Even though there isn’t really a separation between the yards (a mesh fence, but one that’s more a suggestion than a rule), the chickens tend to hang out with the other chickens from “their” barn, and I have mostly gotten to know the chickens who live in the main barn, as opposed to the Beta barn. But last weekend I got to know a couple of the Beta barn girls.

Brenda Lee checking out the camera

It started when I noticed that one of the hens in one of the stalls was broody, and stayed in the nest box after I opened up the stalls. I asked Terry about it, and she requested that I bring the hen outside. This turned out to be Brenda Lee.

Brenda Lee is one of a handful of hens at the sanctuary who was rescued from a cock-fighting breeding organization a while back. It was a pretty big bust, and several sanctuaries on the east coast took a number of the hens. They’ve always seemed a little wilder to me, probably because they often spend time fairly high in the trees. They’re also hard for me to tell apart, as they all have that distinctive look – I call it “firebird”, though I’m not really sure why!

The firebird look... (not Brenda Lee)

Normally I wouldn’t have been able to pick up and hold one of these hens, but because Brenda Lee was broody and sitting in the nest box, she let me pick her up. I carried her outside to the tree where the rest of her group was, and had one of those heart-warming moments that I pretty much always have when I’m in such close contact with these amazing animals.

Brenda Lee

While I was over with her group, I took some pictures, and noticed that Brenda Lee was fascinated by the camera. She wanted to be the star! She’d chase the others away when they tried to steal her limelight.

And then I started videoing one of the other hens dust bathing, and once again, Brenda Lee stole the show!

These birds have so much personality. They’re curious and smart and they interact with their world in ways that often surprise me. Though it took me a while before I could really “see” them, now I am fascinated. It is a shame that so few people will ever take the time to see the wonder of these birds. They’ll continue to think that calling someone “chicken” is an insult instead of a compliment, and even worse, they’ll continue to think of chickens as little more than automatons made of flesh. The truth is that these amazing beings are filled to the brim with curiosity and a zest for life. My life is enriched by knowing them.


4 responses to “Foggy Morning, Treats, and The Show-Stealing Hen

  1. ☼Illuminary☼ March 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Oh yes, personality to spare!
    and as I have learned they love humming or soft singing.
    it hushes them and they come all the closer!

    • Deb March 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      I will have to try that! (And hope that my singing doesn’t frighten them away!)

      • ☼Illuminary☼ March 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        well, as I just learned from my daughter. What I thought was Rapture and attention from the birds was actually them looking at me going” seriously? what is that noise you are making?Is that the best you can do? you poor thing!”

  2. Provoked March 25, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Seeing the cows enjoy the first morning mist… Watching the birds in the dust, grass and sun. What a perfect way to start my day!

    Thank you for those images that I’ll now take into my own space hundreds of miles away… I agree that chickens are fascinating once you really start to “see” them. I’m often amazed at how much observing of me they do… When I’m not looking.

    If I’ve got a yard tool or shovel in my hands – They know I’ll be digging somewhere and follow till I do. New fresh earth… They love it! It breaks my heart to think of the billions who never experience one moment in the blades of grass, in the cool soil or the warm sun’s glow…

    But I don’t want to curse the world today. It has to change. It simply must!
    Thanks for letting me rant a bit. I really do appreciate this post. It’s how things ought to be.

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