On Saturday, Animal Place flew 1,000 chickens from an egg farm in Fort Dodge, IA to its sanctuary in California on two charter planes paid for by a generous donor. The egg farm—which asked not to be identified—planned to “depopulate” 100,000 hens by gassing them with carbon dioxide, a practice many animal farmers are engaging in as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the meat industry. However, the egg farm made the unusual decision of allowing activists to rescue the animals prompting locals to alert Animal Place, which specializes in large-scale rescue operations. 

Two Animal Place staffers drove for nearly 30 hours to coordinate the effort with eight local volunteers. There, activists found hens stacked in battery cages, many in ill health and some deceased as farmers had stopped feeding them prior to the rescue. “The entire process, from the 27-hour drive, arriving at the farm at 3am, 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,” Animal Place Animal Care Director Hannah Beins said. “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.”

All of the hens are currently being nursed back to health with the goal of getting them adopted into no-kill backyard flocks in California. Those that are too ill for adoption will receive lifelong care at Animal Place. “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. “Unfortunately, not even we can take in 100,000 hens, which is a drop in the bucket of the hundreds of million hens killed annually by the egg industry, even in a typical year without a global pandemic.”

To celebrate the 1,000 lives saved, Animal Place will serve 1,000 vegan lunches to local farmworkers and their families. 

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