Hens bred for the egg industry are arguably the most abused animals on the planet. In the U.S., 95% of them are housed in tiny wire cages for their entire, brief lives. It's such a tight fit that the hens can barely turn around, much less walk more than a few steps.
Forced to eat, poop, lay, and sleep in this tiny wire enclosure alongside hundreds of thousands of other birds inside a dark shed, the hens quickly lose their sanity and peck each other maniacally -- often to death.
After 18 months, the hens' egg-production wanes, and workers pull them from their wire prisons only to kill them in any number of horrible ways -- neck- breaking, gassing, or being buried alive and composted.
When rescued industry laying hens arrive at Hen Harbor, they are typically so psychologicaly damaged that they cram themselves into corners, terrified of open spaces. It takes them weeks to recover enough to venture a few steps outside, and months before they can walk around comfortably and engage in normal hen behaviors -- scratching the soil, dustbathing, spreading their wings, and running across the yard.
But even after a laying hen finds freedom from the cage, she remains a prisoner -- of her own body.
Because modern laying hens have been genetically selected to lay at 20 times the rate of a normal (wild) hen, they essentially self destruct around the age of 2 or 3 years old -- one-fifth of a normal hen's lifespan. Laying eggs at such an accelerated rate (300+ annually vs. 12-20 annually) gives rise to terrible reproductive disease, primarily 1) Ovarian cancer and (2) Impacted oviducts
Caring for hens with these conditions requires the most resources of all the sanctuary's residents. While most other animal sanctuaries will euthanize hens with reproductive tract disease, Hen Harbor does not believe in euthanizing animals who can be saved with proper veterinary intervention. This is especially true for hens whose problems are a direct result of human greed and apathy. We focus on restoring the hens' bodies to where they can live out a normal lifespan.
One way to help forestall reproductive disease in rescued laying hens is the use of a hormonal implant that shuts downs a hen's ovary so she no longer lays. Hens who receive the implant grow plush new feathers and gain new energy once their bodies are relieved of the burden of egg production. The implants, however, are expensive and require regular renewals.
Even more expensive is the surgery required when a hen's oviduct blows out and she develops an egg impaction. Without surgery to remove the eggs stuck in the faulty oviduct, the egg material will rot and kill the hen.
For these reasons, Hen Harbor's veterinary bills average $2,000 -$3,000 a month. After all they've suffered at the hands of humans, these precious, gentle birds deserve the best care possible to try to make up for all the pain they've endured.