Barry, the big rooster, came to us from Farm Sanctuary in September 2015. He was part of a threesome along with his two brothers, Satchmo and Bird. They had been raised in a glass aquarium on the deck of a Los Angeles apartment. Purchased as chicks at a swap meet, the owner thought he was getting chickens. Instead, he ended up with two roosters and what he thought was a hen. At the time they came to us at about 4 months of age, even Farm Sanctuary told us that they were two roosters and a hen. Barry, therefore, was named Bessie. Satchmo and Bird grew quickly and became quite large, while Barry stayed small like a hen. A couple of months later, unfortunately, we found both roosters dead. (We think now that they fought and killed each other – they were alive one minute, and 15 minutes later, dead.) About 4 months later at the age of 9 months, I noticed that Barry had grown spurs and thought it strange. His size and plumage also started to develop, and then the crowing started. Bessie had transformed into Barry, a big, beautiful, benevolent rooster. It’s a case of arrested development where Barry suppressed his masculinity in order to save his life until it was safe.
Miles was rescued from someone local who couldn’t keep him. He and Barry worked it out, and Miles is definitely under Barry in the pecking order. Miles can be mean to some people, but you just have to call Barry, who will come running and chase him away.
Our nine most colorful birds were hatched in a classroom as part of a school project. Sadly, chicks are often hatched in the classroom without forethought about what their fate will be afterwards. These 9 were living in a plastic box in the classroom when a compassionate teacher rescued them and brought them to the sanctuary. Four of them turned out to be roosters, so now the sanctuary is filled with competing crowing from early morning. Among farm animals, the number of roosters needing homes is probably the highest (followed by pot bellied pigs) because of zoning codes that do not allow for roosters in most municipalities. With the rise of the backyard chicken movement, this number continues to rise.
The many hens came to us in different ways – some as backyard birds where the owners couldn’t keep them anymore, to rescued battery cage egg hens (most of the white leghorns who are debeaked) to “free-range” hens (many of the Sexlinks and Rhode Island reds). We aim to educate people who keep chickens why they shouldn’t eat eggs anymore, and that no chickens are cruelty-free, even backyard ones.