Vinnie is what those in the poultry industry call a “broiler” – a chicken bred for meat. At the factory farm where he was raised, Vinnie lived inside a dark and barren warehouse, crowded together with thousands of other birds. The air was filled with the cacophony of their voices and with the stench of ammonia, which stung his every breath. Movement was hard. Not only because he was tightly packed with the other chickens, but also because like all of the birds, he’d been selectively bred to grow twice as fast and twice as large as his ancestors.
Workers in factory farms see misery and death all the time, but sometimes the plight of a particular animal strikes a chord. Vinnie’s did. Smaller than the other birds, Vinnie stood out in a crowd of thousands. His belly was nearly bald, and his legs were thick and knobby. Unable to contend with the larger chicks around him, he was getting hurt. Unwilling to watch him struggling and suffering any longer, a factory worker picked up Vinnie and took him to live with his mother’s flock of adopted chickens in her backyard.
Though safe in his new home, Vinnie was still having a rough go of it. His feet couldn’t grip the perch. He had trouble keeping up with the other chickens when they were out foraging. His belly feathers still weren’t coming in, and he shivered constantly; sometimes he tried to huddle beneath his flock mates for warmth.
Concerned for Vinnie’s well-being, the factory farm worker’s sister, a vegan and Farm Sanctuary supporter, reached out to us for advice. She told us that Vinnie was not well and not growing. Unsure of the cause, we agreed to welcome the tiny chicken to our shelter.
Because Vinnie was so small for his age when he arrived, we suspected that he had a congenital condition like other industry birds we have taken in. This turned out not to be the case, however, and within a few months Vinnie began to grow – and grow. Vinnie is not a normal industry bird; he is far taller and not as heavy. Though still an unusual-looking chicken, with his abnormally long legs and huge feet, he is no longer the tiny rooster who wasn’t thriving.
In his past, Vinnie was seen as merely a commodity, his suffering indistinguishable from the general misery that surrounded him. But once he was seen as an individual, a factory farm worker couldn’t deny the compassion he deserved. Now Vinnie will enjoy a life filled with that compassion at Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen shelter.