This summer, a northern California wildlife rescuer was walking in her neighborhood when she saw a group of children tossing something back and forth among themselves. At first she assumed the object was a ball. Then she realized, to her shock, that it was a tiny chick. The woman immediately removed the chick from the “game” and reprimanded the children for treating an animal so callously. We do not know how the children obtained the chick, but it’s likely that she came from the backyard egg-laying flock of someone who lived in the area.
The woman cared for two companion hens who lived with her, but the chick was far too small to join them. Still, the rescuer took her new charge, now known as Little Peep, back to her home to live in safety and recuperate in her own private resting space. Soon after, though, the rescuer was faced with a sudden move out-of-state and reached out to Farm Sanctuary to find new homes for the hens and tiny chick. Our shelter in Orland, California, happily welcomed Little Peep and the two companion hens.
In the beginning, we kept Little Peep in her own pen in the shelter’s hospital area so caregivers could monitor her for signs of illness or parasite infestation and help her grow strong enough to join the adult flock. To keep this curious, energetic youngster from becoming bored, staff members took her outside on play dates — a favorite job among our interns.
When Little Peep was finally big enough to move to the chicken barn and pasture, she was delighted to have so much new space to explore. Cheerfully taking to her new home, she developed a fondness for perching on her feed box and relaxing in the tall brush. After spending so much time among humans, though, she was initially reluctant to join her fellow hens. Yet within a few weeks, her interest shifted, and we are now very happy to see her finding her place in her new feathered family.
Little Peep’s story has touched many people at the sanctuary. It disturbs us to think that a group of children would see her as a toy. Troubling too is her rescuer’s report that that reckless treatment of animals is all too common among children and often ignored by parents in the area where she lives. Such complacence does a disservice not only to animals but also to children, silently instilling the message that cruelty is acceptable.
At Farm Sanctuary, our funny, lively friend Little Peep will teach visitors a different lesson: that animals bring so much more to our lives when they are treated as fellow beings, each deserving of our respect and compassion.