Demeter, named after the Greek goddess of agriculture, was found in a setting befitting a divine creature: near the Greek antiquities and Roman gardens of Malibu’s Getty Villa. Her partially amputated upper beak, however, attested to her life’s beginnings in a much grimmer place.
The mutilation was a result of a “de-beaking” procedure, standard practice at industrial hatcheries, where workers cut off the beak – of day-old chicks to discourage fighting in the stressful, crowded cages and warehouses for which they are bound. After about two years of exhausting egg production in these facilities, hens are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter. It is not uncommon to encounter vendors selling such hens for cheap meat in large cities like Los Angeles, and sometimes these animals escape to roam the streets. It is uncommon, however, to find loose factory hens in Malibu. We have no idea how Demeter got there, but we’re glad she did.
Learning of the wayward hen through our connections with Los Angeles city and county shelters, we offered her a home at our Southern California Shelter. Demeter, nicknamed Demi, arrived with a lice infestation and symptoms of a respiratory infection but, after treatment, she is feeling better and proving to be a very gracious new resident.
Demi loves people, preferring their company to that of her fellow chickens, and she even adores being held. She’s already the go-to hen for tour guides when they are explaining the cruelty of egg production and showing guests that chickens are just as intelligent, social, and lovable as dogs and cats. Although de-beaking can sometimes make eating difficult for chickens, it hasn’t hampered Demi; like any goddess would, she especially enjoys it when visitors feed her fruit by hand. Demi’s life may have begun with pain and exploitation, but from here on out, it promises to be sublime.