Karina and Bette Davis: More than 100 Birds from New York City Find Refuge in the Country

In early October 2006, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City was alerted to a case of animal neglect in a Brooklyn garage. When investigators arrived on the scene, they found crates filled with chickens stacked on top of one another – dead birds lain amongst the living.

Sadly, several of the birds were too weak to survive the rescue. The investigation is ongoing as to why these birds would be neglected and left to die, and arrests are pending. Luckily, over 400 survived and are being sent to shelters throughout the Eastern U.S., and Farm Sanctuary welcomed over 100 at our New York Shelter.

One little bird, Karina, caught the eye of an ASPCA employee, Aimee Hartmann. She was unable to walk, but ASPCA caregivers felt that her condition was related to a lack of nutrients and that she might have a chance to recover. Aimee created a special area by her desk, so she could have her own bowl of food and the extra care and attention she needed.

During the four and a half hour journey to Farm Sanctuary, Karina sat in the front seat with Aimee, quietly cooing and preening her feathers. When she and Aimee arrived, Farm Sanctuary caregivers took Karina to our hospital so her condition could be assessed further, and she continues to grow stronger with every hour.

When all the chickens underwent their first health check, not long after arrival, we discovered one bird, apparently blind and missing part of a toe. Bette Davis is spending her time with Karina in the hospital where our caregivers are exhausting every option to make them as comfortable as possible.

Karina, Bette Davis and their flock mates are “broiler” chickens. Bred to grow twice as fast and twice as large as their ancestors, “broiler” chickens raised for their meat put on so much weight so quickly that they are at great for risk heart disease and crop problems, as well as chronic joint and foot discomfort.

More than a year after Hurricane Katrina, we continue to care for over 200 “broiler” chickens rescued from a factory farm in Mississippi destroyed during the storm. Our healthcare staff’s experience working with the Katrina “broilers” will ensure these new arrivals receive a regimen that will keep them healthy and content, in spite of the many challenges ahead as a result of unnatural breeding practices in the chicken industry.

Karina and Bette Davis seem to be taking all the attention in stride as we work with them to get them back on their feet, so they can join the rest of their brothers and sisters in the barnyard. We remain hopeful that one day they’ll be able to scratch the earth and dust bathe as every chicken should.

Update 11/16/06

Since arriving at our New York Shelter, the Brooklyn chickens have embraced sanctuary life with an astounding joy. Though we do not know how they came to be in a cramped, dark and unkempt garage in the city, we know that the life they have now, full of fresh air, sunlight, grassy yards, and a warm barn full of comfy hay, is one they were always meant to live. They are so happy to live freely, clucking and cooing merrily every day as they preen themselves, scratch and dustbathe in the dirt in their barnyard, and do all the other natural behaviors chickens are able to do when released from the confines of a cruel and neglectful existence.

Karina and Bette Davis have both improved tremendously! Though coming to Farm Sanctuary ailing and weak, both have been given the special love, attention and healthcare that all animals in need receive at Farm Sanctuary. Time and again we have seen sickly animals improve quickly when given the basic attention and care that should be afforded all animals in need.

Karina, who came to Farm Sanctuary unable to walk, has made great strides since first arriving. Our healthcare staff placed her on a physical therapy program used with animals who should physically be able to walk, but have medical issues that have kept them from developing their legs and muscles correctly. For three weeks after she arrived, Karina’s legs were exercised routinely and she received special nutritional supplements for leg and joint health to help her gain strength. She also received medication to relieve her of pain and inflammation. With each passing week, her legs grew stronger, and she was able to use them more and more. Then, one day, Karina was able to walk on her own, to the delight of herself and the healthcare staff who were lucky to see this wonderful moment! Karina’s improvement has continued, and this sweet, curious chicken now lives with the rest of her flock mates, where she can run and explore her new world freely.

Bette Davis, thought to be completely blind, upon closer inspection was found to have cataracts in her eyes. She was taken to Cornell University Hospital for Animals for an assessment, and was found to have “corneal edema” and scarring in her eyes. This most likely occurred when she had an eye infection that went untreated. Though Bette’s condition is irreversible, she is so strong in spirit and so good-natured. She is not completely blind, but has a difficult time seeing small objects, and has limited depth perception. Her toe has healed nicely and doesn’t slow her down one bit. Bette lives with the main Brooklyn chicken flock now, along with Karina, and is one of the sweetest of the bunch, running right up to visitors to the chicken yard and greeting them with friendly clucks of approval.