Late in the 2012 baseball season, New York Mets relief pitcher Tim Byrdak secretly brought a small feathered newcomer into the clubhouse – a chicken he claimed was sent by the Yankees to taunt Mets teammate Frank Francisco, who had been calling the Yankees “chickens” during a subway series run. The team named the bird (whom they believed to be a rooster but who later turned out to be a hen) “Little Jerry Seinfeld” after a chicken character who appeared in an episode of the comedian’s long-running TV show. Byrdak posted a Twitter video of her exploring the clubhouse.
Little Jerry’s arrival in the major leagues quickly became a cause for amusement, not only among team-members but also the media, garnering coverage by USA Today, Associated Press, New York Post, Daily News, ESPN, and hundreds more newspapers and broadcast outlets across the country.
Largely omitted from the coverage, however, were the sobering facts of Jerry’s origins. A cohort of Byrdak bought the hen from a live market in Chinatown. Such businesses, where animals are selected by customers to be slaughtered onsite, are notorious for inhumane conditions. The creatures, many of them “spent” hens or other factory farm castoffs, commonly suffer from hunger, exposure, and untreated injuries as they await the knife. While Little Jerry was skyrocketing to fame, chickens who had shared a cage or pen with her were meeting a grisly end.
Spared that fate, Little Jerry still faced a precarious future. Once the prank had run its course, the Mets were left puzzled about what to do with their unexpected mascot. The teammates didn’t like the idea of their new pal becoming someone’s dinner.
Fortunately, Byrdak, who is known as the team clown, was serious about ensuring a good life for Little Jerry. Through Twitter, he connected with Farm Sanctuary, and we dispatched a representative to bring the chicken to her new home at our New York Shelter.
Little Jerry arrived with an injured, infected toe (unsurprising for a live market animal), which had to be amputated, but that hasn’t kept her from enjoying herself. This sweet, friendly chicken loves her new caregivers and has even befriended an abandoned kitten taken in by shelter staff. Once she is fully healed from her surgery, Jerry will join fellow chickens in one of our shelter flocks. In the meantime, she’s making plenty of human buddies — including vegan racecar drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Andy Lally, who recently dropped in for a visit.
What began as a prank has become an opportunity. Little Jerry Seinfeld has been given a chance to enjoy the sort of life that every chicken deserves. The Mets and their fans, meanwhile, have become acquainted with a chicken and discovered that, just like a dog or cat, she is a unique individual, full of personality and a zest for life. We hope all those who were delighted by Jerry’s journey will be inspired to consider how the simple choices they make every day can bring happier endings to others like her.