Andre, Albert and 18 other chickens once lived in misery at a high school in Canandaigua, New York, where they were being used as mere teaching tools in a controversial ecology classroom unit for which students were required to rear and slaughter live birds to learn about how food ends up on their plates. The chickens’ fate changed when the New York State Department of Education denied the school a waiver to kill live vertebrate animals in the classroom, putting an end to the infamous lesson.
Known as the “Chicken Project,” the Canandaigua Academy ecology class unit had been the subject of intense public scrutiny for more than one year due to the serious animal welfare concerns it raised by culminating in the brutal termination of life. After initially learning about the project from Joel Freedman, a Canandaigua activist, Farm Sanctuary, United Poultry Concerns and other animal protection organizations had been encouraging academy officials to consider humane education alternatives, reaching out to animal advocates across the nation to lend their support in getting this unnecessary cruelty to cease.
When the project came to its abrupt end on Dec. 4 there was much for chicken champions to celebrate, but the demise of the last group of chickens at the school still remained imminent early that morning, as the birds were to be slaughtered off site and served at a community soup kitchen. Learning of these plans from Freedman, our national shelter director, Susie Coston contacted the superintendent immediately, urging him to instead release the chickens into our expert loving care. Thankfully, he agreed, bringing the “Chicken Project” to the humane end advocates had been ardently seeking since 2007.
Little more than 9-weeks-old, the chickens we picked up at Canandaigua Academy later that same day were in poor condition. As broiler hybrids selectively bred to reach slaughter weight at only 42 days of age, the chickens had clearly been suffering due to the burden of their size and were in need of immediate medical attention. All but one, a smaller New Hampshire Red chicken we named Texas Red, were already plagued by painful pressure sores on their feet and leg joints, and their feathers were coated in feces from spending so much time lying nearly immobile on the filthy ground.
One little chicken named Carla had a serious leg problem for which we took her to Cornell University’s Hospital for Animals to be treated shortly after her arrival; sadly, she was completely unable to walk on her own and has since passed away. Another girl named Tiny is suffering from a severe leg deformity as well and though her prognosis remains uncertain at this time, we will continue to do everything we can to save her life.
But despite the sorrowful setbacks we have experienced with Carla and Tiny, life for Andre, Albert and the other chickens is already starting to look up. No longer free fed and confined to a small space to facilitate crippling growth, the birds are on a nutritious, controlled diet, have lots of room to move around in, and are receiving pain medications to keep them comfortable while they recover and lose weight. So far, the difference in their activity has been marked and they are walking around on much steadier legs.
Thanks to Farm Sanctuary members and other animal advocates nationwide, Andre, Albert and company have not only been spared, but now have access to the very best care they can receive. The road to recovery will not be an easy one for them to travel, but we are confident that their quality of life will only continue to improve. Stay involved in the lives of these precious chickens and help us ensure that they get everything they need to live happily and comfortably for the rest of their lives, by becoming an adoptive parent to one of the birds today. Learn how online or by calling 607-583-2225 ext. 225.