It’s likely you know of your local animal shelter that takes in dogs and cats. Maybe you even volunteer or have welcomed a rescue dog into your family. But a local bird rescue center isn’t as common of a draw. I certainly wasn’t aware of the issues facing chickens and their feathered relatives (let alone a “bird sanctuary”) until I learned of the Little Red Bird Sanctuary in Temescal Valley, California—a recent 50 States for Good recipient.
The sanctuary’s founder, Cerise Ostream, has been a bird-lover since she had a pet duck as a child. She wanted to provide a loving, permanent home to as many neglected and special-needs birds as possible. All the birds at her sanctuary have a back story and many suffer because of their experiences. “The main focus of our shelter is providing ‘spent’ chickens from commercial egg-laying facilities with a second chance,” says Ostream, “and the ability to enjoy their lives after confinement and cruelty.”
Life of the Birds
The sanctuary, named after a Dave Matthews Band song with the same name, currently cares for about fifty chickens. Most of these fowl are indeed hens rescued from egg farms. Other hens are previous strays, were formerly seriously injured, or shelter or slaughterhouse rescues. “It was only going to be a rescue for [the formerly battered], but I found that chickens as a whole have it pretty rough,” observes Ostream. “And while the majority of our girls are ex-battery hens, we’ve ended up with a relatively diverse set of girls from various rescue backgrounds.”
There are two chicken runs where the hens have free range: a large one for most of the girls and a special needs pen. The latter houses a one-legged chicken, two blind hens, one with heart failure, one bird with cancer, and a couple recovering from surgery. Alongside chickens is a twelve-foot indoor long aviary for finches and small parrots to fly freely. The sanctuary also takes in lost racing pigeons, turkeys and—of course—lots of ducks.
What the Chickens Get
Little Red Bird’s once-maltreated chickens are often coming off reproductive issues and emotional trauma that would just break your heart. They’ve never seen the sun, let alone felt it on their wings. Chickens love to run around with their friends, scratch at the dirt, and take dust baths in the sand. These ex-egg farm girls didn’t have those freedoms before. They have them at the Little Red Bird Sanctuary, along with the tender care and medical attention they need.
With help from Tom’s of Maine, the bird sanctuary will be adding to their pen capacity, paying for veterinary bills, and establishing a collection of gardens to fill out their habitat. A new pasture and shelter house for their turkeys will be added as well, making the main pen less crowded for future turkeys. The facility will also install a separate predator-proof pen for its special-needs chickens, acting as a intermediary pen for birds healing after surgery. Lastly, specialty (and tasty) wheat grass gardens will be planted in the main chicken run, duck pen, and special-needs chicken pen.
What You Can Do
Residents of California are always welcome to lend a quick hand in caring for the birds. Donations are accepted (and appreciated) via PayPal, but when it comes to animal treatment, you don’t need to be present to make a difference. “The biggest thing that most people can do is to be educated about where their food comes from,” says Ostream. As their mission states, they just want to bring awareness to the value of life, whatever form it may be. Even just a change in thought can create a movement.
How do you help the animals in your neighborhood? Send us a tweet @TomsOfMaine!
Image source: Little Red Bird Sanctuary
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.