Vegan Rising | Beatrice
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I never questioned that you could love a chicken. Why not? You can love a dog, a cat, a horse, a human. Why not a chicken? I just hadn’t yet myself. Not fully anyway. I had loved being around the rescued chickens who live here. I have observed them in wonder as I have opened my home and my heart to them. I have felt great joy and gratitude at seeing them heal and experience the basic life essentials, like sun, and dirt, and grass for the very first time. I have loved their company and grieved their passing. But I’ve also kept my distance somewhat, wanting them to just be chickens, in their flocks, as wild as they can be in their human controlled environment.  

But for Beatrice that was not to be. Her ongoing ailments in need of my care brought her into the shelter of the house often and therefore deeper into my heart. This allowed me to really see her. To really get to know her character. And WOW, what a big character she was.

Beatrice was rescued from a filthy shed as a tiny chick with her two friends. Choosing three lives to save out of tens of thousands is as bitter-sweet as it gets. They were simply standing in the right part of the shed at the right time. I remember procrastinating over which tiny chicks I would pick up as various lives wandered all around me.

In the end, I didn’t choose them, they chose me, as did four other chicks who climbed onto the softness of my beanie that lay on the shed floor. As I scooped up the three little babies into my arms and placed them safely into a warm carrier I lifted the other four who’d gathered together for comfort and placed them back on the soon to be waste coated shed floor. Knowing their future held nothing but a short life of suffering before being sent off to the slaughterhouse, I cried a silent tear and told them I was sorry.  Three lucky ones would escape hell that night, still young enough to hopefully never remember who they were leaving behind.

It was late December 2015 – close to a hopeful new year, and a new life.

Without their mums wings to protect them and keep them warm, Beatrice and her two friends lived under a heat lamp in my bathtub for their first few weeks of life.

They ate, pooped and chirped like crazy. It was a welcome relief for me and no doubt them to finally allow them to venture outside into the great outdoors to join the rest of the flock under my watchfuleye. Their natural instincts to scratch in the dirt and bathe in the sun were instant and a reminder that the thousands left behind in the shed would never experience such a basic but essential joy.

They grew quickly, together, rarely leaving each others sides. They would explore together, dustbathe together and sleep together. They were bonded so close, offering each other comfort. They were family and Beatrice was without a doubt the matriarch. 

Beatrice, Bertie and Bob maintained a special bond until hormones raged and a battle over which rooster would rule the roost took hold. Around the same time Beatrice was badly injured by one of them. Her body had grown so large, as chickens bred for their flesh unnaturally do, that when one of the boys tried to mate her he cut deep into her skin. Like so many other chickens, Beatrice was so resilient you would not even have known had you not seen the gaping wound hidden under her wing. This brought my beautiful girl inside again to live for a few weeks as she healed and where I got to know her quirky and hilarious personality. So friendly, so active, so entertaining and so curious, as she carried her oversized body around with her, refusing to let herself tire in her zest for life. 

A few months on Beatrice become terribly ill showing symptoms of a heart condition, tumours and peritonitis. Her heart was failing but thankfully medication helped to improve her condition making her seemingly strong enough to face her operation. Putting someone who is more commonly referred to as a broiler chicken through surgery is a scary decision as their organs, particularly their hearts, are so fragile from their unnatural speedy growth and oversized bodies. Before she went in we spent some special time together and I said my goodbyes.

Beatrice survived surgery. She had no tumours at all. She had a large elastic band stuck in her lower intestine, no doubt found in the garden and mistaken for a worm. Some more time was spent inside as we further bonded. She even came along for visits with family as her body recovered.

Molly & Beatrice

Once returned to the flock and meeting with a newly arrived rooster, Beatrice left her feisty boyfriends at bay and buddied up with the much more gentle and gentlemanly Twiggs. She became protective of him and jealous when any new girls came his way, especially one who looked very similar to her.

Beatrice’s surgery and heart medication allowed her another 3 joyful months of life. She breathed fresh air every day, felt the sun on her wings and moved about freely among the grass and the trees. She was safe and she was loved. One day, at only 16 months old, as she ran towards me excited for food, she stopped in her tracks. Her body collapsed, then she stood again. I scooped her up in my arms as I had that night in the shed and held her close. Her heart raced, so fast, like nothing I had ever felt before, as she threw her head around and convulsed. She’d stop, be still, then start again. I wailed and begged for her to stay. She looked up at me, confused and scared, her heart pounding against my hand, then, she was gone.

I sat with her for hours; angry that her body had been so manipulated by humans that she had the heart of an old unhealthy woman as only a baby; devastated that people would not allow their hearts to see what I could now see; glad that she’d been able to live a life that billions like her don’t get to live, and thankful that I’d been there to hold her as she passed.

Beatrice is not the only victim to human greed I have held in my arms as they have died. She is one of many, but like all of them, she was special and unique in her own way. She wanted to live and live well and I am grateful I was able to give her that. She rests now under the Camellia tree surrounded by so many others who have been liberated from awful lives but were always prisoners to their own bodies that we have so callously destroyed.

RIP sweet angel.

Author: Kristin Leigh
Occupation: Communications Manager & Volunteer Coordinator
Founder and President of Vegan Rising

Credit: Love Bree Photography
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