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Betty & Bea

“Anything that is held in secret cannot be healed. The light cannot reach that which is locked away in the dark.” ~ Donna Goddard, Waldmeer   

Birth date: 2 April 2018

Arrival date: 11 May 2018

Passing date:  February 2019

Betty and Bea are two hens who survived a horrific truck crash on Easter Monday, 2018.

At the time, Betty and Bea were tiny, day-old chicks. Emerging from their eggshells on April 2nd, 2018, they were soon loaded onto a truck along with around 108,000 of their brothers and sisters.

These tiny birds were "broilers"; the type of chicken raised for their flesh. Many people are surprised to learn that these are very different birds from those used in the egg-laying industry. Broiler chickens have been selectively bred over many decades to grow very big very quickly, reaching slaughter weight within between one to two months.

Once they left the hatchery, Betty, Bea, and the other chicks were headed for a massive shed, where they would spend the next 5-8 weeks before again being loaded onto a truck, this time to meet their demise. Fortune made it so that Betty and Bea could be spared the typical horror faced by their kind, yet sadly an awful trauma still lay ahead for this pair.

The truck carrying them left the road on route to their new shed, crashing through a guard rail and coming to rest on its side in a paddock. The crates carrying thousands of chicks were tossed into the air, crashing to the ground. Thousands of chicks lay strewn and dead, while thousands more who survived the crash peeped frantically, seeking the comfort of a mother they would never know.

Council workers gathered at the scene and set about collecting the surviving chicks. The workers collected around 80,000 chicks and reloaded them for delivery to the sheds they were initially bound for.

A group of friends happened to be traveling near the crash site when they heard about it on the radio. They drove past the crash site after workers had reportedly cleared it but were horrified to find hundreds of chicks left alive at the site, pushed into piles of rubble and, in some instances, buried alive. They spent several hours recovering all the surviving chicks, who then went into expert care with Bede from A Poultry Place.

At eight weeks old, the chicks had survived the trauma of that first day of their lives and were strong enough to leave care, so we welcomed a large group of survivors to live out their days at Little Oak Sanctuary.

Betty, Bea and their brothers and sisters had received the best of care; however, as they were the breed of chickens used for chicken meat, their genetics posed another hurdle.

In just 30 years, between 1978 to 2005, a chicken bred for their meat has gone from weighing 1808g at 56 days of age to a whopping 4204g. They can reach 2.2kg in just 35 days, a horrifically fast growth rate. Even though they still have the blue eyes and peeps of baby chicks, their monstrous bodies lead to significantly increased mortality rates from issues with their hearts, muscles, and legs, which cannot keep up with the rapid growth rates these birds experience. Most people are simply unaware of this, as these birds are farmed in huge sheds away from the public eye.

For a story with such dark beginnings, we remember the light that came from these survivor's story. Betty, Bea and their friends lived every minute of their lives. They revelled in dust bathing, foraging for bugs and green grass, and delighted at the feeling of the sun and breeze on their feathers. Eventually, each surviving bird passed from ailments resulting from their breeding and while it was far too short, we are grateful for every single second they had, safe and loved.

We will forever remember Betty and Bea, and we thank the amazing individuals who rescued these sweet babies and Bede from A Poultry Place for caring for them after the crash. All chickens raised for their meat suffer terribly - you can be kind to them by leaving them off your plate.





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