Flying the coop
By CHAD THOMPSON
Saturday morning was the first time a group of 1,000 hens were exposed to sunlight, according to Hannah Beins, animal care director for Animal Place.
“It’s the first time they have seen the sun or touched the grass,” Beins said at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport, after setting down a plastic crate containing some the birds. “It’s very exciting for them.”
The hens had been at a farm near Fort Dodge. There, the hens were kept in a fully enclosed barn with no windows.
Because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, that particular farm had to scale back its operations, according to Beins.
That’s where Animal Place came in.
The nonprofit farm animal sanctuary is going to care for the birds and adopt them out.
“We are grateful the farmer let us do this,” said Beins, who drove 30 hours from California to Iowa to help coordinate the rescue with eight local volunteers.
The farm owner wished to remain anonymous.
Before the care can begin, the birds needed to be transported back to the sanctuary in Grass Valley, California.
On Saturday, members of Animal Care picked up the birds from the farm at about 4 a.m.
After that they drove them to the Fort Dodge Regional Airport and prepared them for the flights. The flights were to last about seven to eight hours, according to Gary Smith, a public relations specialist for Evolotus representing Animal Place. And that does not include a stop to refuel, he said.
The hens were held in blue and white plastic crates. Each one held eight hens.
Alison Stone and her daughter, Issy Stone, were two of the helpers. They traveled from Hercules’ Haven in Springville to help send the animals off.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated how labor intensive this would be,” Alison Stone said as she breathed through an N95 mask.
The hens were loaded onto two metroliner aircraft.
So what about all the droppings during the flight?
“They lined the airplanes with plastic,” said Andrew Minear, who owns an animal sanctuary in Carlisle.
Beins said the hens won’t be ready for adoption for some time.
“The first few weeks is intensive care, getting them used to being out of a cage,” Beins said.
She said oftentimes birds will have broken wings or legs that need to heal.
“They require a lot of care to get them healthy before they are adopted out,” Beins said.
Any hens who are too ill to be adopted will remain at the sanctuary and receive lifelong care, she said.
The aircraft was to land at Truckee Tahoe Airport, outside of Reno, Nevada. The hens were then to be driven an hour-and-a-half to the sanctuary in Grass Valley.
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