1,000 hens saved by California nonprofit after Iowa farm closes

TRUCKEE, Calif. (KOLO) - Thousands of miles. Seven days. Zero sleep.

"It is a pure joy for us that we can save 1,000 lives," said Animal Place Executive Director Kim Sturla.

That's what the staff at Animal Place in Grass Valley, California went through this week. Last Sunday the nonprofit heard an egg farm in Iowa was going out of business because of COVID-19. That meant nearly 140,000 chickens would be killed unless someone stepped up.

"These birds are going to live another five to seven years, maybe even ten years, so the fact that we're able to provide (the birds that opportunity) is incredible," said the nonprofit's program director Kelcie Leach.

Animal Place knew they could make a difference. Members of their team got in contact with the Iowa farmer to rescue 1,000 hens.

Leach had a tough conversation with the farmer in person earlier Saturday morning.

"What I got from hearing his voice is that this was a very difficult time," she said. "Not only was he losing his business but he had to kill many many individuals - which isn't unusual in the egg industry - but it was unexpected due to the pandemic."

After loading two private planes with crates full of chickens the birds landed safely at the Truckee-Tahoe Regional Airport Saturday afternoon.

Most egg farms do not treat animals well, according to Sturla.

"The feces from one bird just falls down on the crates below so it's really a horrendous situation," she said. "For folks who have never been in one of those farms you really just can't believe how gruesome it is."

The plan is to give these chickens new hope.

"The 1,000 hens that we rescued are going to go into our adoption queue," Sturla said. "We're going to rehabilitate them."

Then it will be off to forever homes where these chickens can feel the dirt under their feet, and the sun on their feathers for the first time.

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