Felicia came to the sanctuary from an egg factory, where she and thousands of others had been left to starve when the owner went bankrupt. Even after recovering from that trauma, she stayed skinny and sickly, often needing to spend time in the infirmary. Still she survived. Every winter, she caught a cold from which we were sure she’d never recover—and then she would recover. Even after losing the sight in one eye due to an infection, Felicia lived to see another spring.
Felicia was a joiner, one of the followers without whom there would be no leaders. She loved to go along with the crowd and hated being “cooped up” inside when she got sick. So, she found herself at a loss when, after several years at the sanctuary, she was the sole survivor of the group of hens with whom she had arrived. We worried for her. Half-blind and elderly, how would she make new friends?
We oughtn’t have worried. Felicia’s unassuming energy threatened nobody. Gregarious Fanny welcomed Felicia into her social group. And then—to our astonishment—a feral hen allowed Felicia to help raise her chicks!
In Hawaii, Floria, and other places where cockfighting flourishes, escapees from that brutal blood “sport” have established feral colonies of free birds living as their wild ancestors still do in the jungles of South Asia. At our sanctuary, former fighting roosters and hens rescued from the breeders of those birds did the same, sleeping in the trees at night and ranging through woods and fields during the day.
In general, those birds keep their own company, rarely interacting with the survivors of factory farming with whom they share the sanctuary. Furthermore, all hens—and especially feral hens—are fiercely protective of their chicks. Hens who are siblings or have nested together may tend their broods together, but this—a feral hen inviting an egg factory survivor to help tend her chicks—this was unheard of, and a testament to Felicia’s combination of gentleness and strength.
Felicia finally did die, as we all must someday. We grieved her loss but remained happy that—having been robbed of her own reproductive capabilities by the egg industry—she had the opportunity to nurture chicks during her last summer at the sanctuary.