Rescue Chickens: A Noble Cause With Risk

Rescue chickens is a subject near and dear to my heart after rescuing many. It was a great way to build a nice flock, save and improve the lives of many, and learn from different breeds and situations. Rescuing chickens can be rewarding, but should be done with all caution. Chickens not well cared for may carry diseases and parasites and if you have other chickens you must have a way to quarantine new chickens away from your existing flock.

Being prepared to do some first aid and having products on hand to deal with ailments is always important, but vital when rescuing chickens in poor condition.

Rescue chickens aren’t always in bad shape. Sometimes an extra rooster is being rescued from butchering or a chicken wanders or is chased away from home and gets lost. 

I got a call once to rescue some large chicks being kept in small cages at a feed store; the last of the spring chicks that nobody wanted. They were plucking each other and causing sores due to their overcrowded housing.    

The store employees were doing their best to doctor them, but were happy to sell them to me at a very reduced price. They thrived, healed and grew quickly once in a good sized pen.

I’ve heard of chickens escaping from a truck on its way to the processing plant and people adopting X Battery hens, once their usefulness in the production line is over. These rescue chickens are often depleted nutritionally and benefit from chick start and vitamins. 

They may improve with TLC, but genetically are programmed for short lives. Giving them a few good months of good care and a happy life may be the most we can expect.

Sometimes people over extend themselves, either buying too many or hatching too many chicks, not realizing how much more feed they will need to offer. They end up underfeeding and possibly having to give chickens away, or sell cheap, to get out from under the burden.

I recently bought some young chickens from someone that was using a commercial incubator to hatch lots of chicks. When I purchased them they looked healthy and active, but on handling a few, they were very thin with keel bones poking up under the skin and they’d been plucking and eating each others feathers, even though out free ranging.

Sometimes rescue chickens just need a good and plentiful diet to turn them around. Mine did, putting on good muscle and replacing feathers in a few weeks.

Remember that using antibiotics and chemical parasite products means not using the meat or the eggs from treated chickens for a number of weeks after use.

Always follow the directions. Inspecting rescued chickens for any signs of parasites or disease should be the number one priority, even before bringing them home. If you notice discharge from eyes or nares or congested or rattley breathing, blisters and any difficulty walking, carefully consider what you are doing.

Some diseases can’t be cured and may contaminate pens or infect other poultry with life threatening illnesses. Sometimes rescue chickens, though they tear at our heart strings, are more trouble than we can predict and handle.

Parasites and malnutrition can be an easy fix, but parasites can spread quickly if infected chickens or droppings are allowed near healthy poultry. Worms, lice, mites, poultry fleas and intestinal worms, can create a poor immune system in chickens, making them more vulnerable to disease.

It’s important to consider the financial burden you might be taking on and make sure you are willing and able to follow through and provide all that the rescued chickens might need in your care.

Carefully consider the possible threat to an existing flock or pets and your ability to prevent the spread of diseases. Some avian diseases can spread to parrots and other pet birds. Some diseases can be spread by wild birds to domesticated birds, including chickens.

Some of us are hopeless rescuers at heart and rescue chickens are just one species we want to help. Just the thought of neglected or abused animals makes us rise up and do whatever we can, and that’s a good thing.

Sadly, too many people lack the awareness of all that is involved in caring properly for chickens and other animals. Some have good intentions, but just aren’t able, are lacking important information, or have false beliefs.

Probably the most important tool is education, which is what we hope to accomplish here. Our library of the many questions we’ve received and answered is proof that chickens around the world are in good caring hands.

So many people are working to educate themselves about the lives, health, and anything that can help them have healthy, happy chickens.

We hope this article has helped you understand some of the good and not so good things about rescue chickens and prepared you to help if you ever find chickens in need.

If you are unable to safely take in sick chickens, or don’t know enough about chickens, there are Humane Societies in most areas that can help, so don’t feel the burden is totally on your shoulders.

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