by Charlotte Lim
The first thing you’d notice once you met Frida is her curiosity towards humans: her warm nature radiates from her shining coat of dark, red feathers. You’d hardly believe she’s almost 7 years old: that’s geriatric for a rescue hen. She’s one of the friendliest girls in the flock and is full of bubbly energy, chatting away as she scratches away and pecks at grass and seed.
It’s a stark contrast to when Catherine (Founder and CEO of NSW Hen Rescue) first met Frida, in February 2015. In the egg industry, all hens go to slaughter at around 18 months once their egg-laying capacities begin to slow. Frida was no different, trucked down the M1 Motorway – until she fell off. A kind soul discovered her body at the side of the road and brought her to Hen Rescue.
She was bald and shivering when she first arrived. She broke her beak during the fall and you could see a large crack on one side. She was heavily anaemic and pale to match. Having spent all her life crammed in the uncaring prison of a battery cage, it was heartbreaking to see her so worn out. Fear clouded both human and animal: the fear of humans and more abuse; and the fear she wouldn’t make it through the night. Quickly she was wrapped in a protective towel with heat packs sandwiching her sides. If she passed, at least she would get to spend one night uncaged and free.
And that’s where her name comes from. Frida the free hen. Free from the confines of the battery cage, free from the abuse and exploitation of her reproductive organs for eggs.
After some lengthy vet visits, on her third day of rescue Frida finally got to sit outside: and for the first time in her life, sunbathed.
To think that she was meant to be dead by that point: having never felt the sun, not knowing life beyond a cage, not experiencing love. Every other hen on that truck would have been slaughtered. She came so close – having broken her beak in the fall. But here she was, finally being able to doze off in the sun.
Frida warmed quickly to the humans, despite the pain she would have experienced from her broken beak and the ordeal of hand feeding via syringe. When she met the other hens in the flock she immediately made friends with Maddie, our special needs girl who has a ruptured middle and inner ear-drum, and to this day isn’t one to bully any of the new hens who arrive in an attempt to up her rank in the pecking order.
Frida’s friendly and curious nature shines as bright as her glossy feathers when she stretches out in the grass. She’s a fighter and survivor, but most importantly, she’s a friend. When she’s around the garden and clucking away we think she’s telling all of us how nice the sun is and beckons us to come join in sunning away amongst the flowers.