By Ana – Director | NSW Hen Rescue, Mid-North Coast Micro Sanctuary Carer
I met Chantelle the same week I was due to go and meet NSW Hen Rescue founder, Catherine, to pick up Amelia, our little bush fire rescue hen. Amelia had been nursed by Catherine for weeks as she had extreme bushfire burns to her feet and face. The poor girl had witnessed her friends being burnt and whilst she was physically healed, she still had a lot of emotional healing to do. It was time for her to become part of our permanent micro sanctuary 2 in our Mid North Coast Micro Sanctuary.
I check the local lost and found animal Facebook pages regularly, to keep an eye out for posts about chickens. On the Sunday before I was due to meet Amelia, I saw a post about a stray chicken (Chantelle). As soon as I saw the post I headed to the location as I was worried about the little white hen being attacked by predators or falling into the wrong hands.
It did not take long for me to spot Chantelle in someone’s front yard with no fencing. She was totally vulnerable to predators and local dogs. It was fairly easy to catch her because she was very hungry. I was worried that she was missing her friends, family and home. We did what we could to see if anyone locally was her carer, with no luck. I don’t know how old Chantelle is or what her home and life were like, but she absolutely loved exploring and digging around her space as soon as I brought her to the sanctuary.
The plan was to look for a loving forever home for Chantelle once I had treated her for lice, mites, and worms, and checked her health… But then Amelia arrived.
They were in large enclosed spaces next to each other and I was surprised when Amelia and Chantelle chose to stand close to each other. Based on how Amelia had been around other hens while she was healing from her burns and surgery, I thought it would take a long time for Amelia to let anyone come close to her. Surprise, surprise, within a day I trialed Amelia and Chantelle sharing a space, and they did not quarrel.
Amelia kept a distance, but she was very intrigued by Chantelle and watched her closely. Chantelle is a very laid back and calm girl. She isn’t interested in arguments, watches dramas from afar, and is happy to make her own fun. It has been very sweet watching Amelia always checking where Chantelle is off to next and following close behind.
Once I saw Chantelle and Amelia’s friendship develop, I tried integrating them with the main special needs flock of 6 girls who had been liberated from cages. I thought it would be a challenge and take a long time, but because Chantelle wasn’t interested in reacting to the other girls asserting their dominance, her acceptance into the flock was quick and relatively smooth. The girls are sometimes interested in her white feathers, but she just moves away. I had expected it to be more challenging as it is not unusual for different breeds to not be accepted into the group and to get picked on. Amelia appeared to just follow Chantelle’s lead, I was shocked!
Amelia still has not completely relaxed with the group, and will often try and be close to Chantelle but away from the rest of the group. More recently, Chantelle and Cora have been exploring and scratching together. Sometimes Amelia joins them, but I have noticed her becoming more comfortable staying close to Saskia or Tilly. Saskia is the lead hen and once a new hen accepts her authority, she is very loving and welcoming. Of all the girls in the group, Tilly is the friendliest… with every species. She is the most accepting of Lilly the dog and Ollie the cat.
When I sit with all of the girls, for the most part, Chantelle and Amelia stay hanging out together and the girls liberated from the cages come and hang out with me. Amelia is still not comfortable with me, but slowly, week to week I am noticing her let me closer for photos and quietly sit near her without her moving away. I don’t mind at all that she doesn’t trust the human yet. She has been through so much trauma and like Chantelle, we don’t know what her home and life was like before she found her way to us, although we do know that her previous carer was not willing to get her vet treatment after her burns. Amelia can take as long as she wants to accept me, what matters is that she is safe, loved, and surrounded by new friends, especially her best friend Chantelle.