Around 2,000 chickens were slaughtered per second worldwide in 2016, World Animal Protection.
“It is inspiring and hopeful to see more and more plant-based option meals out there and people choosing them for a whole variety of reasons whether it’s health, animal welfare or sustainability,” Lorna Ferguson, Founder of Roosters Ragnarok Micro Sanctuary.
The relationship between humans and other living beings has existed since the beginning of time. Dogs and cats have been the closest to us and we have come to know their personalities, their preferences, their consciousness of human emotions and — though different from us — their unique communication styles.Unfortunately, many of us tend to forget that other species possess emotions and have the right to a dignified life as well. Industrial farming is an example of depriving animals of their most basic rights and compassion. Chickens are the most defenseless of all farm animals, something that Lorna Ferguson decided to change in the Roosters of Ragnarok Micro Sanctuary.
Lorna Ferguson was born and raised in England; she is the oldest of three children. Her father worked in IT and they moved around often. At the age of 12, Lorna made a crucial decision about her life.
“I was about 12 years old when I walked downstairs with my hands on my hips and told my parents I didn’t want to eat animals anymore because it was mean,” recalls Lorna. “I have always loved animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian for most of my life. We had cats growing up and I was about 10 when we got our first dog and I remember that being absolutely amazing.”
Lorna was vegetarian through most of her 20s however, she would later change her mind and eliminate all animal products from her life. Her family eventually moved to the United States where she studied General Biology at Rivier University in Nashua, New Hampshire. Now she lives in Alloway, New Jersey where she opened her chicken sanctuary.
A Loving Home for Chickens
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way Lorna worked. She started to spend more time at home and decided to buy a couple of chickens so that she could have fresh eggs straight from her backyard.
“It was supposed to be 3 little hens and it turned out to be two hens and a rooster. I told the hatchery and they said we could take him back and they would take him to auction. But when I googled what an auction was I decided I was not taking him back to become somebody’s dinner. So he stayed,” remembers Lorna. “After two months of having the chickens, I realized what super, incredible, little personalities these guys had and that was it. I was done. No more animal products, nothing at all and it kind of started from there,” remembers Lorna.
Roosters of Ragnarok Micro Sanctuary is a chicken only sanctuary that now has 19 chickens that came into Lorna´s life after dealing with adverse situations. Some of these chickens are Cornish Cross, a specific type of chicken bred for human consumption.
“My first Cornish Cross was found by a friend of a friend in a park, inside a box with a piece of bread at the end of January in the Bronx in New York City,” says Lorna. “He was probably seven weeks old at the time he came to live with me. I named him Kit and he completely changed my life. He lived inside the house for a few months because it was winter and we would watch TV together. Now, no matter where he is in the yard, if I sit down he comes and gets in my lap. Just like a toddler, he pulls on my pants to get my attention. He just wants to sit on my lap, that is where he wants to be.”
Lorna developed a close relationship with Kit and soon other Cornish Cross chickens joined the family. Parsnip and Merry were found after being dumped in parks, Hank was rescued from a feed store and Small Fry, who was a survivor of Kaporos, was rescued by activists in Brooklyn, New York. The more Lorna knew about the suffering that these creatures endured as well as the health problems the industrial farmed chickens have due to genetic manipulation, the more she was determined to give them a safe and loving home.
The Tragic Life of Industrial Farm Chickens
In 2021, the production of eggs was over 1,633 million around the world and The United States occupied the 4th place of the main egg producers with 110,728,700, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Furthermore, World Animal Protection indicated in 2016 that 60 billion chickens are sold for their meat every year, and 2,000 chickens are slaughtered per second worldwide. These chickens are slaughtered while they are still babies because they only live for around 42 days in spaces smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, while their regular life span would be between 5 to 10 years.
In addition, Animal Equality noted that since industrial farmed chickens are bred to grow tremendously fast, they often develop heart and leg problems, as well as issues in other organs. And since they are too heavy to stand up, the ammonia and feces from contaminated soil cause hurtful boils in their bodies. Sadly, many of these chickens only feel sunlight when they get transported to slaughter.
“Cornish Cross chickens have many health care needs,” explains Lorna. “They’re very prone to arthritis, obesity, early onset of heart disease and things like that.”
Advocating for our Winged Friends
Besides taking care of her winged friends, Lorna also advocates for the rights of chickens in the community promoting the respect and dignity that these wonderful creatures — as well as all living beings — deserve.
“I want to expand the amount of education about industrial farming and chickens,” says Lorna. “I’m doing an outreach. I had Hank with me at the Jersey Renaissance Festival and so many people were enchanted to meet him. Now he’s got a little theme song and he starred in a couple of videos. Kids and adults of all ages were coming over because they’ve never seen a chicken in real life before. They were petting him and they were touching his feet, they had never experienced this, so I’d love to be able to continue to do more outreach, educating people about how wonderful these guys are and trying to change the perspective at least in my own little corner of the world.”
Lorna hoped to expand the capacity of the Roosters of Ragnarok Micro Sanctuary in order to have 25 chickens. So, she decided to reach out to The Pollination Project for a seed grant that would allow her to increase the area of the Cornish Cross chickens and put in fences and bird netting to protect them from predators. She had seen an article about another chicken sanctuary online at TPP.
“I thought maybe my little sanctuary might qualify. So I went through the process,” remembers Lorna. “And when I found out that I was going to receive the grant I yelled at my boyfriend. I told him: ‘I got it, I got it’. It was so exciting because a lot of people think you’re a little crazy for rescuing chickens because people don’t see them as worthy individuals. But to get a grant from TPP means it isn’t just me rescuing chickens in my backyard, this is a part of a bigger movement and that is empowering and exciting.”
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