Free as a Bird is a non-profit organisation which has rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed more than 15,000 battery farm chickens in its two and a half years of operation.
Factory farming is a system that has been widely shunned by those who claim its operations are inhumane, including keeping animals in crowded indoor cages and killing them well before their time is due. Chickens are one of the biggest victims of this, with 82 per cent of eggs sold being from battery farms.
Kelly Phelps, the founder of Free as a Bird, suffered two injuries in 2014 that left her unable to work full-time. However, she’s not the kind of person that can sit and do nothing all day. When she realised just how big the battery farm business is in New Zealand, she decided to do something about it, now with the time available to dedicate herself fully.
“It’s escalated to what I call ‘the monster’,’’ says Kelly. “I knew I couldn’t stop it, but I could help.”
Kelly rescues hens by developing a relationship with the battery farm operators, communicating with them over time. She will get in contact with these businesses and arrange to take chickens off their hands on their kill days. Some farms are very willing to do this, while some won’t allow it.
Hundreds a week
When she first started in November 2014, she was rescuing 20 chickens a week. Now, she can expect 100 to 200. That’s at least 100 chickens Kelly must rescue, clean, adopt out and deliver each week. “It’s incredible how much it has grown, and how much people are willing to help whether by volunteering or by adopting,” says Kelly.
Kelly says she couldn’t have done this without help. Over the years she has received the help of overseas volunteers under the WWOOFers scheme, the Department of Corrections and pet couriers. She is also grateful for the support from her husband, who occasionally chips in on bills for feed when adoption money doesn’t cut it. “I was close to calling it quits a while ago, but the support I’ve received has been excellent.”
Battery farming is phasing out, but no laws against it will be enacted until 2022. Kelly realises that she’s far from finished, though. “What I’ve saved is just a drop in the ocean. I’m only getting 100 out of every kill, and they’re killing 1500 at a time out of a shed of 50,000. And that’s just one shed, and one company.”
Chickens cost $15 to adopt from Free as a Bird. If you would like to find out more about Kelly’s work, or adopt your own chicken visit www.facebook.com/freeasabirdrescue/ or call 021 212 4788.