Minnie is our beautiful oldest girl. She’s just over 7 years old now, but we still call her our “little Minnie baby”. She’s been through an awful lot in her short lifetime. She is an Isa Brown and was rescued from a putrid free range egg shed in 2014 at about 6 months old, weighing only 750 grams. She was found crouched down in a dark corner of the shed, waiting to die. She should have been at least 1.5kg at that age. She had suffered one of the worst debeakings we had ever seen, as did all the other girls in that shed.

Minnie Moo in the days following her rescue from an egg laying farm.

She was named (Skinny) Minnie and taken straight to our vet for an assessment, where she was deemed critically ill with malnutrition, emaciation, and liver and kidney issues. She was so weak that she couldn’t even hold her wings up to her side, and they hung down for some time. She was lovingly nursed through her first 6 weeks, which was spent in care with a close friend, who also ran Melbourne Chicken Rescue (MCR) with me back then. It was touch and go for Minnie, every day not knowing if she was going to make it. She was doted on by her carer; nothing was spared in the quest to help her live.

And thankfully, live she did! As the weeks passed she became stronger, put on weight, and became curious and cheeky. However, her bad start to life meant she was to suffer with many issues in the future.

She came to live with us permanently in late December 2014, and was slowly assimilated into our existing flock without too much trouble. The existing girls did shun her for a while as she was the new, younger, prettier addition to the family!

Minnie post surgery for her bumblefoot.

Her first major issue was bumblefoot, a foot infection that causes lameness and even death in chickens. She needed an operation to remove the ‘bumble’ – the large swollen pad on the bottom of her right foot. She made it through this operation with flying colours and wore a groovy bootie for protection throughout her rehab and recovery.

As time went on she suffered from several kidney infections, as her organs had been affected during her compromised start to life. In late 2017, I had a 3 week overseas trip booked and Minnie had a relapse of her kidney disease a few days before I was scheduled to fly out. I honestly thought it may be the last time I saw Minnie and I seriously considered cancelling my trip. My partner, who wasn’t travelling with me, said he’d look after her; he ferried her to and from the vet, medicated her, cleaned up all her explosive black poo and kept her inside warm and comfortable. And she pulled through!

In June 2018, Minnie also had Egg Yolk Peritonitis (EYP), an affliction that is suffered by many laying hens. Due to their genetic engineering to pump out an egg almost every day of their lives, the chance of something going wrong during the egg laying process is high. With EYP, the eggs rupture inside and the yolk material moves into the abdomen, which triggers an inflammatory response. If the foreign material becomes infected and is not treated, it will kill the hen.

Minnie enjoying a treat from the hand of her carer. Image: Stefano Belacchi.

Minnie had a total of 600mls of fluid drained from her abdomen over 2 days. Since then, she’s been permanently implanted with a hormone chip to stop her laying eggs. The chips usually have to be replaced every 6 months, but as she has become older the implants only work for 8-10 weeks, so we have to make sure she is implanted again before they wear off. She nearly died again 2 years ago, from laying complications in between implants; from then on, she’s been implanted every 2 months regardless, just to be safe.

She also has a permanently crushed toe joint, from being calcium compromised due to being bred to lay an egg every day, which is totally unnatural for her little body. She may have jumped down off a hay bale or perch, and the toe just disintegrated.

In October 2018, at 4 ½ years old, Minnie was diagnosed with carcinomatosis – an incurable cancer. With this type of cancer, there is the threat of one of the carcinomas rupturing and sending a fatal embolism to the brain or heart. But despite all the odds, she has battled through and is thankfully still with us today.

In the egg industry, hens are painfully debeaked to reduce the instances of cannibalism and peck injury: issues inherent to housing hens with thousands of others.

On 2nd May 2020, Minnie lost her best friend, Red, who was also a 7 year old Isa Brown. Red was also rescued from a free range facility in 2014, with a broken leg. Red, who had been permanently implanted with a hormone chip for over 2 years, sadly died of liver issues. Minnie grieved the loss of her buddy. When Red died, a close friend’s husband made me a beautiful metal cut out of Red for the garden. Some days, I would see Minnie just standing by the statue, as I placed it where they would often hang out together to gossip.

Each day Minnie is with us is a good day. We keep a close eye on her for any signs she’s not well, and if she seems off colour it’s off to the vet for a check up.  She’s the boss of our other five girls and lets them know it! In fact, I think she’s the boss of us all here! We love our Minnie Moo. From her terrible start to life, to her still being a robust hen at over 7 years old, she sure is a survivor.

Melbourne Chicken Rescue

Melbourne Chicken Rescue is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of chickens who come from situations of exploitation, abuse, neglect and abandonment. Melbourne Chicken Rescue is committed to showing that all chickens deserve respect and compassion, by treating all with dignity, love and the best of care.

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