Backyard Chickens? It’s Complicated!

Recently SASHA Farm featured their amazing bird family during a live video on the May 31 episode of Sanctuary Sunday. If you participated in this episode, it was pretty clear that the birds living at SASHA have amazing lives. But they all have stories to tell – some came from “hobby farms” where their egg production slowed down, or from backyard breeders or factory farms where they were bred to gain weight so quickly that their organs failed or frames could not carry them. Often, newly hatched chickens were purchased at local stores as Easter gifts for children, and soon become disposable, or owners learned too late that they were violating ordinances by keeping chickens. SASHA has even had roosters rescued from fighting rings.

If you missed the Facebook Live video on the SASHA birds, watch it HERE.

Keeping chickens and other farmed animals, such as pot-bellied pigs, has become increasingly popular over the past few decades. But unfortunately, purchasing these animals on a whim has led to a homelessness crisis for them, meaning many are abandoned, neglected, abused or killed because of a lack of homes.

Oftentimes, well-intentioned people purchase chickens for their companionship, eggs, or even so-called “humane meat.”

Humane societies and sanctuaries, including SASHA, are constantly inundated with requests to take chickens formerly kept as pets. The need for safe and humane homes for one-time backyard chickens is overwhelming and this crisis begs the question, should people be buying and keeping chickens in their backyards?

Chickens are smart, curious animals who enjoy spending their time in groups perching and roosting in trees and straw, rooting in dirt and grasses and exploring their surroundings. Chickens have their own languages and unique likes, dislikes and personalities.

Unfortunately, many of the chickens destined to be kept as pets are purchased from cruel factory farms. These mail order chicks are raised in intensive confinement and shipped far distances in boxes, like things rather than thinking, feeling beings.

Additionally, many communities prohibit or regulate the keeping of chickens, limiting the size of a flock or the types of chickens someone can keep. Many cities prohibit the keeping of roosters, which means many are summarily killed at the hatcheries when they’re born or else abandoned or killed when they’re older. Many would-be chicken keepers scramble to place roosters because the animals were mis-sexed and inadvertently purchased.

Humane societies and animal control agencies are often ill-equipped to help those mistakenly keeping chickens or roosters illegally or those who are no longer able to care for them. In order to provide the best quality of life possible for the chickens and roosters they already have, many sanctuaries, including SASHA, are unable to take in new chickens. This means that for those who rush into buying chickens, there is little help for them if they run into problems.

Animal sanctuaries, including United Poultry Concerns (UPC), encourage would-be chicken keepers to do their research and make sure they’re up to the task. Chickens require safe, clean, predator-protected coops and lots of space to roam and explore. You should also research the laws regarding keeping chickens and roosters where you live and always adopt, never buy, chickens.

You can find more information on the practical and ethical issues of keeping chickens and best practices for their care on UPC’s website.

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Marty, left behind in a hotel room as a tiny baby. A compassionate worker called SASHA.
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Marty, all grown up. She is affectionate, very vocal, knows her name, and wants to know what you are doing at all times. We love her!!

Thank You to our Dedicated Animal Care Staff – Here Every Single Day & Evening – Looking Out for the Animals

It’s not an easy task – caring for the 275 animals who call SASHA Farm their home. With seven different species of farm animals, many with special needs, we were busy from morning to night even before the pandemic. When COVID-19 came down upon us, we wanted to ensure that we did not put any of our volunteers or staff at risk, so we asked almost all of our volunteers to stay home and stay safe. For now, we have a small staff and two long term volunteers who continue to care for the animals and perform day to day operations.

Our devoted and compassionate animal care staff, with help from our founders Monte Jackson and Dorothy Davies, cover all seven days, as well as night closing duties. They make certain there is no gap in animal care – the animals are fed on schedule and always have water, their stalls and pastures are clean and safe, and they are checked and treated regularly for any health issues. Our veterinarians at the Veterinary Standard in Manchester, MI have been outstanding partners with SASHA Farm, and we thank Napoleon Feed Mill in Napoleon for continuing to supply us with our special vegan pig grain and other animal feed. Kudos to the local farmers from whom we obtain our hay – they are always ready to help! And importantly, the animal care staff give the animals the individual attention and love that makes SASHA Farm the compassionate and loving safe haven for farmed animals that it has been since its inception.

We asked our current animal care team and support staff to tell you a little about what they do at SASHA Farm, and how they became vegan. They are shown with their favorite animals (but are not pictured with masks, as the pictures were taken before COVID-19 and the guidelines).

Shara “smooching” Tod

SHARA JONES, ANIMAL CARE MANAGER

I started volunteering at SASHA a few days a week and I quickly realized that I wanted a permanent position working with the animals. Shortly after experiencing the vegan lifestyle at SASHA, I became a vegan myself. It wasn’t too hard, as I had been a vegetarian the majority of my life. I am now the Animal Care Manager and I am thankful to be living my dream and to be around such amazing beings.

Jenn and Henry

JENN KIRSHMAN, ANIMAL CARE TEAM MEMBER

I’ve always been predominantly plant based. Cheese was the one thing I couldn’t let go of, until I came to SASHA farm in 2018. I’ve been Vegan for the animals ever since!!! My days at SASHA include housekeeping, feedings, bedding everyone down for the evening and providing our residents with all their wellness needs. ♥️

John with Chloe (L) and Martin

JOHN ROGERS, VOLUNTEER AND ANIMAL CARE TEAM MEMBER

When I started as a volunteer in July of 2009, I was many years a vegetarian. After learning about the horrors of the dairy industry while volunteering at SASHA, I turned vegan about eight years ago. What do I like best? To play with the dogs Chloe and Martin and watch everyone else work. It’s the best job on the farm. 😊 (Editor’s Note: LOL – John started at SASHA after his retirement and has been coming to the Farm at least four days a week ever since – our longest term volunteer. We can count on his hard work and his wealth of knowledge about the Farm and the animals).

Dave and Johnny Cash

DAVE CAMILLERI, GROUNDS AND MAINTENANCE AND ANIMAL CARE TEAM MEMBER

I do a little bit of everything – fixing broken fences, repairing vehicles and other machinery, taking on new building projects, like enclosures for chickens, painting, mowing – just whatever will help keep SASHA Farm running smoothly. I also help with animal care when needed. I started volunteering at SASHA a little over a year now and joined as a staff member about 6 months ago. I’ve been a vegan for about four years.

Marilyn and Debbie checking in visitors at the 2019 Spring Social

DEBBIE CRAFT (R) AND MARILYN ROYLE, OFFICE STAFF

Yes, our office staff is here, working from home but keeping ‘the lights on’. We carefully pick up the mail from the post office in the wee hours (wearing masks and heeding social distancing), order supplies, thank our wonderful supporters for their donations, create social media postings and sponsorship packages, pay the bills, and maintain all financial, animal and people records. Debbie, the office administrator, has been a vegan about three years – and Marilyn, office volunteer and board member, was vegetarian most of her life until she became vegan about seven years ago.

Dorothy and Monte at a SASHA Farm banquet

DOROTHY DAVIES AND MONTE JACKSON, OUR FOUNDERS

Yes, they are our backbone, and we thank them for being here for us! Monte continues to work on maintenance projects – “fixing things” and caring for the grounds and animals, and Dorothy, affectionately known as “Mama D”, cares for all of us, animals and people alike.

VOLUNTEERS

We miss every one of you and so do the animals! We hope to add volunteers back to our schedule in a few weeks, but timing is unknown at present. We look forward to having you back – we’re keeping up with the work, but it’s so much better with our volunteers. And we know the animals will have a celebration when you return.

DONORS AND SUPPORTERS

We couldn’t do it without you! And your comments on social media really mean the world to us. We know you are missing the animals, but keep joining our Facebook Live events to stay in touch until the time is right for us to start having events again. We love you! Thanks to your financial support, as well as your never ending love and compassion, the animals have an incredible lifetime home.

SASHA FARM BOARD OF DIRECTORS

We’d also like to give a shout out to our Board, which includes Dorothy, Monte, Bob Harvie, Stacey Narduzzi, and Marilyn Royle – all working remotely but still in touch!

Each SASHA animal resident is an individual with a name. Due to their outstanding and loving caretakers and supporters, their bellies are full, their medical needs are taken care of, they are warm, cozy and safe, and they receive an incredible amount of individual attention and loving kindness every day. Living at a forever home like SASHA is so much better than the bleak or non-existent futures they once had. Thank you to our staff, volunteers, and supporters, along with our founders Dorothy and Monte, for making certain that the animals continue to live out their lives in the peace and safety of SASHA Farm.

SASHA Spring Social on Facebook – A GREAT DAY

Saturday, May 16 was our virtual Spring Social on Facebook Live.

It was an incredible day at SASHA Farm on May 16. We followed along as most of our animal care team – Jenn, Shara, and Dave – visited every animal area, calling out to the animals by name. We watched Bhima follow Jenn closely through the pasture and in the barn, and remembered what it is like to be close to this magnificent, gentle being. We smiled and laughed as the goats had lots to say when no treats were forthcoming. We learned about “piggy piles” as we visited the potbellied pigs while they snoozed for their afternoon naps, all snuggled together and reluctant to get up, even to be Live on Facebook. The chickens were amazing, and we loved how responsive they are to their caregivers. There were so many great moments during this time, and most certainly we can see that the animals are thriving from the affection and loving care of the team who continues to work at SASHA during the coronavirus pandemic.

We thank each of you who visited us yesterday. We are truly grateful for your support and your donations to the animal residents who call SASHA Farm their forever home. And most certainly, we thank the SASHA animal care team along with our founders Monte Jackson and Dorothy Davies for all that you do to keep SASHA Farm the safe haven for farmed animals as it has always been.

If you missed this great day, or want to follow along again, here is the Spring Social 2020 on Facebook Live. Enjoy!!

Here’s Ricky, the Bantam rooster, one of the “Roos” we visited at our Spring Social 2020

MARK YOUR CALENDARS TO JOIN FUTURE FACEBOOK LIVE SANCTUARY SUNDAYS

Our next Sanctuary Sunday will be on Sunday, May 24 and will focus on the Goats and Sheep.

Time: 2:00 Sunday May 24; Place: SASHA Farm Facebook Live!

If you missed a Sanctuary Sunday event, no worries. Here are the links to the ones we’ve already done.

Sunday, April 26th Preview of Things to Come. Click HERE for the first Sanctuary Sunday.

Sunday, May 3rd – Meet the Pigs. Click HERE to view the live video on the SASHA pigs!

Sunday, May 19thMother’s Day for the Animals. Click HERE to view the live video where we meet Moms and kids at SASHA. We celebrated all animal moms and their babies, and grieved together for all those moms and babies who had been separated from one another. This is why we do what we do.