Come To the AUCTION and See It Through Their Eyes

Norma Jean and Tall Paul
Norma Jean and Tall Paul
Photo By: Barbara Moffit

Norma Jean

By Barbara Moffit

This evening, as I say a final goodbye to Norma Jean and place her in the cold ground, I recall wonderful times we've shared during these last six years. Although her eyesight failed more than two years ago, she maintained a healthy appetite and an active life. She and her companion, a "game" rooster named Tall Paul, were inseparable. When Norma Jean felt too weak to get off her roost one morning, he stayed beside her on the roost, never leaving her except for a few moments to eat and drink and then hop back up beside her. He has watched over her, showing her where to find food, for the past year.

She came into our lives with an infection that caused both of her eyes to seal shut. Someone had decided she wasn't worth saving and had brought her to an auction, blind and helpless. The feathers of one wing had been clipped to prevent her flying over fences. When she recovered, she became one of the gentlest, friendliest hens ever to live with us at WINGS-HAVEN. Though she never laid an egg in the whole six years I knew her, she gave us something more precious - her trust and friendship.

“Get a Life” by Norma Jean

My name is Norma Jean. That might not mean much to you, but not every hen gets to have a name. I came down with a respiratory infection, and my eyes filled up with something that crusted them shut. I couldn't see what was going on, but the humans who raised me put me in a cage and took me to a noisy place where there were a lot of other chickens in cages and humans standing around laughing and blowing smoke. It was awful scary, being grabbed and handled and hauled around, not being able to see anything because my eyes were sealed shut. I scratched at them to get them open, but it didn't do any good.

Then, hours later, after a lot of noise and squawks and cackles all around me, some hands reached in and got me out. That's really scary - when new hands reach in and get you and you don't know what they intend to do with you.

There was a long bumpy ride, then hands taking me out again, and finally something soft and wet washing my eyes; and I could see a little bit. Things were blurry, and it was a new place, but there was food and water, and nobody hurt me.

During the next few days, my eyes were gently cleansed and there was a funny medicine taste in my water, but soon I could see really well, and my nose cleared up too.

That was six summers ago. I still gurgle in my throat on cold mornings, and my eyes did go almost blind for good, but I can't complain. I've got a little rooster friend and all I want to eat and drink and lots of room to scratch and dust.

I've forgotten now what those humans looked like who took me to that awful place they called an "auction." Maybe they're the wise guys who scribbled "Get a Life" over my new guardians' sign that reads "Save a Life This Holiday Season - Go Vegetarian."

Well, I want those people to know I did get a life! I have friends; I have a house and a pen of my own; I have guardians who care for me and give me treats! So if you see those folks, tell them I'm glad how things turned out for me. There really is a place in this world for an almost-blind hen named Norma Jean who's bonkers over bananas and who doesn't lay eggs.

What Can I Do?

If you know of a poultry or small-animal auction in your area, please take the time to investigate and make sure that water is provided for each of the animals in their cages during hot weather and that none is left unattended in the sun. And don't forget to check the area after the auction is over. Many sick or unwanted animals are abandoned in cages and left to die of neglect. You can make a difference for them - Barbara Moffit, WINGS-HAVEN, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Who Puts the Pricetag on Their Lives?

Barbara and Wonder Chicken
Barbara and Wonder Chicken
Photo By: David Moffit

Small-animal auctions, swap meets, and flea markets are held all over the United States. They are America's answer to the crowded market places of third world countries. The animals brought to these places have no rights, no protection, and precious little hope.

If a baby rabbit is cute enough, she might find a home with a child, especially at Easter. When she grows up, her fate will depend entirely upon whether that child continues to care for her or whether the child has lost interest. Then it's back to the sale and probably someone's dinner plate afterward.

Cute pairs or trios of bantam chickens - one rooster and one or two hens - have the odds in their favor for a time. Country folks like to breed them for pleasure and profit.

But the older birds - the sick ones, the ugly ones with dirty or pecked-out feathers, the crippled, the blind-in-one-eye, the used-up layers, the fryer-size rabbits, the plumb young broiler chickens, the bumbling, overweight turkeys - these have nothing to look forward to but having their heads ripped off at the end of their journey. There's no law against it.

My husband David and I have been going to small-animal auctions and swap meets for 17 years. We have seen countless hundreds of frightened little faces, heard the wordless terror in their cries as they were snatched from cages after the selling was over and stuffed into onion sacks, crowded crates, and cardboard boxes. Many fowls have their legs bound together with rope or string and are tossed helplessly into the trunk of a car, the lid slammed shut like the lid of a coffin.

But their true coffin will ultimately be the belly of their new "owner."

We have not always turned our backs and walked away from these wretched, frightened little beings. Over the years, we have brought home hundreds of chickens, turkeys, rabbits, guinnies, and goats to live out their lives at WINGS-HAVEN.

We continue to visit the auctions, providing water and shade in the hot months, and feed for those left overnight or forgotten and abandoned entirely.

I cannot describe the many heartbreaking cases of abuse, neglect, and blatant cruelty I see so often in those places. Their cries and squawks, silenced now, ring in my mind. – Barbara Moffit