Last winter as I drove to the local auto shop for an oil change next to a chicken slaughter plant in Maryland, I saw something white in the road. Something pushed me to check further. I walked closer and saw a chicken in a mud puddle. I went back to the car, grabbed a terry cloth robe, gently picked up the chicken, and placed him in the car beside me. I told the mechanic to cancel the job: "I found a chicken." He said, "I'll call the plant and tell them to come get it." I said, "No thanks. No one from the slaughter plant is getting this chicken." I brought him home.
Photo by Karen Davis
I did not know what I would do with this poor battered bird, but I knew I would protect him.
The smell of feces and ammonia was very strong. The chicken's underbelly and wings were brown with the filth he had lived in. He could not walk normally. He was large and his feet were swollen and deformed. He had a sound in his chest. I named him Morning Glory.
When I first fed Morning Glory, he struggled to get underneath me. He was a baby bird. I was the mother he needed to cuddle under. (He was only 6 weeks old, I later learned. That's when they kill them.) Morning Glory would climb on my lap and nuzzle under my arm. When I set him in my bedroom in the morning sun, he sang – a "chicken song" – sweet and soft. He was singing he was happy to feel the sun on his soft feathers. Then he crawled under my sweatshirt and fell asleep.
Morning Glory only lived a couple of months. His legs collapsed under his heavy body and he developed a suffocating respiratory disease--the disease I heard gurgling in his chest the day I picked him off the road next to the slaughter plant. A week after I found him, I took him to United Poultry Concerns so he could live with other rescued chickens. There, he immediately chose an aging rooster named Clarence to snuggle under. Trilling and trilling, Morning Glory sat under Clarence's comforting old wings. He died in the arms of Karen Davis, the president of United Poultry Concerns, at the veterinary clinic. She helped him find the rest he could not find in life. She held him until he died. And I am here, in tears, telling his story. Morning Glory.