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As told by WFAS Director Jenny Brown

This is the story of a young “layer” hen who was injured by a rock-throwing child. She was found almost motionless by our friend and long-time supporter Steve Stehwein.  When he got wind of her injuries he jumped in his car, picked her up and made the 90-minute trip with her to our shelter in Woodstock, NY.

Hetty, the day after she arrived

Upon arrival we gently lifted her from the cardboard box she’d traveled in and laid her out on our vet table. She was unable to stand or even move her legs. She lay weak and on her side in an awkward position, just barely able to keep her head and upper body upright. Her eyes frequently closed from exhaustion and hunger. In order to have a better look at her legs and lower body we began cutting away at the giant poop clumps that clung to her little bottom – that’s when when we saw the maggots – and lots of them.

I spent the next hour treating her wounds, administering fluids and antibiotics, and with tweezers in hand, pulled off around 100 maggots. She was infested – and they had bored through her skin creating deep wounds. Flies like to lay their eggs in poop and when an animal is incapacitated and lying in its own feces, it’s the perfect breeding ground for maggots.

We named her Hetty, after a dedicated volunteer. She was skin and bones – totally emaciated and unwilling and unable to eat. Exhausted as she was, we had to get food in her. We began the ritual of making her a special “mash” from an assortment of high-fat foods, vitamins and electrolytes. That first day she had to be syringe-fed but by the next morning she started picking at a food bowl held close to her mouth, falling asleep between each bite. We were overjoyed. We began offering food every hour, encouraging her to eat as much as she could to regain her strength.

A quick trip to the vet for X-rays showed that no bones were broken, so the damage was most likely nerved based. Having dealt with nerve damage before, we started standing her up to eat with the support of our hands, then standing her in a sling made of a small canvas shopping bag with a cut out for her legs, head and a “poop chute.” We put her through physical therapy every 3 hours. The work began paying off and shortly after we started noticing attempts to stand on her own! The first time we witnessed it my staff and I stood around the table with tears in our eyes hugging each other and praising her miraculous efforts. We had all been rooting for her and were hoping to see some glimmer of a chance that she might walk again. This was it.

Today you would never guess that Hetty had such a rough start. She’s one of our “free roamers” so she can sometimes be found sleeping comfortably on top of a pig, under the picnic tables scrapping food from visitors or trying to sneak into the Visitor Center to check out the action. The man in her life is Peanut Butter the Rooster who is always close-by (see him in the distance in the photo below) and who follows her everywhere along with her gal pals Edie and Truffles.

Little Hetty is a survivor like all the animals that call WFAS home. She is an individual with likes and dislikes, friends and the desire to live freely and happily. As with all animals, her life matters very much to her–and to us. She is just one of the millions of farmed animals living in this country at this very moment who we work to protect and provide a voice for.

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Update: Hetty made a full recovery and now is a free-roamer.

Hetty in July, 2010