CHICAGO — More than 100 chickens who were living in a single garage in Englewood as part of a cockfighting ring have all found new homes.
Chicago Animal Care and Control rescued 114 birds from “inhumane conditions” at the garage in early June and decided to find new homes for the hens and roosters rather than euthanize them. The chickens were put up for adoption, with people able to stop by the agency’s shelter to meet the birds, and had all found new homes by the end of last week.
The man who police said was behind the cockfighting ring has been charged with animal torture, according to online records.
“I don’t know any other organization in the country that has taken that many and kept them for six weeks,” said Julia Magnus, of Bronzeville. She rescues chickens through her volunteer group, the Chicago Roo Crew. “It’s unprecedented.”
The Englewood rescue was the largest the Roo Crew has taken part in since starting about a year ago. Typically, most chickens rescued in Chicago are dumped by owners who no longer want them, Magnus said, and the Roo Crew steps in to capture the birds and find them new homes before they’re injured or killed.
Most of the 114 chickens — who were largely roosters, though there were a few hens — were sent to rehabilitation centers or sanctuaries, but a few were adopted into families.
Kelsey Atkinson, the director of Chicago Animal Save, said the rescue efforts were “historic.” While most cities will automatically euthanize birds taken from cockfighting rings, Animal Care and Control paired up with rescue organizations like the Roo Crew to foster and seek out permanent homes for the chickens so they wouldn’t have to be put down.
Rescuers went to the Englewood home to take in birds and Animal Care and Control sent trucks of birds straight from the garage to Chicago Chicken Rescue, another rescue group.
Once the birds were taken in, Chicago Animal Save volunteers cleaned cages, transported the chickens and raised money to pay for their medical expenses. Animal Control previously noted many of the birds were missing toes and feathers and had open wounds.
“I was really excited that they were given a chance to find a home in this historic rescue and that … each rooster was treated like the individuals they are and given a proper, loving home where they can live the rest of their lives peacefully,” said Atkinson, who is herself a chicken fan and has a pet hen named Helen. “It takes a special kind of village to rehome 114 chickens.
“This was definitely a first.”
Lindsay Malinowski, owner of the Little Pickle restaurant in Logan Square, rescued two hens and added them to her brood. She’s dubbed the girls Brave Chick and Strong Chick (in theme with her other hens, who are named Big Chick, Baby Chick and Boss Chick).
The hens hang out in the backyard of Little Pickle, delighting diners and serving as loving pets to Malinowski.
“They’re doing great,” Malinowski said. “They started hiding. Now they’re out and about. They come running to the backdoor to see kids who are visiting the restaurant.”
A family who used to rescue ex-fighters and try to rehab them because they love chickens took in the last 11 of the birds who needed homes, Magnus said.
Another three chickens were taken in by the Sojourn Therapeutic Riding Center in suburban Midlothian. They’ll serve as therapy animals for people who have autism or who have survived abuse.
Other chickens will live out their days in sanctuaries throughout the United States.
Pet chickens, which can be legally kept within Chicago, are similar to dogs, Magnus said: They’re intelligent, interesting and friendly, and roosters can be used as watchdogs. Magnus doesn’t have a TV, she said, and just watches her chickens live out their “own little drama” when she needs entertainment.
“Roosters are probably the worst-treated land animals on the planet,” said Magnus, who has kept pet chickens for seven years. “I think most people would have just immediately euthanized all of [the rescued birds]. And it’s not normal for any Animal Control to not euthanize fighting birds.
“But it’s a good decision because all of them can be rehabilitated and all of them can be good companions.”
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