http://www.farmsanctuary.org/adopt/rescue_nadia.htm They were an odd sight on a dairy farm. Eight feathered souls, taking refuge among the cows' hay and feed. These chickens didn't belong. In fact, they were runaways, having wandered over to the northern California dairy from their previous place of residence: an industrialized egg farm. In egg factory farms, hens are often kept in battery cages, packed four to an enclosure that has the floor space of an album cover. "Laying" hens aren't allowed to breathe fresh air. They aren't given medical care. And they aren't let outside to scratch and peck in the dirt and sun. But for these hens, those days are over. At our California Shelter, they've joined 88 other chickens who have access to the outdoors, healthcare and a loving shelter staff that sees to their every need. Their new situation is courtesy of the chickens' own moxie, as well as help from a worker at the dairy who gave the animals to a Farm Sanctuary investigator. There's no doubt that the hens escaped a grotesque fate. Some egg factory farms in Californiaincluding the one the hens likely strayed from-have recently started dealing with "spent" hens in a cold, cruel way. Once a hen's production drops off she is considered spent. Typically, these hens are sent to slaughter, their bruised and battered flesh to be used in soup products and pre-packaged cheap foods. But in the past year, the market has collapsed and the bodies of the spent hens are no longer profitable. Now a liability instead of a money-maker, the hen is useless to the farm. So these hens are now dealt with on the premises. Not slaughtered, not used for eggs, but gassed en masse then "composted" in huge piles. Some hens survive the gassing and go to the compost heap alive. There, they either die from suffocation and crushing, or escape. Though they're now physically healthy, seven of our hens will always bear the mental scars from the trauma of their first years of life. But Nadia, the eighth hen, will have both horrible memories and a lifetime of physiological problems to show for her time. When we first encountered Nadia, her neurological damage was apparent. She had head tremors, and difficulty walking and standing. With treatment and proper nutrition, she's improved by leaps and bounds. She's now a lot stronger and more active, but Nadia will always have trouble navigating through her surroundings, and will likely need special assistance for the rest of her life. At our California Shelter, Nadia and her peers will receive the care they need. Just by surviving, they'll put faces to the nameless millions who suffer and die each year, enslaved by the ruthless factory farming system. And although our "spent" hens will again share a farm with cowsand sheep, and turkeys, and pigs, for that matterNadia and her friends can rest easy in the knowledge that here, they will always belong.