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Meet four chickens saved from a slaughterhouse by Philly activists

Four hens - Liberty, Bella, Irene and Holly - will be moved to an animal rescue farm in South Jersey on Christmas Eve. Their former home was a slaughterhouse in Fairhill.

Mary Kate Fain smiles with Liberty, one of four chickens she saved with other animal rights activists from a Fairhill slaughter house this week, in her South Philadelphia home on Dec. 21.
Mary Kate Fain smiles with Liberty, one of four chickens she saved with other animal rights activists from a Fairhill slaughter house this week, in her South Philadelphia home on Dec. 21.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON

Four chickens are nesting in a South Philadelphia home after being "rescued"  by animal rights activists last week from a Fairhill slaughterhouse.

The manager at Saba Halal Live Poultry gave members of the group Philly Farmed Animal Save two birds on Monday and two more on Thursday after they held a vigil for slaughtered animals outside the business.

The hens, named Liberty, Bella, Irene and Holly, are staying in a two-room "sanctuary"  the activists prepared in their home — where they previously housed four rats rescued from testing labs, said Mary Kate Fain, one of the group's co-organizers and residents of the house.

On Christmas Eve, the chickens will move to Rancho Relaxo, an animal rescue farm in South Jersey.

Liberty is sassier than the other birds and often honks for attention, Fain said. Bella relishes vegetables as snacks and gets easily startled. Irene has a "cute" floppy comb on top of her head, and Holly snores in her sleep. All seem to love lullabies played around 5 p.m., the chickens' bedtime, Fain said.

"We were amazed about how beautiful and perfect they were, given all that they'd been through," Fain said.

The group had each of the chickens checked by a veterinarian and is crowdfunding on Facebook for donations to help Rancho Relaxo pay for their care, Fain said. The group was nearing its $1,500 goal on Friday.

Kenneth Dazen, a veterinarian at the Animal and Bird Healthcare Center in Cherry Hill, said chickens' health relied primarily on quality of care. Common issues from living in a slaughterhouse include bacterial and respiratory infections, he said.

Alice Forde, a co-organizer for Philly Farmed Animal Save, said the birds were underweight and most likely have reproductive health issues since they were probably egg-laying hens. Holly also appears to have respiratory issues, she said.

To prevent disease from spreading, there's a 30-day quarantine for animals when they arrive at Rancho Relaxo, said Caitlin Cimini, the farm's president and founder. She, along with her husband, Len, cares for about 70 rescued animals — including ducks, turkeys and calves — on 60 acres in Salem County.

Cimini said the animals at Rancho Relaxo are in "retirement" after escaping a fate such as slaughter, starvation or homelessness. She's noticed that animals that come from slaughterhouses aren't terrified — instead, "instinct takes over" and they quickly adjust to their natural habitat.

"Whenever we bring in an animal, the feeling is, like, triumphant," Cimini said. "We just can't believe this animal is going to spend the rest of their life with a smile on their face."

Fain said her group planned more vigils at the slaughterhouse in hope of rescuing more animals. One is scheduled for Jan. 21.

Saba Halal Live Poultry, at 162 W. Lehigh Ave., is a point-of-sale slaughterhouse, meaning customers choose an animal to be fresh-killed before purchase. The owner of the slaughterhouse did not respond to calls on Friday.

Philly Farmed Animal Save is the local chapter for the SAVE Movement, whose founder Anita Krajnc formed the organization and started holding vigils for slaughtered animals in 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Since then, chapters have been started on every continent except Antarctica, and at least 300 animals have been rescued, said Kris Giovanetti, a Seattle-based organizer for the SAVE Movement.

During vigils at the slaughterhouse, activists mark a tally on a poster for each customer they see leaving with black bags containing merchandise. They counted 20 during last week's vigil. They also sing songs, light candles, and lay flowers in front of the slaughterhouse in honor of the animals.

"We're just really trying to wake up people's empathy," Fain said. "The point of doing the save vigils is to disrupt the normalcy of violence toward animals all while using love-based tactics, showing love to the workers who are doing this to make ends meet, showing love to those going inside who do not have education."