She was rescued from a broiler (meat) factory farm in April, 2016. She was 6 weeks old and was living with tens of thousands of other hens in a huge shed with a floor covered with chicken poo inches thick. I grabbed her and put her under my jumper and left the farm. I took her as a companion to two other chicks we rescued that night – Constance and Spring, both were sadly put to sleep because their huge bodies had failed them.
In the photo below you can see Marshmallow in the farm, slightly looking downwards. She was bred to be eaten. She is what they call a broiler chicken, a chicken who is selectively bred to grow as fast as possible in the shortest amount of time possible.
Broilers get slaughtered at 5-7 weeks old. They are caught roughly by workers and thrown in to trucks, most of them suffer broken bones during the process. They are then trucked to the abattoir. Terrified little babies who never got to see the sun, never got to eat grass or have a dust bath. They are nothing but flesh to everyone. No one cares for these birds.
Marshmallow grew and grew and grew. She became huge. She weighed in at 10 kilos at 5 months old.
Marshmallow also outgrew her name – it went from “Marshmallow” to “Marshy” to “Da Marsh”, all names she responded to with her deep but sweet voice. Da Marsh didn’t quite fit in to the special needs flock and was bullied mercilessly, so I introduced a new friend to her. I introduced her to a little Frizzle hen named Goblin and from then on sparked the cutest friendship in the history of friendships. Marsh and Goblin did everything together. The biggest hen and the tiniest hen wandered through life looking out for each other and enjoying their chicken lives.
I was under no false impression about Marshy’s life expectancy. Broilers very rarely live beyond a year old and I started to see Marsh really struggle at about 4 months old. I was expecting her to have a heart attack at any time and that led me to really worry about Goblin and how she would cope without Marshmallow. I introduced a tiny Old English Game bantam to the mix named, “Firefly” to help Goblin when Da Marsh passed away. She joined the little flock and the 3 of them became the cutest little flock I ever did see.
Marshy’s greatest love in life was food. She lived for food. She was possessive over food. In the mornings, Marshy would waddle out of her bed and down to the feed shed where I would give her a handful of her favourite oats each morning. Her eyes would light up as she waddle slowly towards my hand full of delicious oats. She would talk all the way to me, I assume she was saying, “Oats! Oats! Oats!”. When she got to me, she would do a little dance at my feet whilst chatting away, the only way a 10 kilogram chicken can do.
On Saturday the 17th of September she left the world. The following is my goodbye piece to her:
Farewell Our Da Marshy
Today I watched her leave the world. I sat there with her as she died in her bed. I watched as Goblin walked around her body screaming at her to wake up. I watched as my sister put flowers on her. I watched as my lovely dad filled in her grave. I watched as the world went on without one big chicken who loved life, but died so young because of the body she was trapped in.
She born was to be eaten, not saved. She was born to be cooked, not buried with love. She was born to be no-one to anyone, not someone to us and everyone on this page.
I picked her up in a broiler chicken shed in April and took her home. She was 6 weeks old and so scared of me. I had the pleasure of watching her blossom in to such a funny girl with an obsession for oats. She used to waddle out in the mornings and dance her broiler chicken dance at my feet whilst singing her broiler chicken “give me my oats” song. I got her a little Frizzle hen friend early on because my Brown Isas weren’t accepting her in to their flock and Marshy and Goblin became the best of friends. They did everything together. Goblin is currently quite upset, she’s doing lots of screaming. Chickens grieve, don’t tell me that chickens don’t grieve because I watch it with my own eyes.
She only had 6 months on the earth because she was bred in to a monster sized chicken for humans to eat. A monster sized chicken who had likes, dislikes, friends and enemies. All I can take from today is the fact that she was buried instead of eaten, that is a comfort to me.
This photo below is one of the last photos I took of her. She wasn’t feeling at all well, you can see it, but she was still as beautiful and magnificent as ever.
I’m so glad she had a chance to be a chicken, very few of them do.
It was a pleasure to know you Da Marsh.
When someone you have cared for quite intensively for quite some time is suddenly gone, you get a little confused and your routine is completely thrown out of whack. Da Marsh used to require very specialised attention. By the end there, she needed help getting to her bed and getting out of her bed. She needed help getting places. I lifted her over everything. I carried her places. She wasn’t too stressed by it. She’d wait for my help. By the end, my days revolved around Marsh and her mobility. I never, ever had a problem with doing it all for her, it’s just left me with a quiet void now, especially in the mornings and evenings.
I had agonised for quite a few months before her death about having her put to sleep, but there wasn’t a time where she stopped trying to be a chicken. She gave it her everything everyday. Gosh, that chicken was determind. Waddling down to the grass even though she felt terrible. She tried and tried and tried. I’m glad she went in her own time. Im glad she got to pass away in her bed. I’m not glad she had to try so hard just to be a chicken. Trapped in a body that didn’t belong to her vital mind. I hope wherever she is now, she is free of that body that held her back. I hope she is soaring over the trees, and eating oats as she goes.
You can view Marshy’s life in pictures in the slideshow below.
Please don’t use my images without permission. All images are Copyright Tamara Kenneally