Because of Tabitha

by Vicki Hunter
(Brisbane, Australia)

For as long as I can remember I've had a psychological battle within myself about eating meat. The only way I could do so was if it had no resemblance to the actual animal. Looking back now though I realise my journey of becoming vegan began with our first ever adoption of two ex-battery hens. I knew rescuing them and offering them life beyond the factory farm would be rewarding but little did I know that one little chicken in particular was going to change my life. Her name was Tabitha.

We had adopted a stray chicken from a family friend that we named Esmerelda. We decided to get companions for her so our first instinct was rescue hens. Owning chickens for us was never about the eggs, we wanted rescue hens so we could show them humans can indeed love and care for them. We went to meet the latest batch of hens and were shown a pen housing 20 of the scraggliest, featherless little chickens we had ever seen that had been rescued that morning. We picked out one hen we named Endora. My husband noticed a tiny little one in the corner being picked on by the others and she looked so scared. He said “that’s the one, she needs us” so it was done – that was Tabitha. After getting advice on how to care for them we brought them home. How scared they were. They had no idea what to do and didn’t know to come in at dusk to roost because they had never had to do that before so each night I’d gently persuade them inside the coop so we could lock up. They eventually got the hang of it.

Endora was more confident, she took to things more quickly but Tabitha was so timid – terrified of pretty much everything. She also had difficulty walking - she was uncoordinated and stumbled a lot. Watching her run was hilarious and we’d say “hop-skip-jump!” We’d stand on the opposite side of the yard with a treat ready and call them so she could strengthen her legs. She eventually got better but never could you call it normal. We introduced them to Esmerelda who bossed them around, especially picking on Tabitha so we favoured her and became very protective of her. She gained confidence each day and quickly became my little shadow - she followed me everywhere. When she saw me she would come running to greet me. The bond between her and I became very strong.

Life went on but then all three began having reproductive issues so we sought advice of a specialised bird vet. We had them implanted on and off to take them off the lay to give their bodies a rest. We spent a lot of money on them and some people simply didn’t understand we just couldn’t let them die, they deserved better than that. It wasn’t their fault they had these problems, that was caused by us humans so we were determined not to let them down again.

Sadly, in December 2014, Tabitha got ill - she had an egg stuck inside her body. The vet did what she could but within 24hrs she passed away. She was fading fast and we were going to take her to the vet to have her put to sleep but as I was sitting next to her she had a heart attack and died. That was the first time I had ever seen an animal die like that. I was heartbroken. We decided to get her cremated so my husband made the arrangements and I sat on the floor next to her stroking her feathers for over an hour waiting for them to collect her. I didn’t want her to be alone.

I had just lost a very dear little friend, one I had rescued, one I had to teach so many things to and one I loved dearly and who loved me back. Some people understood my loss, some didn’t but I guess not everyone can be the same. To me she was never “just a chicken” she was a very special little hen with a huge heart and a huge will to live. She lived the first 18 months of her life in misery but the last 2yrs of her life as a princess, just as it should be but most of all she died knowing she was loved.

So back to my journey, it’s because of Tabitha that it hit me that what we as humans do to these creatures is horrendous and the more I began to research factory farms and what really goes on I was ashamed that I had been a part of such cruelty. It was a very simple decision for me from that point on. I had always claimed I loved all animals. I now know that was wrong as I had been eating animals I claimed to love. I took a very hard look at myself and decided I didn’t want to be that person anymore so I changed, just like that. I made a promise to Tabitha that I would look out for her kind and for all creatures on the planet, I would become more active in animal rights campaigns, I would educate myself on the rights and wrongs, I would never again be the cause of an animal’s suffering and I would become vegan. 50yrs it took me to come to this realisation. I just wish I had met Tabitha earlier so she could have taught me this lesson sooner. This is my personal journey and it’s all because of Tabitha so my little darling, I know you’re watching over me as my little guardian chicken and I’m going to do you proud, just you wait and see. “Hop-Skip-Jump” is written on her little pink urn and she is sadly missed. Rest in Peace little one.

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