One group of ducks had never known the light of day. They had spent their entire lives locked up in a squalid cage in the most harrowing of circumstances. After their rescue, they were broken. But when they saw water for the first time, it was clear the animals still had some fight left in them.
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary is a charity located in the hamlet of High Falls in New York. As part of its work, the organization rescues farm animals. It then brings them to the safety of its idyllic sanctuary, which lies just 90 minutes north of New York City.
During the warmer months, the farm opens its doors to the public. The organization invites guests to interact with animals and build bonds with their fellow living creatures. Its main aim is to get as many people as possible treating animals as friends rather than food.
The sanctuary’s Facebook page reads, “We welcome visitors to come and meet animals who are most commonly exploited, abused, and killed in animal agriculture.” It continues, “Our animal residents are given lifelong sanctuary and are treated with respect as individuals. By giving farmed animals the chance to live their lives with dignity and by sharing their stories, we advocate for veganism and aim to reduce suffering for all.”
Given the nature of their work, staff at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary often meet animals at their lowest possible ebb. However, some particularly harrowing cases still have the ability to shock and appall them. And that was the case with one recent investigation.
It all began in 2011 when the organization became aware of dozens of animals in dire need of help. The large group of chickens, geese, turkeys and ducks were living on the property of a hoarder. Moreover, the conditions they existed in were completely horrific.
More than 160 birds were living in cramped, filthy quarters. Trapped in cages, some were unable to feel the sun on their feathers or swim in clean water. Furthermore, they didn’t have adequate bedding or proper shelter to protect them from the elements.
Other animals resided within the property itself. With limited access to the outside world, let alone clean water to swim in, it was hardly the ideal place to keep ducks. Furthermore, the place stunk to high heavens, with some rescuers describing the stench as “overwhelming.”
The team at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary were keen to rescue the animals from the house of horrors as soon as possible. So they approached the birds’ owner to see if they could convince her to hand them over. However, she refused.
A statement posted to the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary website in 2012 read, “The hoarder’s initial intentions were good, her love for the animals apparent. But she neglected to see how their overcrowding, over-breeding, lack of shelter and space and filthy conditions were hurting them. She also continued to buy chicks and ducklings online.”
However, even if the owner’s heart was in the right place, the organization couldn’t stand by and leave the animals to suffer. As a result, it teamed up with the Ulster County SPCA to obtain an official warrant that would allow it to take the birds in.
So nearly a year after discovering the animals, rescuers from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary finally delivered them to safety. However, judging by the state of their former home, it was clear the creatures had a long road to recovery ahead.
The organization’s account read, “Many were suffering from ailments caused specifically by their filthy living conditions.” It went on, “They lived in small sheds and animal carriers, overcrowded, living among layers of caked feces, and breathing in dust and the stench of ammonia.”
The sanctuary continued, “Due to inadequate housing, several of the birds did not have access to proper shelter and have lost toes and combs to frostbite.” Then it revealed, “Inside her trailer we found another 25 birds running around freely and over 20 living in an enclosed back porch. The indoor quarters were worse than the outdoors.”
Now the farm sanctuary had more than 130 sick birds on its hands, some of which needed urgent medical care. The statement revealed, “All the birds show signs of nutritional deficiencies.” And it confirmed, “We are treating all of their health issues by providing veterinary care, nutritional supplements, quality food and vitamins daily in their water.”
The most common ailments affecting the animal stemmed from the fact they had no grass underfoot in their enclosure. As a result, they had to stand in snow and ice. One particularly prevalent condition was “bumble foot” – a staph infection that affects birds and causes painful abscesses.
However, thanks to their dedicated rescuers, all of the animals were now in the expert care of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. After their rescue, a vet gave each individual a thorough check-up. From there, animal experts could decide the best course of action.
Because of the sheer number of birds, only the sickest went to the organization’s main base. The others went to live in a specially prepared site where they had the space to spread their wings. At both sites, birds had fresh water to swim in for the first time in their lives.
Now that they were finally safe, the animals were able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Pictures and video footage captured by Woodstock Farm Sanctuary staff showed the birds splashing around in glee and cruising across their new pond.
For those who’d worked so hard on their rescue, watching them act like birds again was a dream come true. “They are beginning to thrive with their new freedom,” they said. “It’s a joy for us to see. We’re so happy to be able to give these animals the lives they deserve.”