SHIP Rescue takes flight

Almo, KY – Now that spring has come to a close, a local woman is working round the clock to expand her burgeoning chicken rescue in time for next year's spring chick season. The Almo woman, who recently started Special Home for Injured Poultry rescue, says chickens are more than just lunch on legs. Carrie Pond has more.

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I need to stop building coops. It's becoming a chicken village.

When Kat says she's an animal lover, she really means it 8 cats, 2 horses, a dog, a pheasant and 16 chickens roam about her Almo homestead. After spending just a few minutes with Kat, it's easy to see though that her poultry pals hold a special place in her heart.

Kat, who chooses to remain anonymous because of her work at the rescue, says her love of chickens started almost 8 years ago when she brought a box of four home from a farm store in Paducah. One of those, a rooster named Pepper is what she calls a "Mama's Boy" he loves to sit in her lap. Kat began informally rescuing her feathered friends 2 years ago. That's when a friend who knew Kat had a soft spot in her heart for chickens called from a veterinary clinic about a sick pheasant. Kat named the bird Peepers and nursed her back to health. Kat's success with Peepers made her eager to help more troubled birds. She began frequenting Murray's farm store, keeping her eye out for baby chicks that seemed to be in trouble.

You know the crowded conditions if some aren't sold right away they can get trampled, and their little feet can get stuck in the bottom of the cages. So it's just if I can catch them early enough to be able to help them.

And now, two years later, Kat has rescued 12 chickens of her own and adopted out several more. This spring she formalized her rescue, naming it Special Home for Injured Poultry. She estimates she took in about 22 chicks this spring, and was able to nurse two thirds of them back to health. She estimates she splits about 4 hours a day between caring for her own chickens and the chicks she plans to adopt out and that's in addition to a full time job as a occupational therapist. She's planning to have another coop built as well. She digs the trenches for the coops herself to keep it safe from potential predators.

I dig a foot and a half into the ground and lay fencing so nothing can dig underneath, and then I put netting over the top so nothing can fly in. Then I overlap more fencing so nothing small can climb up and get in. So it's like Fort Knox.

Despite the workload, Kat considers the rescue a hobby she doesn't even take donations, instead directing interested donors to the local Humane Society. For Kat, the reward is seeing the weak and injured chicks get a second chance at a good life. Kat keeps the ones that are too injured, introducing them to the other chickens on her property. One of those, a rooster named Flash-A-Roo, has bonded with several of Kat's hens.

He had broken toes when I found him, and was just a mess. He plucks his own tail feathers out (chicken sound) so we're working on that.

Kat takes Flash to elementary schools to teach children about how fun his species really can be. He loves attention, and sometimes pecks at Kat's legs if he's not getting enough. Kat says that's why she loves chickens with a little TLC their individual personalities really begin to shine.

Perhaps the most vocal permanent resident is the 3-foot tall black and white rooster Ziggy. Ziggy's a big guy with a big voice he crows almost constantly during the hour-long visit to the farm and eggs the other roosters on, setting off a chorus of crowing. Kat says Ziggy, who has a crooked beak that has to be periodically filed down to allow him to eat, is definitely a good sport.

I thought, "I bet he could learn to walk on a leash." So I put a dog harness on him the other day and he can do it.

Kat says Ziggy and Flash are examples of what good pets chickens can make. She hopes that through SHIP and her pet therapy programs, her feathered friends can help people realize there's more to chickens than just meat and eggs.