It’s the last thing you’d expect to see when strolling along Melbourne’s iconic Southbank: a tiny chick, wandering alone amid the hustle and bustle.
But that’s exactly what happened last summer, when two good Samaritans spotted Douglas the chick whilst on a day out in the city.
Thoroughly confused about where this baby could have come from and concerned about his safety as bikes whizzed past and crowds of people rushed by, the compassionate couple took Douglas into their care and headed to a tourist information desk to get some advice.
Luckily for Douglas, some PETA Australia staff members were running an “I, Chicken” virtual reality event in nearby Federation Square. His rescuers took him there, and Douglas quickly charmed everyone who met him.
After being checked by a vet, Douglas was adopted by one of the PETA staff members. He soon settled into his new home at a sanctuary in country Victoria, where it became apparent as he grew that he was, in fact, a she!
The name had already stuck, so Douglas the hen now lives on a spacious property with lots of other animals, including another chicken, some guinea fowl, pigs, horses, dogs and a lamb.
She has grown into a cheeky, friendly girl who rarely stays still and is always the first animal to come running over when a human approaches. She loves to relax in her shelter and hang out with Gerry the rooster.
Gerry was also adopted as a chick around the same time as Douglas.
As they have grown up together, Gerry has become protective of Douglas – signalling to her when he has found food and chasing away any threats – including the horses, who completely ignore him most of the time.
It’s still a mystery how Douglas came to end up in the middle of Melbourne, but luckily for her, she can now spend the rest of her days free to do all the things that are natural and important to her.
Most chickens in Australia will never have the chance to experience this kind of life. Crammed by the thousands into filthy sheds, chickens bred for the meat industry or used for their eggs have just as much personality and intelligence as Douglas but will never get the chance to experience freedom and love.