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A vegan herself, Britton Clouse hopes her work helps people make informed decisions "about the flesh on the end of their forks."
A velvety red-necked hen found on the North Side, Olive stepped out of her carrier a few days ago and hopped on Britton Clouse's scale.
"She was going to be ritually slaughtered the day Animal Control found her," Britton Clouse said. "She's keenly aware of her environment and is absolutely engaged, whether it's through eye contact or pecking at my buttons and earrings."
Olive is among a dozen hens and roosters at the century-old house that Britton Clouse and her husband, Bert Clouse, have lived in for 23 years on Lowry Ave. N. They restore books out of their home, spending $3,000 a year of their own to bankroll Chicken Run Rescue
Their neighborhood has problems, but serving as the haven for chickens hasn't, well, ruffled any feathers.
"We call Mary the Mother Hen because it takes a special kind of person to rescue chickens," said Jaqueline Hamilton, who runs a wig store next door. "Some of our customers say, 'Did I just hear a rooster, or am I losing my mind?' We love the sound right here in the city."
The Clouse backyard includes coops, runs, amaranth plants and intriguing stories. Take Gody, for example. The hen was plucked from the jaws of a cat by an elementary school teacher in St. Paul and raised by a science class until she grew too large.
Every night, the birds line up to go into the basement coop, where their cock-a-doodle-doos will be muffled.
"It's a beautiful, joyous sound," Britton Clouse said. "But we keep them inside until 9 a.m. on weekdays and 10 or 11 on weekends so everyone can sleep. We've had no complaints. People love the idea that something happy and hopeful is happening in the neighborhood."
Back inside, Juli the red hen steps gingerly out of the carrier and weighs in at about 3 pounds. Bert and Mary sprinkle parasite dust on her wings and give her a syringe full of medicine, topped with a helping of fresh lettuce and cracked corn.
Another day, another liberated chicken.
Curt Brown 651-673-4767
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