HAYWARD (CBS/AP/BCN) -- Their egg-laying days behind them, some 1,200 Northern California chickens are heading for a cozy retirement on the East Coast, where they will live outside of cages and have plenty of room to spread their wings.
Vacaville-based non-profit Animal Place sent 1,150 white leghorn hens on a chartered plane at the Hayward Executive Airport Wednesday night to new homes at animal sanctuaries on the East Coast, according to the organization's education director, Marji Beach.
"This is the first time adult birds have ever been flown across the country," Animal Place Executive Director Kim Sturla said.
When a donor offered to cover the cost of the cross-country flight, Animal Place "jumped at the opportunity," she said.
An anonymous $50,000 donation is funding what has been called "Operation Chicken Airlift."
The birds were part of a group of 3,000 hens the organization rescued from a California egg farm last month that would otherwise have been gassed, Beach said.
She said that as hens' age and are able to lay fewer eggs, many commercial egg farms gas the birds and dump their carcasses in landfills, which is cheaper than sending them to slaughterhouses.
During their time at the commercial farm, which Beach declined to name, the now-rescued hens were kept in 12-by-16-inch cages that left no room for them to stretch their wings, according to Animal Place.
The birds will be welcomed in New York on Thursday morning by representatives from nine animal sanctuaries that will either permanently adopt them or find them new homes, Beach said.
Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in New York, where 200 of the birds will end up, is providing perches, grass and even a wooded area where they can roam.
Meanwhile, Animal Place is still looking for homes for the remaining 1,800 hens rescued last month.
Those interested in adopting the birds or donating to their care may visit www.animalplace.org.
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