Couple rescues chickens abandoned at rest stop in freezing temperatures

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A Winchester couple rescued a duo of a different breed from what could have been a deadly Valentine’s day weekend.

By Wednesday, John Neztel said the two chickens that he and his wife, Jennifer, rescued from bitter cold temperatures were in relatively good health after being brought to Peaceful Fields Sanctuary on Saturday.

“There were no injuries – nothing major – no external parasites or anything.”

The Netzels own the Vegan Animal Sanctuary which houses 23 other chickens, along with animals that are no longer considered useful on a farm.

Like the other animals at the sanctuary, the Netzels wanted to offer the chickens another chance at life. Although, after being abandoned at a rest stop off  I-81 and spending months out in the cold, Jennifer said she’s surprised the rooster and hen lived to see their rescuers at all.

“I’m shocked that they made it through that big blizzard,” she said, referencing the blizzard that crippled many parts of the four-state area with almost four feet of snow at the end of January.  “They were living in a thicket, so they were probably protected some, but it really shocks me that they would live through such a big storm.”

According to John Netzel, a Virginia Department of Transportation employee called on Saturday and mentioned seeing the chickens wandering around the rest stop.  

The man asked if the Netzels had any space at their sanctuary for the abandoned birds, and despite the wind-chill making 20 degrees feel more like single digits, John Netzel said the only option was to act.

“Without having adequate shelter and housing, they wouldn’t have made it. So, we knew that it was a life or death situation, and we knew that we had to act fast. It was definitely an emergency situation.”

The Netzels endured the freezing temperatures for half an hour as they searched the rest stop’s entire parking lot for the chickens until they found them in a wooded area near the exit ramp leading back to the interstate.

According to Jennifer, the chickens’ survival was a combination of a scavenger-like existence and a stroke of luck.

“Whatever they can find, they will eat. Plus, the people at the welcome center there were feeding them human food, so I’m sure that helped some too.”

Now, the Netzels are just glad the chickens won’t have to worry about finding food again.

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