The Joys of Chicken Sweaters

If you don't visit our website (and you should!) or our facebook page (what?!), then you might not have seen the photos of the chickens in their new sweaters!

A knitting club created 10 sweaters for the birds to try out. The chickens live in a really large barn and it can be hard to keep them warm at night.

The risk of fire means we cannot use heat lamps, so we have to find other creative ways to keep the birds cozy. Chickens are descendents of wild jungle fowl and really dislike the cold. They can even get sick.

The egg-laying breeds suffer the most, as they are wasting all their energy on producing eggs, they are not laying down fat and muscle.

Sunny Likes Her Sweater
Sunny loved her sweater!
Killer Sweater
Killer poses nicely with his

Big Red in a Chicken Sweater
Big Red looks nice in pink
Sharktooth Thinks Sweaters Are STupid
Sharktooth didn't exactly enjoy the new outfit

Rats Are Cool

Esther and Willow
When I was in college, I had three pet rats. Thelma and Louise were the girls, two adorable brown and white hooded rats rescued from the shelter. Oliver was the boy. Louise saw him as an interloper.Thelma thought he was the bee's knees. Because of Louise's aggression, Oliver was in his own enclosure.

All the rats had outdoor time. They loved it. Oliver was especially smart. He was snake bait originally, but the snake was full and Oliver lucked out. I taught him to hi-five, sit, shake, paw, stand on his back legs and "beg". It was easy with the power of the apple. Oliver loved apples. But is favorite time was after the training. I'd tell him "all finished" and give him two small bits of apple. He would hoard them.

As we passed by Thelma and Louise's open cage door, both of the girls would be standing on the ledge. I would drop Oliver off and he'd rush over to Thelma and give her the BIGGEST apple piece. Despite Louise's rudeness to him, he'd always give her the other piece. But it was always the smallest one. In those moments, I knew rats possessed myriad emotions and thought, that they could make decisions based on perceived fairness, and that they were compassionate and generous.

When Louise died of mammary cancer, it was (neutered) Oliver who comforted Thelma. When Thelma became sick with cancer, Oliver wrapped himself around her. She died in his embrace. By that point, Oliver was nearly 3 years old, ancient in rat years. He died a week later.

So it is not surprising to me that researchers have learned what people with companion rats have known all along - rats are empathetic.

In the experiment, two rats are socialized around each other for two weeks. Once they become friends, researchers performed a mean trick on one of the rats. She would be placed in a tube that prohibited movement. The tube would be placed back in the cage with the other rat. The other rat would then find a way to break out her friend, even ignoring chocolate to help her cagemate. She'd then share the chocolate!

Rats are not "lowly" animals. They are intelligent, thoughtful and even empathetic. When they see the suffering of a friend, they do not merely understand or experience those emotions themselves, they try to rectify the situation. That is pretty neat.

You can help rats! If you have the space and time to commit to caring for a rat, adopt two! There are many rats in shelters who face euthanasia because people fail to realize how awesome rats are as companions.

Never use poisons or kill traps to stop rats. Instead, use humane live traps to capture and relocate rats to safe areas where they can thrive. Prevent rats from even entering your property to begin with!

And of course, we believe other species, like cows and pigs, are just as empathetic as rats. We've seen it. So if you want to help them, start transitioning over to a vegan can be empathetic too!

PS: You can see video of the rats here.

Cheese Alternatives

We opened a dialogue on our Facebook page about the animal products vegans/vegetarians had the hardest time giving up and how they coped. A lot of veg-curious and vegetarian individuals were having (or had) a hard time with cheese.

This isn't entirely unexpected. Milk from cows contains casein which, when broken down, produces casomorphins. These protein fragments act upon the brain in similar ways as other opiates (morphine, codeine, heroin). Cheese contains a concentrated amount of casein. Our brain can become addicted to these casomorphins, making the elimination of cheese particularly difficult.

So be kind to yourself if you are a cheese-lover desiring to move towards a kinder way of living. You may want to eliminate all dairy cheese so that your body can detoxify itself. Or you may wish to slowly replace your favorite cheese products with alternatives that are not addictive. 

I put together this list of animal friendly alternatives to dairy cheese. Many of these are commercially available at natural food stores, Whole Foods, and several large grocery chains. If they are not, they can be ordered online and shipped to you. Of course, you can also make your own cheeses so I have included a few recipes for that.

Sheese is available in two forms: hard and soft. They do contain soy protein but are gluten-free.
Flavors available:
  • Hard: Strong cheddar (my fave), Blue, Cheddar with chives, Cheshire, Edam, Gouda, Medium Cheddar, Mozzarella, Smoked Cheddar.
  • Soft: Cheddar, Chives, Garlic & Herb, Mexican, Original
Uses: The hard cheeses are great with fruits and breads. Once your palate adjusts, they are very tasty by themselves. The creamy cheeses are great on bagels and crackers.
How to order: Online

Daiya is commercially available in shredded form. It does not contain soy. It is becoming more and more easily available to the public.

It comes in cheddar, mozzarella and pepper jack.
Uses: Great for pizza, calzones, vegan french onion soup (FOR REALS!), anything you need really melty cheese!
Find out if it's available in a store near you

Chicago SoyDairy also makes vegan marshmallows and why isn't their soft serve vegan ice cream in my living room? Seriously. It does contain soy.

It comes in mozzarella, cheddar and nacho. It comes in a tube of awesome.
Uses: Great on pizza, awesome on nachos, mac n' cheese, good for grilled cheese sammiches.
Where to buy

Nacheez comes in a jar of goodness and is made from cashews, so it is soy free. It is available in mild and spicy flavors.
Uses: Perfect for those of us who loved Velveeta style mac 'n cheese, stadium style nachos, and who just likes to scoop spicy nacheez out of a jar on to our chips (or just into our mouths!)
Where to buy

Dr. Cow
If you are a cheese snob of any kind, this is the animal friendly alternative for you! Seriously. It's like super woah expensive and absolutely divine. It is soy free.
Where to buy

Make Your Own
Cashew Nut Cheese
Vegan feta cheese
Buy The Uncheese Cookbook

Shop With Us and the Animals

If you celebrate the holidays, check out our Sanctuary Store!

And if you do not celebrate the holidays, check out our Sanctuary Store!

That's right, our sanctuary store is an equal opportunity provider of awesome stuff!

You can foster an animal from a distance. Or you can wear your vegan love with one of our Peace Love Vegan shirts. While you are fostering an animal, wearing your vegan shirt, you can be drinking out of our reusable stainless steel Choose Compassion With Every Action water bottle WHILE READING OUR 2012 CALENDAR! Freaking amazing, I think!

That is all, folks. I mean, for now, not forever.