Dominga, Carrera, and Pavarotti : Ducklings Escape Mail-Order Death Sentence

Rescue ducklings
Three ducklings rescued after being shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.

The rescue of three ducklings began on the morning of Monday, August 31, when National Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell received an urgent message. A woman wrote that her partner, a vegan, had purchased two baby ducks to be delivered by mail, with the intention of saving them from being raised for meat. On Sunday, the purchaser had been unexpectedly hospitalized. His partner was out of the country. At the time of the message, the ducklings had already been packed into a cardboard box and had begun their journey from Iowa to Desert Hot Springs, CA, by USPS 2-day priority mail. There would be no one to pick the hatchlings up at the post office when they arrived.

The partner asked if we could take the ducklings temporarily, until the purchaser could come home from the hospital. Alicia explained that Farm Sanctuary would instead need to receive full custody of the ducklings; once they passed into our protection, it would be our responsibility to ensure that they received the best possible care for the rest of their lives. Agreeing that living at one of our shelters would be ideal for the birds, the partner put us in touch with the purchaser’s cousin to help make the arrangements.

Early the next morning, the day the ducklings were scheduled to arrive, Alicia set out to retrieve them. The task was not simple.

Rescue ducklings
The ducklings in their shipping box. (We rushed to give them water; the cup visible in the photo was not present during shipping.)

First she stopped at the hospital where the purchaser was receiving treatment. In order to take receipt of the package, Alicia needed a notarized authorization from the purchaser. She was fortunate that the hospital staff put her in touch with a volunteer who happened to be a notary public. Then she went to the post office to confirm that they would allow her to take the ducklings if she had the notarized authorization from the purchaser. Next she returned to the hospital to meet the notary public, who had brought the necessary paperwork. After explaining their mission to hospital staff, they were allowed into the trauma ICU to see the purchaser. Though he was disappointed that he would not be able to keep the ducklings, he agreed to relinquish custody after Alicia explained that this was the only way we could ensure the ducklings would be safe.

After getting the documents signed and notarized, Alicia rushed back to the post office, hoping the ducklings would arrive in the early afternoon shipment. They did not. Alicia waited until the last shipment of the day at 5 p.m., then found somewhere to stay overnight in the area. Thankfully, the ducklings arrived the next morning. To Alicia’s surprise, there were three of them.

The purchaser had ordered only two Pekin ducklings, for a mere $5.53 each and a shipping cost of $45. Presumably, the extra duckling was included in case one of the purchased ducklings died in transit — an all-too-common outcome.

Rescue duckling
One of the ducklings post-rescue.

Alicia rushed the ducklings to Farm Sanctuary’s nearest avian vet. Finding, unsurprisingly, that the young birds were dehydrated, the vet administered subcutaneous fluids. With a little TLC, the winsome babies were soon feeling better. They stayed at the vet for a week awaiting results of their avian influenza tests. The good news is that they were free of the disease. Now that they have been cleared, they will be chauffeured to our Northern California Shelter in Orland.

Had these ducklings not been picked up at the post office, they would have been returned to the sender — a death sentence. Hatcheries are not farms; they are designed only to incubate, hatch, and immediately ship birds, and there is no place to send back chicks, ducklings, or poults.

The man who ordered these youngsters assumed he was rescuing them, but he ended up putting them in harm’s way. Any duckling or chick purchased from a catalog or feed store has begun life in an industrial hatchery and endured a dangerous and harrowing trip — with no food or water — through the mail. Beyond potentially endangering the well-being of the “rescued” animals themselves, purchasing is counterproductive: It puts money in the pockets of producers, who will use those funds to breed more animals. Read more about the problems with purchase, and the responsible alternative.

After their perilous journey in a dark box, these lucky ducks have many days of sunshine ahead of them. As they revel in the good life on our ponds and pastures, they’ll also be serving as ambassadors for the millions of baby birds whose own journeys do not end so happily. And they have a simple message for everyone who cares about animals: #DontShipMe.

Rescued ducklings having fun!These three adorable ducklings were rescued after being shipped through the U.S. Postal Service — an all-too-common practice. Many young birds don’t survive that trip, but these lucky ducklings are now safe and sound at Farm Sanctuary. They’re spending their days exploring, swimming, and having a great time!Their rescue story: us name them by participating in our naming auction:

Posted by Farm Sanctuary on Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thanks to our supporters, we are able to respond quickly to intervene in the lives of these precious individuals. If you haven’t joined Farm Sanctuary yet, won’t you consider becoming a part of this compassionate community?