A letter carrier turned up earlier this month with 15 baby chickens and a strange, disturbing story.
The chickens, the postal worker said, had been sent to a woman on his delivery route in the nation's capital. Accompanying the tiny birds was a note, from the recipient's ex, making a crude comparison between the animals and the woman.
Insulted, and perhaps feeling heartlessly flummoxed upon receiving 15 unexpected baby chickens in the mail, the woman said she was going to throw the animals in the garbage.
That's when the letter carrier took back the birds and delivered them to the D.C. offices of the Humane Society, which then brought them to the Washington Humane Society, which in turn contacted the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in nearby Poolesville, Maryland.
"I was very surprised by this story, I thought I had heard everything, but this was a new one," says Terry Cummings, one of Poplar Spring's co-founders. "Definitely had never heard of baby chicks being used as a spiteful statement after a breakup."
Nine of the baby chicks are safe at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary
Had the recipient dumped the birds, WHS spokeswoman ChristieLyn Diller explains, she might have faced criminal charges for animal cruelty. The sender would likely be in the clear; it is legal, albeit controversial, to send day-old chicks through the mail. (You can see the USPS guidelines for such shipments here.)
Legal or not, "animals should never be exploited in this manner," says Diller. "It's extremely upsetting that the chicks, live animals, were used as props in a breakup without any regard for their well being."
Luckily, all 15 of the little birds are now safe. Nine are in a playpen under a heat lamp at Poplar Spring, while six have gone to live at Peaceful Fields Sanctuary in Virginia.
"The chicks are all doing well. There is one with an injured leg, but she is improving. They all appear very active and healthy," says Cummings, who keeps a favorite rooster -- a handsome, elderly guy named Harrison -- in a dog bed by a heater in the house.
Even if these chicks will be spoiled, too, Cummings says it's regrettable they had to endure what led up to their sanctuary.
"None of this would have happened," she says, "if it were illegal to ship chickens in the mail."
Find out more about these little babies and Poplar Spring's hundreds of other rescued farm animals on the sanctuary's Facebook page. If you're in the D.C. area, stop by Poplar Spring's annual Thanksgiving with the Turkeys on Nov. 22. The vegan feast allows the sanctuary's rescued turkeys to eat first!
In the market for a pet chicken? There are lots of chickens up for adoption.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an animal story to share.