Philadelphia animal lovers were shocked back in September when more than a thousand shivering chicks were found by the PSPCA clinging to life in a vacant lot in Olney. But there's a happy ending — the PSPCA announced this week that all 1,135 of the baby Cornish Cross chickens now have brand new homes at sanctuaries and farms across the country, thanks in large part to efforts by Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in Northeastern Pa.
“When we first took on this task, it seemed impossible, but now have placed ALL of these birds," PSPCA CEO Julia Klim said in a statement.
The chicks were discovered in September, living in unsafe conditions that could easily have proven fatal for all of them. The PSPCA's Humane Law Enforcement, responding to tips of a massive group of chicks in the city, went to Olney to investigate. On a vacant lot on the 5500 block of Whitaker Avenue, just north of Roosevelt Boulevard, they found hundreds of baby chicks living inside an ad hoc shelter constructed of wood, chicken wire and a bit of tarp.
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Some of the 1,135 chicks are seen just after they were rescued by PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement. (Courtesy of PSPCA)
A veteran PSPCA officer said he'd never seen a discovery of so many chickens. And the structure lacked the insulation necessary to keep the baby chicks at a temperature of 95 degrees, which they require to survive through babyhood.
The PSPCA had to bring all the chicks to its Erie Avenue headquarters for urgent care, food and water, with help from staff and volunteers at the nearby Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, based in Mehoopany, in Wyoming County.
While it looked nearly impossible at the time, three months later, every last one is now thriving and growing into adult chickens – adopted out to a range of individuals as well as to 14 animal sanctuaries in seven states across the country, including Florida, New Jersey and Washington state.
“We are extraordinarily grateful for the compassion and exceptional care the PSPCA has shown its more than 1,100 feathered guests over the past several months,” said Indra Lahiri, founder of Indraloka sanctuary, in a statement. “We thank the individuals and 14 sanctuaries who’ve so generously accepted to give homes to these lovely birds.”
One of the rescued chicks is seen in its new home. (Provided)
The chicks, all Cornish Cross chickens, were forfeited by their original owner soon after the Sept. 15 discovery. The owner returned to the lot while the PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement team was on-scene and explained that he had bought the chicks to start an impromptu farm and begin a poultry business.
But the individual, who has not been publicly identified, had no license for any such agricultural activity. The lot, while vacant, was owned by a neighboring business. As noted above, the ad hoc chicken coop was utterly insufficient for the needs of chicks. And the individual in question further admitted that he originally had a batch of 2,500 chicks – and lost more than 1,000 of them, due to transportation and inadequate housing. (The PSPCA later charged the chicks' owner with a summary count of animal cruelty for ill-treating the chicks in question.)
"He had done some research on occupying vacant lots, and that was the impetus behind this incident," PSPCA Director of Humane Law Enforcement Nicole Wilson told Metro in September. "His thought was that he would find a piece of land, lay claim to that piece of land, clean off the land, and then put up this make-shift structure. ... You can't quite imagine the thought process that makes someone think this was a good plan of action. He really thought he was going to start this small farming operation in the middle of the city."
The growing cornish chickens are seen making new friends with some geese in one of their new homes. (Provided)
After the chicks were rescued, Indraloka began efforts to find them all new homes. They held two free workshops in October 2018 "to teach interested adopters about how to properly care for the chickens," they said, while fundraising for grants that would support sanctuaries who took the chickens. Ultimately, the chicks went to a range of individuals and sanctuaries. Five sanctuaries in Pennsylvania adopted chicks, including: Indraloka; Ashburn’s Animals, Selinsgrove, Pa.; Happy Heart-Happy Home Farm and Rescue, Glen Mills; Logan’s Heroes, Greenville; Misfit Manor, Pottstown; and Lancaster Farm Sanctuary, Lancaster. The largest single-home adoption was made by Sasha Farm Sanctuary in Michigan, which took 128 of the birds.
A growing cornish chicken is seen making friends with a dog in one of their new homes. (Provided)
“We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from adopters and sanctuaries across the country, led by the partnership of Indraloka Animal Sanctuary,” Klim said.
While in Philly, it is technically illegal for residents to keep chickens at their homes, the city has a thriving subculture of 'backyard chicken' farmers who keep their personal poultry in backyard coops. Some have even gone to court and successfully beat city fines levied by civil authorities for having chickens living at home. But some businesses, like J&B Poultry in South Philadelphia, have been slapped with harsher fines and even criminal charges for animal cruelty at sites where live chickens and other animals are raised for slaughter.
The PSPCA, a 100 percent donor-funded animal welfare organization, asks anyone with information animal cruelty, to contact their anonymous Animal Cruelty Hotline at (866) 601-SPCA.