**Please be aware some pictures in this post may upset you.**
I tend to not order birds. Before this year I have gone in on an order with someone once, otherwise, I get the birds from the feed store or breed them myself. This year, however, we wanted to start with meat birds, which meant we needed meat birds.
I went ahead and placed an order for 16 meat birds for our first round. I was excited to get started and was anxiously awaiting their ship date. They shipped just last week on April 6th. I was told by the hatchery that although the post office has been having some delays it would not affect live animals and my birds would show up within 72 hours. So I waited, patiently checking the tracking every day multiple times. The first day after being shipped the birds were in transit for most of the day. The second day they were in St. Paul, MN all day until day 3 when they were just in transit all day. The morning of day 4 (well over the 72-hour time frame), we finally got the call. Your birds are in please come and pick them up at the post office.
I jumped in the car and got there as fast as I could. Waited in line, and was brought my birds with an “I am sorry mam’ it seems a few have died.” I was not surprised as it had been over 72 hours. I raced them home, we opened the box only to be completely taken aback by the actual conditions in the box. There were not a few birds dead there were 7! The box had contained a total of 17 birds (you get a free surprise bird with your order) and 7 had died. The sight was horrendous. Not only were the babies dead, but seeing as the package took longer to get to us, they were also stomped on and squished down, some even with their skin torn.
Within the first few hours after getting them in the brooder near food and water we lost another. We had been checking on them every hour, ensuring they were getting water and that the temperature was warm enough, yet we still lost one almost right away. After checking on them multiple times and seeing them moving about and drinking we thought maybe the nightmare was over. We were wrong. Fast forward to the next morning, my husband went to check on them and found 6 more dead! If you have been counting that now left us with 3 birds out of 17. The horror was not over. Of those three left 2 more seemed questionable, we continued to be sure they were getting fluids and were near their food.
Before the day was over we lost the 2 that were questionable. So now we have One bird. One poor little guy alone in his brooder that we are just hoping makes it. He has been walking around, grooming himself, drinking water, yet still, I keep holding my breath while on the way to check on him. We did go ahead and name him Hulk since he survived such a bad first week. I am planning on keeping him now so that we can use him to breed our own meat flock.
So who is to blame? How much of this could have been prevented? We did what we were supposed to when getting new birds. I hydrated them, made sure the water had vitamins, electrolytes, and probiotics. We checked on them often, but still, they died. I feel angry at the hatchery for leading me to believe that even with delays in the postal system right now that it would not affect the delivery of my birds. I feel angry at the post office not doing a better job of ensuring a package labeled Live Animals, was not handled with more care and priority. I feel angry at the whole situation.
Although these birds were meant to eventually be culled for meat, I never wanted their lives to be a scene from a horror film. We try our very best to raise our animals in the most natural and healthy way possible, so to have this happen was devastating. This whole experience has changed our view on how we will be getting our meat birds from now on. I will not be ordering birds until the post office is delivering packages more consistently. Instead, we are trying to find a local meat bird source to obtain enough birds to breed our own, this way we will be with our birds from day one.
*Please note this is our experience, you or others you know may have had a great experience using a hatchery. I wanted to be sure however that my experience was shared so that you can be aware of what the worst may look like.