Why mail-order ducklings in Valley Stream are no quacking matter


The Easter season brings many traditional symbols and traditions — eggs, candy, bunnies, ducklings, flowers, and more. Recently, though, one of those symbols has been more of an issue than a holiday delight.

Two domestic ducklings, mailed illegally at one day old to someone’s house in Valley Stream as a prank, were rescued by Humane Long Island’s president and executive director, John Di Leonardo, a few weeks ago.

“This is the first time that we’ve heard of mail-order chicks being sent to a home in Valley Stream,” Di Leonardo said. “I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened in Valley Stream, though. We have also rescued other birds that have been abandoned there, including chickens.”

In New York, it is illegal to ship chicks and ducklings in quantities of fewer than six. Di Leonardo said there are many reasons for this restriction, mostly involving the birds’ health. He said since they normally would have their mother to keep them warm, and they’d be without a mother, they would need socialization and warmth from their flock mates. “So, oftentimes when hatcheries ship them in quantities of two, they arrive dead and frozen,” he said.

The ducklings found in Valley Stream had a piece of stale bread in the box with them, which is not sufficient for their dietary needs. Birds in such a state can end up developing nutritional deformities and developmental disabilities. Di Leonardo said they can get “angel wing,” in which their flight feathers are off to the side, prohibiting their flight. They can also suffer from a niacin deficiency, which can be crippling for them -- they wouldn’t be able to walk at all. Organ damage can also occur.

“This is just one example of a million of these baby birds being shipped illegally into New York State by hatcheries, and we have it right here in Valley Stream,” Di Leonardo said. “Within Hempstead township, we’re not even allowed to have these birds in the first place.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney announced April 5 that three businesses were charged for selling 1-day-old baby chicks in quantities fewer than six. The businesses – Long Island Poultry in Calverton, Raleigh Poultry Farm, Inc. in Kings Park, and Agway of Port Jefferson -- were all charged with misdemeanors. According to the law, any violation may result in a misdemeanor charge punishable with up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.

“This very same thing is happening with online sellers and these factory farms,” Di Leonardo said. “Many of them are testing positive for avian flu, which is a big concern right now.”

He said these animals are still being shipped illegally into New York in quantities less than allowable by law, even with the flu. A lot of these animals end up on the streets or in public parks, if they even survive being mail-ordered in the first place.

“It’s not something that is normally covered, and it’s just routine business for a lot of these hatcheries,” Di Leonardo said. “And I think the more you know, the more exposure we can get to this issue, I think the less they’ll get away with it. Maybe one day we’ll be able to get some federal laws to better protect these animals.”

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