Trump's USPS sabotage is killing thousands of chicks — and chicken farmers' livelihoods

Trump's USPS sabotage is killing thousands of chicks — and chicken farmers' livelihoods
Image via Shutterstock.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) sabotage of Donald Trump's lackey, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, intended to help secure Trump’s reelection by preventing vote-by-mail, has resulted in at least 4,800 chicks that were shipped to farmers in Maine and New Hampshire arriving dead. Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree raised the alarm in letters to DeJoy and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. It's costing chicken farmers like Pauline Henderson, who owns and operates pine Tree Poultry, thousands of dollars.

She received 800 dead chicks last week, sent from a hatchery in Pennsylvania. “We’ve never had a problem like this before,” said Henderson. “Usually they arrive every three weeks like clockwork,” she said Wednesday. “And out of 100 birds you may have one or two that die in shipping.” The birds came as on schedule, but apparent mishandling in the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts processing center killed thousands of the chicks headed for farms and backyard chicken keepers in Maine and New Hampshire.

“It’s one more of the consequences of this disorganization, this sort of chaos they’ve created at the post office and nobody thought through when they were thinking of slowing down the mail,” Pingree said. “And can you imagine, you have young kids and they are getting all excited about having a backyard flock and you go to the post office and that’s what you find?” Henderson says each bird can be worth as much as $32, depending on how she sells it—whole, processed into parts, or used in chicken pot pies her operation sells. After a previous incident with a high number of dead chicks arriving in the mail, she tried having one of their employees drive to the source in Pennsylvania to pick up the birds. That cost two days of work for that employee, about a $700 round trip, and exposed the worker to the risk of coronavirus. Henderson decided that was too expensive and risky so resorted back to the mail.

Live chicks can live for two days in transport without food and water. The Postal Service has been in the business of shipping them for over a century to farmers and hobbyists, along with other live animals like reptiles and bees. But it's chicks that are most commonly sent, and this is another indication of just how important the Postal Service is to rural Americans, as Pingree pointed out. “Rural Americans, including agricultural producers, disproportionately rely on USPS for their livelihoods, and it is essential that they receive reliable service,” Pingree said.

“Mortality losses from delays and mishandling are not only hugely problematic from an animal welfare perspective, but have also taken an emotional toll on the recipients, many of whom are families building a backyard flock or children raising birds for 4-H or Future Farmers of America (FFA) projects,” Pingree wrote. “For these families, receiving chicks in the mail is a longstanding tradition, and with family farms in America already struggling to keep younger generations engaged and interested in agriculture, these negative experiences could significantly undermine those efforts.”

“This is our livelihood, this isn’t a hobby farm,” Henderson said. “We are trying to save our livelihood.” The USPS media office for the Eastern U.S. had not responded to the reports as of Wednesday. DeJoy will be appearing before Congress both Friday in the Senate and Monday in the House, where he'll be unlikely to avoid answering questions about the slaughter.

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