Animal Rights

Tofu the Chicken: Shipped Through the Mail, Abandoned at a Post Office, Now Thriving at Sanctuary (Video)

A compassionate postal worker rescued tiny Tofu in the nick of time.

Few things can bring a smile to our faces quite as fast as the mention of our good friend and longtime Farm Sanctuary resident, Tofu Chicken. Tofu’s name not only makes us think of an ingredient featured in many compassionate meals, it also reminds us how big a difference we can make in the lives of others when we choose to put compassion first.

Beautiful Tofu enjoying a day in the pasture.

Tofu’s journey to Farm Sanctuary is a story of survival, resilience and joy. She’s a Jersey giant, a breed favored by backyard hobbyists who wish to raise chickens at home for eggs or meat. While some people opt to keep backyard flocks because they view it as a more humane option than purchasing eggs or meat from birds raised on factory farms, the sad reality is that suffering is part of the lives of many backyard chickens too.

Most chickens who live in backyard flocks start their lives in hatcheries that operate like warehouses for baby birds. The journey from the hatchery to their eventual destination involves a hazardous and terrifying journey through the mail, either shipped directly from the hatchery to the buyer, or to stores where they will be resold to the public. They are shipped as tiny, day-old chicks without food or water and with little protection from the elements. The trip is traumatic, and sadly, some chicks don’t survive it.

Hatchery chicks are commonly mailed in boxes such as this one.

Tofu’s story began this way. In 2005, a box labeled as containing 100 Jersey giant chicks was shipped from a hatchery. But they never reached their destination; the intended recipient failed to pick them up from the post office, and as the chicks sat waiting, many of them died. 

Some of the surviving chicks from Tofu’s group.

By the time a compassionate postal worker intervened to help the babies, only 55 chicks were still alive. Of those 55, 27 were actually young roosters, not hens at all. It’s a common industry practice for commercial hatcheries to include male chicks as packing material to protect the more financially valuable young hens on their journey. So these young roosters hadn’t been noted on the packing label, but they did count among the survivors. This means that, out of the 100 female chicks noted on the label, only 28 had survived.

Young Tofu (grooming herself at right) with some of her friends.

Tofu was among these survivors, and we were grateful to welcome her to our New York Shelter, where she recovered from her ordeal and went on to thrive in her new sanctuary home. 

Tofu as a young hen, exploring her sanctuary home.

For nearly 12 years, this special hen has brought so much joy to all who know her. To this day, she remains spunky and full of life.

Tofu still loves to explore; there's something interesting around every corner.

Tofu is a beloved member of her flock, and spends her days roaming our turkey-barn pasture with her friends, particularly fellow hens Gertrude, Gobi and Clementine. She’s a happy girl who loves life, and she serves as an incredible ambassador for countless chickens just like her.

Tofu enjoying a beautiful day.

Had Tofu reached her original destination, it’s extremely unlikely she would have lived as long as she has here at Farm Sanctuary. While birds in backyard flocks may enjoy more space and individualized care than their counterparts on factory farms, they are still often killed at just a fraction of their natural lifespan, when their egg-laying declines and they are no longer considered to be of use. Had the chicks’ purchaser picked them up at the post office and raised them at home, it’s likely that Tofu would have lived only a few years, rather than the long and fulfilling life she has enjoyed at sanctuary.

Tofu relaxing in the pasture.

Please share Tofu’s story. Together, we can encourage awareness and understanding about the impressive intelligence and rich emotional lives of chickens like her! With your support, we can continue to promote farm animal-friendly living through rescueeducation and advocacy efforts. A compassionate world begins with you.

Susie Coston is the National Shelter Director at Farm Sanctuary, America's largest farm animal rescue organization. She leads Farm Sanctuary’s annual Farm Animal Care Conference.