Kaporos Chicken Rescue Report 2022

By Jill Carnegie, Rescue Team Coordinator for
the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos

Freezing rain passed through New York City the last few days of the ritual in October. After the first temperature drop, rescuers arrived at sites of some of the most extraordinary mass suffering we have seen in the crates. In one afternoon, we witnessed no fewer than 4,000 baby chickens intensely shivering, blue, soaked, all dying together with no reprieve. Many were having seizures as their organs shut down. Pleas with NYPD and Kaporos site managers yielded no result to help these chickens.

The Official Kaporos Rescue Team faced a massive first-time obstacle as well as the closing of a significant chapter for 2022 Kaporos. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been sweeping the United States since the start of 2022, meaning we would have to implement complicated additional biosecurity protocols at our triage hospital and with our fosters. We also received word that the home to our triage hospital since 2019, The Muse Brooklyn, lost their last appeal with their landlord, and on December 12th would be vacating the incredible space they had so generously provided to us.

The complications with avian flu impacted every stage of our rescue. The responsible homes in our networks were having to house their birds differently, which reduced capacity and therefore would drastically lower our placement numbers. The incubation period for the virus in chickens is 14 days; therefore, on top of testing, we needed to foster the birds for the full incubation period in biosecure spaces separate from any other domestic birds for two weeks in order to protect their final homes from possible infection.

Finally, because the rescue team takes in birds throughout the ritual week (starting early October in 2022), we had to maintain separate quarantines in entirely separate fosters - this is a huge added burden, but necessary to safeguard as many birds as we could. Due to the need for more separate foster spaces than usual, the Official Kaporos Rescue fostered a flock of 92 birds at The Muse during the full week of rescue! This kept space open at other trusted spaces for the more sickly birds who tend to be rescued as the week progresses. As you might imagine, this was significant added work for the rescue team and a few additional volunteers since we were not only responsible for triage and transport to fosters, but also now caring for nearly 100 birds WHILE continuing rescue operations.

In order to keep that first large flock safe, we would keep them in a protected aviary outside during the day, and then we had a sanitary pen for them inside a large predator-proof shipping container overnight, all in the backyard of The Muse Brooklyn. Volunteer rescuers and helpers would move the birds daily, clean their areas, and feed twice daily with consistently refreshed medicated water. Booties, coveralls, changes of clothing, gloves, and the like were used consistently to maintain the integrity of the flock’s quarantine.

Each day, rescuers who brought in new birds were not allowed to touch the quarantine flock, and the carers of the flock couldn’t handle the new intake. As complicated as this was, everyone on the team was mindful and dedicated to the birds’ safety. Each day, new rescues would go to an experienced foster home on Long Island.

There was a surprise in store, however, as freezing rain passed through New York City the last few days of the ritual. After the first temperature drop, activists and rescuers arrived at sites of some of the most extraordinary mass suffering we have seen in the crates. In one afternoon, we witnessed no fewer than 4,000 baby chickens intensely shivering, blue, soaked, all dying together with no reprieve. Many were having seizures as their organs shut down. Pleas with NYPD and Kaporos site managers yielded no result to help these chickens. One could see them huddled together, many spreading their soaked and freezing wings over the others in a futile attempt to warm them. Babies trying so desperately to protect babies. It was haunting and we all felt a new level of helplessness. That day, we did manage to liberate 12 birds and of course many more the following days. But the sight of this added layer of excruciating torture will haunt everyone who saw it forever.

Photo by Sentient Animal Alliance

The rescue team started to carry larger numbers of pre-loaded syringes of steroid due to the higher number of live birds we were finding in “dead crates.” When Cornish-cross chickens start to shut down from low temperatures, they very nearly cease to breathe and their cold pale skin makes workers assume they’ve died when in fact they haven’t. Rescuers are experienced in looking for lesser-known signs of life, and as we identified living birds, we could inject them on the spot with steroid to help revive them long enough to get them to our ambulance and hospital. With this process, we experienced only one fatality from exposure at our triage which is nothing short of a miracle given the exposure these birds had faced.

The final night of ritual, our ambulance was parked and turned on with the heat full blast. As Kaporos workers tossed birds they thought were dead under the transport trucks, rescuers identified anyone alive, injected steroid, and rushed them to the ambulance. Viola Agostini of Tamerlaine Sanctuary single-handedly revived 12 birds initially thought dead by Kaporos workers. After she and her birds got to the hospital, rescuer Michael Dolling took over the ambulance where he single-handedly revived another 9 birds. Few people are aware of our use of a stocked ambulance near Kaporos sites because we keep their locations secret to avoid sabotage by the Kaporos practitioners.

Photo by We Animals Media; Molly Condit
Photo by We Animals Media; Molly Condit

For years we have kept a vehicle fully stocked with medications and supplies to stabilize birds on the spot, staffed with one or two experienced caretakers on their own quietly working inside to save lives. This practice has undoubtedly been responsible for saving hundreds of lives over the years, lives that might have been lost en route to our triage hospital.

Sunrise after the final night is always the most fraught day of rescue. This is the day where rescuers dive into dumpsters, crawl under slaughter tables and transport trucks, and use all of their negotiating power to rescuer survivors of Kaporos week. We did receive one bird who had survived a slit throat, but who sadly died.

On the final day, we had another first: three veterinarians joined our triage hospital in a volunteer capacity. No one is better at triaging Cornish-cross chickens than our long-standing volunteer rescuers. But of course, having veterinarians now involved is wonderful for new access to controlled medications, catheter insertion when needed, and emergency stitches if required. They are committed to continuing to work with us, and so 2022 has brought unprecedented growth to our hospital team!

Throughout the week, we observed that the Department of Agriculture completely ignored the Kaporos sites and provided no intervention to prevent the spread of avian flu. Even though we all are aware that the vast majority of birds are discarded in the trash and not eaten, a small proportion of the bodies ARE prepared for consumption by humans. Supposedly that flesh is donated to food kitchens. With no biosecurity measures in place, the risk of potentially feeding a person HPAI-infected flesh was extremely high. The irresponsibility of local, state, and federal government when it comes to this practice knows no bounds.

Thanks to our veterinary volunteers and The Wild Bird Fund, we were able to test our flocks for avian flu. Our rescue team is filled with caregivers to Cornish-cross chickens who were able to ensure we maintained every precaution. As a result of these measures, we are proud to say that we had not one single positive HPAI case out of our 238 total rescued Kaporos survivors this year.

We express our deepest gratitude to The Muse Brooklyn for their generosity and support over the years. We will miss them and the space they opened to us so much. They, too, are responsible for the saving of over 1,000 lives since 2019.

Thank you to the incredible donors who continue to enable the work of the Official Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos Rescue Team! Especially this year, we appreciate the understanding of our increased expenses relative to the number of birds rescued; due to the foster set-ups and increased time, as well as cost increases for transport, this rescue could not have happened without every donation.

With avian flu showing no signs of going away, and with the now increased involvement of our veterinary contacts, a lot of what we witnessed, documented, and learned in the 2022 Kaporos Rescue will be informing campaign strategy moving forward. Please stay tuned for more information on what the future holds for the Kaporos birds and our fight to end the use of birds for this hellish ritual.

The total financials for the 2022 Kaporos rescues are:

Triage/Foster Total: $5,628.48
Transport Total: $7,005.08
Sanctuary Support Total: $3,250
Medical Total: $13,120.21
Grand Total, Expenses: $29,003.77

Total Raised: $32,051
2022 surplus: $3,047.23

Special thanks to:

  • Tamerlaine Sanctuary and Preserve, triage and rescue partner

  • Uncle Neil’s Home, rescue and foster

  • They All Want to Live, foster

  • Jessica Chiarello, foster

  • VINE Sanctuary, foster

  • Herd and Flock Sanctuary, West Coast foster

  • Tikkun Olam Farm Sanctuary, West coast placement partner

  • Dawn Ladd, foster and triage

  • The Muse Brooklyn, home to our triage hospital

  • All of our incomparable transport drivers, integral members of the rescue team, and the volunteers who were indispensable helping to set up and break down our triage hospital and to care for the flock of birds we fostered before taking them to their new, loving homes.

Photo by Jenni Poole