Abandoned chicks find home at Riverhead camp

Twenty-five baby chicks found outside of a Hempstead pet store have been adopted by a Riverhead 4-H camp, which is creating a program to help children learn how to take care of them. Videojournalist: Howard Schnapp (Jan. 10, 2014)

The timing couldn't be better for more than two dozen baby chicks that were abandoned two weeks ago outside a Hempstead pet store.

The 25 surviving chicks, being cared for at Central Veterinary Associates in Valley Stream, were turned over Friday to a 4-H camp in Riverhead, which is about to start a community supportive agriculture farm.

Children who participate in programs will learn about the care and feeding of chicks, as well as the egg-laying process, said Maria Devlin, administrator of the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp. Plus, community members who buy a share in the farm will get a portion of the eggs, as well as fresh vegetables, during the 26-week growing season, she said.

Timing was good from her perspective, too, as otherwise the camp, operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County, would have had to buy chicks.

"We knew we could provide them with a good home, save them, and they can all stay together," Devlin said.

The chicks, then a week to 10 days old, were discovered Dec. 27 in a box outside Petland Discounts. Quincy Mohammed, 25, an employee there, found them -- he said he opened the store's back door to empty out water from a mop bucket when he noticed what he described as a dingy, taped-up cardboard box.

He donned gloves, opened the box and saw the 26 chicks.

During their time under care at the 24-hour animal hospital, the chicks each gained around 3 ounces, weighing in now at close to 4.5 ounces, said John Charos, the hospital's president and chief executive. Several were suffering from diarrhea resulting from stress and being out in the cold, he said, with one succumbing.

Housed in a glassed-in intensive care unit, they've grown quickly, he said, spending their time "eating, foraging, pecking," and at bedtime all hopping on one perch and lining up to sleep.

"Still fuzzy, yellow" youngsters, it's too early to tell what breed they are, said Charos. As for their origin, he said it's likely they came from the same farm or setting.

An ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

"We're hoping someone will come forward," said spokesman Gary Rogers.

As for the chicks moving on to a coop of their own, "It's wonderful," he said. With Rogers and his colleagues dealing with so much cruelty, injury and abuse, "When we see a happy ending, it makes it all worth it."

With Candice Ruud

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