Tractor Supply Employee Exposes the Company’s Cruelty to Chicks and Ducklings as a Matter of Policy and Practice
Learning about our campaign to get Tractor Supply Company, with close to 2000 stores nationwide, to stop selling baby chicks and ducklings, an employee at a store in Washington State contacted United Poultry Concerns about Tractor Supply’s inhumane policies and practices toward these birds.
“Instead of the warmth and comfort of their mother, they cower together in a transparent plastic tray, standing on a cold metal grate.”
Please read her statement denouncing Tractor Supply Company’s
mistreatment of the birds, and what you can do to help them.
– United Poultry Concerns
My Statement Regarding Tractor Supply Company
“Yes, Chick Days are annual and are expected to last another couple months. We still have many birds. I was told by a coworker that 32 ducklings died last shipment, only three survived.” – Tractor Supply employee to United Poultry Concerns, April 13, 2021
To whom it may concern,
I have been an employee at Tractor Supply Company for almost a year. I was hired because I love animals and am knowledgeable about them. I was happy working for the company until recent months when we started our Chick Days promotion. Please read my Statement below to understand why.
Birds on the Sales Floor
My first day working “Chick Days” this year I was scheduled at 7am. I arrived to find all of the birds cold, huddling in piles. The ducklings were completely out of water. I asked my manager on duty why there was not any water and he looked at me pained and explained that they had been out every morning since the promotion started. He had felt bad for them, but the way the displays are designed it is impossible to provide sufficient water for ducklings. When I refilled the water, the ducklings were climbing all over each other desperately trying to get to the water. The smallest and weakest one even ended up in the water trough because the other ducklings were pushing so hard.
The following mornings the birds were always huddled up together because the new nationwide brooder/heater lamps inside are not warm enough for baby birds. These are flat, panel-type heaters, and never once did I touch them and feel sufficient heat coming off of them on either setting. The displays are also difficult to keep clean so the birds were often lying in their own excrement. Instead of the warmth and comfort of their mother, they cower together in a transparent plastic tray, standing on a cold metal grate.
Since then, the Tractor Supply Company has received many customer complaints about the new brooder displays. Our location has since pulled them off the floor and is using a classic galvanized trough with brooder lamp instead. I am not sure if all locations have made this change or not. These default environments are better for the birds than the initial displays; however, many birds still die on the sales floor. Many customers, their children and their dogs walk up to the displays to see the birds. As a result the birds are subjected to loud noises, heavy foot traffic past their enclosures and frequent predator scares. While these enclosures are easier to clean and maintain, the employees still do not clean them frequently enough and the birds often live in their own excrement.
When the birds arrive at the post office our manager is contacted to go pick them up. These newborns are shipped across the country from the East Coast/Midwest (we are located in WA state). Our first shipment was delayed because of the winter storms. Many of the birds showed up dead or died shortly after. This continues even as the weather warms. Shipping live birds is detrimental to their health, especially paired with the lack of care they receive at arrival.
Our inventory sheets are telling of TSC’s attitude toward the chicks themselves. The dead birds are written off as “junk” by the receiver. They are put in plastic bags and thrown in the dumpster like any other defective object we sell. I have pictures of some of the inventory sheets to give an example of how this is done. On a shipment day, we can see 30 or more dead birds. On a regular sales day I have seen around 20 of varied breeds listed.
Perhaps the saddest part is that we are not alone. I was told by a customer that they had to come to us because our neighboring feed store lost thousands of birds in a shipment because the US Postal Service left them in a truck overnight in freezing temperatures.
Employee Emotional Strain
Just about every employee I have spoken with at TSC has told me that they do not feel good about selling the birds. Both my management team and my fellow team members have expressed concern at the lack of care these birds receive. There is no veterinary recourse for sick animals, and the employees often feel powerless and saddened.
We are told to take sick birds off the floor and put them in the back under a heat lamp in a tank to die. This causes unnecessary prolonged suffering. Employees are not properly trained to handle healthy animals, much less the sick and dying ones. I and my fellow teammates have been told of a training video for these birds, but none of us have been directed to watch it. The store is perpetually understaffed, and managers cannot afford for their employees to spend time off the sales floor. Therefore, proper training is not possible.
When I asked a former employee how many birds died per shipment in the previous year’s sales, they replied “Sometimes it was all of them. I would cry like every day.”
Another employee told me, “Every single time I have to bring a bird to the back who’s dead or about to die, it breaks my heart. I hate that s****. I had to explain to a little girl the other day, who was crying, that we were taking the chick to the back to get better in our ‘little hospital,’ and that most of them ‘get better’. . . but they don’t.”
Employee and Customer Health
Outside of the ethical questions I have regarding the mistreatment of the birds, I also believe it is incredibly irresponsible to be selling salmonella-carrying creatures during a devastating salmonella outbreak. While the CDC has linked this mostly to the wild bird population, we do know that songbirds often share space and water supplies with backyard chickens. This outbreak has spread to people in my state and 8 others. People are being hospitalized. Tractor Supply is not being transparent about this with the public. We do not have information sheets on how to protect yourself from salmonella exposure or signage alerting the risks involved in handling the birds.
I hope that this information encourages people to boycott Chick Days and inspires people to contact Tractor Supply corporate offices and urge them to stop selling birds. I have given my notice with the company, as I cannot be around this kind of suffering or mentality any longer. Please share this information. I would prefer you do not use my real name until I have officially left the company. I have videos, pictures and other documents upon request.
Anonymous for now.
April 9, 2021
Watch Video Denouncing “Tractor Supply’s AWFUL New Brooders”: www.upc-online.org/tractorsupplyvideo
Urge Tractor Supply and other farm stores that sell these baby animals to stop. They are knowingly contributing to the suffering and death of countless creatures. They do not even provide proper care for them in their own stores. Like the customers they sell to, most store employees do not know, for example, that motherless baby animals need dark, quiet places to shelter in, and that being subjected to constant light and noise causes them great suffering and weakens their immune systems.
Sign and share our Change.org petition to Tractor Supply, which includes direct contact information for the company CEO Hal Lawton. www.change.org/tractorsupply
Contact Mr. Lawton and tell him what you saw at your local store. Tell him the situation is inhumane and that you will not shop at Tractor Supply until it is rectified.
Speak to the local store manager and urge that the store provide proper bedding, sheltered resting areas and other comforts for these suffering chicks and ducklings.
Post a comment. Each Tractor Supply store appears to have its own local Facebook page where it is advertising baby birds for sale.
Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper(s) about this inhumane situation.
Alert your local humane society and urge them to intervene with the local Tractor Supply to help these birds.
Please print out and distribute “Are All Your Ducks In a Row? Did You Know?”
(www.upc-online.org/ducksinarow) to libraries and elsewhere, including shopping centers and retailers like Tractor Supply, where baby animals are sold at Easter. Those not sold are trashed. There is nothing cute, cuddly or kind about the business of “Easter” ducklings, chicks, rabbits, and baby geese.
Hal Lawton, CEO
5401 Virginia Way
Brentwood, TN 37027
Phone: 615-440-4600 extension 4601 it will go to voice mail