Fowl Abandonment

Every year, Humane Long Island rescues hundreds of domestic ducks, roosters, and other fowl cruelly and illegally abandoned to the wild on Long Island, often following school hatching projects or Easter photoshoots. They suffer from frostbite, fungal and bacterial infections, and are riddled with parasites. Their abandonment may also disrupt natural ecosystems and spread disease to native species. Not only is fowl abandonment cruel, but it’s illegal.

New York AgricULTURE & Markets Law § 355— Abandonment of animals

A person being the owner or possessor, or having charge or custody of an animal, who abandons such animal, or leaves it to die in a street, road or public place, or who allows such animal, if it become disabled, to lie in a public street, road or public place more than three hours after he receives notice that it is left disabled, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by both.

Duck Dumping

Who are domestic ducks and where do they come from?

Just like our companion and farmed animals, domestic ducks were domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. Years of selective breeding have produced animals vastly different from their wild counterparts, both physiologically and psychologically, just like dogs and wolves. Bred for either egg or meat production, domestic ducks have tiny wings, large bodies and generally no camouflage. They typically cannot fly, and they can never migrateliterally sitting ducks for predators and cruel people when abandoned to the wild.  

Domestic ducks are as different from wild ducks as a house cat is from a tiger. 

Domestic ducks also lack the survival instincts of wild birds; many were raised in incubators and never learned even limited skills from their mother. When abandoned on ponds, they do not know how to forage for naturally occurring food and often starve to death. They are routinely attacked and killed by predators, including raccoons, foxes, snapping turtles, and cruel humans. Most die within the first few days of being dumped. If they make it until winter, they face diminishing natural food sources and frozen ponds and cannot migrate to find water. These abandoned animals often become frozen in place on the ice. Those who don’t freeze to death, die of dehydration or starvation, or are rounded up and gassed by private exterminators or USDA’s Wildlife Services.

Harry was one of nearly 100 domestic ducks Humane Long Island rescued from Baldwin Harbor between 2020 and 2021.

When we found her, Harry was suffering from a bacterial eye infection as well as wry neck, niacin deficiency, and angel winga trifecta of developmental disabilities. After several months of successful rehabilitation, Harry found her forever home with one of our board members in Virginia until she passed away peacefully a year later due to complications from her initial neglect.

‘Invasive’ species may spread disease, Pollute waterways, and disrupt local ecosystems.

When introduced into nature, non-native species disrupt natural ecosystems, which rely on the migratory behavior of wild ducks and geese and the natural recovery period that comes with their absence. As domestic waterfowl eat not only the roughage of plants but their entire root structure, native plants are particularly at risk from starving ducks who eat voraciously trying futilely to meet the calories they need to survive once abandoned.

Domestic waterfowl can also spread disease to native species, including HPAI, West Nile Virus, E. Coli, and Salmonella. Should these domestic ducks and geese breed with wild birds, their offspring will likely be flightless as well, further disrupting the ecosystem and exposing the young to the same dangers as their domestic parent. The National Park Service has noted that “threats from invasive species play a critical part in [the] loss of native biodiversity,” and recognizes that invasive species frequently “start out as pets.”  

The curious case of Muscovy ducks

Only two species of ducks have been domesticated: the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata). Mallard varieties, include Pekins, Runners, and most domestic varieties, while Muscovys are distinguished by their red masks (called caruncles).  

While domestic Muscovy ducks are generally better flyers than domestic Mallards, they similarly cannot migrate. Being native to South and Central America, they may suffer hypothermia and loss of extremities to frostbite when abandoned in the United States and Canada and are often rounded up and killed when abandoned in warmer states where they’re labeled “invasive.” 

Desertion of Chickens, Peafowl, and other domestics


With the public becoming increasingly concerned with conditions on factory farms and the price of meat and eggs soaring as farms “depopulate” birds to minimize losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak, suburbanites have been “panic-buying” chicks like they did toilet paper, resulting in a drastic increase in their need for rescue. 

Most people may be surprised to learn that red jungle fowl —the wild variety chickens have been bred from — weigh little more than a pound and naturally lay only about ten to fifteen eggs a year in a single clutch. Like domestic ducks, chickens have been inbred for thousands of years to rid them of wild instincts and flight capability while also giving them characteristics detrimental to their health but favorable to the agribusiness industry. 

Chickens raised for their flesh, called “broilers” by the chicken industry, are prone to morbid obesity, while hens raised for their eggs, called “layers”, typically lay more than 300 eggs in a single year, and the stress on their reproductive systems is often fatal.

Chickens can live to be more than ten years old, however, with medical treatment exceeding the cost of an egg, many chickens are left to languish when their egg production slows after the first two years and some are even abandoned to public parks and sumps where they succumb to predators or the elements. With most buyers not realizing that chicks won’t be mature enough to lay eggs for six months after purchase, some hens are abandoned before they even lay a single egg.

Chickens are Native to Southern Asia, not North America.

Red jungle fowl — the wild variety chickens have been bred from — are native to Southern Asia and India. They weigh little more than a pound and naturally lay about 10 to 15 eggs a year in single clutch. Domestic chickens — many of whom have tiny wings incapable of flight and tiny spurs incapable of fighting off predators — lack adequate feathering to survive Northern climates and cannot defend themselves against native predators when abandoned to the wild. 


Roosters are excellent husbands and fathers, keeping a watchful eye over their families and defending them against perceived aggressors. Unfortunately, their protective nature is often misunderstood, and this combined with the fact they cannot lay eggs, causes roosters to often be abandoned as soon as their gender is revealed. This issue is compounded by their crowing, which makes them unwelcome in most urban — and even many suburban — environments. 

While roosters are doting and fierce protectors of their flock, domestic chickens like domestic ducks have been bred to have large bodies and small wings, and most are unable to fly away from predators. In most cases, large spurs have also been bred out of them, taking away their last line of defenses as well. 

Like Chickens, Peafowl and pheasants are native to asia. Guineafowl are native to Africa.

Purchased either as yard ornaments or tick-control, peafowl, pheasants, and guineafowl are often released to gardens without proper housing or care. Their loud squawks and tendency to scratch cars may lead angry neighbors to kill them and in some areas they have been subjected to lethal roundups by private exterminators or USDA Wildlife Services.

Even if left alone, these birds often succumb to the elements, are hit by cars, or die from parasites from which they have no natural immunity. The female pheasant pictured above was rescued in Babylon after being abandoned with serious fungal and bacterial infections. She unfortunately succumbed to her illness after a month in intensive care.

What Humane Long Island is Doing to Help

Direct REscue & International Duck Defenders Program

Humane Long Island has directly rescued thousands of domestic fowl—waterfowl, chickens, turkeys, peafowl, and more—from abandonment, slaughter, and other cruelties in the northeast United States.

Today, our focus is on strategic campaigns—in order to save the most animals possible—and sharing our expertise through major media and our international Duck Defenders program—as seen in National Geographic, The New York Times, and People. 

If you need help resolving a waterfowl issue in your community, Duck Defenders can help. Please note—while we still assist large-scale rescue operations, we are not an animal sanctuary, and our fosters are typically filled with critical-need birds; so please be prepared to do some legwork after consulting with us.

If you spot a domestic duck or other abandoned domestic animal, never leave them alone. By the time a rescue group arrives, it may be too late—as it was for the mama duck pictured above.

After this image was posted in an international pigeon rescue group, HumaneLI’s Duck Defenders program walked the duckling’s finder through the rescue, supplied her with everything she needed to foster, and found the duckling a wonderful home with a pond, friends, and predator-proof housing less than an hour away. 

If you find domestic fowl abandoned on Long Island or New York City or a domestic duck anywhere in the US, stay with the animal and contact us at 516-592-3722. For other domestic animals, please call your local shelter or SPCA. Most importantly, do not leave the animal until help arrives. 

Investigating Poultry Suppliers

Humane Long Island conducts independent investigations and aids law enforcement in sting operations to bust poultry stores selling day-old baby chicks in quantities less than allowable by law. 

In 2022, our investigation of The Barn Pet Feed & Supplies was featured on Inside Edition. In 2023, the Suffolk County DA’s Office charged Long Island Poultry; Raleigh’s Poultry Farm, Inc.; and Agway of Port Jeff with misdemeanors. 

Connecting homes with Rescues

A dog and cat shelter that bought puppies from a puppy mill or cats from a pet store would not be considered a rescue organization. Likewise, it is not rescue to purchase ducklings from hatcheries or spent hens from egg farms. This only puts money into the pockets of animal abusers so they can abuse more animals. 

Doing business with poultry stores and hatcheries encourages them to continue to breed, buy, and hurt fowl. Similarly, rescue groups are only able to save as many animals as their space allows, so breeding them yourself when so many are in need of homes is irresponsible. The only ethical way to obtain fowl is to adopt them from animal shelters or rescue organizations that have the birds’ best interests at heart. 

Humane Long Island's Duck defenders program offers a $1,000 Bounty on duck dumpers

Not only is animal abandonment cruel, but it’s illegal. Duck Defenders will pay you up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction on cruelty charges of anyone who abandons a domestic duck or other species of poultry. This offer applies to ducks throughout North America and is extended to all domestic fowl from Manhattan to Montauk.