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Bankruptcy leads to starving hens

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- A food company's bankruptcy left as many as 1 million starving chickens in Georgia and Florida, and most the birds may have to be killed because they are too emaciated or diseased to be saved.

Cypress Foods Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, left about 1.4 million egg-laying hens in southeast Georgia and central Florida without feed for as long as 10 days, agriculture officials said last week. About 1.2 million of the hens were on nine farms in southeast Georgia.

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin estimated that two-thirds of those birds -- almost 800,000 -- may be unsalvageable.

"We're getting some good cooperation, but it's still a very tedious thing to deal with," Irvin said.

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At a Cypress Foods farm near Dade City, Fla., prison inmates worked for a second day to clear an estimated 20,000 dead chickens from the open warehouse-type buildings that housed 200,000 hens.

Florida state veterinarian Leroy Coffman said if any of the birds still alive were in good enough condition they would be placed somewhere. But these were older birds, he said, and with the lack of food and amount of stress they had endured, he was not hopeful any would live.

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