The chicken adoption event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, 2465 Gun Club Road, Angels Camp. Cost is $2.50 per bird, cash only, bring a carrier or crate.

What began as a raid on an illegal marijuana grow in Copperopolis soon became an animal rescue that stretched from morning to midnight rounding up 156 hens, roosters and chicks.

Calaveras County Sgt. Greg Stark said Tuesday the investigation into what such a large number of birds were doing on the property is continuing, including looking into whether the roosters were used for fighting.

Cock fighting is illegal in every state and, in California, can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.

“We’re not sure which way it’s going to go, whether they were fighting roosters, or animal neglect,” Stark said.

There were dead chickens in pens with the live ones. The animals are now the responsibility of Calaveras County Animal Services, which is also caring for 60 horses, mules and donkeys recently taken from a 50-acre Burson property.

“This is quite high,” said Evan Jacobs, manager of the county’s Animal Services. “The last time we had horses there were five and sometimes we’ll get one or two chickens.”

The chickens were rounded up on Aug. 28 on the 3000 block of Wagonwheel Drive in Copperopolis, where the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Unit uncovered 615 marijuana plants growing around the house, which was ultimately deemed uninhabitable by Code Compliance.

No one was found on site, but a Sheriff’s Office news release said “numerous items of evidence were collected.“

Stark said it was highly unusual to find that much livestock at one of the many grows his agency has raided in recent years. Usually they find guns, unknown fertilizers and dogs.

Rescuers wore heavy gloves, glasses and hats to gather the pecking birds from the pens.

A state veterinarian tested 15 of the chickens for the highly contagious Newcastle disease and none tested positive for the virus. Nevertheless, chicken rescue groups were not interested in taking them.

The hens and chicks only will be offered for adoption Friday and Saturday at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds.

Jacobs said the roosters are aggressive and not suitable for adoption.

Meanwhile, about 60 horses, mules and donkeys were found on a 50-acre property of mostly open fields in Burson in late August, malnourished and at least one near death. One of the animals was lying on the ground. The four horses in the worst shape were rescued on Aug. 27

They were taken to a veterinary office and one has since had to be euthanized. The other three are still in veterinary care, Jacobs said.

Last week, an administrative law judge ruled that the initial seizure of the horses was proper and gave authorities permission to remove the rest. More than 20 were removed last Thursday, nine more Tuesday.

Jacobs said authorities are not releasing information about where the horses are being held.

He said Animal Services is being helped in the roundup by Calaveras Consolidated Fire District and the Evacuation Teams of Amador County, which was established after the Butte Fire to help evacuate animals during wildfires and other emergencies. Many of the founders were involved in saving some 800 horses that were in the path of the fire.

The Burson horses are in varying condition and will require a lengthy recovery, Jacobs said. “Some are somewhat wild,” he said. “You can’t put halters on them.”

One of them is a mustang from Bureau of Land Management Land, Jacobs said.

No one was living at the property, and the owner lives out of the county, Jacobs said.

He said veterinarian bills and feed will run into the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. His department is accepting cash donations through the non-profit Friends of Calaveras Animal Services and has an account at Spence Ranch Feed and Seed in Angels Camp for feed. They could also use some volunteers.

“This is so overwhelming,” Jacobs said.

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