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Some packages at the Sewickley post office are alive

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 8:02 a.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Kelly Jones feeds a bowl of oatmeal to her chickens at her Aleppo home Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Jones ordered her birds through the mail.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Kelly Jones watches as her chickens eat a bowl of oatmeal inside a pen at her Aleppo home Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Jones ordered her birds through the mail.

It can get noisy at the Sewickley post office.

Amid sounds of workers stamping envelopes and boxes, patrons might hear peeping, buzzing or cheeping coming from some boxes in the back.

The post office gets a variety of shipped animals, including chickens, bees and crickets.

Postmaster Anthony Manno said the Sewickley post office doesn't get as many animals as the one in Waynesburg, where he worked until a year ago.

But the local facility gets its fair share, he said.

Bees, contained in what looks like small screen doors, are routed through the post office. “They don't bother you as long as the queen is there,” post office clerk Nancy Rossi said.

Stephen Repasky said he often ships and receives bees through the mail. Most of the time, packages contain more than 10,000 bees, a queen bee and food.

A single queen bee also can be shipped.

Repasky, president of Pittsbugh-based Burgh Bees, said bees have been sent through the mail for at least 50 years, but it has become more popular thanks to the Internet and because the number of bee farmers has increased. The group works to educate people about bees.

“Problems experienced by shipping bees this way include overheating due to mishandling or the occasional package breaking open, again due to mishandling,” he said. “But, generally speaking, it's a very safe way to transport honey bees.”

While the Sewickley post office receives boxes of crickets and other creatures, Rossi said, baby chicks are the cutest.

“We hear them peeping, and we stick our fingers in the hole in the box and pet their beaks,” she said.

The post office does not keepstatistics on animals shipped, spokeswoman Cathy Yarosky said.

“Anyone who wants to mail animals through the (postal service) must call us ahead of time to let us know so that we can make sure we have flights available that will accept live animals,” she said.

Jennifer Klingbeil said she ordered chickens by mail because most local hatcheries had chicks in the spring, and she didn't want to wait.

“I simply looked Murray McMurray Hatchery up online and chose based on which breeds were available,” the Sewickley resident said.

Sewickley Heights resident Andrea Bergdoll owns 16 chickens in five varieties.

She orders some chickens through the mail, and keeps catalogs from different hatcheries.

She said she ordered by mail because she wanted varieties of birds that were in danger of becoming extinct, based on a scale through Pittsboro, N.C-based American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Bergdoll said chicks are shipped overnight a day after they hatch, with shipping costs of about $5 a bird.

She advises informing the post office that chicks are coming, and asking a worker to call when they arrive.

With eight hens and a rooster, Aleppo resident Kelly Jones is familiar with having animals shipped.

“Tell the post office to call you as soon as the chicks get there, even if it's late,” she said.

“I've been there at 3 a.m. before. The chicks are pretty delicate, and they need to be fed right away and kept quiet because they've had a long ride in the box.”

Shipping chickens might be convenient, but not all survive the ride, Jones said.

“The minimum order is usually 15, but they will put some extra in there that they know probably won't make it just to keep the body heat going,” she said.

Jones said she decided to buy mail-order chickens because she wanted an uncommon breed that she couldn't find at local hatcheries.

Over the years, she has mail-ordered “meat” chickens — which she butchers herself after about six to eight weeks — and ducks. She has ordered chicks from Craigslist, which she had sent to the Sewickley post office.

Yarosky said the post office has restrictions on animal shipments.

“There are special boxes approved for live-animal mailing that must be used,” she said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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