A big-rig hauling live chickens crashed and caught fire along Interstate 80 in San Pablo early Thursday morning, leaving hundreds of the birds dead and forcing the closure of the westbound side of the freeway for several hours.
Animal control estimates that there were at least 1,000 chickens in cages on the flatbed truck. About half of them died, while the rest managed to survive. Of those that survived, a number seemed to be in OK condition, but a host of others were injured.
"We've never had anything to this amount of quantity, and certainly this is really sad," Capt. Jane Andreotti with Contra Costa Animal Services said.
The big-rig driver around 3:35 a.m. veered off the freeway, crashed into the San Pablo Dam Road overpass and then crossed back over the westbound lanes, slamming into the center divider. During the course of the crash, the big-rig hit a car and burst into flames.
The big-rig driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The other driver involved in the wreck was not hurt.
The California Highway Patrol does not know what caused the big-rig driver to hit the overpass, but officials do not suspect that drugs or alcohol played a role.
Pitman Farms out of Fresno owns the chickens. Officials with Pitman Farms will meet at the animal control facility in Martinez to decide what to do with the healthy survivors. Animal control said it will euthanize the birds that are suffering.
"We're going to do what we can to salvage what we can and euthanize as quickly as possibly the animals that aren't salvageable," Andreotti said.
Pitman Farms did not immediately respond to NBC Bay Area's request for comment.
The westbound direction of the freeway reopened just before 12 p.m.
NBC Bay Area's Mandela Linder contributed to this report.