Companies routinely farm out document destruction to shredding vendors. But taking “farming out” too literally caused a nursing home to ruffle a regulator’s feathers.

A report by a Canadian privacy commissioner has found that a nursing home’s contract with a chicken farm to destroy patient information violated the Health Information Protection Act.

The commissioner’s investigation incubated after the nursing home’s recycling bins served as a roost for its residents’ protected health information. This investigation revealed a contract the nursing home hatched with an undisclosed chicken farm to shred documents.

According to the contract, the chicken farm agreed “to accept full responsibility to maintain the security and confidentiality of all documents . . . and to ensure that all documents are shredded in a timely manner and in such a manner that they are irretrievable.” The contract, however, failed to specify how the chicken farm would do this, making the contract “unacceptable” to the commissioner. (That makes the contract unacceptable to us, too. Surely we would have relished the farcical details of the document-destruction-by-chicken-farm process, including the requisite pecks per page.)

The consequences of the nursing home’s arrangement with the chicken farm eventually came home to roost. Imparting hard-boiled advice to make the investigation over easily, the commissioner concluded, “I recommend that Spruce Manor Special Care Home no longer use [a] chicken farm to destroy records.”