MENIFEE (CBSLA) — Thieves had birds on the brain in the Inland Empire when they stuffed exotic chicks worth $2,000 up their sleeves in a bizarre heist.

Four chicks were stolen from Birds-N-Paradise in Menifee, an open-concept store where the birds are able to spread their wings and perch wherever they want. Three parrotlets and a Stella lori, valued at $2,000, were taken.

Owner Lori Lister says the thieves were a group of five people who came into the store together. Two adults distracted the employee at the register, while the kids grabbed the baby birds and stuffed them up their sleeves.

The parrotlets, in particular, are only about 4 to 5 weeks old and still require bottle-feeding four times a day, and Lister is concerned the birds won’t survive.

“This isn’t a pack of bubble gum. This isn’t a keychain. These are live animals,” Lister said.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department says they are investigating the case as grand theft.

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