Let’s face it: Easter chicks are adorable. There is something about that tiny, fluffy, peeping magical creature that just begs you to buy her and give her as a gift to someone you love. I get it. Even though the few moments of bliss to be had cuddling a baby chicken are straight-up heaven, the question begs to be asked: is it a good idea to buy a baby chicken for Easter?
This vet says probably not.
Many chicks that are purchased at Easter end up being surrendered. Local humane societies can become inundated with Easter chicks that have grown up into less cuddly adult chickens, and unfortunately, many of these chickens are put to death because there is nowhere for them to go.
If you are thinking about buying an Easter chick to keep or give as a gift as a way to celebrate the springtime solstice holiday, here is some veterinary advice to keep in mind before you make this decision.
Baby Chickens As Pets
This probably goes without saying, but a chick isn’t a toy. He or she is a living creature and deserves our respect and care. Unless you have a coop and the equipment needed to properly care for domestic fowl (which chickens are) and either have experience caring for backyard chickens or plan to get that experience, then you should not purchase a baby chicken.
If you are still considering it, before you do, it is important to investigate which breed of chicken you are thinking about purchasing. Some breeds are more aggressive towards humans and other chickens once they are grown.
There is also a chance that you might get a rooster. Although chicken producers do their best to sex the chicks, the process is not 100 percent accurate, and sometimes, rooster chicks are accidentally sold as hen chicks. What is your plan if you have a rooster (which can crow a lot, by the way) and not a hen?
It is also important to note your town’s laws about keeping chickens within city limits. Some towns require special permits, limit the number of hens, prohibit roosters or forbid chicken-keeping altogether within city limits.
Baby Chicks Have Special Care Requirements
Chickens need a coop to sleep in and lay eggs. This coop needs to be secured against foxes and raccoons, which tend to be the most common predator of backyard chickens.
Chickens need indoor and outdoor areas, and a chick needs a heat lamp. Chicks require special food that must be purchased from a tractor or ranch supply store.
Chickens can live seven to eight years, if properly cared for, so it is important to note that you are committing to care for a chicken for the life of the bird when you purchase a chick.
Chicks Can Harbor Disease
Chickens can carry bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, and can cause disease in humans. The very old, the very young, organ-transplant recipients, cancer patients, and humans with HIV are at highest risk of contracting disease from a chicken.
Bacteria is spread in feces and can also be present on feathers. It is important to always wash your hands after handling adult or baby chickens.
Dyeing Baby Chicks on Easter
Baby chickens being dyed in Easter egg colors is a new trend that has been outlawed in many areas. The idea is that baby chickens that are dyed are more appealing to the consumer. These chicks are either dyed by injecting dye into the egg before hatching, or sprayed after hatching.
There are no studies that show how this impacts the health of the bird. But you don’t need a study to know that even if some people think a baby chicken that is dyed purple looks like a fun play toy, it is not—chicks are living creatures that will need long-term care and protection.
Fun Alternatives to Easter Chicks
Even though I may have rained on your Easter chick parade, there are still many things you can do to celebrate the return of Ostara that don’t involve purchasing a baby chick.
Here are some ideas:
- Visit a local petting zoo or a baby animal nursery.
- Give a chocolate, candy or plush chicken or rabbit as Easter gifts.
- Give a birdfeeder and birdseed or a hummingbird feeder to attract and feed local wild birds.
- Give seeds or a young plant to celebrate the birth of spring.
By: Dr. Sarah Wooten
Featured Image: iStock.com/ArtMarie