Editorial: Don't buy baby chicks, ducks and make them Easter gifts

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 11:44 PM

They are awfully cute, and for some an Easter tradition. Trouble is, as cute as they are, they turn out not to be very practical as pets or possessions.

Baby chicks and ducks are as much a part of the Easter holiday as egg hunts and the Easter bunny. But please, please, do not give them as gifts. Live poultry, especially baby poultry, commonly carry Salmonella germs, state agriculture officials say. People can get Salmonella from contact with the birds or their environments. These germs can contaminate a bird’s body and anything in the area where they are displayed or housed, such as cages or coops.

In recent years, officals say, many outbreaks have been linked to handling live poultry purchased from agricultural feed stores and mail-order hatcheries. In these outbreaks thousands of people became ill, hundreds were hospitalized, and several deaths occurred.

“Even healthy-appearing chickens and ducks can carry germs that are potentially harmful to humans, especially children,” says Tennessee Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Tim Jones. “We recommend families enjoy the many means of celebrating this season, but leave handling of live poultry to people trained in their appropriate care.”

Poultry, such as baby chicks, seem to arrive in feed stores and co-ops just in time for Easter, but that’s because spring and summer is a typical breeding season for chickens. TDA and the Tennessee Department of Health are working to distribute information to feed and farm stores by supplying posters with information on proper handling of poultry that can be displayed for their customers.

“We’re working with farm and feed suppliers to ensure the protection of both the animals and people who may come in contact with them,” said State Veterinarian Charles Hatcher. “We want to support poultry projects and production uses such as backyard flocks and FFA and 4-H projects while also informing the consumer.”

Do not let children younger than 5, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle chicks, ducklings or other live poultry, agriculture officials insist. If you do come into contact with live poultry, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after. And remember, it is illegal to dye a chick a different color.

There are far better ways to continue Easter traditions and activities without risking one’s health or the lives of animals to do it.