As Easter approaches, some might be thinking about adding a cute baby chick or bunny to their child’s basket, but animal and health experts say that’s a bad idea for a number of reasons, including death for the animal and exposure to disease for young children.
“The Humane Society of the United States is asking people to make the humane choice and refrain from acquiring live chicks and rabbits as Easter gifts this holiday season,” a press release on the HSUS website states. “Instead of live animals as gifts, consider giving children a plush toy or a chocolate rabbit.”
“Rabbits and chickens can make wonderful companions, but those adorable babies grow up quickly into adults that will need proper socialization, care and companionship for many years,” said Inga Fricke, HSUS director of sheltering and pet care issues.
And it could be deadly if a domesticated animal is released into the wild because they can’t fend for themselves in the wild.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns small children are at risk of salmonella infection from handling poultry.
“Owning backyard chickens and other poultry can be a great experience. However, children and other groups of people have a greater chance of illness from handling live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam,” the CDC website states.
“Even handling baby birds displayed at stores can cause a Salmonella infection,” the CDC warns, adding that hand washing is vital if the birds are handled.
But if you live in Omaha, you could rent a chick from Mariel Barreras.
“Between the clucks of the chickens, the cries of the baby goats and the chatter of children, it was hard to hear Mariel Barreras as she yelled out advice about caring for chicks,” the Omaha World Herald reported earlier this week.
“About 50 soon-to-be chick baby sitters gathered in the Barreras’ small barn north of Omaha on Saturday morning to learn about how to feed chicks, how to let them safely roam outside and how to wipe their bottoms carefully,” the newspaper reported.
“And then, one by one, the families took their cardboard boxes up to the chicken pen and received two cute and fuzzy 2-day-old birds as part of the Barreras Family Farm’s Rent-a-Chick program,” the newspaper reported.
For about $30, Omaha families can have the baby chicks for a week or two and then return them to the farm where they can reach adulthood and still have value after they are no longer little and adorable.
“It gives the community time with chicks during Easter, but they don’t get abandoned after they are no longer cute and cuddly,” said Mariel, who is loaning her chicks out for the third year.
One mother of five, Amanda Price, who home schools her children, said it was the second year her family is renting baby chicks.
“To have this farm just a hop, skip and jump away from the city is fantastic,” Price said. “We don’t have any pets, but this is a way to teach my kids responsibility.”
If you can’t rent a chick the inhabitots.com website offers a few other options:
• Visit an animal sanctuary.
• Visit an animal shelter or local rabbit or chicken rescue.
• Read a book about bunnies or chicks.
• Make some Easter animal crafts.
• Give your child a stuffed Easter animal or a tasty chocolate critter.