It’s that time of year again, when my husband Jae and I clean and prep the pens in our pole barn with fresh litter, waterers and feeders, make sure the heating units are functioning, and ensure that the barn survived the winter draft-free. No, it’s not chick-hatching time. It’s Easter time.
You see, the holiday is right around the corner and, without fail, every year we end up with anywhere between one to a dozen chicks dumped on our doorstep a week or so after Easter. No note, sometimes not even a box. Just chicks, peeping sadly by our door.
The first year this happened, we were quite taken by surprise. Jae figured that perhaps someone nearby hatched too many babies and saw that we raised poultry. He was partially right. After two more years of these spring surprises, we put two and two together and figured out that these chicks weren’t overhatches. They were unwanted Easter gifts, and our roadside farm sign was an open invitation for people to discard their unwanted baby birds once the holiday was over.
Don’t get me wrong. Giving a child a few chicks (or ducklings or a baby bunny) for Easter is a thoughtful, wonderful gift, but only if:
- the child’s parents have been consulted and agree, especially if you’re not Mom or Dad
- the child and family can meet the many needs of these living animals
- the child and family can nurture and support the animals throughout their lifespan
- the child’s home is not part of an HOA, neighborhood or town that prohibits farm animals
Most breeders I know—and even some farm stores—refuse to sell chicks during the weeks leading up to and following Easter to prevent the babies from becoming presents. Still, the problem persists, and it’s understandable. They’re tiny. They’re fluffy. They’re adorable. What child wouldn’t want a delightful chick or two?
I unfortunately understand this firsthand. As a young child, I lived first with my grandparents, and then with an aunt and uncle, on family farms where chickens (and cows and other animals) were part of my everyday life. Back home in suburban New Jersey, seeing a robin was pretty much the extent of the local animal life. Perhaps that’s why my mother did it: to help me remember my years as a farm girl. Perhaps she simply thought it was an appropriate present. I’ll never know her motivation. I do know that one Easter, we drove out to the countryside and, at a farm, I was allowed to select a dozen baby chicks as my holiday gift.
Of course, I had to share the wealth with my neighborhood buddies, and soon almost every household on Varnum Lane had a chick or two, thanks to my Easter generosity. I’m sure my friends’ parents were thrilled with me and even more thrilled with my mother. I ended up keeping one chick, whom I named Groucho. To this day I have absolutely no idea what happened to Groucho or to any of the other chicks. One day, they were simply gone. I’m willing to bet they got dumped on the doorstep of the nearest poultry farm.
Easter is just days away now, and you may be on the lookout for the perfect gift for the youngster in your life. If you find yourself leaning towards baby chicks, lean away—fill your baskets with chicks are made of marshmallow, chocolate or some other sweet instead. In the meantime, Jae and I will keep our ears open for the sound of sad peeping outside our front door.