For as many years as I can remember, people have always given baby ducks and chicks to children as Easter gifts. That’s even after the age-old wisdom of not giving a gift of a pet that can be eaten.
Nevertheless, people still gave away baby chicks and ducklings as gifts for pets at Easter. Experts have said for years that this practice does more harm than good for the animals.
Many of these pets only live a short while due to improper care, neglect or a stressful environment. These pets also need special feeding and care that many people don’t know how to give.
As a very young kid, I had both bad and good experiences with this practice. I had both a baby duckling and a baby chick as Easter gifts during these early years. My mom and grandmother thought a young boy should have a pet chicken one Easter.
I’m not sure who named him, but the chicken’s name was Petey. “The Little Rascals” had a black-and-white dog with a black bullseye they called Petey. It was a popular TV show at the time, so I guess that’s where the name came from.
I’m not sure if Petey lived a long life or not, but I knew he died an untimely death. But it was timely by my grandmother’s reasoning — her reason being that it was a lean year and we needed dinner.
I watched from our kitchen window and my grandmother took Petey out in the backyard and wrung his neck. I saw my grandmother pluck off his feathers and put him in a frying pan that evening.
That’s the only time I can remember ever turning down a chicken dinner. I just ate all my vegetables and mashed potatoes that night.
The duck they gave me a few years later I named Charmin after the toilet paper. I just thought it was a pretty name for my duck.
Charmin became like a pet dog. She would follow me to the store and everywhere just like a dog and sit with me on the porch at night. Charmin even lived in an old dog house we had left over from another long-since-gone pet.
One morning I went out to feed Charmin and found a huge egg in the doghouse beside her. Every morning for a long while, Charmin gave us eggs for breakfast. It was like a delicacy in our house as duck eggs seemed fluffier and tastier than chicken eggs.
One cold winter morning I went to feed Charmin and get her egg and found her dead in the doghouse. To this day, I blame myself for not knowing how to best take care of her.
Chickens and ducks aren’t the easiest pets to own. They have specific housing requirements and diets and need to be handled in a certain way. So before you go out to buy a pet duckling or chick for a kid, be sure to learn these guidelines.
They need a place to run around but also be protected from other animals. They also need special feeding. Start with crumbles before switching over to whole grains and grit. Fresh, clean water is a necessity.
Chickens live long lives if not needed for dinner purposes. They can live up to 16 years, long after their cuteness has worn off.
So my advice from experience is never buy a pet that can be eaten and never give live animals as Easter gifts.