Are cries of outrage over local Rent-A-Chick program justified …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 2, 2018 in Rat News | Subscribe

Local business, Steve’s World of Pets, is experiencing significant backlash on social media this week after posting their Annual Rent-A-Chick Program to their Facebook page. According to the event page, they have been running this program for over a decade. So, why now the outpouring of opposition?  Likely, due to the power of the internet.

For the record, I feel I need to state up front that I do not support this particular program, as they seem to be marketing these chicks to individuals as a temporary pets, not as an educational experience. I do, however, support the idea behind it. In fact, there are similar rent-a-chick programs held by small farms every year through out the U.S. often in conjunction with 4H programs, schools and educational facilities, and rural communities that have experience rearing livestock and poultry. Often these programs provide materials, and extensive access to education on how to handle and raise healthy chicks. This local program, appears to lack that component, as it’s not a farm supply store, nor is there information posted on their social media or website.

So, for those that are intent to rent-a-chick, some of the information you need to know has been provided below. Please note, that this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to chick rearing or ownership, I would encourage anyone to do their own research before bringing any new animal into their home.

Although I am not an expert in poultry, at a very early age I was introduced to horseback riding and farm life by my father. A passion that I pursued over the decades. I’ve owned, raised, and trained over 40 horses, buying them from auctions, or backyard sellers. I would work with any behavioral issues, sharpen up their training to make them “good citizens,” then work find them loving homes, often at a great financial loss. Throughout that time, I also owned a menagerie of animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, fish, pet rats, a hedge hog (named Edward), and chickens.

Family and friends of mine are farmers and every single one of them is gentle and loves their stock, not least of all their poultry. Something our urban readers may not know, chickens are generally very curious, and have distinct personalities, ranging from shy to aggressive. They live in groups called a flock. They can be kept as pets, or raised as egg layers, or for meat.

Everyone should have the opportunity to discover the joy and hilarity of being around free range chickens. There are social media videos of chickens giving young children “hugs,” or allowing themselves to be put in bike baskets, etc… I hand raised my chicks, and as adults they would jump on my lap to be petted, and would fall asleep in my arms.

Tractor Supply, the largest farm and equipment retailer in the U.S., sells chicks and ducklings every spring, which you can “visit” in their stores. However, if you try to purchase a chick or duck from these stores, you are required by law to purchase a minimum of 6 animals. The purpose is two-fold, one it’s more humane as these animals should be reared in a flock, two it is meant to discourage people from buying these animals as temporary pets. Local TV news station, WIVB News 4 Buffalo recently sat down with Gina Browning, Erie County SPCA, to discuss the legalities of renting a young chick. It turns out the law does not address the “rental” of chicks. Thus, the practice is allowed to continue because of a language loop hole. You can read more about the regulations here.

With this article, I very much hope to discourage individuals, who may have little to no knowledge of chick rearing, from taking baby chicks, who are extremely delicate, outside of their social group, to be handled by children, on the hope that they survive to be returned to the store, put back in a flock, then shipped to an unknown meat market.

If you do insist on bringing a chick home, I have found some care instructions and chick facts that I encourage you to read. Please note, as an amateur farmer, I lost baby chicks. This is part of the responsibility that you take on when bring another creature into your home. There is nothing more devastating. Baby chicks are fragile, and if you are not careful, are easily broken and killed. They have no concept of gravity or depth, and will leap from your hands. They can squeeze through spaces smaller than you can imagine.

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