CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire lawmakers want to lift a ban on coloring chicks, ducklings, goslings or rabbits to enhance their sale but face warnings about the strain that the dyeing process puts on the animals.
State Rep. Joel Winters, a Nashua Democrat, is proposing repealing a 1985 law that makes it illegal to dye the birds and bunnies to promote their sale, raffle or if they are to be given as a prize.
Winters said he doesn’t think the old law serves a purpose anymore.
“I don’t know of anybody who’s been prosecuted for this,” he said Monday.
But former Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor said he fought for the law’s passage 28 years ago because the dye process stresses the birds and many die as a result.
“What it amounted to was animal cruelty,” said Taylor. “What was happening was these baby chicks were immersed in dye vats or sprayed with paint.”
The paint would harden, interfering with the growth of their feathers, he said.
Taylor said too many people bought the dyed chicks at Easter without knowing how to care for them and would let them go into the wild where hawks got them or they died.
Curt Jacques, owner of West Lebanon Feed and Supply, opposes coloring chicks. He won’t sell them around Easter because too many buyers don’t know how to care for them.
They need to be kept in a space at 93 degrees with the temperature gradually reduced as they grow feathers, he said.
“The problem with colored chicks is they’re trying to make an attractive bird more attractive based on looks and not production” as an egg layer, he said. “Birds don’t make the best pets.”
Jacques’ store sold 10,000 chicks each of the past three years, an increase from 3,500 five years ago. He attributed the growth to more people wanting to have fresh eggs from chickens whose feeding they supervise.
Jacques and Taylor said some states, like New Hampshire, ban dyeing the birds, but it’s unclear how many. Florida reversed its 45-year-old ban on the practice last year.