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Buying Easter chicks not a good idea

| Saturday, March 22, 2008

Donald Blosser says chicks are high maintenance and that the older they get, the harder it is to deal with them.

That's why Blosser, 56, owner of Pretty Birds pet store in Millvale, won't sell them.

Chicks, ducklings and bunnies have been given as Easter gifts for decades. But it's getting harder to find chicks at Easter, leaving the holiday with hardly a peep.

"What happens is that they become big chickens and big ducks," Blosser said, explaining that poses problems as the animals' needs change. Chickens need room to roam; ducks need a pond.

"You can put them in your bathtub," Blosser said, "but, boy, what a splash that would make."

Although chicks aren't readily found on every city street corner, and most pet stores don't sell them, they can be found on farms outside Allegheny County.

Leah Popson of the Popson Farm in Nottingham in Washington County specializes in raising poultry.

Popson gets requests for Easter chicks but doesn't sell them to just anyone, she said.

"Chicks require special care, especially when they are young," said Popson, 32. "I generally do not have chicks running around for sale. I take orders, then people have to wait approximately one month for the chicks to hatch.

"This requires some forethought and preparation and reduces impulse purchases."

Families should think twice before getting any pet, said Janice Barnard, special projects manager at the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania in Larimer.

It's also important to check local laws -- it's illegal to own a chicken as a pet in some municipalities. But it's legal in Pittsburgh, according to the city's Animal Control division.

Virginia Smiley, owner of Smiley's Pet Pad in East Liberty, said cleaning up after a chick is the most difficult aspect of owning one.

"They just go (to the bathroom) wherever they are. It can be ugly and messy," she said. "People buy them for the novelty but then realize they don't want them as a pet."

Bunnies apparently aren't much easier. Animal Friends in the North Hills gets plenty of unwanted cotton tails each year, spokeswoman Jolene Miklas said.

"People don't realize rabbits are our third-highest adopted animal," she said.

Animal Friends doesn't have chicks, but they have received "several requests from families that want to adopt chicks for Easter," Miklas said, adding, "Adopting any pet should be a lifelong commitment."

Not some short-lived flirtation with a chick.

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