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FILE - In this Monday Oct. 17, 2005 file photo, artificially colored chicks crowd together in a cage at a market in Basra, Iraq. Selling or displaying dyed poultry is illegal in New Hampshire but state lawmaker, Rep. Joel Winters wants to change that and says people should be able to dye chickens and other poultry for Easter if they want to. (AP Photo/Nabil Al-Jurani, File)

Dyeing Easter eggs is a holiday tradition. But dyeing chicks might make you an outlaw.


Dyeing Easter eggs is a holiday tradition. But dyeing chicks might make you an outlaw.

WATCH  |  Dyeing Easter eggs is a holiday tradition. But dyeing chicks might make you an outlaw.

Colorful chicks are often given as festive Easter gifts, but about half of states in the U.S. have laws against artificially dyeing them or pets in general. 

Dyeing chicks, rabbits or ducks in California is actually a misdemeanor. In Massachusetts, it's punishable by a $100 fine. 

Back in 2012, Florida lifted a 45-year-old ban on artificially coloring animals, according to the New York Times.

After backlash from animal rights groups, the law was amended to prohibit dyeing fowl and rabbits. Now those caught doing so could end up spending up to 60 days in jail. Other states may not have specific laws related to artificially coloring chicks, but all states have animal cruelty laws and dyeing animals could lead to legal penalties. 

Poultry experts told the New York Times it isn't actually harmful to the chicks as long the dye is nontoxic. The color is only on the chick's fluff and lasts a few weeks until their feathers grow in.

Peter R. Theer, a retired poultry rancher, explains the process and purpose of artificially coloring chicks on his website

The food coloring is usually either injected into the egg on the 17th or 18th day of incubation or hatchlings are sprayed with the dye.

Theer's website notes that for poultry farmers dyeing embryos is a "practical method of identifying chicks from different groups of eggs and so you can watch their movements after they leave the nest."

Wildlife management studies experts use the same technique to identify and observe ducklings as well. The primary purpose of dyeing chicks, however, has been for selling them during Easter. 

Animal rights groups argue that dyeing chicks and giving them as presents turns them into a holiday commodity. 

“Humane societies are overflowing with these animals after Easter every year," Don Anthony of the Animal Rights of Foundation of Florida told the New York Times. 

Anthony added that the laws against dyeing animals are in place to prevent animals from being neglected. 

So remember, if you purchase a colorful chick this Easter, know that it will definitely turn into a chicken that will need long-term care. 


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