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Rescue Ducks & Chicks {and why you shouldn’t buy live animals this Easter}

A few days ago, I got a text from my blogging BFF Kelli at The Sustainable Couple. She lives on an urban homestead about an hour away and has an awesome blog. Anyway, she texted me the following:

A neighbor came over tonight and said her teen daughter bought 6 chicks and 2 ducks without her permission. They cannot return them, so are looking for a home. They are about 3 weeks old. Not feathered out. Free! Not sure of breed or sex. Are you interested?

Rescue ducks and chicks and why you shouldn't buy live animals this spring

I’m such a big sucker, I replied immediately – Yup. You see, my very own oldest daughter has been scheming. She would love to take care of her own flock of birds and sell the eggs. We think this would be a great project for her {I have such a high demand for my own eggs that I cannot keep up} and the thought of 6 free chicks for her to take care of was very appealing. I’ve been dreaming about adding ducks ever since I got my own chicks last year, so I thought 2 cute little ducklings would be perfect. And I’m also a sucker for free. Who am I kidding?

Anyway, Kelli was thrilled and said she and her husband John would be out with the birds on Saturday. I didn’t tell my kids, because I have learned the hard way that often these things go wrong. Better not to over promise! So, Kelli called me on Saturday and said the birds were absolutely NOT as described. They were living in horrible conditions – stuck in a tote in the basement with no access to natural light. Very small living quarters. Very little access to food and water. AND – older, bigger, and way uglier than described and almost completely feathered out. You don’t have to take them, she said. We can call the whole thing off.

cornish cross meat bird - rescued ducks and chicks

Jeeze – how could I say no at that point? I told her to bring them out. We have room. I hate to hear about animals suffering. And I hoped they would still be useful.

Rescue Ducks & Chicks {and why you shouldn't buy live animals this Easter}

Long story short, John and Kelli showed up with the birds and we saw first hand what Kelli meant. The ducks are almost completely grown. The chicks were the absolute ugliest things I’ve ever seen. We put them in the box we used last year when we started our own chicks, and the ducks immediately jumped out ran around my kitchen. Always thinking on his feet, my husband grabbed a bunch of cardboard and made the box taller. Yes, this is a picture of my modified red-neck chicken box. Hey, it works!

Anyway, the chicks have HUGE feet. They have a weird bald spot and really big “shoulder” areas. They are seriously ugly. I’ve had chicks before. We understand about the awkward teenage stage. But these were much worse. I stared at them and said to Kelli, “They must be meat birds.” They are like no egg laying chick I’ve ever seen. Kelli told me I could still change my mind. They’d take them back. But I tell you what. We put those birds in our red-neck chick box, under the lovely glow of natural light, gave them organic chick starter and water, and all 8 of those birds ate and drank like there was no tomorrow. In fact, they ate most of the day. I couldn’t send them back.

But I was worried about the chicks. So I turned to social media Instagram & facebook – my go-to sources for all things homesteading. I posted pictures and starting asking other people. I also googled Cornish meat birds and decided that’s what they must be. And my sources concur. It would appear we are the proud new owners of 4ish week old Cornish meat birds. In a way I’m glad. We have been kicking around the idea of raising meat birds, but honestly, the idea worries me a little. Now that we have them, we have no choice.

Rescue Ducks & Chicks {and why you shouldn't buy live animals this Easter}2

My daughter was sad that they aren’t egg layers. The kids are all a little apprehensive about the idea of meat birds, but I think it will be okay. We’ll give these birds a good life. A much better life than they had stuck in a box in a dark basement. The have a nice big box. They have food. They have water. They’ll get to go outside and scratch around. The chicks have settled into life in the barn and appear to be doing well.

Rescue Ducks & Chicks {and why you shouldn't buy live animals this Easter}

And the ducks have moved outside. I spent the day on Sunday cleaning out my chicken coop. It’s really a two stalled hog shed, and my chicken flock lives in one side. I had been storing hay, food, and supplies on the other side.

Rescue Ducks & Chicks {and why you shouldn't buy live animals this Easter}3

The ducks are really messy and seemed to be stressing the chicks out a bit, so we put the ducklings outside in the other side of the chicken coop. They are having such a fun time swimming in a tiny pool of water and learning what the ground feels like. I can’t wait to open up the yard and let them roam. And we’re all in love.

So I guess all’s well that ends well. At least for now.

But, anyway, do me a favor you guys. Don’t buy live animals in the spring because you think they’re cute or to give as gifts this Easter season. They are breathing, feeling animals. They deserve nice homes. They grow big. They get ugly. They eat a lot. They poop a lot. They take care and commitment.  Unless you’re ready to take that on, walk on by the cute little balls of fluff and get a nice chocolate bunny instead. Please tell all your friends. <3


Monday 30th of March 2015

I have a chicken coop with 12 spoiled chickens that are better trained than my dogs plus 4 ducks. (chickens are remarkably easy to train! Ducks not so much.) I bought 2 chickens 4 years ago and have not bought any sense. So how did I end up with so many? Neighbors! They buy chicks and ducklings for their kids for Easter. A few days after Easter I start getting "Mystery boxes" on my front door step. Some of them survive, some of them are too far gone when I get them.

Since next weekend is Easter, I will spend the day setting up the brooder box, etc. and waiting. Last year I got 10 meat chickens, 6 layers and 2 ducks with a 60% survival rate. What I can't figure out is: What did they do with them before they started abandoning them on my doorstep?

Michelle Marine

Monday 30th of March 2015

How wonderful of you to take in the chicks. I hate to think about all the others. I'm so sad to see our local farm store getting in a huge shipment of chicks on Wednesday - just days before Easter. Why do people think buying living creatures for a holiday is a good idea at all?

Kelli @ The Sustainable Couple

Monday 16th of March 2015

You guys are amazing! Thank you so much for doing right by these living creatures.

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