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Easter ducklings & chicks pose environmental & health hazards

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, March 20th, 2008 at 7:27 am in Chickens, ducklings, Easter, Oil Spills.

PLEASE! No live pets for Easter!

Every year, children become ill with Salmonella poisoning from handling baby ducks and chicks, typically sold only during Easter. Dumping those ducklings at your local pond or community lake is also disastrous — to the ducklings and to the environment.

The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Cordelia, CA, sent me a note earlier this week asking me to alert you about the serious consequences that can occur when baby animals are purchased on impulse. They provided the facts listed below.

The problem worsens this time of year.

Easter baskets containing live animals are not only cruel, but also dangerous, as children can become infected with Salmonella by handling them. Yet pet shops and feed stores, even ones in urban areas, continue to sell live ducklings, goslings, chicks and bunnies, with no regard for the animals, the environment, or the people who buy them.

Most of these animals will live short miserable lives. When the novelty wears off and the reality of caring for an animal with special needs sets in, these animals, typically bought “on impulse,” usually end up abandoned in a local park to fend for themselves.

Many people think that all ducks and geese are the same but the reality is that domestic ducks and geese have been bred to be slow and flightless. They can’t fly to escape the jaws of dogs, raccoons and other predators.

When food supplies run out, they can’t fly to other lakes and ponds like wild ducks and geese. Or, the problem goes the other way, with overpopulation occurring.

On top of that, it may seem innocent, some think even kind, to feed bread to those “park ducks.” Well-meaning people feed them bread, crackers, popcorn and other junk food that fills them up, but offers no nutritional value. This leads to malnutrition. A steady diet of bread and crackers can even kill them.

And as they weaken they are more prone to disease which will affect the wild waterfowl populations that come and go around them. Botulism, Newcastle disease, duck virus enteritis (DVE), and avian cholera are all diseases that domestic ducks can spread to wild flocks. Outbreaks have caused the deaths of thousands of birds at a time.

The IBRRC center’s rehabilitation professionals see the end results of selling live ducklings at Easter. “One of the biggest problems is hybridization,” says Karen Benzel, spokesperson for IBRRC.

Wildlife rescue centers readily accept wild native ducks that are injured or orphaned but will not take domestic ducks, or hybrids, which result when domestics mate with wild ducks, like mallards. Local humane societies are typically not equipped to handle the needs of waterfowl or chickens and also become overwhelmed with unwanted pet rabbits.

IBRRC, which manages two rehabilitation centers in California, specializes in waterfowl and aquatic birds and in educating the public to the problems they face in the environment.

For the complete article about abandoned ducks and geese and the problems they face, visit the IBRRC Web page at:

International Bird Rescue Research Center, 4369 Cordelia Road, Cordelia, CA 94534, is a leading expert in the rehabilitation of waterfowl and aquatic birds, especially victims of oil spills. Founded in 1971, IBRRC’s staff and oil spill response team members have responded to over 200 international oil spills involving wildlife, treating over 100,000 birds and over 400 species.

IBRRC and their staff and volunteers (like you!) were there to care for oiled waterfowl when we needed them after the ship hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge last fall and dumped 50,000-plus gallons of oil into the Bay.

IBRRC manages three wildlife rehabilitation centers in Cordelia, CA and San Pedro, CA, for the state of California and the Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage, AK. For more Information about their centers, history, programs, to make a donation or volunteer, please visit their Web site at

Want to give your kids a nice, safe gift for Easter? How about a BIG chocolate Easter egg? YUM! /Gary

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3 Responses to “Easter ducklings & chicks pose environmental & health hazards”

  1. Karen Says:

    It still amazes me that people who understand that you don’t acquire kittens or puppies on impulse will impulsively scoop up a chick or baby rabbit. Or maybe they DON’T understand, and the kittens and puppies of the world have just been lucky enough not to meet them.

    How hard can it be to understand that CRITTERS NEED CARE? This is not rocket science!

    My parents lived on a man-made lake in the central valley, which had lots of mallards and coots. I remember seeing ducklings following mama across the lake in the spring. Then we’d watch, sadly, over the next few days, as the ducklings dwindled, the missing ones caught by predators. Even mama duck couldn’t protect her children from the violent side of life. Mind you, mama fox and mama coyote had their young’uns to attend to, as well. That’s how nature works.

    But I can’t understand a human deliberately putting a baby critter in such a situation. Idiots.

  2. Patricia Says:

    While this is all intelligent, important information for those who haven’t yet fallen victim to impulse chick acquisition, for the sake of the fowl, it would be great if you could also provide resources for those who have. There is a gamut of options for puppies and kittens – the resources for what to do with your chick or duckling are nonexistant. Making this information readily available would go far to reduce the duck pond abandonment rate.

  3. kassidy Says:

    thats exctly what happend to this poor little duck in fornt of my house on a lakefront i took her under my wing and take her down to the water every day i tought her how to walk down the stairs so that she couled go down to the water when she or he feels like it you now and i try to rarley feed her bread but you know .

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