By Erin Thompson

The Daily Item

If you're thinking about giving someone a dyed peep for Easter, it better be filled with marshmallow.

And unless you're planning on breeding them for eggs or meat, it's probably not a good idea to give real live peeps or ducklings as gifts.

"Unless you're willing to whack off heads and put them in a freezer or build a house for them in the yard," it is not humane to keep such animals as house pets, said Sunbury Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. James Temple. "I can't think of any pros" of giving pets as a seasonal gift.

Like bunnies, they're going to require commitment over a long period of time.

Plus, "they get uncute real quick," Dr. Temple added.

By about 4 weeks of age, chicks begin to grow feathers and grow quickly. As for ducks, Temple describes them as feathered pigs because they like to splash water on everything.

Not so many Easter seasons ago, you could

find crates of baby chicks dyed in a variety of pastel colors at pet stores and farmers markets. They were cheap and you could buy as many as you wanted.

But the practice of dyeing chicks, either by injecting dye into the egg, or applying dye to the hatched chick, raises ethical concerns and at least in Pennsylvania, the tradition is a thing of the past.

Now there is a law: You have to buy at least six of them and it's illegal to dye them, according to Scott White, owner of Tractor Supply in the Orchard Hills Shopping Center, Shamokin Dam, who said they don't begin to sell peeps and ducklings until after Easter to prevent people from giving them as pets.

"Their bone structure is brittle and they're too small," White said.

In addition, chicks are flocking animals and need to be around other chicks for warmth, White explained. "They don't do very well by themselves."

• E-mail comments to ethompson@dailyitem.com

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