To look only at the yellow ones, it’s not immediately clear that something’s wrong. Widen the scope to include the other 38 spunky baby chicks, and the truth becomes grotesquely apparent.
Purple. Red. Orange. Blue. Even pink. Each peep is dyed a garish hue that would horrify a rainbow.
The group of 49 came to live at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter in early April, after New York City ASPCA humane agents seized them from a Brooklyn pet store. The business owner was offering the animals for sale as Easter novelties.
New York City law bans the sale of chicks displayed or characterized as “dyed.” It also outlaws the possession of roosters within the city — and half the peeps are male.
The ASPCA agents acted after receiving an anonymous call. They removed the chicks from the store, then contacted Farm Sanctuary to see if we’d provide a home for the motherless peeps. The case against the pet store owner is pending.
The sale of animals — specifically baby chicks and rabbits — is commonplace around the Easter holiday. To many parents, a peep seems like the perfect gift for a child. But when “peeps” turn into “clucks,” most families find they are ill equipped to provide a proper home for a hen or rooster, who can live between 10-15 years.
Unfortunately, many grown-up “Easter gifts” are given away or dumped in the wild where they stand little chance of survival.
But that won’t be the fate of our 49.
Since arriving at our New York Shelter, the peeps have enjoyed all the comforts of home. They spend their days scratching and pecking together, and all have been given health checks ensuring that the only thing out of place is their bizarre plumage.
Peeps with stained feathers can be produced by injecting a dye into the egg as the chick embryos develop. This puts the gaudy color only on their down — not their adult plumage. Already our birds’ wing feathers are beginning to fill in, and soon the rest will follow suit.
Once they do, the Easter peeps will look more like adult chickens — white, brown and tan — not holiday-hued products used to make business boom.
And that’s a common thread that binds the histories of all of our farm residents: Their value was defined by their commoditization; their worth measured in pounds of “white meat,” gallons of milk or dozens of eggs.
But at Farm Sanctuary, these 49 souls, like the other rescued animals who came before them, will find something different: a lifetime of care and affection-even after the “novelty” wears off.