Why You Must Not Buy Colored Chicks | Animal Cruelty

Translated by Nick R

Sometimes animal abuse is not conceived as such because we often naturalize actions that seem harmless or are disguised, as happens with painted chicks. Here I tell you more, read on.

What are colored chicks? 

Colored chicks, as they are known, are hens painted with bright colors and marketed as live toys in the streets. These birds are painted using dyes such as peroxides, fabric dyes, tartrazine, and aniline.

What people ignore about these chicks is the living hell these newly hatched birds go through before they reach the hands of their buyers. In many cases, children become innocent accomplices of animal abuse with the approval of their parents, who don’t understand what is going on behind this rainbow of cruelty either.

How to make colored chicks? 

“Natural way to paint your chick” 

The natural way to give your chicken or hen some color is based on the feed, you simply need to add a little more Xanthophylls to the feed. Xanthophylls are pigments that, together with carotenes, are found in corn and can give a yellowish color to the skin, plumage, and egg yolk of hens and their chicks.

I recommend putting as little as 25 to 30 milligrams of xanthophyll per kilogram of feed in laying hens, you’ll see. You may not get fuchsia, green or orange chicks with this technique, but you will get more intense colors while respecting the life of your bird.

The cruel way to paint a chick 

The chick coloring process requires a dye, aniline, and a container. The process consists of the following 4 steps:

  1. In the hatcheries, a large number of male chicks between 7 and 10 days of age are separated to be painted and sold in the informal trade.
  2. Then, they prepare the yellow, red, blue, neon, and other dyes with the aniline that works as a fixative to maintain the color in the feathers.
  3. Finally, the chicks are introduced and piled up in a container with the dye to be kneaded like an object until they get uniformly painted. The dye is applied carelessly on top of the bird, falling into the eyes and inside the nasal cavities.

In some cases, traders use high temperatures to fix the color of the chickens’ plumage, causing burns and even death.

Curious fact 

Did you know some breeders paint the chicks before they are hatched?

That’s right, traders inject inorganic substances into the eggshell when they are 11 to 14 weeks old as an alternative method to paint them from hatch, a practice that compromises the bird’s life by affecting the developing embryo. Almost always the needle breaks the egg membrane and the chick never hatches.

Say NO to the sale of painted chicks!

Reasons for not buying colored chicks 

The trading of colored chicks is animal abuse 

Yes, it’s animal abuse because the chicks are painted through a cruel coloring process, in which they suffer a lot being treated like objects, without the minimum respect for their life, and they die before or after the process. This practice occurs most frequently in Latin American countries such as Mexico and Colombia. However, it has its origin in Asia, in countries such as the Philippines, Japan, and China.

Although in most cases they are painted with vegetable-based substances, the dyes are toxic for the chicks and their life expectancy is drastically reduced. Once they are painted, the chicks are immediately sold in a box outdoors in the worst conditions.

Moreover, they are not even vaccinated with essential antivirals in the first weeks, such as vaccines against fowl pox, coryza, and bronchitis, among others.

Why do painted chicks die? 

In this process many chicks die from ingesting or inhaling the dye, others go blind and are still sold. Those that survive the process die within a few hours because the toxic chemicals are absorbed through the skin and end up poisoned. The abuse doesn’t stop here, as they are subjected to hunger and cold. In fact, some traders use glue to stick hats and other accessories to them, another toxic chemical.

Besides poisoning, the chicks die of skin burns from corrosive substances such as hair dye.

The sale of colored chicks is forbidden 

Yes, selling and buying these colored chicks is prohibited. In countries such as Mexico it is considered an illegal practice, while others lack a law and efficient actions to protect these and other animals; for example, China with category G in the API (Animal Protection Index 2020).

For example, in Guatemala, there is an Animal Protection Law that establishes, through Article 60, that this practice is a serious infraction for not guaranteeing the welfare of the bird. The same happens in Colombia with Law 1774 of 2016 that considers animal abuse as a punishable offense, i. e., the offender can go to jail.

However, this type of informal and illegal trade is normal to see in the streets near markets and schools, since their buyers are children who are seduced by the bright colors of the chickens and adults who, in some cases, use them for special festivities like Easter. The tradition has been extended to other countries for many years.

Animal protection and legislation against animal abuse 

Despite international efforts, national and local legislation in each country is the key to generate actions to stop the barbarity against these birds. Today, the countries most affected by this problem lack much in terms of sanctions and awareness. An example of this is Colombia, a South American country that remains in category D of the IPY and one of the countries with the highest demand for painted chicks, along with Mexico and China.

The internal legislation of the States for the protection of animals is ruled by two very important international treaties, the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights, approved by the United Nations (UN), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Universal Declaration of Animal Rights 

The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights was adopted by UNESCO in 1978 and later by the UN. It’s an international reference treaty on animal protection, proclaiming in Article 1: “all animals are born equal before life and have the same rights to existence”.

Likewise, Article 11 explicitly refers to animal abuse that causes the death of the animal, qualifying it as a biocide, and Article 12, qualifies the massive death of animals as genocide.


CITES is an international treaty that entered into vigor in 1975 and specifically seeks the protection of animals from the point of view of their habitat and relationship with human beings, that is to say, protecting two categories of animals: domestic and wild. In this way, to avoid illegal trade and the extinction of endangered animals.

Now that you know the cruelty to which painted chicks are subjected, don’t buy. Instead, support the protection of animals with your example.