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Posted at 3:37 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 27, 2000

Texas company denies wrongdoing in shipped Easter chicks, ducks

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- The Texas hatchery that mailed more than 200 chicks and ducklings dyed red, blue, orange and green for Easter to a California pet store says it did nothing wrong.

``We didn't do anything illegal,'' Monroe Fuchs of Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms Inc. of Cameron, Texas, said Thursday.

Ideal Poultry had no idea there were any laws or rules against dyed chicks in California, Fuchs said.

The Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized the shipment last week at a suburban Rosemont post office. Some of the birds were dead or dying.

It is against state law to dye animals or sell dyed animals.

The SPCA has 100 chicks and about 30 to 50 ducks at its shelter and is still investigating, said humane officer Sgt. Trish Keefer-Green.

``Basically, right now it's an open investigation. We're just trying to gather further information concerning the selling and dying of the baby chicks,'' she said Thursday.

She said investigators don't know what killed the birds.

Fuchs says dying baby birds for the two weeks around Easter is only a small part of his business, which consists of shipping about 3 million chicks a year to feed stores around the country.

He declined to say how many baby birds were dyed this Easter season, but said his hatchery has been doing it for 21 years.

The male birds are sprayed with ``cake coloring,'' using a paint sprayer, when they are 3-4 hours old, then are popped back into their incubator to dry for a few hours, he said.

He said he has shipped dyed birds to California for years and had before never been notified about the law.

Fuchs won't send any more to California pet stores, but will mail them ``if the individual says they're not going to offer them for sale or promotion or giveaway,'' he said. ``I'll abide by the rules.''

The SPCA will place the birds up for adoption in a few weeks, Keefer-Green said.

``They need to mature a little bit more and let some of that dye grow out,'' she said.

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