Colored Chickens in a box from Pakistan

A box of multi-colored chickens from Pakistan
Multi-colored chickens from Pakistan

Colored chickens from Pakistan …

It’s not a photograph I ever thought about including into my gallery. But, it is, perhaps strangely, one of the most popular images on this website! While cute to look at, it is mired in a little controversy.

Facts from behind the lens of this photograph:

  • I came across these multi-colored chickens just outside the Khyber Pass in Pakistan at a small street market where they are quite commonplace
  • The young chickens are dipped into a colorful food dye to make them more attractive to potential buyers
  • This practice is popular in parts of North Africa
  • There is another process of dyeing baby chickens a different color by injecting dye into an unhatched egg
  • All forms of chicken dyeing are banned in many countries. In the USA it’s a banned practice in many states, but not all

The Story behind the photograph

On my way back through the Khyber Pass I went through a very small corner market. On the ground were some boxes of chickens. Mainly cute fluffy yellow ones. Then, I came across a man selling these multi-colored chickens.

I could tell they were dyed straight away, as opposed to some mutant new breeds, as many were not fully colored. I nearly walked away from this strange curiosity. But that curiosity itself brought me back to take a few photographs of these colored chickens.

While at the time no one could tell me why the chickens were colored, it was later revealed to me that it was simply to make them more attractive for buying. In a country like Pakistan, such things didn’t faze me in the least.

Right or wrong?

What did faze me was to learn of people in developed countries also dyeing chickens, mainly during easter or at parties. Some by injecting dye into unhatched eggs. Some by dipping the chickens into food coloring.

Personally, I think there is a huge difference in “why the chickens are colored”. In Pakistan the chickens are dyed in the hope of selling them to feed a family. In developed countries they were/are dyed for the amusement of people.

While both reasons may be ethically wrong, the latter jars most with me. Dyeing chickens for our own amusement simply doesn’t sit well with me. Yet, though I know it’s wrong, I see the same chickens in Pakistan and just know this is more about survival than amusement.

Why is this photograph so popular? Cute colored chickens.

Should it enter my gallery on the grounds of Pakistani culture? Or should it enter because it’s unusual? Or, should it not enter at all.

The choice is yours via votes or comments below.

Discover more travel photography

Colored chickens from Pakistan
Colored chickens from Pakistan

This is an additional photograph feature from my world travel photography gallery, documenting the story behind the picture 

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27 Replies to “Colored Chickens in a box from Pakistan”

  1. The world has lots of these ethical contrasts. Hunting when done by a native Inuit or similar group for their own usage (skins, meat, bone etc) is considered a lot differently to commercial large scale hunting or especially hunting for entertainment. Many people are OK with the former but the vast majority are against the latter. It is a fascinating photo. I hope that it is banned in Australia too but I don’t know.

  2. It is a cultural representation, but I don’t get the cultural context by looking at the photograph – it could be anywhere. For me it doesn’t mesh with the rest of your gallery. I am glad you’ve posted it in the blog however… didn’t know about this. I get a lot more from the photo by reading your explanatory text.

  3. Maybe it’s a minor ethical contrast-but for chicken of course-I don’t like it,unless showing,another,strange habit.Our common eggs look more attractive when golden brown,than pale white,color obtained by food(hopefully).You should put it,with a doubt.

  4. Not sure if this still gets done, but this practice was also popular in South Africa. And it wasn’t restricted to chickens … ducks and rabbits got the same treatment.
    As a kid, I was disappointed when my pink bunny grew out of its fabulous fur and turned a “boring white”. What did I know back then?

    1. I never heard of this being done in South Africa either, thanks for sharing that info. Not surprised to hear it being done to other “cuddly” animals too. I guess what you didn’t know, didn’t hurt. Thankfully we have the ability to grow and learn.

  5. Those little baby chicks are so cute! Sad to know they are going on someone’s dinner plate. I hadn’t heard of dyeing chickens as a trend in the US, probably because few people here keep chickens as pets. (The backyard chicken farmers in NYC tend to keep the chickens for their eggs, or as an urban agricultural project. Dyeing them would be a major no-no).

  6. When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, there were dyed chicks for sale at Easter. Common. I really wanted one. Wisely, my parents settled for peeps.

  7. I’ve seen the exact same pictures of colored chickens on a blog from the Philippines. The best thing on the blog was the complete information from the egg to the choice of chickens, and what happens to the once that are not chosen etc…
    I know that everyone eats chicken now and then but this kind of selling makes me sick! Maybe it’s cute and funny to look at but in fact the hole story behind is cruel. Al lot of animal welfare organisations are trying to stop this but it’s very difficult.

    1. It’s very hard to stop something like this on an international level. Especially if it’s become part of a culture. Looking at Balut in The Philippines, or Cock fighting over there. Both are likely not to be banned for a long time.

      Ditto Bullfighting in Spain, or even Fox hunting in the UK.

  8. That is one of the most bizzare travel photos i have ever seen. I would be put off buying a pink chicken though I wonder when the vendor first used this as a marketing plan.

  9. “In a country like Pakistan, such things didn’t faze me in the least.”

    What do you mean by ‘a country like Pakistan’?

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