By Stacy E. Smith
For some reason it has become some sort of custom or tradition for parents to buy their children LIVE baby rabbits and/or chicks for Easter. There’s nothing cuter, but whoever started that should have his/her head thumped.
As we all know, bringing home a live animal, whether it’s a dog, cat, rat, fish, bunny or chick should not be taken lightly. All live animals require a lot of care and careful consideration should be given before bringing one home. Buying a pet on impulse is never a good idea. You should first educate yourself on what it takes to care for an animal; otherwise your experience with pet ownership could be very bad for you and your pet.
First let’s talk about Rabbits.
Rabbits can be kept as indoor pets and may be trained to roam freely in the house. Rabbits kept indoors are often referred to as “house rabbits” and typically have an indoor pen or cage and a rabbit-safe place to run and exercise, such as an exercise pen, living room or family room. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box and some can even learn to come when called.
And boy are they cute! Big ears, wiggly nose, cotton tail. Who can resist a darling rabbit, especially if you have kids who are pleading for one?
Rabbits are great, but they’re not a good match for everyone. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you jump on the bunny bandwagon.
Do you have enough space in your home?
Keeping a rabbit in a hutch outside is a big no-no; so is relegating a bunny to the basement or garage. Plus, those tiny pet store cages are way too small. You’ll need an available area for a fairly large cage, plus at least one room in your home that has been thoroughly rabbit-proofed.
Do you have children?
Rabbits and young children are generally not a good mix – you should generally wait until your youngest child is at least 7 years old. Rabbits require safe, gentle handling and a quiet environment. As prey animals, rabbits can be easily startled and stressed by the loud noises and fast, uncoordinated movements that are typical of excited children. They have fragile bones, especially in their backs, so they require ample support on the belly and bottom when picked up and held. Older children and teenagers usually have the maturity required to care for a rabbit, so you may need to wait until your kids are older before adopting a rabbit.
Kids may be enthusiastic about the new bunny for the first couple of weeks, then lose interest when taking care of him interferes with their activities. All pets are ultimately the responsibility of the adults in the home, not the children. Until you, the parent, are ready for the commitment of caring for a new pet, don’t let your kids’ pleas challenge your resolve.
What’s your budget?
As with any pet, the initial adoption fee for a rabbit may small, but the cost for a rabbit’s care can quickly add up. In addition to veterinary costs, including sterilization and emergencies, these are some of the start-up items that new rabbit owners will need to purchase:
- Large cage or habitat (or supplies to build your own)
- Water bowl or bottle
- Litter boxes and litter
- Chew / Enrichment toys
- Timothy hay (or other grass hay)
- Timothy hay pellets
- Fruit/treats (occasionally)
Those start-up supplies certainly don’t include vet bills … that is if you can find a vet in your area that is familiar with treating rabbits (not all are).
Do you have time for a rabbit?
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they generally sleep during the day and night and are most active at dusk and dawn. Rabbits need regular interaction with you to stay socialized and happy. They also need at least an hour out of their cage each day for play and exercise.
A healthy rabbit diet includes fresh vegetables every day. If you want to keep your rabbit happy and healthy, you’ll need to go grocery shopping at least once a week.
Your rabbit’s enclosure needs to be tidied up every day and cleaned thoroughly once a week. If you travel a lot or work long hours, a rabbit may not be a good choice for you.
Are you ready for the commitment?
Rabbits can live past 10 years of age, so a rabbit may be with your family for as long as a dog would.
Baby bunnies are cute and quite popular around Easter, but if you want a live one first consider if a rabbit is the right pet for you. Many of the baby bunnies adopted around Easter are abandoned a few months later when the novelty wears off. Domestically raised rabbits cannont be let loose to live in the wild… they will not survive and rabbits that wind up in shelters don’t fare much better.
Rabbits make wonderful companions for people who have done their research and are making a commitment to the long-term care of their rabbit. Adopting a rabbit is a big decision and should not be made on the spur of the moment around Easter – it may be better to wait until after the holiday and make an informed decision.
Now, let’s talk about chicks for Easter.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
The most obvious question I have here is… DO YOU PLAN ON RAISING CHICKENS AT YOUR HOUSE? Why else would you buy a baby one? It isn’t like buying a goldfish. Here are some facts:
- Chicks bought for Easter typically end up dying within a few weeks of the holiday due to stress, broken bones from accidentally dropping or squeezing them and/or improper care and diet.
- Young chicks require a brooder box to supply heat and older chicks need specially designed chicken coops.
- That adorable little chick that fits in the palm of your hand will soon be a full-grown hen or rooster.
Oh, and in most cities, owning chickens is a legal no-no.
If you were going to spend the money anyway and any of what we’ve pointed out here today has dissuaded you from bringing home a live bunny or chick… take that money and donate it to a shelter or rescue that cares for these animals after the Easter excitement has worn off.
In the end, if you’re not fully prepared for the commitment to a bunny (or a chicken), it may be a better idea to stick with stuffed animals, chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks this Easter.