I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir but I wanted to make sure that I addressed this in the blog. It is a very common theme for parents to buy their children bunnies, ducklings, or chicks as a way to celebrate the Easter holiday. If the family has thoroughly researched the species, has the ability to fill the needs of the animal, and is able to commit to 8-10 years of care for these living creatures, I am not opposed to them being given as gifts (though I’d prefer the children receiving the animals be a part of selecting their pet).
The reality, however, is that most of the times these living creatures are just thrown away after the novelty wears off. When their cute baby bunny starts peeing everywhere and biting, when their cute little duckling grows up to be a pooping noise maker, and their cute little chick turns into a loud rooster who pecks at everyone, the animals are either let loose, dropped at a shelter, or given away on craigslist to an uncertain end.
Inevitably, around September or October, there is an influx of bunnies surrendered to shelters. What is so sad is that these bunnies often spend months or years in the shelter waiting for a new home because people generally don’t get their bunnies from shelters. In my 3 local shelters alone, there are nearly 50 homeless bunnies.
Bunnies can be clicker trained, litter box trained, and can be fantastic house pets. While they are awesome house pets, they do require regular veterinary care and a 10 year commitment from their family. If you’ve done all the research and are committed to keeping a pet for 10 years, a fantastic option to buying from a pet store is to rescue from a shelter or rescue. One of the biggest benefits for adopting is that most shelters/rescues will spay or neuter their bunnies prior to adoption so that’s one less big fee for you to have to pay out of pocket. Another benefit is that many shelters get to know their bunnies and can help pick a bunny who is good with kids, or good with dogs, or good with cats, or best with other bunnies–whatever you are looking for in a bunny.
Unfortunately, chicks and ducks don’t generally get the same care by being dropped at a shelter–they are most often just set free to starve in the wild. Ducks and Chicks, while ridiculously cute as babies, grow up to be dinosaur-like feathery creatures that can poop all over the place, can make lots of noise, and can become pretty aggressive. They require special places to live (hen houses or secured coops to protect from predators) and may even require water features to play in. With proper care and commitment they can be fantastic family pets–social, affectionate and quite smart (you can even clicker train chickens and ducks!). But lots of research and effort is needed to be a good caretaker and to raise birds who are family friendly. You also need to check your local ordinances as ducks and chickens are frequently prohibited or they have very specific rules regarding their care.
Anyhow, if you know anyone who’s planning to buy their children a bunny, chick, or duckling for Easter, ask and see what type of research they have done and if they are prepared for a 10 year commitment. If they have done their due diligence and are looking for a bunny from a pet store, perhaps you can suggest a rescue or shelter bunny as an alternative. Just like pet store puppies, pet store bunnies often come from bunny mills.