With Easter rapidly approaching, many families are overwhelmed by the cute chicks, ducklings and baby rabbits that appear in farm stores, displays and on social media. And then, they start to think that it might be fun to have some chicks or ducklings or even a “real” Easter bunny for the kids to enjoy. Lambs are lucky to get a pass simply because they are clearly too big for the average family to consider as a spontaneous purchase.
Baby chicks and ducklings often come off the worst of all. While fairly hardy, these babies do require warmth, a clean place and special diets. Countryside Network emphasizes that these baby birds do have a number of essential care requirements. While some farm and pet stores in certain states do allow the purchase of just one or two baby birds, many states and interstate poultry farms generally require a purchase of six to twelve babies at one time. They are social birds and do best in small flocks. A single chick or two may be easily confined to a room in your apartment but what will happen when those are full size chickens?
Baby chicks and ducklings are messy in a big way. They need to be cleaned twice daily with fresh shavings. Ducklings love water to play in but that adds to the mess. Feed may only be sold in 50 lb bags. Do you really have a place for all of this plus a heat lamp for the first couple of weeks to keep the baby birds warm enough? Chickens and ducks can live up into double digits. Are you prepared to keep these birds that long?
Many cities will even allow a small flock of chickens in a small backyard but no roosters. So what will you do when your beloved chick grows a comb and starts to wake up the neighborhood at daybreak? Shelters and humane societies end up overrun with Easter pets by June. They simply can’t take in all the animals that show up sometimes. Odds are good you don’t want to eat your pet chicken but if you put a free listing out the odds are good your pet will end up in a stew pot or roasting pan.
Bunnies for Easter are another poor choice. Rabbits make wonderful pets, including as house pets but they require commitment and lots of care – not a great choice for a spur of the moment purchase. The House Rabbit Society stresses that rabbits should be a planned family purchase, not a holiday surprise. Their “Make Mine Chocolate” campaign encouraged families to stick to chocolate Easter bunnies unless they were truly prepared to make a 10 to 15 year commitment to a pet bunny.
Rabbits can be litter trained but they need care in their handling, diet and exercise. They do best with regular grooming and play plus need hay for a healthy gastrointestinal tract. When you tire of your unplanned pet, remember that shelters may not be set up to handle animals like rabbits or may already be full up. Turning your pet rabbit lose is almost a guarantee of death – hit by car or eaten by a predator. Pet rabbits often have flashy coloration so they can’t hide well and they have no strong instincts to keep them safe.
It is not fair to these animals to give them a home for a short time and then dump them. If your family simply wants a cute prop for photos, stick to stuffed, toy Easter pets!