Adorable baby bunnies and fluffy little chicks can sure be tempting. It may seem like a good idea to bring them home as the perfect present for an Easter basket. Here are 5 things to think about before giving a bunny as a gift.
This is a Guest Post from Kathryn Robles of Farming My Backyard
The truth is that there are actually quite a few things you need to think about before bringing home a new animal. If you are hoping for a cute fluffy toy for your kids, stick to actual toys! Animals come with a fair amount of care and equipment that they will need as they grow. They’re also not as cuddly as they look. Baby rabbits and chicks can be quite fragile! If you think you might want chickens or rabbits, here are five important things to think about.
Bunnies and chicks can die easily
Baby animals may need special care. How heartbreaking would it be to give your child a gift, only to have it die in a few days? The truth is that baby animals can be quite fragile and often need special care and attention.
Chicks are designed to be raised by a mother hen and must have a constant heat source until all their adult feathers grow in. Cold chicks can quickly get sick or pass away if they don’t have a proper brooder with a heat lamp. Here are some tips on caring for chicks and for raising chickens in cold weather.
Rabbits can only drink their mother’s milk until they are about four weeks old. At four weeks they start eating solid foods, but weaning can be a dangerous time. Many rabbits die of a malady called weaning enteritis.
Also, both of them have light, fragile bones. They can be quite hurt or killed by rough handling even by the most loving of children.
What goes in must come out
Animals eat, and that means they also need to be cleaned up after. Rabbits can be quite prolific. That’s one of the reasons why they are so useful. They create a large amount of fertilizer for gardeners and farmers.
The little cutie in a basket may not look like it needs a lot of cleaning up now, but it will only get bigger. Be prepared to clean out a litter box or hutch several times a week, and toss or compost all the droppings so they won’t smell or attract flies.
Chickens cannot be litter box trained like rabbits, and they will need you to buy straw for their coop. Do you really have time to muck out a chicken coop once a week?
They’re going to get bigger
While that fluffy bunny may fit in an Easter basket this week, it’s only going to get bigger. Most rabbits are actually too big to live in the tiny little cages and hutches that are sold in most pet stores. The happiest rabbits live indoors like a cat or dog (although they will chew and you’ll need to rabbit-proof your house. In some climates, they can live outdoors in a carefully constructed pen that prevents predators from eating them.
If you’re planning to keep them in a hutch or cage, it needs to be big enough that the rabbit can stretch out without touching the edges or the top and they will still need a place to get several hours of exercise daily. Here are some guidelines on housing and caring for rabbits.
Chickens need a MINIMUM of ten feet each outdoors protected from predators, plus three feet inside their coop. (And that means you have a lot of pen cleaning to do.) Do you have that kind of space?
They can live up to ten years (or more!)
Getting a pet is a commitment not only in terms of their daily care but also in terms of their lifespan. Rabbits and chickens can both live ten years or more. Are you interested in caring for an animal for the next ten years? Is your child going to get tired of the pet in a few days? How will you feel about taking care of it once the novelty has worn off?
Shelters are inundated with rabbits and chicks shortly after Easter because kids have gotten bored with the animals and parents didn’t want to care for them. Kids aren’t legally allowed to sign contracts for a reason. No matter how hard your child tries to convince you, they just aren’t mature enough to commit to taking care of an animal.
If you are going to bring home a live animal, make sure you can commit to caring for it for the animals foreseeable lifespan. If you don’t see yourself taking care of it for a decade, go with a chocolate bunny and marshmallow chicks instead.
And don’t just think you can leave your pet to live happily in a park somewhere. That’s just leaving a free snack out for an owl or dog, and it’s a horrible way for the chicken or rabbit to die.
They’re going to cost you money
That adorable fluffy creature may only cost a little to bring home, but the truth is, the costs are going to add up. Those animals are going to need food. They’re going to need bedding. They’re going to need housing as they grow, which can get really expensive really fast. Also, they’re probably going to need vet care.
Rabbits that have been neutered or spayed make much better pets and are much happier than ones that have not. Also, rabbits and chickens are both prey animals. That means they tend to hide their ailments very well. You may not catch that they are sick until things are quite serious and they need professional care.
Just like you would plan for vet bills for a dog or cat, you need to be prepared to spend the same for that cute little Easter bunny. Take the money you would have spent and buy a really nice gift instead!
When SHOULD You Get Rabbits or Chickens?
Perhaps you’ve been considering getting rabbits or chickens for quite some time, and you’ve done all your research. Perhaps you’ve had them in the past and know what you’re getting into. Maybe you are an animal lover and excited to try a new pet. It’s still a good idea to wait until after Easter to buy baby bunnies or chicks.
Many reputable breeders and sellers will not sell their stock around Easter. If you want high quality laying hens, or show or breeding quality rabbits, they’re going to be harder to find around Easter.
If you want a pet rabbit, skip the pet store and adopt one from an animal rescue. You’ll be giving an unwanted animal a loving home, and it may already be litter box trained and neutered as well!
Easter is a celebration of new life, so let’s do our individual part to help rabbits and chickens have happy, content lives.
Can you be a homesteader even if you just have a regular yard in the city? Yes! Kathryn Robles raises gardens, chickens, and rabbits on just 1/10th of an acre, and has recently started from scratch building a new 1/2 acre homestead! You can grow food even in the city. Click here to get a free checklist to help you prepare for backyard chickens. You CAN create your own tiny farm and grow your own food no matter how small your homestead!