What comes to mind when you think of Easter? Do you envision chocolate candies, pastel dresses, colored eggs, and fuzzy chicks and bunnies? Almost anyone would, whether they celebrate or not.
Every year during Easter time, people purchase bunnies, chicks, and ducklings as pets. They’re tiny, soft, and sweet. But many of these babies suffer as a reward for their cuteness and as the price of growing up.
What happens when Easter passes and the animals grow up?
- They remain loved members of families. These are the lucky few.
- Their new humans abandon them, leaving them to fend for themselves in the wild, which usually means death.
- Their humans relinquish them to shelters. This is better than certain death but still carries a higher possibility of death than if kept and cared for.
- They’re left caged or otherwise neglected without much care or attention. This results in a sad life, at the very least, with a decent probability of sickness and/or behavioral problems.
Too often, people don’t realize how much and what type of care and space these babes need.
Rabbits live 10 years or more. It’s as long a commitment as caring for a dog or cat is.
They’re not like other pets in that you can pick them up and snuggle with them. Because they’re prey animals, they frighten easily. They may kick and scratch when trying to wrestle free from a hold. Some who purchase bunnies for their children see this as bad behavior instead of normal behavior, and the animal suffers.
Rabbits need space. They shouldn’t be cramped inside little cages and neglected. They need space for a litter box, water, food, bedding, toys, and exercise. They need to walk and jump around. They need protection from the weather, predators, and parasites. They also need loving attention from humans. Boredom and confinement = depression, illness, behavioral problems, and early death. Think of living all your life alone in a small bathroom.
Another factor many don’t consider about rabbits veterinarian care. Rabbits need it, the same as cats and dogs. It costs money and time.
Chickens and ducks aren’t much different. They need space, shelter, consistent care, clean water, particular food, attention, and protection from weather and predators. They also make noise, which could annoy your neighbors. Unkempt living spaces create nasty smells and attract rodents and insects. Many cities have zoning laws that prohibit keeping chickens and ducks.
As if all that weren’t enough, there’s more. Sexing baby chicks is sometimes a crap-shoot. Often, the sweet baby hens people think they’ve purchased grow up to be noisy adult roosters. Roosters are often illegal to keep even in city zones that allow backyard hens.
Why, with all the available information about this, do people keep purchasing these poor babies?
There are two reasons: people believe they’ll be different or they don’t care. There’s probably a small percentage of people still unaware of the problem, but I’m sure it’s very small.
What can we do about it?
I imagine most people who know of this and still buy bunnies, chicks, and ducklings don’t think this will happen to them. If they were right, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is.
If you are considering purchasing a live Easter animal, do a lot of research first. Know what you’re getting into and what you’re required to do to keep this animal safe and happy for the rest of its life. Have a strong commitment.
Keep spreading the word. If you know someone considering buying one of these babes, talk to them. Pass the story along. Share information. No matter how many times something is said, if the problem persists, it still needs saying.
Find alternatives. Buy chocolate or stuffed animals instead of live animals. If you’re still set on the living, adopt adult from a local shelter. There are plenty of homeless pets including rabbits and chickens waiting for homes.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: animals are not in this world to be our playthings that we can buy, love for a time, and then discard when we’re no longer amused.