At first it was only kittens and puppies, but now it’s bunnies and chicks who end up in shelters after being given inappropriately as gifts at holidays. Worst of all for the bunnies and chicks, they are often not even purchased to be used as a pet. Growing up I remember white rabbits and yellow chicks dyed bright colors—in the grocery store as well as other places where bunnies and chicks didn’t necessarily belong. While the kittens and puppies were at least intended to be pets, though not necessarily always wanted by the recipient, the bunnies and chicks were only part of an Easter display. The rabbits, which had been cage raised, were usually “released in the wild”, totally unprepared for life on their own and to die a horrible death at the paws of a predator. A few neighbors tried to raise chicks, but chickens are work, and they have their own agenda.
Sadly, today, rabbits and chicks are still adopted inappropriately as pets at holidays, and though at least they are no longer dyed in spring colors, their needs are still not understood and they end up in a shelter—if one can be found that takes unusual or exotic pets.
If you have the idea to adopt a rabbit at Easter thinking it will be cute and cuddly and easier to take care of than a dog or cat, spend some time studying their needs and you might be surprised. Rabbits are intelligent and very busy creatures, and you might spend an awful lot of time outwitting them from exercising their need to chew on things you never thought they’d be interested in, even after you thought they couldn’t get to it. And rabbits are friendly and affectionate but like cats and dogs and people and most other animals, they have their own personalities, and hugging a rabbit is often frightening to a small prey animal.
Likewise with chicks—research their habits, personalities and needs, and even visit some if you can. Chicks can easily imprint on humans and are actually quite friendly and sociable as many people have found who raise a few chickens for their eggs or even meat, but they are typically not house pets and have specialized needs for housing, food and water.
Both need regular veterinary care as well, and with their needs for specialized diets they are out of the realm of a low-cost, low-maintenance pet, if there ever was such a thing. Visit the House Rabbit Society or any one of a number of organizations about raising chickens, from your local county extension agency to Backyard Chickens or Poultry One.
If you are ready to make a commitment to either of these species for the next decade, then first consider a rescued rabbit or chicken from a shelter or rescue instead of purchasing a baby. Shelters are full of the bunnies and chicks former adopters underestimated. And if you do adopt, enjoy! In Pittsburgh, our local shelters always have bunnies for adoption, and a number of local organizations like the Pittsburgh House Rabbit Club who can help you understand what house rabbits need as pets. For assistance with raising chickens you can check with the Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People (P4).
But I’m going to “Make Mine Chocolate” and let others make theirs marshmallow—I’ll pass on the peeps!
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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