What child wouldn’t love to get a fluffy yellow chick or soft furry bunny as an Easter present and what parent wouldn’t love to see the look on their children’s face when they surprise them with a new pet? But buying any animal without preparation, at Easter or any time of year, is not a smart move. As a parent, you should spend some time learning about what chicks or rabbits need, and getting together everything that you will need to take good care of them. So let’s look at the cost and commitment they require.
Unfortunately, rabbits aren’t as low maintenance as many people think. They can’t just be bought, put in a hutch, fed and petted once a day. Caring for a rabbit is not cheap; the cost of providing a hutch, run, food, straw, hay, vaccinations, flea and worming treatments and veterinary care all add up quickly.
So be sure that you know what caring for a rabbit involves, including the willingness to do nasty jobs like cleaning out the hutch for the rabbit’s entire life. Don’t assume your children’s enthusiasm will last for 10 to 12 years, the lifespan of a well-cared for rabbit. So, let’s talk about what rabbits really need.
Originally, hutches were designed to keep rabbits close to the kitchen where they would be turned into meals… not for the animal’s health and long life. A rabbit’s hutch should be at least six feet long by two feet wide and 2 feet deep. They also need an outdoor run for grazing on grass, that is safe and protects them from foxes and other predators. Then they need the company of other rabbits, since they don’t do well alone.
Rabbits need to eat almost continually or their digestive system stops entirely, and can be hard to restart. Its diet is about 80% grass and hay, 15% fresh vegetables, and just a small amount of prepared rabbit pellets.
Rabbits also need vaccinations, just like cats and dogs, de-worming, flea treatments, a clean living environment and lots of attention and handling, if they are to be friendly with people.
Sound like more work than you really want? Well, what about baby chicks?
Sadly, most baby chicks given as gifts for Easter, die within a few months from rough handling by children, attacks by dogs or cats, or plain neglect. You will need a few things to take good care of a baby chick.
First, a brooder that is warm and free from drafts can be made for $20 and about 2 hours of work (http://www.plamondon.com/wp/build-200-chick-brooder-two-hours-20/) or you can spend up to $300 for one. Start your chick out at 90 degrees F and reduce the brooder temperature by 5 degrees each week until you reach 70 F. If nighttime temperatures are chilly, you can turn the heat back on at night. A light bulb (60-watt) may provide enough heat until your chick gets its full feathers.
Chicks require special food, called crumbles or mash, clean water and litter (sawdust or shredded newspaper) that is changed often. Later they will eat whole grains and grit (sand and small rocks to help their digestion). Your chick will grow quite fast and soon need a pen or hen house to protect it from predators. Keep in mind, that a chicken can live for up to 16 years, so this is an even longer commitment than a rabbit.
If you cannot commit to providing all of these things, and taking care of your pet’s daily needs for their entire life, it would be better to stick to Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies instead!