They’re adorable, all fluff and big watery eyes, but if you’re thinking about getting or giving a live pet for Easter, think twice! According to the Humane Society, 30% of all Easter pets will die in the first few weeks after Easter. Another 60 to 70% will be turned in at shelters, and almost all will not live to see a single birthday. If you’re thinking about adding a pet to your family, take your time and do your research first.
Rabbits come in all types and sizes, and they live an average of seven to ten years. Their health can be delicate, and simple diarrhea – most often from too many fresh veggies – can kill them. Inside a house, they will dig and chew at everything, so don’t feel bad when your couch gets a hole in it. If you choose a beautiful angora, with long fluffy hair, remember they need to be brushed and combed daily, or at least shaved down. Rabbits love to run and kick up their heels (which is very amusing to watch), so keeping them in a small cage all the time is just plain cruel. They are not hamsters; think of rabbits as your cat’s slow-witted little brother. You wouldn’t cage up a cat all the time, would you?
Ducks may live eight to fifteen years, and come in a huge variety of types and colors. Ducks are very social, and you may need more than one to keep your animal happy. Remember, ducks like water and are natural swimmers; keeping them in a dry environment like a dark basement does not result in a happy duck. Remember, ducks shed feathers everywhere, their water-proof feathers may leave grease on your carpets, and they will not be house-trained.
Baby chicks are one of the icons of spring, but they live five to eight years. It is their nature to hunt for bugs in the grass, and they will scratch and peck at whatever flooring is underneath them; they can crater dirt fairly quickly. Chickens (and ducks, too) may be subject to town ordinances, so check with your town first to see if you’re even allowed to keep them! Roosters can cause a ruckus; they don’t just crow at dawn, but any time they feel like it, which may not sit well with your neighbors. Both chicks and ducks have to be kept safe at all time from predators, including hawks.
If you’re not sure a live pet is right for your family, try sponsoring an animal instead. You can buy into a “share” of an animal at a zoo or refuge, and help keep it happy and healthy. You can also “donate” an animal through programs such as Heifer International, which helps people out of poverty by teaching them to raise and sell animals in developing nations.
If you do bring home that cute and fluffy new friend, check out these books to help you keep them around for a long time to come:
The Rabbit Handbook by Karen Parker
Keeping Chickens by Ashley English
Mini Encyclopedia of Chicken Breeds & Care by Frances Bassom
Barnyard in Your Backyard by Gail Damerow