Rabbits, chicks and ducklings are familiar symbols of the Easter holiday. It is no surprise that children beg their parents for a bunny or chick of their own. Ill-prepared to care for these unique creatures, their "owners" often quickly tire of them, flooding local rescues and rabbit rescues with former Easter rabbits or dumping them outside to die. Here's some education on the realities of living with a rabbit, chick or duckling and to discourage giving live animals as Easter gifts.

No matter how the connection with Easter originated, rabbits, chicks and ducklings have not benefited from the association. For those that are given as Easter gifts, due to lack of proper care, neglect, and stress, 4 out of 5 bunnies will die or be abandoned before they are a year old and a majority of chicks will die within a few weeks.

A week after Easter, the candy will be forgotten. Sadly, so will the rabbit. They're not a child's toy; it's a real, live 10-year commitment. If you're not ready to give a rabbit ten years of your life, you're not ready to give it as a pet. Don't buy on impulse. Make an informed decision.

Parents often consider a rabbit for their child because of their short lifespans. Rabbit owners claim that rabbits can actually live as long as large dogs. With proper care, a rabbit can be expected to live eight to ten years or more. Rabbits who are 13 years old or even older are not unusual.

Pet stores often sell rabbits as good starter pets for young children. This is false. Young children may not understand that rabbits are not like dogs and cats. Rabbits are prey animals and sudden or rapid movements can frighten them. Most rabbits don't like being picked up and may bite or kick if lifted up and held. Rabbit bones are fragile and can break if the rabbit is dropped. However, a rabbit can be a good addition to families with young children if at least one adult is committed to always supervising the child with the rabbit.

Many experienced rabbit owners will tell you that rabbits require the same types of veterinary services as dogs and cats. They need to be spayed and neutered. According to National Geographic, vets and insurance companies consider rabbits exotic pets, so medical care can be more expensive than for a cat or dog. Rabbits need a lot of exercise and shouldn’t be stuck away in a cage.

Chicks and ducklings don’t fare any better. At Easter, fuzzy brightly colored chicks and ducklings can be too cute to resist. But non-dyed chicks and ducklings are still sold as Easter gifts, and like bunnies, they are not ideal beginning pets for children. They can be quite messy. They are extremely fragile and can die from overhandling or being dropped, especially in the first few days before the child’s excitement wanes.

Chicks-Getty Images

Chicks and ducks may also present hazards for children. They can scratch and peck with sharp talons and beaks, but worse, they may spread the bacterial disease Salmonella, which can be especially dangerous to children and the elderly. When the birds preen, they spread the bacteria all over their feathers. So it’s best to avoid contact with them, or at least wash hands thoroughly immediately after touching.

Many people who buy adorable Easter chicks and ducklings have no capacity or intention of caring for adult fowl. Like bunnies, the unwanted birds are often handed over to shelters where they may face euthanasia if they’re not adopted. When abandoned outdoors, they have no experience foraging or avoiding predators. Easter ducklings, many of which are byproducts of the food trade, can swim, but unlike wild ducks, they can’t fly and are vulnerable to temperature changes and make easy targets for predators.

There is never a reason to give a child a live animal as a present for Easter or any other holiday and/or birthday. Animals are not ‘things’ or objects. You wouldn’t give your child a reindeer for Christmas. Why would you give him a bunny or duck or chick for Easter?

There are plenty of great alternatives to giving live animals as Easter gifts. Consider these animal friendly Easter gifts :

  • Plush rabbits or chicks
  • Chocolate bunnies and candy birds and eggs
  • Books and games about bunnies, chicks and ducklings
  • A visit to a reputable, educational petting zoo
  • A birdhouse or feeder to attract wild birds
  • Bunny, chick or duckling figurines
  • Make a gift in your child’s name to a rabbit or small animal rescue organization

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