Easter is a week away and with it comes a feeling of rebirth, renewal. Frosty minds are thawing out, frozen limbs are shuddering to life. The grass becomes thick pools of verdant color screaming against the deadness that is slowly melting away with the rise of the thermometer.
It’s a gorgeous time.
And with the cools winds that carry a streamer of the future’s heat our primal inner selves scream for newness. And babies. Lots and lots of babies.
Babies are just cute and the promise they carry on miniature faces, glittering like forgotten hope in clear, bright eyes, can be difficult to resist.
But you can do it because you are a grown-up and civilized and not ruled by your yearning internal instincts or your external pleading off-spring.
BABY FARM ANIMALS ARE NOT TOYS. They are not gifts. They are not cutesy ways to celebrate holidays. They carry with them a price that many cannot pay. “Oh but I got a book about rabbits from the library for my child, they have been telling me for years to get them this for a pet.” I’ll break down some information on the top two Easter animals in easy to digest little bullet point pills for you to swallow. If you find yourself choking on any of these, perhaps this pet is not for your family.
- Male Rabbits urinate (spray) a lovely orange-red pattern whose height, diameter and range will amaze you day after day after day.
- Rabbits cannot vomit. If you think to keep it inside as a “house bunny” realize that anything they ingest (from Legos to pencil shavings, receipts to power cords) and cannot pass will cause a blockage and the bunny will slowly die. If you think this won’t happen, think again. Angora rabbits can choke to death on their own fur. Think about how you would want to go, choking on something because your owner was negligent (meaning to or not) doesn’t sound fun to me.
- If you plan to keep your rabbit outside, how often are you going to play with it? What happens if it gets out of your hands? Rabbits are not dogs or cats, they are PREY ANIMALS. If they escape from their handler, they will run. They are VERY fast and have VERY sharp claws and teeth. They will amaze you at their ability to fit through holes you thought only big enough for a mouse. They will bite you, they will scratch you when you catch them. And your child. A rabbit that escapes after being brought food will not do well in the wilds of your city. They will eat things they shouldn’t (see above bullet), they will get eaten by the neighbor’s dog.
- They poop everywhere. Yes, if you have patience and determination you can litter train a rabbit but it doesn’t mean they’ll do it every time and the process doesn’t sound like very much fun. (see bullet 1)
- Rabbits smell. Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you but if you get lazy and don’t want to clean the cage every couple days the ammonia smell will be outrageous. The cages need to be cleaned out completely every. single. week. The rabbit needs to be removed, the walls and floor wiped with a non-toxic bleach mixture (1:10) and left to air dry. The food bowl and water bottle needs to be cleaned out every two days at most. This means completely removing and disinfecting. The rabbit needs to be in a secure place (preferably a backup cage) during this process. Then you need to clean out the backup cage. If you have an angora, be prepared for this to take about an hour or more. That hair gets everywhere.
Sound like a lot of work? It is, and we haven’t even gotten to the really heavy part of rabbit raising like grooming and injury care.
- Cute fuzzy little chicks that feel like over sized cotton balls in your hand grow up to be sleek, not quite cute chickens you carry under your arm and more than likely they’ll all be Roosters. The probability of you buying a chick to get eggs from later on and ending up getting a testosterone infused male looking to fight you or mate you (or probably both) is about 80% (if you have luck like mine it’s about 95%). Sexing (or determining the sex of the chick) is more a religion than a science, you have hope in your gut and faith that you’re right and pray not wrong more than your right.
- Chickens eat a lot.
- You cannot buy just one chicken. No really, they will do very poorly all alone in their coop or running around your back yard. They like to be in a flock. Minimum I’d say is 3, 4 is better.
- If you end up with 2 males THEY WILL FIGHT. They’ll fight each other, the dog, your child, you. Heck, just one will fight the last three and it starts around 3 months of age and doesn’t really let up until they’re much, much older. Especially, if they only have a couple hens to look out for and have limited space. Yes, you’ll hear stories of other people’s wonderful house roosters that perch on their shoulders and cuddle with the cat. That is an exception, don’t count on it.
- Hens don’t lay until they are 6-8 months old. This means 6-8 months of twice daily feedings, water duty, opening and closing the coop, moving the coop around if you have a tractor, scooping their poop out of the coop every other day, buying stuff for fleas, treating illnesses and injuries, keeping your kids from chasing them, keeping the dog from chasing them, finding a chicken pet sitter so you can go on that last minute business trip or the vacation you’ve been planning all year. ALL this before you get that one tiny first egg.
- Chickens will eat bugs, yay! But free-ranging chickens will also eat things you don’t want them to, they’ll scratch up your plants, scatter your mulch, poop on your deck, roost on your railing, poop on your grill, come in your house if you leave the door open (even by accident), then poop in your house, poop on your car, try and roost on your laundry lines even when there are clothes on them, get inside your car if you leave the door open, the possibilities are endless.
95% of Easter rabbits and chicks don’t make it to their first birthday. Animals that could live up to a decade or more die as babies because of impulsive, seasonal purchasing.
I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from starting a backyard rabbitry or a personal flock of chickens. If you’re really serious we can talk more (I’d LOVE to talk more) but pleasepleaseplease don’t go out and buy a kit or poult or duckling or chick because you want to see the delight it will bring your child. The light will still shine in their eyes if you make your purchase later and this time it won’t get shadowed with disappointment, sadness and guilt when you realize these animals are not for your family or when they die because you weren’t really and truly prepared.
And if you wait about three weeks after Easter to start looking, once you’re serious and determined and your head is clear of spring pollen and fanciful ideas, all the people that didn’t read this blog will be giving them away for free. Be that person, the one that helps others with their mistakes, giving homes to innocent animals that had no choice in the time of year they were born. The one that realizes the enormity of caring for these creatures and makes an informed decision, a conscious choice. And next year, pass the message on.