ENCINITAS–Cute baby bunnies. Fluffy little chicks bought to be Easter surprises. But the real surprise comes later when parents find out that rabbits live 8 to 12 years and that baby chicks soon grow feathers. Rancho Coastal Humane Society (RCHS) in Encinitas is reminding families that baby bunnies and chicks make really bad Easter gifts.

“Every year, a few weeks after Easter, we get calls from people who found stray Easter bunnies in their yards,” says RCHS spokesman John Van Zante. “In some cases, they chewed their way out of their pens. But just as often the families let them loose thinking that the rabbits will be fine. These are domesticated pets….not wild rabbits. Turning them loose is a death sentence.”

Van Zante says those fluffy, yellow, baby chicks may look cute on Easter morning, but in a couple weeks it’s a different story. “A chick that is half fluff and half feathers isn’t very attractive. And then it starts acting like a chicken. It becomes a ‘pecking, pooping machine’ with just one purpose….to become an adult hen or rooster. So if you don’t want an adult chicken living in your house, don’t get a baby chick.”

What are some options for families who decide against bunnies of chicks? “Stuffed animals are a great alternative. You can get any kind of stuffed animal you want. There are no breed restrictions and they don’t grow. They’re a lot more fun to snuggle with. You never have to feed them or clean up after them. No vet bills. And unlike pet chickens that live 8 to 10 years and pet rabbits that live 8 to 12 years, stuffed animals have unlimited life expectancy.”

Van Zante adds, “For families that are prepared to include rabbits in their homes, we encourage them to visit an animal shelter or a rabbit rescue group. Let us help you make an informed decision. Having a pet rabbit can be lots of fun. But, as with any pet, the fun is only temporary if you don’t understand the long term responsibility.”

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