As Easter approaches, an old practice of getting younglings a cute tiny chick, a sweet duckling or a soft baby bunny is still around. But before you buy one of these lovely sweet things, consider the lifetime commitment they represent.
First and foremost, baby animals are very fragile things, not suitable in the least for a younger child who doesn't have the muscular coordination nor knowledge to not literally break their new pet. If you are considering one of these for a child under the age of five, get them a plushy, stuffed version instead. Less trauma for the child if they accidentally harm or kill the animal, and much less trauma for the animal.
These animals are a lifetime commitment - chickens can live 5- 10 years, ducks 8- 10 years, rabbits 8 - 12 years.That's a rather long time. Consider the commitment to properly feed and house these animals much as you would before getting a dog or a cat.
Young ducks, chicks and rabbits need immediate proper housing. Chicks and ducks are often sold 1-3 days after they hatch, while they are still in that cute fluffy stage. Bunnies are usually 4-6 weeks old before being weaned and sold. But all of them need extra warmth a full grown animal does not need, as well as immediate water upon arriving home and baby food for their specific breed. These babies are usually kept under heat lamps at pet and feed stores; it best emulates the natural situation if they stayed with their mothers; duck and chicks hide under their mother's wings for warmth, bunnies huddle close to the mother as well.
Chicks and ducks get ugly really fast. They also grow very fast. By 5 days, you can see their wing feathers developing, their tails start at about a week, and within weeks, they get gawky looking and even go through a molt, losing feathers everywhere. Lots of people do not like them at this stage, not realizing that it is just a few more weeks they will be full grown ducks and hens.
Another problem is that chicks that are sold for Easter pets are often not sexed as they would be as livestock, which means you could very well have yourself a rooster instead! While most city ordinances will overlook a hen or a duck, they will not overlook a rooster, who can get rather loud.
Bunnies, chickens and ducks also have this propensity of pooping wherever they like, making them not the best house pets around. There are companies and individuals who sell chicken diapers, which presumably would work for ducks as well, but you still need to change them as you would for a human baby. Rabbits can be litter box trained and can make as good a housepet as a cat.
Bunnies have a drawback as well - again, the issue of sex. While they will not make the noise a rooster will, if you have two who happen to be the opposite sex, all of the sudden, you will have LOTS of bunnies. You will quickly figure out how to house them separately.
Another issue for ducks and chickens - they are social animals, who thrive in a flock, but don't always do so well on their own. Much like dogs, they need to feel a sense of family and community, and they can get sad and ill if they are left alone too much.
Now if you're prepared for this long commitment, all three can make very good family pets. Chickens are very intelligent and can be friendly and affectionate. Bunnies can be friendlier than cats and do live well in houses as well as outside. Ducks can vary, but often are friendly as well.
Now if someone should happen to gift you with one of these and your family is not ready to make the commitment, don't despair. Denver and other cities have a large number of homesteaders who are willing to take your new pet and integrate it into their own flocks and colonies- with visitation rights, of course!. You can contact your local animal rescue agency, a local vet, or even the author of this article.