Think Twice Before Gifting Chicks, Bunnies at Easter

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump
en Español

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As everyone is busy getting ready for Easter and shopping for gifts for children, I thought I would write to educate people who are thinking about giving a live animal as a gift.

A gift that may seem fun, exciting and cute at the time, might turn out to be a problem in the future. Our office has received many phone calls over the years from parents panicking because they don’t have a pen for their new rabbit or they didn’t realize how much work and money raising chicks would be and they need to find another home for their aunt’s well-intended gift.

Before you think about giving an animal to someone as a gift, it’s a good idea to first check with the parent or caregiver to make sure that it is OK, and to make sure that they understand the responsibility and future expense of taking care of that animal.

Saying that you will come and help them take care of their pet when you don’t live in the same house is, oftentimes, not practical. You will not always have time every day to make sure your gift is receiving enough food and water. Some children are allergic to animals and may not know it. Rabbits can live for 12 years or more, and the family must be committed to care for the pet for its lifetime. You don’t want to give a gift that ends up in an animal shelter, gets shuffled from home to home or ends up abandoned on the side of the road.

If you are sure that an animal will be a good gift for a family and they have agreed to it, you may want to give them a gift certificate to a store so that they can go and pick out their own pet. If you know a farm-crazy kid who lives in the city, a good alternative gift might be to get him or her books about baby farm animals, or maybe just give a stuffed animal as a gift.

Animals need fresh water at all times, need to be fed according to their weight and may need exercise. They need vaccinations and trips to the veterinarian when they are sick. Rabbits need nails trimmed regularly, which is approximately every two months. They may need a pen, water bottle, fencing, hay or pond.

You may think your gift is safe if the family already has animals, but any new addition will always take adjustments; a rabbit that chews cords and remotes or a chick that flies out of the brooder box.

Animals can be a wonderful addition to any family. They can teach life skills such as responsibility and compassion and can bring much joy and friendship. The main thing to remember before giving animals as gifts is that they cannot be returned to the store if things don’t work out.

For additional information on animal care, contact Tiffanee Conrad, agricultural extension agent, at 910-997-8255, e-mail tiff_conrad@ncsu.edu or contact your local veterinarian.