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Easter bunny horror stories: Resist the urge to give rabbits, ducks, chicks

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A pubescent rabbit is not one to cuddle. Females are prone to running in circles, lunging, and grunting, says Anne Martin, shelter director for House Rabbit Society’s headquarters in Richmond, Calif. And if you purchased a male? “The boys will spray urine ... all over the place,” says Ms. Martin, who owns six rabbits and adds that a mature rabbit is a fantastic pet. But they can be quite alarming for a new pet owner whose supplier did not warn them.

Suppliers are also known for selling bunnies that have been taken away from their mothers too soon, says Mary Cotter, vice president of the House Rabbit Society.    

Ducklings and chicks have their own drawbacks, says Susie Coston director of the Farm Sanctuary shelter.

Like bunnies, ducklings and chicks are extremely fragile. If a child plays with them like a toy instead of fine china, they are likely to die from over-handling, Ms. Coston says.

Ducklings for sale tend to be byproducts of the food industry, she says. They can float on water, but that’s where the similarities between ducks in the wild end. They’re heavier than normal ducks and won’t migrate because they can’t fly. They’re more vulnerable to temperature changes and, like young Kelley discovered, easy targets for predators.

Chicks, too, tend to be byproducts of the food industry. If a company needs 15 million hens, they’re hatching 30 million eggs and instead of destroying all the unwanted chicks, the industry finds ways to market them as Easter pets, Ms. Coston says. 

Mixed in with the unwanted female chicks are the few male chicks that the industry didn’t automatically destroy. Unsuspecting owners are often surprised when a chick grows into a rooster, and city officials come pecking with a citation for breaking municipal zoning codes. 

Ultimately, regretful parents start making phone calls looking for what few animal shelter vacancies there are, and staff start tripping over boxes left on their doorsteps in the middle of the night. 

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