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It happens every Easter. Tractor Supply has their “Chick Days” and inevitably, you see people on the side of the road with cute little bunnies to sell. They are practically irresistible and you may think – my son/daughter would love one for Easter. But THINK before you buy. I’ve owned rabbits, and now, thanks to Tractor Supply and my daughter, I own ducks. As a veterinarian’s wife, I take pet ownership seriously. That means pets are not disposable, and there’s generally a lot of research involved. The most important thing to remember is you can’t set them free! These ducks and rabbits are domesticated and cannot survive in the wild. When they do, they upset the natural balance, sometimes introducing new diseases into the population. It is not only cruel to the animal, but also the environment.
They live about 15 years. That’s a 15-year commitment that you are making when you buy one of those cute little buns on the side of the road.
Bunsdo better in the house. If you have a house rabbit, it’s a lot like owning a cat. They don’t do well in a small little cage in the backyard where they are fed and watered everyday but otherwise likely forgotten and ignored. Our bun had her own room. That’s right, a whole 12 x 12 room in our house. While this room was “bunny proof” she still chewed on carpets, baseboards and trim which all had to be replaced after she passed.
Buns are social. They need to interact with you and your family. Our bun would hop around the house most days, interacting with our other pets. They can be litter box trained – but they still tend to drop little poops here and there. It’s not a big deal really – they are dry and round – but it’s still kind of gross when you think about it.
Rabbits should be spayed or neutered. Yes -just like a cat or dog. Spayed rabbits are less susceptible to certain cancers, and neutered males are less likely to fight.
They don’t just eat rabbit pellets. Rabbits require a varied diet including greens, fruits and vegetables. Knowing what and how much to feed your rabbit is important.
I’m still learning about ducks so bear with me here….
They live 10-20 years. That’s a 10 to 20-year commitment that you are making
They prefer to live outside. I’m not sure about this one – I put my ducks out every morning and they sit at the door until I open it. Still, this seems to be the opinion of experts. They need about 10-25 square feet of space per duck (more below).
They are susceptible to attack by predators. These ducks cannot fly which makes them less capable of escaping attacks. Around here we have hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, puma, weasels, minks, coyotes, not to mention stray dogs and cats! That means they need a predator proof pen for whenever they are not supervised. This requires the use of hardware cloth (the metal fence with 1” or less squares) not chicken wire, on all six sides (top, bottom, + 4 sides). Why? Well, the bottom is because predators will dig into the pen. Also, raccoons are smart! They will work in pairs – one herding your ducks to one side of the pen while the other reaches in and pulls your ducks’ heads through the mesh. Latches need to be multi-step and multiple latches must be used (did I mention raccoons are smart?). If your pen is not predator proof, you will succeed in keeping your ducks in – which becomes a problem if you can’t keep the predators out. It’s like inviting the predators to a buffet!
They need access to water. If you have your ducks locked in a pen, they should have a pool that they can access to cool off in the summer. Installing a misting system is also a good idea. Also, make sure that part of their pen is adequately shaded.