Ag Happenings – Easter Animals

These critters are cute, but they’re also a commitment!

by Melanie Berndtson – April 7, 2017

Bunnies, ducklings, and chicks – oh my! These animals make up some of the most popular gifts at Easter time for young children. They are cute, cuddly, and fluffy – just want a child wants. Sometimes parents get in over their head with these gifts, not realizing that they can grow and mature quickly and they live a really long time. Children can grow bored of this new pet quickly when it is not as cute anymore if they are not invested and committed in this animal. These animals need veterinary care, housing, and proper feed throughout their lives. Rabbits are the third most commonly surrendered pet at animal shelters across the country behind cats and dogs.

Rabbits and poultry can make a great gift for children at Easter if they are committed to their new pet, and parents understand the care requirements. These animals are also common projects for 4-H and FFA members and make great first projects for younger members. Today on Ag Happenings FFA member Harlee Brooks was interviewed about the care requirements for poultry and member Makaela Huck was interviewed about raising rabbits.

Chickens are a popular animal for people to raise for meat and eggs. Chickens need ample space to run around. Many people allow their chickens to free range while others keep them in an enclosed run. They like to have an area to roost and if they are egg layers, nest boxes are needed. Chickens need to be fed a high quality grain and have fresh water daily. If they are kept inside, it is recommended to feed them grit to help them digest their feed better. Chickens can live for 5-10 years, although egg laying chickens are most productive when they are younger. They can begin to lay eggs 6-8 months after hatching. A rooster is not necessary for hens to lay eggs, but is required for hatching chicks. Meat chickens grow quickly and are ready to harvest in around 10 weeks. There are local processing facilities in our area that will butcher chickens for a fee. Chickens may have to be given an insecticide to prevent external parasites like mites and lice. Chicks need some extra heat when they are younger, before they grow their adult feathers. A heat lamp or brooder is recommended for the first few weeks of their life.

Rabbits can also make a great pet or production animal. Many people keep rabbits as house pets – they can even be litter box trained. Other rabbits are used for wool production or meat production. Rabbits need a large enough cage to move around freely- but the size of the cage depends on the size of the rabbit. Some breeds of rabbits can grow to be 15 pounds. If a rabbit is kept outdoors, it should have an area to get out of the elements like a hutch. Rabbits need to have a high quality diet and be given clean water every day. Rabbits need to have their nails trimmed regularly and be groomed. Long haired rabbits need frequent grooming to prevent mats. Rabbits like to play and should be handled regularly to remain friendly. Males and females need to be kept separate to prevent breeding.

4-H and FFA are great opportunities for youth to be able to do activities and learn more about animals like chickens and rabbits. Members can participate in projects that teach them record keeping, animal handling skills, animal health practices, and how to present an animal to a judge at a show. These programs help youth build self confidence, responsibility, communication, and teamwork skills. We hope this information has been helpful to you in making a decision whether a rabbit or chicken is a good animal to purchase as an Easter gift.

Idea/Concept: Melanie Berndtson, Bridget Kennedy
Videography: Erin O’Shea, Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Erin O’Shea
Writing: Melanie Berndtson

Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by Laurel Health, Akiko’s Floral Arts

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