Every year multitudes of people buy their kids bunnies for Easter without actually thinking through the consequences of their actions. If you are contemplating the purchase of a Bunny this Easter here are some things you need to know:
1. Rabbits bite! All rabbits bite when they are scared, but full arch breeds like the Checkered Giant or Britannia Petite will take your finger off for no apparent reason. Think, evil Bunny from Monte Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. (Actually, that rabbit was a New Zealand Giant and a very docile bunny. Had the cave actually been guarded by the more vicious Britannia Petite they really would have ended up with missing limbs!) There are 47 different breeds of rabbits, take the time to learn about them to make sure you've bought a bunny that will be a good fit for your family.
2. Rabbits Die! A rabbit's second favorite thing to do is dye. (Their favorite thing to do is, well, breed like rabbits.) So far as I know a rabbits are the only animal that can be scared to death. Loud explosion on TV can kill the rabbit, running the vacuum is a death sentence; so is exposing it to the sight of obnoxious neighborhood dogs and loud children.
3. Rabbits Scratch! When a rabbit feels scared it will defend its self with teeth and claws. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that rabbits, bunnies in particular, have very sharp claws. Not only will a frightened rabbit draw blood on your arm, but the hind legs of a rabbit can kick strong enough to break their own back, at which point you are back to item #2, Rabbits Die.
4. Rabbits Chew! A happy rabbit's leisurely pastime is to chew something. Good choices include a small twig from an apple tree or a paper towel roll stuffed with straw. Unattended rabbits chew TV cords, phone charger cords, vacuum cords, etcetera. If the cords happen to be plugged in your rabbit could shock its self and die.
5. Rabbits Poop! (And pee.) You will have to choose where to house your rabbit and included in that choice is what to do with the bunny berries that are left behind. Because rabbits can be scared to death its best to keep them in an enclosed structure. Some people have house rabbits, which I discourage partly because they like to chew, but mostly because house plants are toxic to rabbits. (Brings us back to # 2, Rabbits Die.) A shed or inside a garage is an ideal home for a rabbit that has an appropriate cage. Drop pans will catch the feces and urine (which smells worse than cats) and will need to be emptied regularly. I like to put rabbit droppings in the garden and mulch them. You will have to figure out some type of storage and containment bin for droppings away from the house as fecal matter attracts flies and angers neighbors. If you allow the fecal matter to accumulate in the cage it will become a source for disease and your rabbit will die.
6. Rabbits can't sweat! Because your bunny can't sweat it will be miserable if you don't provide proper cooling. A shaded area with a fan and frozen water bottle (To lay on, not drink out of) will help keep you bunny cool during the day in the summer months. If a rabbit is not kept cool it will die of heat stroke. (I told you dying was its second favorite thing to do.)
7. Rabbits breed! Much like a dog humping your leg your rabbit's favorite pastime is breeding and he (or she) will mount just about anything. I've even seen a buck get off on a PlayStation consol. If you do not want you children to witness the rabbit having a go at their stuffed animals, I suggest not getting a rabbit. On a brighter note I have never seen this activity result in the death of a rabbit, though I did witness a close call that resulted in a $300 trip to the vet!
8. Rabbits starve! Rabbit pellets must be salty because rabbits won't eat if they don't have water, so a rabbit will starve itself. The rabbit won't actually die of starvation because it will die of lack of water long before then. Its important to make sure that your rabbit always has access to plenty of clean water. And while we are on the subject of food, don't feed it vegetables! A lot of veggies will give your bunny gas and since rabbits can't fart pressure builds up in the abdomen resulting in death. Rabbits can have dandelion greens in moderation, a sliver of apple once a week or so, and a small bit of carrot once in a great while, but don't go feeding it random veggies for fear of death.
9. Rabbits need exercise! The rule of thumb is one foot of area per pound of rabbit. If your rabbit's adult weight will be four pounds, then you need at least four square feet of room in the rabbit cage. If you are going to buy a rabbit that will grow to 9 pounds of adult weight then you need 9 square feet of room inside the rabbit's cage. (Large breeds can weigh over 20 pounds.) Some breeds, like the Tan, need to be let out for a run every day. Make sure you have the time and space for a rabbit before buying one and never leave a rabbit unattended in the yard; cats, dogs, hawks, and coyotes all love to eat rabbit.
10. Rabbits are expensive! Your rabbit will need a vet check, possibly spayed or neutered (A buck rabbit can spray worse than a Tom Cat so it's best to remove their testicles.) Further, if your rabbit gets sick prepare to pay a lot because there is only one antibiotic recommended for use in rabbits and it's about $180/bottle! Check out this link for more information on rabbit cost:
If after all that you still want to buy a bunny know this: They can live for 10 years if properly cared for. If you are serious about making a 10 year commitment, contact your local Extension Office and get the names of 4-H Rabbit Leaders in the area and enroll the kids who will be primarily responsible for the bunny. A 4-H Rabbit Leader is a great resource for all kinds of rabbit questions and they will teach your kids safe handling techniques as well as the ins and outs of feeding and housing your new pet.