Invented sometime around the 19th century, it’s now estimated that about 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced yearly worldwide. While a larger population than the estimated one million pet rabbits currently in the UK, they are much easier to look after. Read on to discover how to care for your chocolate bunny, and why real bunnies are certainly not for Easter.
Where to keep your chocolate bunny
To avoid a melting mess, provide shade.
Real bunnies need shelter from the sun too, or they may overheat and suffer heat stress. They need a cage to shelter in that is big enough to hop three times and stand up, and they also need a large run so they can run and jump, explore and dig. They require an area of 10ft x 6ft x 3ft in total, which of course is a much larger space than your chocolate bunny needs. Your chocolate bunny may do well refrigerated, but your real bunny needs its home insulating in the winter to prevent hypothermia.
59% of people eat their chocolate bunnies from the ears down. To avoid harm coming to your real bunny, accommodation needs to be secure from escape and predators. You could choose to keep your bunny inside the house, just like your chocolate one, but they still need the same amount of space as an outdoor bunny.
Handle your chocolate bunny with care
Chocolate bunnies don’t mind being handled, although they may break or melt. Most real rabbits, on the other hand, dislike being picked up. This may be disappointing to children who like to be hands on. Consider a cuddly rabbit toy, if this is the case, that does not mind being cuddled.
Chocolate bunnies may not be around for long
Your chocolate bunny is unlikely to last past Easter. Your real rabbit by comparison, given the right care, can live 7-10 years, a much longer commitment. Rabbits are often seen as a children’s pet, but by this time the child has often lost interest, grown up, or left home. Statistics show that over a third of rabbits are given away when a child loses interest; 55% of rabbits entering rescue centres are bought in spring and 80% of bunnies bought specifically at Easter are given up (or die due to neglect) within a year. Remember adults are always responsible for pet welfare.
You can buy a chocolate bunny with your pocket money
Although not as cheap as a chocolate one, real rabbits are inexpensive to buy, but if cared for properly over their lifetime, a pair of rabbits cost around £11,000. You could get a lot of chocolate bunnies for that, although this may not be so good for the waistline.
Chocolate rabbits will not multiply…
…while real rabbits, on the other hand, are the symbol of spring fertility, reproducing quickly. As companionship is essential for rabbit happiness, and mixed sex pairs work best, then neutering is essential. Studies show rabbits choose company of other rabbits over food yet 54% of the rabbit population live alone. Rabbits share warmth, play, groom and have their ‘safety in numbers’ instinct fulfilled. Ask your vet about neutering. If you have a solo rabbit, rescue centres may be able to help source your bunny a friend.
Sugar is essential to your chocolate bunny
Chocolate bunnies are high in sugar, and we know not to eat too many. We also need to make sure our bunnies do not overdo the sweet treats. Carrots are full of sugar and contrary to what Bugs Bunny says, they should only be fed as treats.
An average-sized rabbit should eat their own size in hay or grass every day, (85% of the diet) a handful of mixed greens (10% of the diet) and an eggcup of pellets (5% of the diet). Fibre keeps the gut healthy and allows them to constantly grind their teeth, which continuously grow. Without constant teeth grinding, painful spurs form, needing veterinary attention and reducing life expectancy. Muesli type food should not be given as they can select some parts and leave others. Rabbits that get too much pellet food can become obese, and suffer poor gut health and dental disease as they eat less hay and vegetables.
While chocolate rabbit droppings sounds appealing, real rabbits produce softer faeces called caecotrophs, which they actually do eat. Disgusting as this sounds, they need to recycle the enzymes in the poo for healthy gut function. If they don’t do this, perhaps due to obesity making reaching tricky, or sore teeth making it painful to do so, gut problems will arise.
Protect your chocolate bunny from pests
While chocolate bunnies need protection from insects and other thieves, flies are more of an issue to your real rabbits.
In warmer months, flies attracted to your rabbit’s bottom may lay eggs in the fur, forming maggots that bury deep into the rabbits skin. This can happen quickly, is painful, and often fatal. You can buy fly repellents to reduce the risk, but regular checking of your bunny’s bottom is essential.
Biting insects spread myxomatosis, a fatal disease to rabbits. This and another fatal disease called viral haemorrhagic disease can be prevented by vaccination. Please speak to your local vets for more information.
Many pet shops ban the sale of rabbits over Easter. Unlike chocolate bunnies, they have feelings, welfare needs, are costly, time consuming and may need years of caring for. If you do want to buy a rabbit (or two), do your research to check you can provide what they need and contact one of the many rabbit shelters. Estimates suggest 67,000 rabbits pass through rescue centres year, and they often know more about how to properly care for rabbits than pet shops or garden centres.
This Easter it’s best to stick with chocolate bunnies, or if you want a healthier treat for the kids, a toy rabbit brings minimal effort, minimal calories and will be much more cuddly.