CASPER, Wyo. — Fluffy ears and doe eyes are just the beginning of a rabbit’s decade-long life.
Families who own rabbits talk about the joys of watching Thumper or Roger spring into the air in hopping bursts affectionately called popcorning. Human owners brag about the small creatures loyally following them around the house or yard when they let them out of their pens. It’s fun to watch them bond with another rabbit for life, which isn't a problem if they’re spayed or neutered.
Natrona County resident Susan Martin loves rabbits so much she runs a rescue southwest of Casper. This time of year, she’s thinking about all the Easter bunnies she’ll be asked to take in, in three to six months after the holiday, from Fort Collins to Rock Springs to Gillette.
“The cute little Easter bunny thing is such a fallacy,” she said. “…They’ll give you the whole cage. They’ll give you the setup. They’ll give you the food. They just want you to take the rabbit away. It’s really sad.”
Evansville residents Veronica Mason and her adult daughter Danee Mason, who leaves in her own house nearby, are often asked to take families’ Easter chicks that are no longer chicks.
“They will always grow up to be chicken,” Veronica Mason said. “Whatever they are, they always grow up.”
The white bunnies families buy for Easter are New Zealand rabbits, said Martin, who currently has 35 rabbits. In three to four months, New Zealand rabbits will be 15 pounds. Think of the rabbits in Cadbury Egg television commercials.
Most families keep rabbits in wire cages in a child’s bedroom. But they don’t realize how high-maintenance they can be. If the cages aren't cleaned almost daily, Martin said, they stink.
Even if the bunnies are spayed or neutered, there can be problems.
“They basically spray the walls with urine,” Martin said. “They thump in the middle of the night. If they get anxious or angry, they actually stomp. It wakes you up. It’s like someone banging the walls.”
In the nine years she’s had the rescue, Martin has housed more than 200 rabbits. Sometimes people adopt them from her, but most of the time the rabbits are with Martin for the rest of their lives. People don’t want full-grown rabbits, she said.
Domesticated rabbits cannot be released in the wild because they do not have the skills to survive, Martin said.
Veronica Mason raises rabbits and chickens. She more frequently gets asked to take family rabbits, but people tire of chicks, too. If they’re roosters, they get loud. Chickens are messy, with feces everywhere, she said.
Chickens have to be kept clean, or they will get mites in their feathers. They are a lot of maintenance because they regularly need new straw or pine shavings in their living area.
That’s not to say chickens make awful pets.
“I find it very peaceful,” Veronica Mason said. “I can go outside, and I could watch my chickens and my ducks for hours and listen to them. I find it relaxing.”
Danee Mason said if a person interacts with chickens daily, sometimes they will bond with people. She once had a chicken who flew up and sat on her shoulder.
Mason started raising chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and guineas as a child in 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America. She showed them and won 13 champion showman awards at the Wyoming State Fair. As an adult, she’s kept them because she loves birds.
“If you’re handling them every day, of course, they’re going to be at your feet walking with you, wherever you go,” she said.