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Lifelong commitment

Courtesy photo Many people don’t know how to care for the cute animals they purchase over Easter weekend, Sanctuary One officials say.

Many people aren’t prepared to care for Easter-themed pets, officals say

Gearing up to start their season of 2021 farm tours later this month, Sanctuary One staff and volunteers were reflecting on another season of sorts -- the seemingly yearlong season of phone calls from folks who have adopted a pig, bunny or chicken, then realized they are in over their heads.

In recent weeks, some 20 chickens were dumped during the middle of the night on Sanctuary One property. One of the birds died in the middle of the freezing night before they were discovered the next day.

The nonprofit hosted a “Name a Chicken” fundraiser to pay for their care. The abandoning of the nearly two-dozen birds, executive director Megan Flowers said, highlights the frequency with which commitment to farm critters is not typically thought through.

It happens every year when the Easter bunny is set to visit.

Local feed stores have bins filled with fluffy baby ducks and chicks. New baby bunnies and other spring-born critters can cause the most calloused hearts to swoon, but just as soon as the chocolate wrappers have been tossed, in so many cases, so has excitement over the lop-eared or feathered household additions.

“It’s not just at Easter but we definitely see more of it this time of year. We see an increase in adoptions anytime there might be a movie with a cute animal, or a particular holiday attached to a certain animal. People are suddenly inclined to want to buy those animals,” Flowers said.

“What’s really critical for everybody to think about is, while it’s lovely that these animals are so cute, but what is my commitment I’m willing to make? Is it one year or five years or 20?”

Flowers said an oft-overlooked fact is the medical care and emotional investment beyond feeding and housing.

“All animals you bring into your family will require medical care, including chickens even though it seems like they can just be turned out in the yard,” shei said.

“They’re not something that are just cute and give you free eggs. They require an investment. We get calls every week, without fail, from people who have adopted or purchased a pig when they didn’t realize what all that would entail.”

Some things to think about, Flowers said:

While bunnies are fluffy and quiet, they live a long life if properly cared for. Being prey animals, health issues can be difficult to diagnose. Bunnies require medical care, a healthy diet and interaction for mental stimulation.

“Bunnies really can be the most wonderful family members, but we’re hoping to encourage people to do the research before they get a bunny,” Flowers said.

“Don’t do it for a holiday and don’t do it because they’re cute in the moment.”

Chickens, likewise, are far more involved than having backyard space and a desire for fresh eggs.

“A lot of people invest in backyard birds without checking their city zoning codes – are they even allowed to have them and, if so, how many? Another issue is whether they’re getting a chicken or a rooster. A lot of animal sanctuaries hit their rooster capacity pretty quickly and within a few weeks of Easter we’re going to see more of those calls, people who have these birds they’re not allowed to keep,” she said.

Chickens, she noted, require special bedding – the wrong kind can irritate their lungs – and can end up with mites and other health issues.

“The bottom line is to do the research and to get to know the individual animal,” Flowers added.

“Animals give us so much it’s our responsible to do the groundwork to give them what they need as well.”

With pet pigs being the topic of frequent phone calls, Flowers hopes a webinar series, kicking off later this month, will encourage responsible adoption. The series will kick off at 5:30 p.m. April 28.

Webinars on backyard fowl and alpacas will follow.

Cost for each webinar is $15, and preregistration is required.

Flowers said she was hopeful to encourage careful research and to thwart a few springtime adoptions of adorable baby farm animals.

“With any kind of animal you can adopt, there’s a lot of work to keep them alive but also to give them the best life possible,” she said.

“It’s worth the effort because the things you gain from those relationships is immeasurable. If you have chickens and you go out to sit with them, they have the most wonderful sound. You’re going to feel calmer, your blood pressure even goes down.”

She added, “We really hope to encourage education and that, before they fall for those cute baby chickens or bunnies, that families will do the proper research and be ready for that commitment.”

See sanctuaryone.org for more information.