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When bunnies and chicks become rabbits and roosters

(Credit: Rabbit, Henderson Animal Shelter; Rooster, Camille Savage)

Dana Gentry, Nevada Current
March 27, 2024

Nothing says springtime like bunnies and chicks, which are often gifted by well-meaning folks for Easter. But bunnies turn into rabbits, and chicks (even those determined by the feed stores that sell them to be female) can turn into roosters, which are illegal in most parts of the valley. 

“It happens,” says Shane Greismann, manager of Tractor Supply Store in Las Vegas, of customers who expected a hen but ended up with a rooster. Greismann says the store can’t guarantee the gender of baby chicks, which are placed in a box immediately after hatching, with enough food for 14 hours, and mailed to stores. 

“They usually end up selling them to ranchers and farmers,” Greisman says of the males. 

But not always. 

“Once they start crowing in about 16 weeks, if they turn out to be roosters, is when we start getting messages about surrenders, or start seeing them dumped in different areas,” says Camille Savage, an animal advocate who works with All Friends Animal Sanctuary. 

The sanctuary is called on by local shelters to find homes for abandoned or confiscated roosters. 

“Most of us aren’t zoned for roosters,” says Savage, who urges the public not to indulge the impulse to buy one. “I have so many screenshots from the local ‘backyard chicken’ groups of people trying to rehome roosters everyday.”

Savage also transports roosters to a sanctuary in Utah, but says most sanctuaries are at capacity.

“These animals feel pain like any other, need vet care like cats and dogs, and are not gifts for Easter or any other day, holiday and otherwise,” says Savage, who says all chickens rarely get the care they require.

Local animal shelters are also full of rabbits, especially in the weeks and months following Easter. Experts estimate four out of five rabbits gifted for Easter don’t survive or are abandoned in the first year. 

Dave Schweiger, founder of Bunnies Matter, a rabbit rescue group, and his volunteers rescue rabbits abandoned throughout the valley. “In the last three years we’ve adopted out more than 400 bunnies,” he says. 

Local spay and neuter laws didn’t cover rabbits until Schweiger lobbied for it. 

Clark County has outlawed the sale of rabbits, dogs, and cats from pet stores. Rabbits sold in Las Vegas city limits who are four months old must be spayed or neutered first. Those younger than four months must be sold with a voucher for sterilization, which can run from $200 to $400, according to Schweiger’s Bunny Matters website. 

In exchange for the City of Las Vegas’ agreement to require rabbit sterilization, Schweiger agreed to trap bunnies at Floyd Lamb State Park, a favorite dumping ground. Volunteers trapped close to 100 rabbits at the park, Schweiger says. 

“People think ‘Oh I’ll just leave the rabbit in this park. It will be fine.’ They die a horrible death. They don’t have any wild instincts. They are used to people handing them their food. Now all of a sudden you want them to go hunt?” he says. 

Schweiger is frustrated by local governments’ failure to crack down on illegal backyard bunny breeders. Three years ago he put together a group of volunteer sleuths who comb Craigslist and social media for rabbit breeders.

“We screenshot the ad, which usually has the phone number. Then we get a text conversation proving they are selling rabbits,” he says. “We’d get all that information, and turn it over to Animal Control and they would send out an officer. They would investigate, leave a notice if they weren’t there, giving them 24 hours to call, or they’d ticket people.”

Schweiger says this year the municipalities stopped sending an officer and sent a letter instead.   

“You know nothing’s going to happen,” he says. “We’re doing free work but they can’t back it up because of a lack of manpower.” 

Schweiger says there’s a public safety aspect to shutting down backyard breeders, who he says  often don’t vaccinate their own dogs against rabies, placing rabbits and the buying public at risk.  

His advice for those thinking about buying a bunny for Easter. “Don’t do it. Really at any time, but much less Easter.”

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.