The Easter bunny originated in early fertility lore.  the rabbit and its not too distant cousin, the hare were known as the most fertile animals, so they were chosen to symbolize new life during the season of spring.

The furry creature itself as an Easter symbol appears to have been born in Germany, where it was first mentioned in writings of the 1500's.  The first Easter bunnies you can eat were made in Germany in the early 1800's,  The chocolate bunny hadn't been invented yet.  These were made of pastry.

The Easter Bunny was introduced to American folklore by German settlers who came over during the 1700's.  Kids believed that if they were good, the Easter Bunny would lay a nest of colored eggs.  Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests which would evolve into Easter baskets as the legend of the Easter Bunny spread throughout the country.

Many years later, Dyngus Day, celebrated on the Monday after Easter was born in a place called Buffalo, New York but that's another story.