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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Raising Rabbits

The Easter I was seven years old, we went to Arizona to visit my Grandparents.  They had a gift for my brother, Jim and me: a pair of white rabbits.  They looked like the rabbits a magician would pull out of a hat; with long ears, pink eyes, and enormous hind feet. 

Jim and I always rode in the camper shell of Dad’s pickup on long trips.  The ride home was much more entertaining with those rabbits in their wire cage.  We had carrots, apples and lettuce leaves we were constantly poking through the bars.

My dad was forced to make a rabbit pen within a day or two of arriving home.  Once the bunnies were installed in their new home we thought we were set and all we had to do was feed and water them.  As it turned out, we had a male and female rabbit and the perception of rabbits breeding, well, like rabbits, turned out to be true.  It wasn’t long before the female had pulled out tufts of her own fur and lined a corner of the hutch and had a little, writhing batch of bunnies.  Newborn rabbits are not cute, but it doesn’t take them too long to become adorable.  My Mom made us take a bottle of vanilla extract out to the hutch and dab a little on the mama’s nose before we could hold her babies.  Jim, Mom and I all loved cuddling the baby bunnies.  Within weeks, the rabbit hutch was completely overflowing with fluffy, white rabbits and my dad started construction on more pens.

Dad made three more wooden boxes with chicken wire windows and floors, and then he made several more.  Each hutch he crafted became more sophisticated and more adapted to the needs of the animals and their keepers.  His creations had separate nesting sections that were completely enclosed with a piece of plywood with a round hole cute in it separating it from living area with the food and water containers. He had us fill the nesting boxes with clean straw.  Our buns loved their new homes and went right to work making more bunnies.

We sold quite a few of our rabbits advertising them at the IFA store in Delta.  My dad also slaughtered many of the young adults each spring, but I could never eat a bite of that meat.  I practically became a vegan while I lived in Hinckley with us raising and slaughtering our own meat.  I just couldn’t eat someone I had loved and named.

I remember Jim and I having to clean rabbit manure out of the hutches with a short-handled hoe.  We would have to nearly climb into the cage and pull the piles of poop pellets off of the wooden sections to fall through the wire flooring.  We would hold our breath while we were doing it because it was such a strong ammonia-smelling stuff.  It made our eyes water and was truly a miserable chore.

Another vibrant memory of the rabbits was when our cousin, Tammy Basham, came to live with us when she was five.  We gave her a beautiful tan and white rabbit of her own which she named Bunbun.  She would pick the tops of weeds and grass to feed Bunbun and Tammy would sit and hold her rabbit for hours.  One morning before school, Tammy went outside to check on her bunny while we were eating breakfast.  I still remember her crashing through the door shrieking, “Jojo ate Bunbun!”

A large black lab dog (named Jojo) was in the process of chewing up her bunny and spitting fur all over the place when Tammy came around the fence where the rabbit hutches sat.  It was extremely traumatizing for her to see her baby murdered like that.  Dad thought she must have left the cage door unlatched and Bunbun had pushed it open and allowed the dog to get to her.

Raising rabbits is not for the faint hearted.  It is smelly, physical and emotional work.  Occasionally I’ve thought I’d like to have rabbits again, but then I think about it some more and decide, “No, I really don’t”, but I wouldn't mind holding a baby bunny if anyone has one...


Tina said...

We, also had a rabbit raising phase. I never did get in to the holding and petting of them (I have so many allergies to animals I just left them alone fearing a skin breakout!) Even though I didn't fall in love with the rabbits I still couldn't eat them. I guess it was just the thought of "rabbit." Our entire family felt the same way and soon our rabbits were history!

You know, both you and I a.r.e rabbits. Go rabbits!!!! LOL!

Georgia said...

We absolutely would not stoop to Cannibalism...the real reason we wouldn't eat rabbit meat.

Dean and Sheri said...

Oh the HORROR of finding the dog eating sweet 'Bunbun'! I have seriously thought about getting a couple of bunnies and have even researched which make the best pets. I thought it would be fun for my grandbabies to have them to play with when they come to visit. And I've thought how cute it would be to have them just hopping around the yard and hanging out grazing on the lawn. Thanks for sharing your's given me a more realistic perspective. Don't think I'm gonna follow though on that idea anymore. I'll just take Cope to the IFA in the spring and we'll get our fill of bunnies that way.
Love your stories, Georgia.

Tina said...

What a mascot!!! and our biggest rivals were The Eagles . . . . eagles prey on rabbits! Too hilarious.

Georgia said...


My favorite cheer at DHS was "You're a Rabbit! They're only a ________" (Insert Vicious Carnivore here). I always had to wonder if we were thinking about what we were saying.


I have a friend who has a 'yard bunny' and he is a delightful pet. They had to do a ton of work bunny-proofing--putting a cement footing around the yard, they built the fence on top of it. After years of owning Taz, an owl swooped down and ate their bunny so they are now on rabbit pet #2 and they bring him in every night so he won't be owl chow too.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes still say "JoJo ate BunBun" at random times when that story pops into my head. Thanks for the post.