The Easter I was seven years old, we went to
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. Arizona
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...