Updated: Feb 23, 2019
When we got Stevie and Stormy from our local pumpkin, corn, goat, rabbit farm we were told they were both boys...but Stevie's behavior had changed considerably, and for the worst, about a month ago. He – I assumed he was a he – had started making grunting sounds, all of sudden did not like being held and even took a little nibble at me on one occasion. Something about this rabbit was off, I didn't think too much of it, but I kept my guard up when grabbing for him.
My parents were in town for the weekend, I had been traveling a lot and the rabbit barn needed to be cleaned. I had no idea how my life would change when I went to complete that task on that fateful winter day. My dad pulled the mower up and parked the trailer and I started digging into the hay as normal.
I will never forget the moment I started picking up the hay and saw that first baby rabbit drop out and land on the floor of the barn.
My first hobby-farmer inclination was that the animal that came out of the hay was a mouse but it was moving too slow! When I reached down to pick it up and saw the little ears, it all became clear very quickly: Stevie is a girl, we've been separating her from her newborns at night – no wonder she had been diving into the hay every morning! – and, as I said to my dad in that moment "our life just changed." After lots of frantic, but gentle hunting through the hay I discovered she had had 6 total children, 1 had not survived, such is life on the hobby farm. I immediately called my wife, kids and mom down from the house to share in the celebration, and what a celebration it was.
I didn't grow up with rabbits. We had small lizards, a few small rodents, dogs and cats came and went and I spent a lot of time around dairy cows, but I was never responsible for infant animals. The first emotion I felt was responsibility. It is the middle of winter, these babies have been alone in their nest at night and our research showed they were little more than a week old, a few of them still hadn't opened their eyes. I had to put together a plan, had to make sure Stevie was in a situation where she felt they were safe. And what about the proud papa? Ol' Stormy! You ol' sailor you! He needed some appreciation for the role he played as well.
Getting them settled...
The first thing we had to do was give those little rabbits a place where they could be kept warm and secure with their mom, but she also needed to be able to come and go when she wanted. I grabbed an old dog kennel we had laying around and filled it with the straw from the nest, complete with all the rabbit hair Stevie had pulled out and woven into it to for insulation. We brought the babies inside with their mom and gave them a couple of hours to just relax, with warmth, fresh carrots, celery and water and peace and quiet. We also took some fresh veggies down to the barn for Stormy just to show our appreciation.
We played with the babies a bit that first day, Stevie was very gracious. In the evening, when I went out to close up the chicken coop and lock the shop I took them back down in the kennel and gave Stevie (we may have to change her name) a few minutes to reconnect with her man – rabbits really fall in love with each other we learned – run around, eat some pellets and stretch her legs before ushering her back into the kennel and closing the door. I also covered the kennel with hay for added installation and to create a general "nest" feel.
This has been our routine every day since they were discovered. Go get them in the morning, bring them inside, make sure Stevie gets lots of fresh veggies and water, play with them, put them back, take them back down so she can get some free time in the barn, bring them back up in the evening, play with them some more, take them back down and put them to bed at night, Stevie in with them and Stormy right next door in his own cage.
I don't think we're going to have any issue finding homes for these 5. We may keep one, may decide to have more at some point, we're not sure yet. We are thoroughly enjoying the process so far, they've got to be the cutest baby animals I've ever seen in my life.
Truly a miracle they survived...
We put our adult rabbits in their cage in the barn every night to protect them from Predators. This means that every night since these little things were born they've been without their mom, her warmth and her milk every night. There was even a day or 2 in there where I was out of town and they were without her for 24 hours at a time. Although I feel terrible this occurred, I had no idea they even existed and I will always be blown away that they were able to stay warm and full enough to stay alive in that barn. Boy am I glad they did. It also gives me confidence that these little fur balls can handle the jostling they experience as a result of our kids and their friends carrying them around the house, dropping them etc... Tough little rodents I tell ya'.
This is what hobby farming is all about: the smell of the hay, the sound of the rain outside the barn and the cozy site of these young rabbits being taken care of and fed by their wonderful mother...who I used to think was a man.
Did you know rabbits can get pregnant while nursing new litters? Did you also know their gestation period is a mere 30 days! These combined facts are why the famous idioms about their reproductive abilities exist. They are incredible breeders.
Stevie has her spaying appointment next Wednesday...will keep you updated.
Rise. Shine. Crush.