We started the bunny chronicles in February when we brought 3 New Zealand rabbits home: 2 ladies and a gent. I guess in rabbit lingo they are called does and bucks. I am learning a lot about rabbits, maybe more than you want to know. Read on.
The kids named our mister Gizer, which is short for Energizer. I know, they are geniuses. He is all black and lives a cushy life. The ladies aren’t quite as big as our buck. Lily is nearly all white and then there is the freckled one, Brown Cow. I told you I have no control over the naming process. Those of you who know rabbits know already what will probably appall others of you: New Zealands are MEAT rabbits. Yup. Before you recoil in horror at the fact that my children are playing with chops, we have a plan.
I originally wanted rabbits when I found out that their, um, droppings are the equivalent of miracle grow. To a gardener (or green thumb wannabe), they excrete gold. It is the only animal manure that can be added straight to a garden without composting. As excited as I was about poop, it didn’t quite win over Shea. I can’t imagine why. So I tried a new approach. By now y’all know the way to my man’s heart…
I researched their food value. Shea and I want to see how self-sufficient we can get on half an acre, hence the garden, dairy goats, and egg layers. Did you know that one female bunny, when you take into account all the babies she can have, can produce as much meat in a year as a COW? You read that right. They are inexpensive to feed and their meat is higher in protein and lower in fat than chicken. That cinched the deal. So now we have the makings of a McRabbit factory.
How will the kids handle this? They’ve never eaten more than a chocolate bunny and they’ve certainly never had a drumstick for a pet. The plan is to alternate kindles (I wish I meant the much coveted reading devices, but no, I mean litters of bunnies) so that by the time one bunch is ready to “go to market” there are more adorable fluff balls to play with. Think it will work or am I setting my kids up for trauma? All the stats and plans look good on paper, but we have never actually butchered anything in our lives. We have 4 more weeks till our first round of babies reach “fryer age.” Ask me how brilliant my plan is then. Maybe recommend some child psychologists too.
In the meantime, the kids love the rabbits. Gizer, Lily, and Brown Cow have a permanent stay of execution. You just can’t eat anyone with a name. Lily and Brown Cow have the formidable task of pumping out offspring. I sympathize. Unlike myself, I will allow them time to pack up their maternity clothes before they suit up again. Though they can have litters 2 months apart (more if you are really irresponsible), I will wait awhile longer. After having my own kindle of 4 in 5 years, I would never impose. Our man Gizer has it really good. When the time comes, we deliver him a lady friend, we light some candles, play some music, and he gets his game on. What guy wouldn’t trade him places? Less than 5 minutes of “work” every month or so and he gets to relax.
I am new to the process of matchmaking animals. The lady I bought them from shared some ground rules: Always bring the girl to the guy’s cage (if she has the home court advantage, she could reject him. You know, a little authority goes to our heads). He will thump his foot to show he is ready (suddenly Bambi’s little buddy doesn’t seem so innocent). You have to stay and watch so you can remove the doe right after (really?) And here is what got me: when he is done with the deed he will “freeze and fall to the side” at which time you take the mistress back to her pad. She couldn’t really mean that, could she?
When it came time to start the wheels in motion, I brought our first bunny-geisha to Gizer. He immediately approved with a thump of his foot as my whole family gathered around to see what they would do (I told you before, we really need cable.) Sure enough, the buck pinned her and after about 3o seconds he fell off to the side, stunned. Now maybe that is more information than you wanted to know about rabbits, but that just strikes my funny bone.
A few days later, my brother (who was also there for the peep show) brought me a package of my favorite bubblegum and when I saw it, I froze and fell over on the couch. That has become our new expression for elation. Opening birthday presents will never be the same at our house.
About 29 days later, we had a bunch of wiggly bundles in the nest box. You can tell a doe is close to birthing when she pulls her hair out to make a nest. Funny, I didn’t start pulling my hair out until after my kids were born.
At ten days the babies open their eyes. After 3 weeks, the babies are fully fuzzed and wandering–old enough to play with! At 8 weeks, they are weaned from their mommas and ready to go to new homes…or dinner tables. Such is the life-cycle of a baby bunny at our house.
The babies are adorable…cute little morsels, you might say. My kids are having a grand time. And they are learning the facts of life: Boys and girls like to play games, leapfrog is one of them. When a girl tells a boy he is going to be a daddy, he gets so excited he falls over. And babies are cute. When they are no longer cute, they disappear and we get more babies. Hmmm….maybe I need to reevaluate their education?