For the Love (and hate) of Rabbits

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SUNSHINE

Rabbits have been a part of my life for a very long time, and over the years I have had a love/hate relationship with them.  Since my mother grew up on a farm, raising their own meat was one of the ways her parents provided food for their family.  But because we lived within city limits, having a cow for beef or pigs for pork was out of the question.  So rabbits seemed like a good choice.  The first rabbits to join us were Daren and Samantha (named for the characters on the TV show, Bewitched, because they wiggled their noses).  They were both Dutch and we loved their black and white coats of fur.  However, my mother took this opportunity to teach us the facts of life, which frankly was quite disturbing for city girls.  As well as observing the act of mating, we witnessed the birth of the first kits – all alarming displays of the animal kingdom.  But that aside, the tiny pink rabbits soon grew fur, then opened their eyes, and of course we fell in love with them.  Over time, as we helped with the chores related to rabbits– we became very attached and declared all 50 of them our pets.  Then the fateful day arrived – it was time to “process” them.  While we tried to occupy ourselves inside the house, we knew what was happening.  Then when they appeared on our plates with the enthusiastic claim that the meat tasted like fried chicken, we refused to eat our pets and that ended the rabbit era of my childhood.  So you see, I loved the rabbits but hated the life and death lessons that came with them.

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A very blurry picture of my Daddy holding one of the victims, I mean rabbits!

If you’ve ever planted a garden, well, you probably hate rabbits.  At least I know our neighbor did because he shot them regularly until someone called to complain about gunshots in the neighborhood.  While an avid gardener, I actually love watching the ones that visit our property.  However, I was none too happy when they ate down 100 sunflower seedlings!  I tried to solve this problem by putting up a picket fence around my vegetable garden which was silly of me since they dug themselves right under it.  So I added chicken wiring along the bottom of the fence, extending it quite deeply into the soil.  Problem solved, maybe.  One day I found an entire litter of kits in the pepper patch!  So here’s the love/hate thing again.  I hated the fact that Momma Rabbit was eating my beans, but I loved the darling babies tucked into their straw and fur bed.  What a dilemma!  I decided to relocate the entire bunch by digging a shallow hole under the forsythia bushes and carefully carrying them all (including the nest) to their new home on my shovel.  I worried over them for days and occasionally peeked in on them from a distance.  I loved the fact that they survived, but hated that they seemed to eat everything green except the lawn!  I knew they’d still eat my plants if given the chance.  So upon a thorough inspection of the fence, I discovered a gap between the garden gate and fence post and took care of the matter.  I made sure they knew they were not invited to my garden for a dinner party.

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The sweet bunnies I expelled from my garden

In case you didn’t know, feral rabbits don’t want to be loved on.  That’s when I decided I wanted to revisit my childhood without the unhappy ending.  Thus, Sunshine became a part of our lives.  She was really destined for the frying pan had I not bought her from a family that raises meat rabbits for that very purpose.  Of course, I wanted a Dutch, so I drove a very long way out to the middle of nowhere and met her mother.  Yes, she was a black and white Dutch.  But as I looked her litter over, I found that not one of her offspring had inherited her genes and to top that, their dad was a pure white New Zealand buck.  Sunshine looked like neither her mom nor dad but she was the last female of the litter and she was adorable. 

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Sunshine in her new home

I had prepared a home for her by rebuilding an old hutch and I’d decorated it with a sign which included her name – Oreo.  I’d even created a Dutch rabbit out of clay that sat above the letters of her name.  But once I saw her I knew I’d have to think up a new name since Oreo was not a description of her at all.  Because she really did bring sunshine into my life, her new name suited her well. 

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The rebuilding and beautification of a very old hutch

My intentions were to give her the entire lovely screened-in porch as her playground.  However, that ended abruptly when I discovered my wicker chair legs demolished and teeth marks in the porch railings.  But how could I be mad at her when she was just being herself – a rabbit.  That’s when I purchased dog fencing so she’d still be able to come and go from her hutch whenever she pleased and still have room to run around.  It’s certainly not been foolproof since she’s such a cleaver rabbit and has learned to move the fencing around with her teeth to position it so she can continue to eat my patio furniture.  It helps that my friends have apple trees and supply Sunshine with plenty of sticks to keep her teeth in check.

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Putting up some boundaries for the bunny

And when I step out of the kitchen door, she greets me with spinning hops and lays down beside me so I can love on her with ear, face, and back rubs.  Finally – a rabbit in my life with no hate in the relationship at all.

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