My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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Binky Bunny

Baby Bunny, the surviving kit, is five weeks of age. Paws, the father rabbit, has been neutered. Oreo, the mother rabbit, has resumed her bond with Paws, and both live in the larger of the two weather-proofed hutches each with an attached caged run. Baby Bunny is being weaned and readied for departure to a new home in seven days time.

Morning and evening, the three rabbits are let out for a run among the herbal ley under the fruit trees. Leo, our ‘wanna-be predator’ family cat, much to his chagrin, is locked inside the house at this time. It was a leap of faith I would be able to get three rabbits back into their cages. The orchard is a big area and easy for small animals to hide. Initially, I worked with one rabbit at a time. They loped to the other’s cage and sniffed each other through the wire mesh. They made their territorial marks as they explored the potential for rabbit play. Together, they have now developed playful freedom routines.

Binkying Bunny

Binky Bunny’s high jump landing behind Dad

‘Binky’, a new word for me, is a fascinating insight into playful behaviour. I learned from google searches that what our baby bunny is doing is called rabbit binkies. And oh boy, does Baby Bunny love his binky playtime. He leaps and twists. He sprints. He darts in and out of the borage, comfrey and wormwood. He dashes at great speed full circle round an apple tree. He races up to his Mum for a sniff and races off again. His hind paws kick out. Such exuberance. Such fun. Such life. Such joy.

Meanwhile, Oreo and Paws are sedate by comparison. They lope. They explore. They sniff. They burrow at the bases of trees. They nibble clover. They eyeball the hens. They reform as a family group and huddle with their kit. They groom. They stretch out.

Paws has been receptive to being handled and petted. Since his visit to the vet four weeks ago, he is more settled. Oreo has been shy and reluctant to be handled. Since she moved back with Paws, her behaviour has changed. Almost overnight, she seems to be more trusting letting me stroke her, even pick her up for a short spell. Tonight, she lay stretched out on the ground while being quietly scratched behind her ears like we do with our cats. Rabbit bliss.

An urgent call of nature dictated that Baby Bunny, exhausted from binkying, would lunge at his mother, wriggle upside down under her abdomen and suckle greedily for a full three minutes. I timed him. Binky bunny got a goodnight cuddle and settled for the night with a feed of fresh greens and hay. 

Paws, Oreo and Baby Bunny
Paws and Oreo with five-week old kit suckling Mum.


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Bunnies’ first nibble of vegetables

Each day has a new happening in the rabbit hutch. Day 21 and two little bunnies hopped towards the cage door, reared on their hind paws, reached and sniffed the fresh grass and leaf matter in my hand I was about to feed to their mother. This evening, the kits took baby nibbles of their first vegetable, the silverbeet leaf and stalk, organically grown in my garden, was intended for their mother. Meanwhile. Mama Oreo was absorbed eating freshly picked puha and young thistles. Nothing but the best freshly picked home grown produce for these small creatures.

Kit tastes silverbeet for the first time.

Kits sniffing and tasting vegetables. Very curious and friendly.

Bunnies are Groomed by Mum

After tasting the vegetable feed, mini-lop bunnies are groomed by Mum.


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Baby Bunnies’ Big Hop from their Hutch

New Nest in the Hay Feed Bowl

Both baby bunnies snuggled into Mama’s dry feed bowl incidentally adorned with a garden art rabbit.

It is almost time to think about leaving home. Unafraid and curious, the mini-lop kits hopped from the interior of their home for the past 20 days and ventured into the caged area where Mum was feeding on delectable dandelion flowers and leaves. The baby rabbits do not mind being cuddled. The rate of growth is remarkable. I cannot be sure about their gender but think one is a male. One kit’s ears are light chocolate colour. The other’s  ears tend to be more coffee coloured. Unlike their mother Oreo, there are no markings on their bodies that I can see at this stage, Day 20. Their fur is so fluffy. Cute. and cute.

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Two very little bunnies ventured outside. One onto the step. The other has hopped into the hay feed bowl.

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Baby bunnies snuggle in when being cuddled. They are growing rapidly.

 


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Paws the Rabbit has Exercise Time

 

Late afternoon has been pleasant as the spring weather warms and the garden plants grow and blossom. Paws the rabbit is being encouraged to exercise. Once he has explored the boundaries, visited Oreo’s cage and sniffed the smells, he will hip-hop and dart in and out of the borage, rhubarb, comfrey, curry plant and  wormwood herbs that grow under the fruit trees. Tonight he dug a shallow burrow in the hens’ dirt-dust bath area. The hens accept Paws now and there is beak-to-nose communication.

Playmates

Friends Brown Shaver hen and Paws explore the comfrey plant under the apple tree.

Burrowing under the Rhubarb

Paws hip-hops and digs as he explores the orchard during his timeout from the caged run.

 


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Mini-lop Baby Rabbits’ Eyes Open Day 14

Oreo and her Kits

Both surviving 14-day old kits had hopped out of their nest in the plastic tray.

It is Day 14 since the birth and we have seen rapid change. From hairless newborns enveloped by a thick quilt of soft rabbit fur, the white-furred kits have emerged from their downy cocoon, moving in tiny hops as they explore the boundaries of their nest before joining Mum on the floor of the hutch. One tiny hop for a rabbit. One giant hop for baby bunnies.

For the first time, we saw Oreo cleaning her babies as they lay on their backs while they suckled. They are beguiling, such cute characters. After school this afternoon, it was with absolute wonder as they cuddled the kits that grandsons learned the baby rabbits had newly opened their eyes.

I stood back and looked on gobsmacked. Were these the same boys who absolutely must be in front of a gaming device in their spare time? Rabbits = 1, devices = 0.

 

Oreo is calm about me cleaning the nest, handling the kits and watching her with the kits. I have been careful to build trust and a routine with her. I like to talk to her with a quiet voice and let her come up and sniff my hand. It helps to offer Oreo a piece of apple. Everything stops for that treat.


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Learning Rabbit Care on the Hop

If we thought rabbit care would become routine pet care, think again. I have been on a steep learning curve, learning on the hop so to speak, moment by moment.

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Oreo’s hutch is predator proof. Leo hunts wild rabbits and would attack the pet rabbits.

Leo, the family cat, frequently and successfully hunts wild rabbits. Though the hutch and run are predator proofed, it has not stopped him scoping the possibility of getting easy prey. It means we must spend time daily with Paws so he can have a run and forage in the orchard. For now, Oreo does not leave her cage and is never far from her kits.   

After the birth of the kits, it was the behaviour of our normally amiable free-ranging hens that astounded me. I was giving Oreo fresh water and feed. Two of the hens tried to push by me into the cage run.  I pushed them away. They flew back and pecked me as they tried again to get into the run. They stayed near the cage for some time glaring at the enclosure that had been their chicken coop one year ago.

The local pet-shop owner suggested I remove the placenta stained fur to clear the hutch of smell that would attract predators and might be agitating the hens. Later that afternoon while doing as I was advised, I sadly counted four kits. The fifth was nowhere to be found. Oreo for reasons of her own had eaten this newborn. I had been told to expect this could happen.     

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Paws the pet rabbit and Grandson have quality bonding time.

Grandson, 9-years old, was an interested onlooker at this time. He wanted to know about about birth and the placenta and asked lots of questions. Sitting quietly in the orchard with this boy while we watched his pet rabbit, it was a special moment to be part of a learning conversation about Oreo’s experience and be able to relate it to facts of human life. Wow! Oreo is more than a pet. Oreo the mother. Oreo the teacher.    


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Oreo the mini-lop rabbit gives birth

Tuesday, 24th October is a date when I would like to have been proven wrong about the saying, breeding like rabbits.

Oreo Mini-lop Rabbit

Oreo feeding on dandelions and fresh grass

In my previous blog about Paws, mentioned how excited Grandson at the arrival of an unexpected second pet rabbit and how his Mum said she had got Oreo ‘not long ago’ from the S.P.C.A. and that because she was so young,‘things should be alright’.

Paws and Oreo are parents

Kits cocooned in Mum’s downy fur

Oreo, a mini-lop rabbit, gave birth to her first litter of five kits about midday. She showed strong basic instincts in her preparation for the birth and mothering.

She had tried digging a burrow from the cage. She had plucked fur from her lower abdomen to make a soft downy cocoon for her babies in the straw nest created some days earlier. In this way, Oreo exposed her nipples ready to suckle her kits.

There was a time lag of about three hours between the birth and when we were able to separate the new mother and her kits from Paws, the father. Too late, I think. Oreo is probably pregnant again. 

Mother and babies are doing well.