I know this. I have watched it happen. I fed the rabbit, the rabbit was fat and sleek and after I put him back in the cage, he looked up, flipped me off with his tiny little paw and keeled over. They especially like to croak when your back is turned or you leave the room, so you come back and they are still warm, but dead.
They are wicked little buggers and if their eyes aren’t open yet should be put directly in the freezer. And yet…..people beg me to take them. They beg me to try. Sometimes they get angry or guilt me into taking them and it always ends the same. Sometimes after a day or two. Sometimes after weeks. It’s so frustrating and really depressing.
But people don’t see that. They just want to feel better because 99% of the time it is because they hit the nest with the lawn mower or their dog got into them or they just don’t want them in their yard (THAT I can understand), but they will never admit it.
So I take them and even though I know they should go in the freezer, I try……and I fail. Then every once in a while I get lucky and hit the right combination and they survive to release. Yay! now they are food for something else or they are in my garden eating MY food.
I hate bunnies. There. I said it.
But sometimes, the stars are in alignment and I have one of my domestic rabbits nursing a litter. (yes I raise and eat rabbit. I never said I hate the way they taste.) When the Gods of nature smile down on me and this happens, I take the babies (they need to be within a week or so of the domestic litter) and give them to the nursing mother.
The stars aligned this week and the Gods smiled. My best doe (my favorite because she doesn’t try to kill me every time I reach in there), only had two babies in this last batch. I already had one baby cottontail that had moved on to grass along with milk, that was the only survivor of 4. Then I got in two more that just barely had their eyes open. The domestics would open their eyes in a day or two, so I took the chance.
I put the two babies in my shirt so they would smell like me. I went out and scooped up the Doe’s babies and put them in my shirt too. I stood there for a moment thinking how glad I was that this was Brown Bunny instead of the Black-Bitch-From-Hell in the other cage. I still had all my fingers. Then I put all 4 back in the box and waited. Brown bunny sniffed them, gave them a quick lick and went about her business.
The next morning, everything was still fine and then the call came for three more. These were even younger. Shit. Could it possibly work again? When they came that evening, I stuffed them in my shirt and then slipped them in the box with the sleeping pile of fur. I had no idea if she would ignore them, throw them out or have a nice little snack. (bunnies do that sometimes, but haven’t we all had those moments when we look at our offspring and thought, “I know why cockroaches eat their young”?
She did none of the above. When I checked in the morning the older babies were washing the younger ones and all were fed and warm.
The lone baby was looking pretty sad and I knew he was about to flip me off and flip over. So I thought I had nothing to loose and took him out to the rabbitry (I think that’s a real word). He immediately jumped out of the nest box and ran to a corner. It was as if I had insulted him by putting him with the nursing babies. I didn’t have much hope as he put his face to the wall.
That was three days ago. Now all of them have their eyes open and sleep in a big pile in the straw. It looks so odd to see these two huge babies (the domestics) with the litter of tiny, odd size cottontails.
I have been spared. No struggle. No sadness. No fuss. In about
5 weeks I can take the wildlings out of the pen and release them. They will be healthy, happy and ready to raid my garden.
Sigh. Even when I win, I loose.