Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick as a bunny

Jennifer Huffman

The other day when I got home from work, our youngest daughter gave me her good news.

“We’re getting bunnies!” she said excitedly.

Really, I said.

Bunnies as in Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail? Where did this idea come from?

Dad said I could, she said. I’m going to raise them and then show them at the Napa Fair.

Really, I said.

It’s true that my husband grew up on a ranch with pigs, horses, chickens and probably a rabbit or two. He used to show his animals at fairs all over California during the summer and paid for college using the money from his pigs.

But we live in the city. I’ve already got my hands full with a full-time job, Girl Scouts, track, cheerleading practice, teaching a teenager how to drive and attempting a load of laundry now and then. I don’t have time to take on bunnies.

Not to mention that there are already five of us, a dog, plus two turtles and two goldfish in a 1,700-square-foot house.

Where exactly are these bunnies going to live?, I asked him.

The backyard, he said. A few days later two brand-new rabbit cages appeared at our house. My husband cleared a spot on a bench where he set up a little rabbit duplex.

This is the meat pen and this is the pet pen, he said, pointing at each cage.

The what?

Well, you get four rabbits but you only keep one as a pet, he explained. You sell the other three to a butcher after the fair.


I looked at my daughter, wondering how she was taking the news of the bunny executions. She shrugged like it was no big deal.

At least I get to keep one, she said.

There was just one little problem. We needed to find the bunnies first.

My husband got on the phone and started making calls to bunny farmers, who mostly seemed to be named Jessica and Ashley.

Not only did we have to figure out whether to buy the bunnies from Jessica or Ashley, we had to figure out when to buy the bunnies. Apparently, rabbits need to be within a certain age range for the fair — not too old, not too young.

How do the judges know how old a bunny is, I wondered. What do they ask for, bunny ID?

Turns out that finding baby bunnies this time of year is harder than you think. A lot of the top breeder bunnies have been preordered, my husband told me.

This only made him more determined to get his hands on those rabbits.

I’ve got a lead on a good breeder, he said. She lives in Fort Bragg.

Fort Bragg? We’re going all the way to Fort Bragg for a bunny?

My husband quizzed the breeders about ages and weaning. One rabbit farmer suggested we buy four or even five “meat pen” bunnies, so we could then pick the best three to sell. Another breeder sympathetic to our timeline said her bunnies would be too young to wean, so she would send us the baby bunnies and mommy bunny, which we would return after the fair.

Great, we’ve gone from raising four bunnies to five or six bunnies and now a rabbit rental? At this rate we’d need more than two cages, we’d need a full-on bunny barn.

And there was more bunny news. Apparently when you take your rabbit to the fair, you don’t just set up your cage and wait for the ribbons to magically appear.

She has to decorate her bunny cages, my husband said. It’s a showmanship thing.

I should have known. I’ve seen the handmade signs and ribbons and flowers decorating the pig and sheep barns at the fair.

I started making a mental inventory of ribbon, fabric and trims. Should the cage coordinate with the color of the bunny? What are the bunny d├ęcor trends this season? Is there a Martha Stewart of the bunny-decorating set I should consult for inspiration?

It’s a good thing the fair isn’t until August. Our girl was going to be busy with these bunnies. She better hop to it.

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