Sunday, September 01, 2013

Birthin' Bunnies

Here’s the thing about pregnant bunnies. You never actually know they’re pregnant until one day you come home from work and find a baby bunny or three rooting around in your backyard rabbit cage.
Which is kind of what happened to us about two months ago. To recap: The youngest Huffman is raising rabbits for 4-H. After a first failed mating attempt, a new stud bunny had been found for her bunny Bonnie, and 31 days later the results were waiting for us after school one Wednesday afternoon.
Unfortunately, this surprise didn’t start out so well. The first baby rabbit found in the bunny condo was stillborn.
Peering inside the cage at the little creature, I didn’t know what to do. Of course, my husband, our resident animal expert, would be out of town that afternoon, so it was all on me. And to that point I had been a witness to exactly zero other rabbit births.
Do I pick it up? Take it out of the cage? Was it really dead? Can you do CPR on a bunny? What if it came back to life? Should I call a vet? Is there such thing as a bunny vet, anyway?
Looking for some advice, we called our rabbit breeder guru, Jessica. Jessica had raised dozens of rabbits. Jessica would know what to do.
Jessica’s mom answered.
Take it out of the cage, she said, obviously. Then Jessica’s mom asked if there were any other baby bunnies born.
No, I said confidently. This was the only one we found, I told her. Like I was an expert at baby rabbit finding.
I admit I had only looked at the shoebox-size “nesting” box inside Bonnie’s cage. I hadn’t actually investigated under the shredded bedding material inside it. Did I mention yet that I had no idea what I was doing?
Well, check inside the box, she said patiently.
I hesitated. As in, put my hand in the box? Yeah, I was chicken.
What if there was something in there? What if I touched it? What if it bit me?
Every so hesitantly, I put my hand in the box, felt around ... and lo and behold, there was a newborn bunny! A hairless little thing about as big as the palm of your hand with tiny rabbit ears and closed eyes.
Well, that changed everything.
We have a live one! I announced. He’s moving. He’s breathing.
Our daughter quickly scooped him up in an old towel.
Look for more, said Jessica’s mom.
Oh, jeez, here we go again.
Gingerly feeling around inside the box, sure enough, I found a second bunny, and then a third.
Our daughter’s sadness about the one that didn’t make it was replaced by the amazement of the three tiny creatures in front of us. Protectively she pulled more bedding around their little nest.
For the rest of the night we couldn’t stop peering inside the box and talking about what had happened. Sure, animals give birth every day, but not in our backyard.

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