When you think of bunnies, you think of soft fluffy little critters with cute little noses moving up and down, floppy ears, and a sweet disposition.
In real life, rabbits are far from sweet. Go back and watch The Holy Grail sometimes.
My first experience with rabbits was eating them as a kid. My dad was a butcher, so we had all kinds of game meat from hunters who liked to hunt, but didn’t particularly like to eat what they hunted. My Italian grandpap took umbrage with rabbits taking liberties with his vegetables, and was a dead-eye with his ancient .22 rifle, so there seemed to be rabbit on the menu a few times a year. My mother made a northern Italian polenta, usually with chicken, but rabbit could be substituted when available.
Rabbits on the Farm
I knew people who kept rabbits in hutches, but I could never figure out why. I guess these usually came from Easter presents that soon outgrew their cuteness. This was the how we wound up with rabbits on the farm. One Easter, we got two cute little bunnies, a brown one and a black and white one. I forget their names, but my daughter is coming home tomorrow, so I’ll fill them in later. They started out in a box in the house, but soon grew up and Rick was out in the yard building the hutch.
A rabbit hutch is just a wooden box up on stilts so you don’t have to bend down to feed the rabbits. The bottom of the pen is this special square stainless steel screen with holes just big enough to let the rabbit poop fall through. Rabbit poop being round pellets, and these being square holes, the poop soon bridged the holes and piled up like the floor was solid. So along with feeding the rabbits, you had to clean out the hutch every week or so. Rabbits are amazingly efficient at changing green food pellets into brown rabbit poop.
As a matter of fact, the rabbits seemed to break the conservation of mass laws by creating more poop than the food they consumed.
Of all the animals we had, this was the only one with a waste management issue. Everybody else roamed free and “went” where ever they pleased. There was no mass concentrating of endless waste that had to be continually removed. I could also find no use for the rabbit waste. All of this did not endear the rabbits to me.
The kids, of course, signed papers in blood swearing that they’d look after their beloved pets. This lasted about a week.
Two’s Company, Three’s a Goat
The ex-wife, as a direct descendant of Noah (I guess we all are), insisted that we have two of everything. We were assured that the two bunnies were both females, which would make them much nicer to be around, and wouldn’t lead to massive amounts of new bunnies. What you get in reality are frustrated bunnies who hate themselves, their hutch-mates, and especially you. So this went on for a while, miserable rabbits, miserable Rick feeding and cleaning up after miserable rabbits, and kids who couldn’t care less after about a week. And this would’ve went on forever, except that the ex had a friend, and the friend had pet rabbits.
The friend was an acquaintance from work who was a poet, too. She also kept rabbits in her apartment. LOTS of rabbits. The biggest of these was a Flemish Giant which you could saddle and ride. It was accompanied by no fewer than 8 other, smaller rabbits who hopped merrily around their place leaving little presents everywhere they went. She had litter boxes scattered about and about once every hundred or so times, a rabbit might manage to leave a pellet in the box. This convinced her that the rabbits were, in fact, housebroken. It was like rabbit bingo. Three poops in the box and you win. I kept my shoes on at her place.
An interesting story concerning her rabbits happened when the big fellow finally kicked. The poor woman was so distraught and I didn’t really know how to console her. So I asked her how the other rabbits were taking the tragedy. All my buddies were listening in on the conversation and I have been harassed about this for going on 20 years now.
The friend’s advice to us: Get more rabbits, the more the better.
The ex-wife was not going to take defeat lying down. Following her friend’s advice, she ran out got a third, smaller rabbit, who’s name also escapes me. We introduced the new rabbit into the hutch and she was immediately attacked by the other two. Now these rabbits had something to live for, making the third rabbit’s life as miserable as was rabbitly possible. The third rabbit was cornered in the hutch by the other two. She could not eat, she could not drink. They bit her whenever she tried to sleep. Read Watership Down sometime and you’ll see just how mean rabbits can be.
The two original rabbits cheered up appreciably now that they had something to live for. It soon became clear that Daisy (I think that was her name) wouldn’t last long so we took her out of the hutch. My hutch building days were over, however, so we had to find a new place for her to live. I put her in the pen with the goats, who accepted her as one of their own. This rabbit thrived as a goat. There was ample opportunity for the rabbit to escape from the pen, but she was content to be a goat. The original two who were left in the hutch were, if possible, more unhappy now than before. They soon died of their misery, so the hutch remained abandoned.
The goat rabbit lived to a ripe old age and I never had to clean up rabbit poop again. Which was okay by me.