Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes, on a real farm...

I don't know much about rabbits. We bought these two as pets, not as breeders. We bought two females because they are less hostile being together, and we went primarily off information from one small library book and what the lady at the feed store told us for their care.

About a month ago, the girls started fighting. I thought it was because they were too stimulated because they were close to the house and the kids had been outside playing right next to their cage (which would stress anyone out). I talked to two different people at pet store and feed store about what we were experiencing and they said it sounded like my girls were stressed. So I moved them to a cute little nook in the back of the yard, made sure to give them time on the ground and lots of fresh food from the garden.

The behavior continued. In fact, this last week it got worse.

Realising I knew next to nothing about rabbits, I decided they just didn't get along and I was going to get rid of one. We set up a place that would take Ariel, our smaller orange rabbit (who bites us when stressed too) and had plans to get that done this weekend.

Little did I know, I was asking ALL the wrong questions.

This morning we woke up to a gruesome scene. 9 dead rabbit babies... most of them flung out of the sides of the rabbit cage, and Sophie (our big grey rabbit) sitting in her own pulled out fur at the back of the cage. The second I saw the fur I knew what happened. We don't have two girls. We have a BOY and a girl. Ariel is a boy. And Sophie has been trying SO HARD to get away from him so she could have her babies in peace. She has been fighting and fighting for the last week and we had no idea what for. I seriously thought it was a rabbit personality clash.

I feel so bad. But honestly, how could I have known? Even if I had researched the care of rabbits to the teeth (like I usually do, but I bought pet rabbits. Not farm rabbits.) then how would I ever have guessed that my two female rabbits would have babies? But crap... I feel SO bad for leaving her in there.

So we are healing, again, this morning. And I am really starting to understand why people don't always want the farm life. Some days it can be hard. Really, gut-wrenchingly hard. This one happens to be hardest on me... The kids are fine for the most part. Even Cyan. When I explained it, she held Sophie, wrapped in a towel, for about an hour and a half sitting on the back porch. She fed her clippings from the garden and in time the sweet rabbits whole body melted into the relief of being safe and eating without her tormentor chasing her around the cage. And as Sophie started to relax, so did Cyan. And Cyan seems fine now. No big scars from this one like the chicken deaths. She knows what happened, and why, and now that we are doing something about it, all is right in the farm life world.

Both the older kids still have lots of questions that I can't answer, so I sent Alex down the street to the library to get a bunch of books on rabbit care. We are taking "Ariel" to his new home today, and Sophie is breathing a sigh of relief that she doesn't have to defend anything anymore. As traumatic as it was, it is now over, and she is more content than I have seen her in weeks.

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6 comments:

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

That is a hard one - even on a farm.

Jenny said...

So sorry to hear about your loss. We learn as we go and our kids learn with us. There is no way you could have known. Our bunny was pregnant and we didn't know right until about 5 minutes before she delivered and it was a planned pregnancy. Best of luck with your bunnies and I hope you're kids get to show them at the fair. It's a great experience.

Amber (Woodmouse) said...

I'm so sorry. Tragedy like this can strike even when you DO know your rabbit is having babies, etc. What a sweet thing that your daughter comforted Sophie and that she in turn comforted her. These lessons are hard ones to learn but they are real and honest and nature at work. Your kids will have such a great understanding and respect for life and animals from this. (spoken by a farm girl who has a whole list of tragic animal stories from childhood)

Andrea said...

I raised rabbits to show for years. You are going to think I'm a whack job, dear, but rabbits are the only animal that can actually change gender. You did probably start out with two girls. Put them in separate hutches always, near each other for company.

Catalina said...

Awwww that is so sad! My "girl" rabbit was missexed too. But I love my little boy bunny. You might want to think about having your rabbit spayed. 80% of unspayed female rabbits get ovarian cancer by the age of three years.
Both of my boys are neutered and bonded with each other. They could never live in the same area together, if they weren't neutered. Rabbits are very territorial. Two female rabbits are the the hardest to bond - even after they are spayed.

Kristin said...

Andrea -- respectfully, rabbits can absolutely not "change gender." Although their sex is not obvious until they enter sexual maturity at several months of age, and they are often missexed when they're sold at a young age.

Val, if you're looking to have a bonded pair, a neutered male/spayed female is your best bet, though if they weren't already bonded as babies there will always be a long bonding process because they're so territorial. Like Catalina said, female/female is the hardest to bond and they will almost always fight with each other. And contrary to the popular notion as passive, peaceful creatures, rabbits can literally tear each other apart in a very short amount of time. :-(

I've been involved with House Rabbit Society for 12 years now; www.rabbit.org is a GREAT resource for all things rabbit: care, behavior, diet, housing, etc. Good stuff!