If you can’t take the bunny to the garden… WPC: Admiration

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge was Admiration.  I’ve explained why this fits the bill underneath.

bunny rabbit eating dandelion cute bunnies cute bunny soft bunny adorable funny
If you can’t take the bunny to the garden, you’ll have to take the garden to the bunny. Fifer is a rabbit I admire.

This week you had to show something or someone you admired.
I was totally going to do this the day after my last post but I had a bit of trouble with this one because I tend to either admire people from afar or, if it’s some one I know, I’m generally unable to post pics of them on my blog without their consent. Which they tend not to give, since most of the people I admire (my Dearest, for example) have important jobs they wouldn’t want to tangle up with my blog which sometimes borders on the unconventional (let’s say), I struggled to think of something.

Rabbit conga funny adorable bunnies cute bunnies
Poppy (black and white) hiding her injured paw and Fifer (brown) try to start a conga line.

Poppy, one of our bunny rabbits, got hurt last week playing in the garden. So while she was recuperating we moved her and Fifer, her boyfriend, into our kitchen in the spare indoor hutch.
Used to going outside whenever they like (their home has 24/7 indoor outdoor access) it’s been especially hard on Fifer, who is half-wild.
I admire how he’s tried his best to take the new surroundings in his stride, despite being unhappy that he can’t play out when he wants to, and I admire that he has done everything he can to look after Poppy.
You may not remember that Fifer was so antisocial when we first got him that he nearly killed a bonded pair of rabbits by premeditatively breaking into their run and attacking them at a time of day when I and my Dearest were not at home.
He had issues, and we got him a new friend (Katie) to help him socialize.
When he lost Katie, he seemed to be going back down that path, and for a while I had to keep him and Poppy separate because he was just rejecting her and she was being all fighty with him.
But it’s 6 months later, and he’s taken to Poppy so well that he has done his utmost to make her comfortable while they’re indoors.
As a treat, I decided that since we couldn’t take the bunny rabbits to the garden, I’d have to take the garden to the bunnies. So I dug up a big triple dandelion (do they grow on top of each other everywhere or just in my garden) and put it on some newspaper in the kitchen.
I hope my Dearest doesn’t mind too much when he gets home.

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How to Handle Your Rabbit

I got this infographic about how to pick up and hold a rabbit, in an email from Pets At Home, and while I know how to look after my bunnies, I thought it might be useful for anyone with a rabbit (or considering getting a rabbit) just to see one of the ideal ways to handle a pet bunny.  There are other ways you can hold a rabbit that will still bring them comfort and reassurance but this is definitely useful if you’re thinking of getting a beautiful rabbit (don’t worry about the “rabbits are calmer when they can’t see,” all of my bunnies like to see what’s going on when they get picked up). I think this is helpful whether you’re getting a bunny either as a houserabbit or a garden rabbit.  Bunnies are especially popular to buy over Easter time, and I urge you to wait until four weeks after Easter if you’re getting a bunny, because that’s when the shelters (and Pets at Home’s adoption section, where 3 of my 5 rabbits have come from) start getting inundated with unwanted Easter bunnies.  It’s a very, very sad situation and I wrote a story about it last year to show what life is like for a lot of rabbits, from the rabbit’s point of view.  People buy them, don’t understand how to care for them, then leave them in a tiny hutch and throw food at them once a day (if they remember).  If the rabbit is lucky, the owner finally admits they were wrong and gives the animal up for adoption so it has a chance of a loving home, but many owners of unwanted rabbits don’t bother.  No animal wants to live like that and I’d like to think that all my readers are compassionate enough to read my other rabbit care articles before getting a bunny.  It’s very tragic that the most popular rabbit article on my site is “what to do with an unwanted rabbit” and last year it made the top 10 after Christmas and Easter (and after Christmas this year).  Anyway, here’s the infographic. Click the picture to enlarge:

how to handle your bunny rabbit
How to Handle Your Rabbit, by Pets at Home VIP Magazine.

I don’t own the image, it’s copyright to Pets at Home, this post is not sponsored and no affiliate links, I just thought it would be a useful resource for people with rabbits who aren’t members of Pets at Home VIP club (if you live in the UK, I strongly recommend you join them because it’s free and you get loads of benefits such as discount vouchers and free magazines with useful information like the infographic above).  You can join in any Pets at Home store or online.

Would you ever get a rabbit?  Have you already got one?

Meet Timmy

So we weren’t sure if we were going to get another rabbit after losing Banacek – surely it’d have to be a pretty special new bunny.

Two weeks ago I had to go to Pets At Home to get Poppy a corner litter tray because she’s destroying her hutch by insisting on using it as a toilet (all our other outdoor buns do it in their rabbit runs). That’s when I first saw Timmy.  Soft, snuggly, adorable, special Timmy.

He was a beautiful orange colour with Banacek’s eyes and ears, and cute white patches on his front paws that made him look like he was wearing socks. I thought nothing of it – Cleo was still listless and mostly sitting around the house at this point. She was in no way ready for a new friend and neither were we – it was only about a week after Banacek had died. I took a good look at Timmy and noticed he had done some of those yellow gloopy poos that Banacek had done just before he died. I informed the staff and they said they’d keep an eye on him. I went home disappointed because we really shouldn’t get another rabbit right now, especially one with potential digestive problems.

Because of Poppy’s little “problem” I had to do a full cleanout of her hutch on Monday, and I used up all the hay and most of the sawdust, but I still needed more hay to make her upstairs sleeping area warm and cosy (and edible), so at 6pm I found myself driving over to Pets at Home again to get a bag of hay.

Timmy was still there, in all his beautiful snuggly orangeness, looking very interested in his hay. I had to collect my husband from work immediately after getting the hay, and I told him that the cute bunny was still there who I’d seen before.

The next morning, I tried to put him out of my mind, but when I came back from dropping my Dearest off at work, I then had to put up with Cleo acting very out of sorts – she was running laps around the living room and leaping in the air and pulling my blankie off me (I was cold) and trying to climb on the sofa. These are things she doesn’t usually do. She was trying to get me to play with her more than normal. So I tried, but I couldn’t follow her through the tunnels and hiding places we’ve made for the rabbits to play in. I scooped her up and carted her off to Pets At Home to see if there was an appropriately adorable bunny up for adoption.

I was surprised to see that Timmy, with his one up ear and one down ear, was still there.
We introduced them and he really liked her but she was scared and running away, so I decided to bring her back later in the afternoon. This time, Timmy went straight to her, and he snuggled up with her in her pet carrier.

They didn’t separate the whole time they were around each other.
When I took Cleo back to the car (so I could come back and complete the adoption paperwork and buy the sawdust I forgot to get earlier in the week), Timmy looked heartbroken and started attacking the door to his enclosure to get back out again. I came back from the car, and another person was there trying to adopt Timmy. I was all like “oh hell no he’s mine bitch.”  Actually, I just said “I’m sorry, but he’s coming home with us, he’s just been introduced to my other rabbit and they loved each other.” but she acted like I’d slapped her with the rabbit.  If she’d got there first I would have just been happy for Timmy that he was finally getting adopted – that’s not an empty promise, it’s happened before with 2 different bunnies that I intended to adopt.  Sometimes it’s not meant to be, but this time, it was.

We brought him home and they’d told us to just put him in his hutch the first night, but he looked so lonely and vulnerable that I put Cleo in with him. She disagreed with being in a hutch (she hasn’t been in a hutch in over 2 years) so they both ended up hanging out in the living room until bedtime.

At night we put him back to bed in his hutch and in the morning, I put him and Cleo into the rabbit carrier and took him to the vets for his check up and vaccinations. Apart from when we’re in bed (when we have to put him back in his hutch until we’re sure he won’t fight Cleo) they’ve been inseparable ever since.

Here’s some photos:

timmy bunny 1

timmy cleo ball

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Timmy flopsy

Timmy Cleo snuggle

So far, his interests seem to include running around REALLY FAST, pooing everywhere (they’re the size of freaking marbles WTF?!?!) and humping Cleo.  So I put this bunny romper suit on him so he definitely couldn’t get Cleo pregnant, because he can’t be neutered for a couple more months (he’s 4 months old and the romper suit is to stop them chewing at stitches but it covers the right places):

Timmy in romper suit

He doesn’t like the romper suit, and he runs around less while he’s wearing it.

I’m in the middle of editing some videos of him and I’ll upload them all to Youtube as soon as they’re ready.

Cleo is very happy and the house doesn’t feel empty any more.  Now he’s just got to learn to take the stairs – the first couple of times he tumbled back down them again, but I was there to catch him, and I’ll always be there to catch him, until he learns to go up and down the stairs on his own.

welcome Timmy

 

Happy New Year: Greenland Style

So we missed British New Year as we were syringe-feeding liquid hay into a sick rabbit who subsequently exploded foul smelling diarrhea all over me. I did earlier this evening’s post about how ill Banacek bunny is. Dear Chocolate, it just never ends.

My dressing gown is in the washing machine now along with Banacek’s snuggly bunny bed (I know he’s ill because before he shat in it, he was actually sitting in it, and he usually chews it and sits somewhere else).
At midnight I was feeling very despondent about how last year’s shit was carrying over.

I am SURE 2015 was a terrible year because my sister refused to bury my mother until JANUARY (she died in November, we were informed in December).

You’ve got to draw a line and let it all go.

So we decided, it’s midnight somewhere, right? So at 1am we did a countdown (courtesy of Netflix) and celebrated New Year with the town of Ittoqqortoormiit on the East Coast of Greenland. I went for 5HTP (as a non-drowsy pick-me-up although I hear amateurs use this for help to get to sleep) and a glass of Sambucca, my Dearest went for Bailey’s.

We are considering celebrating again at 10am local time when it’s officially Midnight in Hawaii and Tahiti, the last places on the international date line to reach the New Year.

Just to be sure.

So the lesson here is that if you miss midnight, don’t panic, you’ve got until Hawaii changes their calendar to get your New Year on.

BTW, Banacek is still very ill. We might be up all night with him. He’s going back to the vets tomorrow if he doesn’t pick up.

UPDATE 3:06AM LOCAL TIME: We have now also celebrated New Year in Rio De Janeiro (at 2am local time) and Santiago Chile (at 3am local time). At my dearest’s request, I found out how to say white rabbits in Portuguese (coelhos brancos) and Spanish (conejos blancos). If you don’t know what the white rabbits thing is, in the UK, it’s a superstition that on the 1st of the month the first words you say should be “white rabbits” (then make a wish). So it’s extra important on 1st January.

UPDATE: 4:02am LOCAL TIME: HAPPY NEW YEAR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND HALIFAX, CANADA. I down’d more sambucca and am about to get covered in more rabbit regurgitation. He’s still breathing which is all we can hope for right now.

Meet Our Rabbits

So I thought after all these months, it might be nice to actually introduce our rabbits to you.  I know I put lots of pictures of them up and obviously do all the rabbit care articles as well, so let’s go through them, in order of when we got them:

Banacek (2012-present):

Banacek when he had up ears.
Banacek when he had up ears.

Banacek is a mostly white, with brown splodgy bits on his fur, that used to look exactly like someone had drizzled treacle on his back when he was a baby.  Now he is an adult, it looks more like a respectable snowy camouflage.  We got him in April 2012, the week after Mother’s Day (UK edition, usually 2 months earlier than everyone else has it).  We bought him brand new from Pets At Home because there were no adoption bunnies in a 50 mile radius, and there hadn’t been for months and months (literally, I bought hay, toys and a food bowl for a new rabbit about 7 months before we finally gave up on getting an adopted bunny and just bought one).  He had up ears when we first got him, but after about a year they both gradually became lop ears, apparently this happens sometimes with particular cross breeds where the genes can’t make their minds up whether to give the rabbits up or down ears.  For a while he had helicopter ears, and even now, one of his ears is much more lop than the other.  After about a year, we realised he was profoundly lonely, and given that we weren’t allowed a bunny in our house, we started to look for a new house of our very own so we could bring a friend home for him to adore.  It took a ridiculous length of time but we found our perfect house and then we looked for a friend for him.  He likes to jump on the sofa and try to drink my tea (with soya milk and no sugar, of course – the bunnies are lactose intolerant and I have a milk allergy).  He also has developed a habit of trying to steal my toast in the mornings.

Cleo (2005 to present, we had her 2013-present):

Cleo in front of her home with Banacek.
Cleo (on top of the toy) in front of her home with Banacek (inside the toy).

When we were looking for a friend for Banacek, we were sure that we wanted someone who was adoptable, since we felt bad that we had bought Banacek, even though there were no adoption bunnies at the time.  We looked everywhere but there were no female rabbits for adoption.  Banacek was a male and we knew he hadn’t got on with other males since he’d been neutered at 7 months old, because he had regular playdates with my friend’s rabbits.  At long last, we found an advert on Gumtree.  There were three rabbits up for adoption, all Netherland Dwarf bunnies, about 15 miles from where we lived.  The owners were emigrating.  We phoned and asked questions.  We were initially disappointed, as the female hadn’t been neutered, and neither had one of the males, and the males were kept separate from the female, and they were all eight and a half years old.  We knew bunnies could live to see a decade, but I also knew that this was not always the reality of having a bunny, and I didn’t want my current rabbit to be lonely again in six months if his new friend died.  This was in September 2013.  We asked if we could arrange an introduction, and the following day, we took Banacek on the car ride that would change his life.

Cleo, Sebastian and Neville’s former owners had two outdoor runs, where the bunnies played out all day during the day, then went back to their hutches at night time.  We put Banacek in to meet Cleo.  At first she was terrified – Cleo had never seen such a big rabbit!  She wouldn’t stop running away and we didn’t think this was going to work – she was such an elderly bunny, and Banacek was so young and full of the joys of spring, that it looked doomed to fail.  We left them alone for half an hour, though, and Cleo started offering her nose to Banacek.  Netherland Dwarves do this to say hello, and other bunnies don’t do it as much, so it was astounding to us when Banacek offered his nose back!  He had never done this on any of his playdates with other buns the same size as him!  They soon were chasing each other as a game, rather than out of fear.  Three days later, we brought Banacek back, to check whether they were still going to get on or not, and they remembered each other straight away (which rabbit care websites claim is impossible).  The hardest part was having to put them in separate boxes to get them back down the motorway to our home, as they didn’t want to be apart!

We put them in the living room and let them play together.  I was still worried about leaving them unsupervised so I put Cleo in her hutch outside every night at bedtime, because she is such a tiny rabbit and I didn’t want to close her into Banacek’s hutch in the living room until we knew he was happy for her to be in there – and for about two months, she showed no interest in going into his hutch to explore.  One day, though, she had a bit of a cut on her nose and I wanted to keep her in as the weather was getting colder, so I put her into Banacek’s hutch, ready to pull her out again at the first sign of trouble, but she was ok, he was ok, and we came downstairs the next morning to find them snuggled together on the bottom floor of the hutch.  We did have to make some reasonable adjustments to the hutch as it was designed for a bigger rabbit and Cleo couldn’t climb up to the higher platforms, but once we put extra climbing blocks in for her to get onto, she was soon on the top floor at night time with Banacek – which was his favourite spot!

Cute flopsy fluffy snuggly bunnies

Neville (2005-2015; we had him 2013-2015)

Neville, our little Netherland Dwarf bunny.
Neville, our little Netherland Dwarf bunny.

Neville and Sebastian were twin brothers, and were from the same litter as Cleo.  When we went to get Cleo, my husband fell in love with the boys too.  The only problem?  Banacek didn’t get on with them.  After a couple of scuffles we had to give up on the idea of a rabbit foursome in our living room, so we then had to think seriously about what to do.  We decided that, if we only wanted to get rabbits to be friends with Banacek, then perhaps we shouldn’t get any rabbits at all, not even Cleo, because in our eyes they wouldn’t all be equals.  We re-examined why we wanted rabbits at all, and came to the conclusion that if we brought Sebastian and Neville home, it would be because we liked them and wanted them to be happy in a new home, not with any kind of illusions that they would ever be friends with Banacek (but it would be great if they ever did).  My husband decided he liked them anyway, and so they came home with us too.

Neville was always the loudest, most energetic of the two.  He was the one who had been neutered, and he was definitely the dominant twin.  Sebastian was a quieter bunny and liked to sleep for long hours, while Neville was the most playful little bun, always starting games with his brother.  More than that, they had never been apart since they were conceived by their parents.  When Neville got attacked by Fifer, later on, we took Sebastian to the vet with him to keep Neville’s stress down, and kept them both in the bathroom for a while, until Neville had healed.

Neville went on to make a full recovery, but about eight months later, just one month before his tenth birthday, we found him dead in a corner of his hutch.  We left him out for the other bunnies to see, as this helps them with their grief (if they don’t see the dead bunny, they will assume they are out somewhere, and will sit and wait for them to come home for weeks).  We buried him in our back garden the next evening.

Sebastian (2005-present, we had him 2013-present)

We didn’t think that Sebastian would cope without Neville, and watching him grieve was profoundly sad – if we’d had to guess, we both expected Sebastian to go first, not Neville, as he was less active and often didn’t leave his hutch during the day.  We thought he was winding down in life.  It’s five months later, and Sebastian is still going, still just as inactive as ever.  Occasionally we see him running round, but not often.  We tried introducing him to other bunnies, but it turns out that he wants some peace and quiet in his retirement, and hasn’t been particularly kind to Fifer when we tried to get them to be friends.  We are letting him have his own space as he seems content with the friendship that Katie and Fifer keep offering him through the fences between their rabbit runs, but face to face he is less than polite to them.

Sebastian and Neville snuggled together in the summer.
Sebastian and Neville snuggled together in the summer.

Fifer (2014 to present)

Fifer, enjoying a brisk morning hop.
Fifer, enjoying a brisk morning hop.

When I first saw Fifer in Pets At Home, he was 3 months old, and named Clover, and they thought he was a girl.  I thought she was the most adorable little bunny I’d ever seen, and she clearly was annoyed that she was up for adoption, disliking the attention,  preferring instead to hide in a tunnel so only her back legs and tail were visible.  She was a beautiful wild-looking bunny, and when I asked the store manager if I could handle her, she attacked him viciously, covering his hands in angry bloody scratches in seconds.  They clearly had a history.  The second he passed her to me, Clover stretched out her nose and snuffled mine, to see if I was friendly.  Then, when I brought her closer to me, she licked my face and snuggled into my neck.  She came home that same day, I didn’t care that we already had four rabbits (and really, I had shared ownership of Banacek, who is his own bunny, Banacek has Cleo, and my husband has Sebastian and Neville, so Clover would be a bunny just for me), she was my little darling.  I had high hopes that she would integrate with Cleo and Banacek, and offset how hard it was going to be for Banacek when Cleo died, as Cleo was 9 years old at this point.  Hilariously, I booked her in for a spay, and cried when I gave her to the vet to sort out.  The vet took a look and pronounced her male.  So we changed her name to Fifer.  Fifer got neutered, a procedure I was far less stressed about, and he came home and we stopped trying to introduce him to the other rabbits.  We gave him his own section of the garden to play in, which he really liked.  After about three or four months, though, he seemed really bored and disinterested in life.  He just sat in the same spot, day after day, staring wistfully at Sebastian and Neville.  We’d tried to get them to make friends before, and it had all gone wrong, so we didn’t want to try again until we were certain they would be okay.  Fifer had other ideas.

I came downstairs one morning to find Sebastian and Neville’s rabbit run strewn with fur, Banacek was sitting at the front of his run, staring into the kitchen window (he lived outside all of last summer) and Cleo, Fifer, Sebastian and Neville were nowhere to be seen.  I went straight outside, concerned that the boys had been fighting, and I was very surprised to see Fifer sitting in Sebastian and Neville’s run, looking like that girl at the start of Battle Royale.  I scooped him up and popped him on his own side of the run, and he had the sense to stay there.  I opened the shed doors to get to Sebastian and Neville’s hutch and found Sebastian trying to bite my hand, clearly trying to protect Neville, who was very very badly injured and had taken himself off to a quiet corner to die.  I ran to the house and grabbed a rabbit carrier, brought it back to the hutch, carefully extricated Sebastian, then even more carefully got Neville into the carrier, trying not to hurt him more by picking him up.  I left the other bunnies where they were, closed the runs and gave the vet a heads up that I was coming in with an emergency, and drove straight to the vets.  After 4 hours of surgery and three hours of recovery, I got a phone call telling me Neville was going to live, but we needed to keep him indoors for two weeks and give him strong painkillers and antibiotics and examine his wounds several times a day.

This is what Fifer did to Neville.  The saddest bit was that he lost a part of his ear.
This is what Fifer did to Neville. The saddest bit was that he lost a part of his ear.

We didn’t know what to do about Fifer.  We were obviously very angry, hurt and upset that he had gone out of his way to try to kill Neville, but we also knew that every time we’d tried to introduce them, Neville had attacked Fifer.  Fifer had learned this behaviour from Neville.  My husband suggested taking Fifer to the RSPCA, and we discussed whether we thought that what he had done was bad enough to warrant him being put to sleep.  I was heartbroken, and I didn’t think it was fair on Fifer, that he was such a young rabbit, not even a year old, for his life to be over when he had his whole life ahead of him.  It was the hardest thing we had ever faced with our rabbits, and I felt awful for bringing Fifer home in the first place.  I think this was when we realized he was at least a half-wild rabbit, and when we researched them, we found out he has the right shapes and behaviours to be at least part wild.  Our best guess is half-wild, half-Netherland Dwarf.  Despite all my negative feelings, I also felt that I had a responsibility towards Fifer.  He was my bunny, where none of the others were in the same way.  I went out to see him after two days of not looking at him when I fed him, and I picked him up, and I just held him and cried, because he was my little bunny and I didn’t know how he could do such an awful thing to another bunny.  He just snuggled me, but I could tell he knew he’d crossed a line.  But I’ve crossed lines in the past, and felt like there was no redemption in sight, like I would never be able to make things right, and I knew how Fifer felt.  So I made the decision that any mother would.  I bought him a bigger, new hutch all of his own, I got my husband to build it, I placed it in the living room, and I moved Fifer indoors.  I decided that if he was too wild, then we needed to bring him in so he could be around us and learn how to be more domesticated.  After about three months of taking it in turns with Banacek and Cleo to be indoors for the day, and always sleeping indoors at night, Fifer had shown a great improvement in his behaviour.  He stopped acting in fear and started feeling more confident.  That was about the time when I saw Katie.

Katie (2013 to present, we adopted in late 2014)

This was Katie Bunny's enclosure in the adoptable area at Pets at Home
This was Katie Bunny’s enclosure in the adoptable area at Pets at Home

Katie was (you guessed it) another adoptable from Pets at Home.  She actually came from the same holding enclosure as Fifer.  Her story was that she was dumped outside my vets in a cardboard box one night, so they passed her on to Pets At Home.  When I first saw her, I was very excited because I thought she was the perfect size to be safely paired with Fifer.  When I took Fifer for his vaccinations, I asked the vet about her, and she said that Katie had a lovely temperament and would probably get on with Fifer.  The best guess is that she’s two years old, but nobody really knows.  She was already microchipped and neutered when we got her.  I went to Pets At Home and arranged an introduction between Katie and Fifer.  There was uncertainty, there was scuffling, but ultimately, Fifer learned that this ginormous female marmalade bunny was just immune to his aggression.  She would literally just lie down and ignore him.  When she got bored, she’d lunge at him then go back to sleep.  After two hours of introduction, we decided they were getting along.  We didn’t take her until the Saturday, when we took Fifer back, expecting to have to re-introduce them.  They remembered each other, though, and shared a bowl of vegetables.  They were so friendly, I brought them both back in the dog box that we’d brought Fifer in (Katie was too big for those cardboard Pets at Home boxes), and when we got home and I opened the box, they just lay in there together for about an hour before coming out.  Katie moved into Fifer’s hutch straight away, and they’ve never been apart since.  Katie thinks she’s the size of Fifer, and he seems to think he’s the size of Katie; she’s very timid, and I don’t know what happened before we got her, as she has a lot of fears and hang-ups, but Fifer looks after her and makes her feel safe.  In return, she seems to have helped Fifer to become a kinder, more loving rabbit.  I would never separate them.

Katie and Fifer in the living room after a hard day's play.
Katie and Fifer in the living room after a hard day’s play.

So that’s all our bunnies.  We reconfigure who lives where on a regular basis so they all get their fair share of life indoors and outdoors, and we’ve just bought a new hutch (a £30 fixer upper two storey ex display model, down from £99, from Pets At Home) so Banacek and Cleo can move out for the summer to keep them cooler, and so we can get Katie and Fifer back indoors and spend more time with them.

Help! Rabbits Ate My Grass! How to Fix Your Lawn

Rabbit Care: How to Fix the Lawn

When the wooden bit was the entire run, we didn't have any problems moving it every three weeks to keep the lawn growing.
When the wooden bit was the entire run, we didn’t have any problems moving it every three weeks to keep the lawn growing.

So you got yourself a little pair of flufflets and you’ve put them outside during the day in a safe rabbit run or bunnyproofed garden so they can play and explore a new environment. The only thing is, they’ve ruined your lawn.

Why it matters:

Even if you don’t care about having a prize lawn, you need to care about fixing your lawn before it all dies because your rabbits will have nothing to nibble in their run if they’ve overgrazed all the grass. It takes surprisingly few rabbits to kill a lawn, as I’ve found out over winter. Even if they’re swimming in hay and straw, they still have a strong urge to graze outdoors.

What to do about it:

In the first instance, constantly moving the rabbit run around the lawn to stop overgrazing. Do it before the rabbits are playing in a patch of barren mud, so the grass has a chance of growing back.

If it’s happened over a longer period of time, or your rabbits don’t have enough grass to avoid it, or if your run is particularly large, or if it’s winter and all the grass couldn’t keep up with what the rabbits were eating (they don’t hibernate), you will probably need to look at replacing your lawn.

Having five rabbits, I like to ensure that the three outdoor ones have 24/7 access to their play area because they don’t keep the same circadian rhythms as humans (the thing that makes animals and people wake up or go to sleep), so they like to play out at odd times of the day. This means all of our lawn (which is half of our garden) has been a bunny village since August last year, when we used the panels of modular rabbit run to divide up the lawn for our bunnies. The two biggest outdoor bunnies have over winter had two thirds of the garden because the house rabbits haven’t wanted to go out at all. This means that Katie, who is above average size (but not giant) has overgrazed those two thirds of the lawn and the grass is all dead.

If this happens, you have two options:

1. Buy pre-made turf

Generally this option is only available in late spring/summer. Garden centres sell little patches of turf that you can unroll onto your lawn, stamp down, and water until it takes root and it should just keep growing. A good choice if it’s the right time of year and you need grass fast. The cons are that it’s fairly expensive to cover a garden, and it takes some time to get it to establish, and there’s no guarantee of quality; usually it’s better if you can get it first thing in the morning because by evening the rolls of turf tend to look like hay.

2. Buy grass seed

This is the hardest option, takes ages to work, but sometimes it’s your only choice. There’s no turf for sale anywhere near my house at the moment so I had to buy grass seed. I scarified the lawn by getting a garden fork and digging it into the soil, and turning it over to aerate the soil (which has become quite compacted). It’s always funny to me that grass seems content to grow in places with no soil where you don’t want it, but seems to have a hard time growing in its ideal conditions. I planted my seeds 6 weeks ago now. They were supposed to be a lawn by now because I bought fast growing seed. After 2 weeks, I got three metres by three metres of nothing. Not only that, but my rabbits are peeved that they can’t go into half of their rabbit run at the moment because I closed it off to ensure the seed had the best chance of growth. After 4 weeks, we got some sparse stubble – I would say about 40% of the seeds I planted actually sprouted. After 5 weeks, we’ve got some longer sparse stubble. But no more of the seeds have sprouted, and I still can’t let the bunnies on it because it’s not looking edible yet. I did make the mistake of trying to get them out there between week 3 and week 4, as some grass grew in, although I think it was just the original lawn reanimating itself into patchy zombie grass, but when they went out there was nothing edible. There’s still a lot of ungerminated grass seed sitting around in the soil.

Things I’ve learned about grass seed:

1. It makes your hands green.

2. It just sits there. It doesn’t even try to grow. How it’s survived as a dominant, hardy species I don’t know.

3. You need to rake it into the soil, and you need to stamp it down, and your garden looks awful while its growing.

4. You need to water it regularly while its growing. I am literally using about 5 buckets of water (2 gallon buckets) on that lawn every second day (you can’t water it in the sun so you have to wait until it’s shady, and I tend to forget) and I HATE wasting so much water but it’s the only way to get the stupid stuff to grow.

5. It doesn’t remotely grow at the density that you planted it at. I would say only 40% of the seeds I covered the lawn with have grown through as grass.

6. The rabbits will not stop chewing it at a reasonable point, they will eat it down to the soil, so to enable it to grow back, you have to stop them going near it until it’s growing in and ready to eat.

Whatever you do, it’s going to be expensive and time consuming, so as I’ve learned the hard way, the best thing to do is get the rabbits off the grass over winter so it stands a chance of growing back in time for spring. If you have little runs, moving them around the lawn is a good answer. Unfortunately, if like me you gave the bunnies the entire lawn to play on, you will need to monitor the situation carefully to make sure they don’t bite off more than they can chew.  But hey, look on the plus side – now you have rabbits, you will probably never need to mow the lawn again!

Should you get a bunny for Easter?

So there’s obviously a lot of topical debate at the moment about whether anyone should get a rabbit at all over Easter. I wrote a cautionary tale about impulse buying a rabbit and believing that a child has the maturity to care for one over a long period of time. I’ve also written about getting a rabbit and of things you need to know about bunnies before you get one. I’ve also written a long catalogue of posts on rabbit care which you can find here. My main reason for writing this article is because some people might get a rabbit at Easter and be the best bunny parents ever.  They are not the majority. There is a huge increase in rabbit sales at Easter and pet shops generally don’t give a damn who buys their animals (except my local Pets at Home store, whose staff are actually amazing and I’ve seen them refuse sales a few times due to ethics), so it’s down to you as a responsible human being to be sure you’re not just getting caught up in the moment, and that you’re going to love your bunny and meet their needs forever.  If you’re even reading this, statistics show you’re probably a responsible bunny parent because you’re doing your research.

BUNNY is for LIFE not just for EASTER

Here are some things you need to really think about before you get a live rabbit, and the preparations you need to make:

1. They look so cute, but have you held one?
Have you any past experiences and have you ever actually met and handled a rabbit? Any reputable pet shop will let you handle a bunny and take your time over choosing the right one.  Would you be better getting a cuddly toy or a bunny calendar?

2. My child wants one, but can she look after it?
For some reason, parents often believe that their child is different, and that their child will have the sustained interest in a living being to be able to care for it. They can’t. That’s why we don’t let kids babysit each other, and why people get all concerned about underage pregnancy. All living things have the same set of needs to be met, and children are still learning how to meet their own needs independently, let alone another animal. Any pets brought into the house MUST be brought under the understanding that they are a FAMILY pet, and therefore that it is EVERYBODY’s responsibility to look after them. If you know your 6 year old forgot to feed Nibbles, or that Nibbles isn’t getting enough outdoor playtime, it’s your job as your 6 year old’s parent to pick up the slack.

Think about it from a management point of view. If you’re a supervisor and one of your employees doesn’t do the job right, you don’t leave the job undone, you either get someone else to pick up the slack or you do it yourself, making sure that the employee knows this wasn’t cool. If they consistently fail to do the job, you give their job to someone else on a permanent basis either in-house or elsewhere. For example, if your 6 year old isn’t doing the job, give it to someone else in the house, or do it yourself. You can’t let the job suffer because the employee isn’t doing it right. As a parent, you are a manager of your own house.

3. Before you get a rabbit, plan for about a week. Choose what sort of hutch they’ll have, and make sure it’s arrived before you bring Nibbles home. Bunnyproof your house, even if they’re outdoor bunnies, you need to nominate one room of the house to be a care room for if they have to recover from any vet care. Nominate a cupboard to store hay, dry food, water bottles, bowls, sawdust and newspaper and spare litter trays and toys. Buy all that stuff and check it fits, then choose another place for all the overflow that doesn’t fit! Make sure you know what food to get and why. Rabbits need lots of hay to eat, and a bit of nuggets every day.

4. Make an outdoor play space for your bunny so they can get their daily amount of natural daylight and fresh grass. If you don’t have anywhere, you’ll need a rabbit leash and to commit to taking Nibbles to the park each day (and you will need to protect him from dogs). Otherwise, a rabbit pen is a good choice for the garden, but cover the top so Nibbles doesn’t get eaten by Felix down-the-street when he comes over the fence on his daily walk.

5. Do you have enough money for a vet bill? What will you do if, a week after you bring Nibbles home, he breaks his leg or back? What if the neighbour’s cat attacks him and he needs $400 of reconstructive surgery? Will you be able to afford vet care? Consider a pet insurance plan (although read the fine print, I haven’t seen one that actually covers all of my rabbits due to age, and what they do cover is stuff I can pay myself without blinking, so I just pay all vet bills upfront for my 5 bunnies). Consider putting £10 (or $10) aside each week as an emergency fund for your rabbits. Don’t rely on charitable organizations like the PDSA, they’re not there to be taken advantage of, they’re there for genuine emergencies for low income animals, not for you to irresponsibly take on a pet you can’t afford to care for.  You will need vaccinations every year and each rabbit will need neutering.

6. Invest in a pet vacuum.
You might also need Cage and Hutch Flea Spray cleaning products, grooming brushes, and a dustpan and brush. I recommend getting some carpet cleaner if you’re going to have houserabbits for when you’re litter training. You’ll also need an open litter tray (or three) and to find out about litter training.

7. Now you’re ready for a rabbit. Go and get one or possibly two (but beware- when hormones kick in at 4-6 months, they may not be as snuggly, even after they’re neutered, so I recommend getting one then introducing them until they find a good companion, to avoid ending up with loads of single lonely angry bunnies) get them from an adoption centre by first preference, and remember that this is the start of a beautiful friendship, that can span two decades if you look after them well and are lucky.

8. If you do need to give up your rabbit for whatever reason, here’s your options, and what not to do. Don’t abuse a rabbit when you could have found them a new forever home instead.

And remember, folks, a rabbit is for life – their life – not just for Easter. Happy rabbiting.*

*Rabbiting: the act of looking for a rabbit.  Let’s re-define what happens to them afterwards through our own actions!