I shared a quick image and a few details on Instagram about some surprise bunnies that joined our house this past weekend….and the story has gotten a little more intense/crazy. So, even though I wasn’t planning on sharing this today, I’m changing things up a bit, and wanted to chat about…..BUNNIES!
Okay, but be warned, this is a very LONG story. And I’m adding this little disclaimer at the top after writing the story below, because I didn’t mean for it to get so long. However, anyone that knows me at all, knows that I can talk and talk and talk. So, pull up a couch cushion and we’ll just pretend you’re here at my house and I’m updating you on our whirlwind weekend. Do you want a treat? I’ve got some of those too! ;) And yes, there are some sad parts (sorry in advance), but there’s also plenty of happy parts. And lots of pictures of tiny bunnies…..and who doesn’t like those?! ;) Okay, here we go…
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Some of you may remember when I shared details about Elli’s 9th birthday this past December, when she got 2 Mini Rex bunnies, Rexy and Lexy.
I don’t think I’ve shared this here (like I have on Instagram) but Lexy (the grey/white one) got out of the cage early one morning in January and Elli was devastated. She was so sad about it, was blaming herself, and was begging me to please find Lexy as I was dropping her off to school. We looked everywhere for Lexy, even posted pictures on our neighborhood FB page — but nothing. No Lexy anywhere. I kind of prepared Elli for the worst and even told her that predators need food too. (Ha, I know…not my most gentle mom moment!) Anyway, after assuming the worst, we discussed the fact that bunnies really do better in pairs. And we knew the more time that passed, it would make it more difficult to add another bunny (because they get territorial….blah) — so we hurried and found another bunny to join Rexy. But this time, it was a Mini Lop bunny named Poppy!
I know…..have you ever seen anything cuter in your whole life?!!! (Okay….my own newborn babies are pretty stinkin’ cute, but you know what I mean!) We were really excited for her to join us, and to keep Rexy company.
However, Poppy is more of a timid bunny and it took some effort to help Rexy and Poppy get along, but they eventually did after about a full day. Then, wouldn’t you know it, 2 days later………..LEXY CAME BACK!!! She was really dirty and frightened and must have been hiding somewhere, but she must have been hungry and thirsty, because one night while Elli and Steve (my husband) were outside feeding the bunnies past dark, they heard something rustling around behind them, and it was………LEXY!!
Okay, I’m making this a really long story, but this is how we ended up with 3 bunnies (which is important for the story below). We definitely had to let them figure out their dominance and suddenly our sweet little bunnies were showing some attitude, but it had to happen so they could live in peace.
ANYWAY. We have some good friends that have a son named Hank, who also received 2 pet bunnies around the same time Elli did. Well, one of Hank’s bunnies suddenly died and not only was he pretty devastated, the other bunny, Boomerang, seemed lonely. So, to give it some bunny interaction, they brought Boomerang over to play with our bunnies one afternoon. It took our bunnies some time to let this strange bunny join them in the fenced play yard, but eventually, Hank’s bunny was happy and hopping around! Oh wait, I forgot to mention, Bommerang is a BOY…..and our 3 bunnies are all GIRLS. (We knew this for sure and even though bunnies are hard to figure out, we have become pros at checking gender. Not even kidding. Come on over…..we offer free gender checks!! Ha. Kidding.) Well, we all know bunnies are master multipliers, so I’ll let you guess what happened next……but let’s just say the kids were all wondering why Boomerang kept getting a piggy back ride from Poppy! We kind of just went with it (because we decided having babies wouldn’t be terrible, especially since we could share with Hank, who was wanting more bunnies). Also, we never really thought Boomerang mastered his “technique”, so we kind of figured he was just practicing.
Okay, this is getting long…but hang in there. (Or not. There are probably 20 other things you need to get done today, so put a bookmark in this and come back later….haha!)
Fast forward about 30 days (which is the gestation period for rabbits), and we had no clue about what was about to happen. Our sweet little Poppy didn’t look any bigger than normal, she wasn’t pulling hair and creating a nest (which is what they do right before having babies, who are called kits), and we just didn’t notice any other clues that anything was different. However, Sunday morning, there was a huge shift in the weather and a huge flash flood thunderstorm rolled in during the night and I remember about 6 in the morning, some huge thunder that kept shaking the house. Once we all got out of bed around 8 or so, the thunder/lightening stopped and we headed outside with umbrellas and rain boots, and the kiddos splashed around in the puddles and streams for a while, collecting worms and other critters. At one point, Steve and I made our way to the back yard, and decided to check on the bunnies, since it was still raining and pretty wet and kinda chilly outside.
(*Pause* –Our bunnies live outdoors in a pretty large 2-story rabbit hutch, right next to the house. The top story is completely covered and sheltered but the bottom level is open and just wire. The bunnies can move freely between both levels. *Un-Pause*)
That’s when I noticed something on the bottom level of the hutch and at first, thought they were little pink mice babies. Once I realized what I was really seeing, I started shrieking for Steve to come and see. We both suddenly realized that Poppy had indeed been pregnant and Hank’s bunny Boomerang, was absolutely the daddy. (However, our friends let us know about a week prior, that Boomerang had actually died. Their whole family has been so sad about it, but especially Hank, who was the main caretaker. They weren’t sure Boomerang got into something and was sick….or if he truly was just too lonely after the 1st one died.) Anyway, my heart immediately started to panic and I was sick that we hadn’t been more vigilant and that it was possibly our fault that there were 4 practically lifeless naked bunnies on the wire bottom of the cage, wet and freezing cold from the rain. Awwwww…..I know this sounds crazy (well, at least it does to me, because I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a huge “pet person”), but my heart literally broke for these babies. 2 of them were absolutely lifeless and white as can be, the 3rd was a very pale pink and barely moving, and the 4th one was halfway under the ramp that goes up to the second level, so it was slightly more sheltered and a little more wiggly, but still in rough shape. We scooped them all up (okay, Steve did….I was still a little traumatized, and told Steve who works in medicine, that I would be a TERRIBLE trauma assistant) and put them in a dry towel. Right away, Steve started rubbing their little bodies and tried to get their blood flowing. The most lively one started pink-ing right up and then the semi-lifeless one started to get a little pinker as well. He handed those to me to keep rubbing and started working on the lifeless two, but they were just too far gone. Steve actually got one of them to move and take shallow breaths, but I think him rubbing its body and trying so hard to revive it, was more like life-support to a brain dead animal. It broke my heart. I know, circle of life, blah, blah…..but it was so sad to see these tiny babies lifeless.
Anyway, the two who did make it, still weren’t doing all that well, and were little icicles. We couldn’t get them to warm up with just our hands and the towels, so we finally decided to bring them inside and place them in a laundry basket with a towel, a bunch of torn up tissues, and a heating pad below the basket. Finally, no more pale pink/white bunnies…….they both turned a nice bright pink!
Then we decided to bring the mama Poppy inside (again, we’re not really inside pet people….but sick babies of any kind always win in my book) and placed them all in a cage with fresh bedding, plenty of water, lots of hay and pellets, and just let them recuperate for a while.
Poppy seemed to be doing better and was drinking/eating a ton…..but she didn’t show much interest in the babies. I kept feeling so sad that she was seemingly rejecting her offspring. However, we read, and read, and read some more about the behavior of mama bunnies (who are called Does, I know, I know) and realized that they only briefly feed newborns 1-2 times a day, and then ignore them the rest of the day. And that’s because in the wild, they don’t want predators to notice them….okay, makes sense, got it. We also read somewhere that it could also take a good 24 hours before she feeds them for the first time (some of that having to do with her milk supply coming in)….so we decided to just wait it out and let her do her thing. We also read that a mama will often times reject her first litter of kits, and then will be a fine mama after that. Oh boy….my heart was starting to worry again. Because holy smokes, this was them at about the 12 hour mark, and we were all in love with them. We certainly didn’t want them to be rejected.
However, at this time, we decided we weren’t going to intervene and were just going to hope that Poppy would figure out that these were her babies, and would eventually feed them. But not only did we notice that their bellies were shrinking and she hadn’t given them any food yet, we also noticed that when she stepped inside the little nest box we had made for them and would stand over them (which is how moms feed the baby kits), she wasn’t actually feeding them, but was peeing and pooping all over them. Waaaah! Then she would step out of the box and go find food. The babies would mew and wiggle and were burrowing all over the place looking for milk, but couldn’t find a thing. So on Monday morning, about 28 hours after they were born, it seemed clear to us that she wasn’t going to do much for the babies. Their little bellies were very sunken, their ribs were sticking out, their skin was very wrinkly, and we checked their under bellies for any white patches of milk (sometimes seen through their very thin skin), but there was nothing. They were constantly rooting around for food and seemed starving.
As a last resort (and kind of out of curiosity to see if she had milk…and also as a recommendation on Instagram from Katy from No Big Dill, who has been a rock star with tips and advice!), I cradled Poppy inside of a towel on her back and laid one of the babies on her belly to see if she would suckle. Poppy didn’t fight me on this and seemed very relaxed….and then in a matter of seconds, that little baby turned on her turbo mode, and started burrowing her face into the belly fur of her mama, and quickly found a teet to suckle. She tried a few times, quit, started searching for another teet, suckled a few times, and repeated this process about 20 times. I just don’t think there was any milk to be had. So sad. Finally, the mama had had enough…..and scrambled to her feet and wrestled out of my arms.
Okay, fine. That’s when I decided we were going to adopt these babies as our own. In fact, I have very fond memories of my mom, sister and I nursing 7 newborn baby kittens back to life with eye droppers of milk, when I was maybe 13 or so. We lived on 10 acres growing up and always had a few outdoor “farm cats” to keep the mice away….but one time, one of our cats had babies and then died after giving birth. We found the litter that she had hidden outside somewhere before dying, and then raised those kittens until they were full grown. That was such a cool experience for me, that I have never forgotten……so I quickly decided that these baby bunnies might not have a good chance at survival no matter what route we took, so we were going with what I knew best…..and that’s by feeding them teeny drops of milk by hand!
Oh, and are you curious what you feed a baby bunny? Yeah, I had no clue either. But after doing some research we decided to go with a recipe that included Kitten Milk Replacement, Whole Goat’s Milk, colostrum powder (didn’t even know that existed for purchase), and some heavy whipping cream. And after dropping a bit on their lips, the bunnies started to lick right away and realized, FOOD! Ha…they were so hungry and ready for a meal, so it was all very exciting!!!
And for the first time ever, these babies had nice full round bellies full of milk!
These bunnies are so little that our kids aren’t able to feed them yet. In fact, I’m the only one who has because I’ve read that it’s easy to force too much into their mouth and then cause them to aspirate. So, feeding actually takes a little time and for the first feeding, I would just barely squeeze tiny drops in their mouth through that bottle nipple (which is a kitten bottle that I found at the pet store, that came with like 5 different nipple sizes), bit by bit! After that first feeding though, the pink bunny has become a speedy eater! The slightly bigger grey bunny is a lot slower and tends to get it up his teeny tiny nostrils and tends to kind of cough or sneeze a bit to get it out. So, I feed him really slowly while he’s learning. But soon, I’m hoping the kiddos will be able to help feed with a bottle and be done!
Oh, if you ever are in this same situation, this is what a full belly of milk looks like. When I was checking to see if the mama was feeding, I didn’t know what I was looking for. But there is a definite white patch of milk laying across the lower right side of the belly.
Bunnies only eat twice a day (morning and night)…so it’s really not so bad. They mostly sleep the rest of the day, so they are very low maintenance for now. But my gosh, they are the cutest little things!
The other thing I learned and thought was really good to know (and will help me if we ever have to do this again and I come back to read this post), was that after each feeding, we wipe their little bums with a warm wet cotton ball, to stimulate a bowel movement, just like their mother would do. So far, this has helped one of the bunnies to poop. Yay! (Why did I even just cheer about bunny poop?!!)
Also, we have decided to weigh the bunnies once a day on our kitchen, just to see how they’re growing. And also to see if they’re getting enough milk. It’s hard to tell when they’re full but as they get better at sucking, I think it will be easier to gauge. (Yep, that says 1.06 ounces……so TINY!)
So, while these babies are growing and we’re feeding them, we are keeping them inside. Do you think the cage blends right in with our decor?? Haha! ;)
But they’re so little, all they need is a little nesting box with plenty of bedding that they can burrow under for warmth. I’m so glad there’s 2, because bunnies are snugglers for social reasons and for warmth, so I don’t think a solo baby bunny would have survived all alone.
Oh, and remember Hank? The owner of the daddy of these bunnies (who has passed away)? He has been pretty bummed that both of his bunnies are now gone. In fact, his mom told me he misses getting up every morning to take care of them….and kinda feels lost without them. So, he was pretty excited to come over and see and hold Boomerang’s offspring! Gosh, I love this kid! :)
It’s funny how this 7 and 9 year old have really taken to being bunny owners. They both still love it, and even though the excitement has worn off for some of the other siblings, Elli and Hank are still the most attentive little owners! And even though Hank’s have both passed, he has been so anxious to get more….which says a lot about his interest in having pet bunnies!
And it’s interesting that out of the 2 bunnies that survived, one looks to be a dark grey (which was the fur color of Boomerang) and the other seems to have white fur coming in, like Poppy. So the kids started calling them Boomerang Jr and Poppy Jr……HA!
(That’s Hank’s little brother Dean off to the left, in case you were thinking my little Oliver suddenly sprouted up into a big kid!)
Wow! That turned into a long crazy novel about bunnies. And I might even be turning into a crazy bunny lady (you know, similar to a cat lady!)……but it has been quite the adventure for all of our kids the past few days! So even though I was planning on sharing an actual tutorial today, I hope it’s okay that I shared about baby bunny miracles instead! These bunnies are now 3 days old, seem to be thriving, and are kind of wiggling their little bunny bodies right into our hearts! That’s okay though, it’s something I hope my kids always remember! :)
Talk to you soon!