Saturday, February 02, 2013

Diary of a New Bunny Mom

(White bunny diaper pins my mother saved from my babyhood. I found them in her jewelry box after she passed.)

Recently, I was honored to have this article published in the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society's quarterly newsletter, and since the newsletter is only available to members, I thought I would share the article here.

Diary of a New Bunny Mom

December 30, 2010

At last, Charm and Peridot are here! So exciting!! We brought them home from Mounds Adoption Center this evening, huddled together in one carrier. It wasn’t terribly cold, but we still covered them with a towel and blasted the heater. They look so little and white and bewildered in their cage, large as it is. Natasha Kitty is terrified of them, and is clearly not happy that they have taken over the little study. Sergei Cat doesn’t mind them.

January, 2011

Natasha has finally decided that maybe the rabbits aren’t the scariest creatures in the world, but she still runs past the doorway of what is now known as The Rabbit Room, even when they are in their cage, which isn’t often. You’d think they weren’t a mere four and five pounds, but jackrabbit-sized. Their red eyes were kind of disturbing at first, but that was one reason we adopted rabbits with red eyes, because some people won’t. Now that I’m starting to get used to them, I kind of like them. And their eyes aren’t even the same---Peridot’s are paler and more almond-shaped, Charm’s are rounder, a deeper red and inclined to look a little skeptical. I think she’s not too sure about us yet.

We thought Peridot was spending a lot of time under the recliner because he was nervous---turns out he was nibbling the fabric, so we moved it out to the living room. Much more interesting, anyway, is The Tube, one of those six-foot long concrete-forming cylinders, where they both like to hide and nap. Placed an online order for loads of chewy wooden toys, treats, a basket, and a fuzzy bed with a built-in swag for them to lean against. They’ve already got balsa wood blocks, and a plastic drum toy with a bell inside, and plastic baby keys. Charm has already thrown those around a bit, it was just like I’d hoped! Lots of chinning going on, too.

Summer, 2011

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables… I’ve tried eighteen different vegetables, and the only ones they like consistently are kale, collards and broccoli, none of which they should have very often. (I’m not counting carrots, which I almost don’t even think of as vegetables anymore. Of course, they will happily eat carrots until their little pink noses turn bright orange.) On the plus side, we are eating more vegetables than ever before. Now we’re all vegan, and it’s just easier this way, but I wish they’d eat more vegetables. All they want is hay, pellets, carrots and treats. I know they can’t get too much hay, so that part’s good. Their nails need to be trimmed, but picking them up is still a no go. And they keep peeing in the little bed, no matter where we put it, so the cats are enjoying it on the couch.

Fall, 2011

Living with animals you can’t pick up and hold whenever you want is a humbling experience. I’ve always had cats, who (with exceptions) don’t mind being scooped up and hoisted into the air, and are more than happy to cuddle on the couch while you read or watch a movie. Charm and Peridot don’t really seem to need us. They have each other. When I sit down to pet them, the first thing they do is run away. Can they be afraid of us? I’ve stopped trying to pick them up---not that I was trying to do it that often. They never have to go into the cage any more, except during the weekly vacuuming and cleaning of The Rabbit Room. I’m almost tempted to lure them into the cage at night, just so I can retain some feeling of control over the situation. Steve can only stroke them from time to time, but he’s fine with that, and snuggles happily with the cats. They do seem happy just hanging out together, and that’s what counts, I guess.

August 5, 2011

Peridot’s first birthday today! I wonder if Charm ever thinks about having given birth to Peridot and his three siblings. I got him a rainbow colored plastic Slinky and a large basket, but resisted the urge to make him a carrot cake. He had to settle for just plain carrots and a barley biscuit. Charm is more interested in the Slinky than he is, but they are both already digging at, chewing on, and throwing the big basket around, which is hilarious to watch.

Fall 2011

Got a pick-up-the-bunny lesson today at Dane County Humane Society from Joan, their awesome foster mom and the senior animal caretaker there. She brought me into the room full of rabbits awaiting adoption and took one out of his cage. What a contrast between big Timothy and our nervous little bunnies! He waited patiently, and then practically scrambled up into my arms. Attempts at home didn’t go as well, but I think we made some progress.

January 2012

Horrible discovery : Dried blood smeared inside the tube! I crawled around on the floor and got as close up as I could to see if either Charm or Peridot had any bloody spots. Nothing. But it has to be nails. They’re not curving under, but they are long. The Book says…well, clearly, it’s time for a nail trim. Joan agreed to trim their nails at the Mounds Adoption Center, but I couldn’t lure them into the carrier, so she kindly came to the house. She just walked up to Peridot and scooped him up, easy as pie. Trimming went quickly and easily, and then she gave me some more picking-up-bunnies lessons. Afterwards, Charm hid under the living room couch for so long that I finally picked up the little hay hut she was in and carried it into The Rabbit Room. Then the weirdest thing happened: Peridot chased her all around and even roughed her up a little! Never seen anything like that between them before. By the next morning, though, calm and harmony had been restored, and they were sharing everything happily, as usual, including the round oatmeal box, aka the best bunny toy ever. (Must find more oatmeal recipes...)

February, 2012

Okay, they are DEFINITELY not eating all this hay that keeps going out into the compost! I added a second litter box, switched to newspaper for litter, and now there is a second hay rack, too. They don’t use the new box as much as the preferred one, but it helps me monitor the hay consumption better, and they use less as litter. At least they aren’t diggers: what goes in the box stays in the box.

Interesting discovery: If Charm is in one of the hidey cardboard boxes and I shove a timothy hay tube up against the front opening, and put some kind of hay chew toy inside of it, she has a great time chewing and digging her way out of that, AND she likes me to pet her while she’s doing it! Or at least, she doesn’t mind if I do…

June, 2012

First vet visit and second nail trim. It wasn’t easy to pick them up and get them into the carrier, but I did it! After we got back from the vet, I was able to pick Charm up again, and sat on the floor with her for probably half an hour, holding her against my chest and cuddling her. There was a big wet spot on my shirt from where she’d drooled---was she relaxed or scared? Peridot stayed out in the living room under the desk for so long I finally brought him a litter/hay box, and that’s when I saw where he’d peed on the floor. He was definitely scared! Barley biscuits brought him quickly back into The Rabbit Room with his mother, and they dozed off right away, lying close together.

July, 2012

Major toys discovery: Location, location, location! The same toys that they will ignore if left in the middle of the floor become favorites if moved into a box or The Tube. Same goes for the old phone book they had ignored for a year. Half the pages were scratched to ribbons within two weeks of being moved into a tight-fitting box.

Cleaning The Rabbit Room. Clouds of white fur wafting through the air. Didn’t I just DO this a week ago? How does so much hay end up all over the carpet when it’s supposed to be in the box? Oh, right…there are three woven-hay huts and mats and trays and chewy-hay-braid toys strewn about…

May, 2012

Now I get it. When Peridot runs to his favorite box and turns around to look at me, crouching down, he’s not running away---he’s letting me know he’s in his safe place and ready to be petted. I move closer to him, very slowly and carefully, chatting softly to him about nothing. He loves it when I rub his head and ears, and we’ve spent as long as half an hour like this---he with his eyes closed, head lowered, and me awkwardly leaning my back against The Tube, but very happy because I’ve finally figured out how to pet him, and where. Charm’s favored spot is the other box with the back exit they’ve chewed into it; once she’s in there, she doesn’t mind my reaching in, and her preferred rubbing style verges on what most big dogs prefer---a vigorous neck massage and scratching up her back fur.

Fall, 2012

Contented bunnies lying in their little bed. They barely flinch as I lean down to stroke their heads, first Charm, then Peridot. Yes, the same little bed that they were peeing in a year ago, now placed in the location where they prefer to lie, and covered with a towel that they rearrange to their satisfaction every day. A year ago, when I sat down right next to them, they would have fled. Now they enjoy long ear rubs or gentle head pets. They’re not on my lap, but they are next to me. And I think I even hear a little soft tooth grinding, a little bunny purr...


Here's a link to the House Rabbit Society's website, which is fun even you aren't in a position to adopt a house bunny. The Featured Adoptable Rabbit video they have up right now, of lop-eared Didi and Chuckie, is adorable.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January Happenings

Today was an ordinary day for Charm and Peridot until about 2pm, when their Aunt Denyl cameover to help me trim their claws. Since they so dislike being picked up, this is a real ordeal, but it does need to be done every 3 or 4 months to prevent their claws from growing so long that they curve back into their pads. Denyl is an expert at all of this, and I am not---that's where the problems came in. Rather than holding them while she did the trimming, I took the scissors. Even though she has dark nails, so it's harder to see the quick, I did fine with Charm's nails. Peridot was another story, even though he has light nails, and I hit the quick with the 4th or 5th nail. It took probably 45 minutes to get the bleeding to stop altogether, using pressure, flour and facial tissues. Fortunately, Denyl knew what to do. It was astonishing and a litle sickening to see how much blood there was, although he didn't seem to be in any pain. Now, we need to keep a very careful eye on him to make sure it doesn't start up again. And I plan to keep a veterinary stypic stick on hand for the future, and/or take them to the vet for their next nail trim, just to be on the safe side.
Other news of the week is that our friends Tara and Thad's shiitake mushroom farm that we got Thad for Xmas took off so quickly that they already have mushrooms---after only a week! Here's Thad contemplating the mushrooms and sampling some pasta primavera Tara made from them. I love the idea that you can grow your own mushrooms inside so easily. It kind of gets to be a habit. The kit came from Field and Forest in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, so it wasn't shipped from very far.
It has been so cold for the past two days (around zero F this morning) that it's hard to believe that just a few days ago, it was in the low 40s, so that we were able to let the chickens out into the yard for a while. Here's Frieda strutting across the snow, and Annie and Frieda sampling some collard greens from my hand while they take the fresh air. Carlie and Emily were more conservative, preferring to spend time outside in their covered yard. All four girls were more than ready to get back into their relatively warm coop in less than an hour. While they do want attention and need mental stimulation at this time of year, they don't want to go outside unless it's above frezing and there's not too much snow on the ground.
Some online research into family history this week led me to discover a website with Nebraska tombstone photos. It's easy to find whoever you are looking for----assuming they are in there, at least, and my father and paternal grandfather are not, yet---and I found this photo of my maternal grandfather. Since I've never seen the gravestone itself, it was an odd feeling to suddenly see it there on my screen. The next time we visit my cousins in Walthill, we will definitely go to the cemetary.
A Cooper's hawk visited the backyard for an hour and a half last week, just hanging out. I don't think the chickens could see the hawk (him? her?) from inside the coop. It didn't seem as though s/he even caught any mice, although there are lots back there to be caught.
While the chickens don't normally lay more than a few times during the winter months, I thought I'd post this photo of what we do with the chicken eggs: Breakfast of Chickens, aka eggshell omelettes. Steve does eat a few, too. I avoid them. The idea of eating chicken menstrual periods is pretty repellent.
We recently attended a memorial (we're there, in the background) at the Wisconsin DNR for the 117 wolves who were killed this winter by Wisconsin hunters. There were 118 candles lit, the one extra one for the wolves who were no doubt killed but not reported. It's a sad time to be a wolf, but we are hoping that the government will come to its senses, eventually.