We have rabbits–the latest chapter in our book of great adventures. Right away, we realized what a cool DIY opportunity this is. They arrived via a borrowed cage–a small cage–and we set out to provide Babe and Dave with more substantial accommodations. (They didn’t arrive as Babe and Dave. We had no idea how to sex rabbits–still don’t, but we think we got it right. I’ll explain later).
Within a few days, we transferred them to a cage we purchased from TSC. We figured that rabbits, being social animals, would enjoy each others company, so we left them together, and hoped for the best. For a week or so, they remained nameless, as, like I said, we had no idea what sex they were. Yes, as a matter of fact, we did look, but everything is pretty fuzzy down there, and they are pretty young, so we thought just give this flower time to blossom. After a week, full bloom. I caught them doing…things. They were promptly separated, and soon after became Dave And Babel, (Babe). We still can’t tell by looking, but nature doesn’t lie. Right? Well, not so fast. According to one of my wife’s coworkers–a seasoned rabbit raiser–rabbits aren’t particular regarding gender when the moment strikes. All the same, we’re running with the Dave and Babe thing.
Hurrah! This rabbit thing is moving forward. Rabbits sexed, and named. Now, we need an additional cage. With this additional cage, we needed a more sophisticated set up. Enter the fun part!
For only a few bucks, we purchased a bit of lumber, some chain and hardware, and soon had a handsome looking rabbit hutch. The cages themselves were the greatest expense at $40.00 each, but worth it for a roomy 30″x36″x18″. Do Babe and Dave think its roomy? Not sure, though they seem content. Just the same, we intend to build a larger, portable rabbit-run type cage that we can relocate periodically. This should offer them a choice of fresh grass, and the opportunity to feel the warm earth beneath their feet, and not just a thin layer of hay over cold steel mesh. This is the one aspect of caged pets that bothers me. I suppose that domestic rabbits don’t really miss what they have never known…maybe.
Recently, I conveyed our rabbit story-so-far to an acquaintance, who was eager to share her own hare– raising adventure. (Sorry, had to do it). Her story has one distinct difference–her rabbit is a wild-caught jack rabbit. Rocket. Raised since birth in a small cage meant for rabbits of the domestic variety, Rocket has undeniably enjoyed attention and a diet that well exceeds that of his brethren who remain forced to fend for themselves in the wilds of central Texas. Fresh water is continuously available, as well as alfalfa pellets, fresh bedding, and even the coveted Timothy hay for optimal dental hygiene. No drinking muddy water from a cow track, or casting nervous glances over his shoulder keeping watch for hungry, forward facing eyes as he nibbles on a low-hanging mesquite branch. Yes, it sounds as though old Rocket has it made in every imaginable way over others of his particular species. Just one thing really caught my attention. For the most part, Rocket seems content with his situation. However, occasionally, for no apparent reason, he just goes “crazy“. Hearing this, I envision a jack rabbit bouncing off the walls of a cage–an unfamiliar, terrifying confinement, the likes of which he has never known–in a desperate bid to escape, and return the freedom of the mesquite, bluestem, cactus, and dirt roads. But Rocket has never known these things. How could he? Or has he?
In my opinion, it’s simply genetics. Old Rocket is a hardy species, programmed to tuck his ears and bolt full-tilt-boogie into the underbrush at the slightest threat of danger. Or maybe, sometimes, just to feel the burn in his powerful hind legs, the thump of his heart screaming I‘m alive and free, and feel of the wind and the sting of slapping weeds on his fur covered face–all in a bid to remain sharp, focused, and strong. The overwhelming impulse that creates this ancient urge, ingrained within his DNA by his lineage, thrives just beneath the surface of Rockets thin, domesticated existence, while it remains buried beneath countless generations of selective breeding practices designed to subdue this instinctual urge in rabbit breeds like Dave And Babe.
Thinking of this pushes me to engineer the rabbit run–a temporary, day-time, semi-wild environment which will allow Dave and Babe to entertain the primal, instinctive aspect of their genetic blueprint. It’s next up in the story of Dave and Babe, and I’m certain they will love it. I know I’ll feel better.