Back in half term week we had a bury of rabbits born. Any newborns on the farm are always exciting but we have to be very careful with our excited little helpers each day to ensure they are cared for correctly. With most animals this means leaving Mum to it and watching from a respectful distance. Half term can be a concerning time as we have older children staying on the farm who are given the freedom to explore away from their parents within the safety of our 30 acres. This is something we encourage and certainly something my own children enjoy all year round. However it is always a worry for newborn animals and we go to great lengths to explain to the children and the parents that they must not play with them. Everyone loves the rabbits, the newborns look like little blind mice huddled up together in their nest and it is always tempting to reach into their box and stroke them. This half term the children were excellent, only looking in on them quickly on the feed run supervised by farmer Nick and the bunnies thrived.
Two weeks on and the bunnies have opened their eyes and begun to take on a real cute bunny look charming even our youngest guests. Yesterday morning with their new found sight they began to explore outside the nest. The children were thrilled to see them scurrying around and we reiterated the warning not to pick them up apart from with us on the supervised feed run. The concrete floor is very unforgiving and a squirming bunny will easy tumble from unsuspecting little hands and damage itself often fatally.
However by mid afternoon two of the bunnies were found dead in the rabbit house, another was left out and very cold and just one in the nest also feeling chilly and the nest had been moved across the nesting box. We brought the coldest bunny into the house expecting the worst and left the lifeless weight on top of the boiler for two hours. Warm, alive but still lifeless we had a go at syringe feeding a little cow’s milk and syrup, a real long shot but it felt worth a go. To our surprise he did gulp a little down and we left him once more to see if his body would digest and respond.
Fearing for the remaining bunny Theo and I went to check on him up at the rabbit house. By now he was alone in the nest, no sign of Mum and he too was beginning to feel alarmingly cool.
We had to make a decision, did we leave him assuming Mum had moved the nest to protect him from other rabbits or perhaps a stoat and would come and feed him or did we assume someone had moved the nest and Mum rejected him, or that Mum had moved the nest but for some reason then abandoned it or run out of milk in which case we should take the remaining bunny indoors and try and revive him with his brother. Without a crystal ball it was impossible to know which the right course of action was. We chose to lift him and the nest in the hope that familiar surroundings and the comfort of each other might give them both a chance. Moved from a plastic tub and a tea towel to a little helper’s hat box with their nest the bunnies both took 2 full syringes of milk from us and curled up together. Felix and I fed them later and I gave them one last feed at midnight and hoped for the best.
A morning surprise
Waking at 6.30 I dashed downstairs to see if they had made it through the night. To my delight not only had they made it but had jumped out of the box and were exploring the laundry room floor! After a good milk breakfast, the school run and a negotiation with Guy to borrow a section of his hamster cage they have been rehomed again.
Looking happy together and even managing to lick the milk from a saucer themselves. They are by no means home and dry but they have survived the first 48 hours from near death incredibly well. This week’s guests are very young and well accompanied by their parents so we are increasingly convinced that something happened in bunny kingdom to cause the little ones to be abandoned, I just hope we can now carry on where Mum left off.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.