-By Kym Sunday, a Cox Farms Farmhand
The rascally rabbits at Cox Farms kept us on our toes this year! They loved digging through everything and, despite our efforts to keep them safe inside their home in Bunnington, DC, some of them have managed to dig themselves out of their little city and out onto the farm! Not the ideal place for them as domestic rabbits cannot survive in the wild, but rest assured we are doing our best to track them down and return them to safety!
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not rodents. They are lagomorphs, as are hares but a rabbit is not a hare. Hares are much larger, have longer ears, longer legs and their babies are ready to fend for themselves an hour after birth. Rabbits have good eyesight and can see almost 360 degrees around itself, except directly in front of it’s head.
A male rabbit is called a buck, a female is called a doe, and a baby is called a kitten or kit. Kits are born hairless and are blind for about two weeks after birth. They rely on their moms to take care of them for about 8 weeks, when they are weaned. Does only feed their kits about 5 minutes a day. With a gestation period of about 30 days, a doe can have up to 8 litters per year with an average of 6 kits per litter. The record for the largest litter is 24! Rabbits are often called bunnies, or as I like to call them, buns.
A bun’s body language will tell you a lot about how they are feeling. The average heart rate of a rabbit ranges between 130-325 beats per minute. In comparison, a dog’s is 60 – 100 beats per minute. The faster the heart rate, the more worried a bun is. It’s nose seems to twitch a mile a minute, too! This is a bun’s way of gathering information about it’s surroundings, including about you. Fast twitching means that a bun is stressed, hot or just interested in something (like the food you are about to feed him!). Slow twitching means a bun is relaxed. If you find a bun lying on his side or belly with his back legs stretched out behind him, you can be assured that he is just chillin’. A bun’s ears will move independently in multiple directions to keep tabs on what’s going on around them. Thumping a leg generally means there is danger or that a bun is upset with you.
Most people think rabbits don’t make any noise, but did you know that rabbits can talk? Content rabbits sometimes purr softly, slowly grind their teeth, or make soft clicking noises. Buns who feel aggressive may grunt or growl. Loud tooth grinding may mean that they are scared, angry or in pain. If a rabbit screams it means that they are in extreme pain or terrified. Hopefully you will never hear a rabbit scream.
Rabbits love to chew! In fact, they NEED to chew. They have 28 teeth that never stop growing – their teeth can grow up to 5 inches per year! Chewing keeps them from outgrowing their tiny mouths. That is why it is important to give them an unlimited supply of fresh hay (timothy hay is the best!) and fun things to chew on like untreated wood blocks, paper towel rolls, rabbit toys and small boxes.
The rabbits that live in Bunnington, DC are all female and come from a rabbit rescue in Winchester, VA. We have two sweet males housed elsewhere. They are all mixed breeds that will be available for adoption at the end of the festival. If you are interested in keeping a bunny as a pet, here are some things to consider:
- Do you have a place to house one? They can be kept indoors or outdoors, but indoors is best. The minimum recommended cage size is 4′ x 2′ x 2′ with access to a large exercise area. You shouldn’t just let them roam your house unsupervised as they will chew through electrical wires and destroy your wood furniture.
- Rabbits only sweat on the bottoms of their feet. That is not enough to cool a bun on a hot day. If you keep your rabbit outdoors, make sure he has a lot of shade and add a frozen water bottle (a 1 or 2 liter soda bottle is ideal) to his cage so he can lay against it and cool down. Better yet, move him inside!
- You should spay or neuter your rabbit as you would a cat. This results in a healthier and calmer pet who won’t be marking his territory all over your house.
- Most rabbits live 6-8 years. Can you take care of it for that long?
- Rabbits need specialized, but varied food. This translates to unlimited amounts of Timothy hay (a must), pellets that are primarily made up of timothy hay (no “extras” in the mix), green veggies like romaine lettuce (no iceberg!), basil, bok choy, broccoli leaves, kale, dandelion leaves, etc., occasional treats like carrots, apple slices (no seeds), banana slices, and strawberries. Rabbits also need unlimited drinking water, either in a bowl that they cannot overturn or from a water bottle.
- Rabbits are easy to litter train and their droppings make great garden fertilizer. They eat their night droppings called caecotrophs. These differ from the dry little balls that they constantly drop. They are sticky droppings that are usually eaten directly from their bottoms and they are full of important nutrients like protein.
- Rabbits are very tame, but they have strong hind legs and a weak back that can break easily. Small children should not be allowed to handle them unsupervised. It is best to have children interact with them at ground level. They can be taught commands and to play games. They tend to be most active when their people are home.
- Rabbits can jump up to 36 inches or higher.
Other Interesting Facts About Rabbits:
- There are about 50 different rabbit breeds worldwide.
- More than half of rabbits in the world live in North America.
- Rabbits are the 3rd most popular pet in the UK, behind cats and dogs.
- Hundreds of years ago, people released rabbits on deserted islands in hopes of giving shipwrecked sailors a food source.
- Easter Bunny! Originated in Germany in the 13th century.
- Buggs Bunny – Elmer Fudd’s Tormenter
- White Rabbit – Alice chased him down the rabbit hole (to find out what he was going to be late for) and ended up in Wonderland.
- Trix Rabbit – Always after sugary cereal that is “just for kids”
- Roger Rabbit – Framed for murder.
- Peter Rabbit – Lost his clothes in Mr. McGregor’s Garden
- Rabbit – Pooh’s worrywart friend.
- Energizer Bunny – this one keeps going and going and going…
Thanks for visiting our rabbits this year at Bunnington, DC! Cox Farms buns can’t wait to see you again, next year!