Thursday, June 27, 2013

(Not quite) Free-range Rabbits!

All the other images I posted of the rabbits show them caged, so I made an effort today to take a few photos while the were hopping around! It was pretty tough avoiding motion blur, as they're constantly moving. In this first photo, you can see a little bit of the large, white wire corral that we borrowed (permanently?) from our neighbor. Her daughter used to have a a bunny and she was happy to lend it to us. She used to set it up in the yard outside to let the rabbit get fresh air and grass under its paws, but we're not quite that adventurous — yet.

Mary Potter, in the corraled area

After I set up the corral in a doorway that had access to the bedroom where their cages are, I learned that they won't "spray" or excessively "pill" to mark their new "territory." Whew. They really made some messes when we unknowingly separated them from their "home base." I learned from an article about litter box training (h/t Kellygo), I'm apparently doing the right thing (now, not at first!) by introducing them to other rooms in stages, so they get used to their location in relation to where their home base is.

Bugs Bunny, grooming Mary Potter in the kitchen
We first let them roam around Dash's room, their home base, then moved them to the bathroom. Bad idea — much territory marking. We tried corralling them in the dining room, first in one area, then around the dining table, also bad ideas with lots of sanitizing afterward. Earlier this week, I let them roam from Dash's room (home base) through to the kitchen, which worked out great until Bugs Bunny got too curious and hopped over a solid, 24-inch barrier. Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea of using the corral as the barrier, letting them wander from the kitchen and a short way into the living room, and be able to view the surrounding areas. That worked very well! Only one little "pill" at the end of the corral, to mark their new "territory." They still have a very clear path back to home base.

Bugs Bunny, lounging in the kitchen
Maybe soon, after we introduce more new areas, we can get some bunny-proofing going and let them have more range through the house!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My new morning schedule, with rabbits

Adding two rabbits to our household requires more than a few adjustments, especially in my morning schedule. Looks like I'll need to actually get out of bed *with* my alarm, and not goof around for 10-15 minutes...
5:25: AJS gives me a kiss, leaves for work
5:30: Boss texts me not to pack a lunch, we're having a group lunch today (BTW, good morning!)
5:35: Alarm goes off; check texts, Facebook, play words with friends before dragging self down to shower.
5:50: Shower, dress, load laundry in the washing machine
6:15: Get kids up, pester them to wear their swim outfits for summer camp water-park day
6:30: Put up barriers, let rabbits hop around while I make breakfast
6:45: Kids shuffle out from their bedrooms; tell kids to pack their dry clothes and towels
7:00: Hand kids their breakfasts over the rabbit barriers
7:05: Prep kids' lunches, get nose-bumped in the legs by hungry rabbits
7:15: Pack kids' lunches, give rabbits carrot & apple scraps
7:20: Chase down escaped rabbit who hopped over a two-foot barrier (taller than her), toss her back over the barrier
7:25: Put rabbit food (hay and pellets) into their cages, chase rabbits into cages 
7:30: Yell at kids for not dressing in a swim suit (Dash), packing their clothes and towels, brushing their teeth, or putting their shoes on; blow-dry my hair
7:35: Using a Sharpie pen, draw flames on previously rejected OMG pink! hand-me-down water-shoes for Dash; they are deemed okay.
7:40: Get in car, drive to summer camp, drop off kids
7:50: Head to work

I haven't fully wrapped my head around letting the rabbits run free through the house. I've noticed that when we corral them outside of Dash's bedroom (where the cages are), they poop and pee all over; but when they do have access to their cages, they scamper back to the cages every few minutes and I don't see poop anywhere. Once I have a chance to secure all of our chewables (especially electrical cords) I'll consider letting them run around with express access to their cages and see if this prevents the free-pooping that happened last night in the corral. Trial and error!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bunny Sitting for the Summer

For the past week, our home has been occupied by four humans and three exotic pets. If you've kept up with this blog, or know me personally, you know we have Weegee the parrot, and now our temporary additions are rabbits. I was calling them bunnies, but after we had a number of guests tell me, "those things are huge! I'd call them hares or rabbits, not bunnies," I suppose I ought to stop referring to these large creatures in the diminutive. To give you an idea of their size, when they're splayed out, relaxing, they look to be around a foot and a half long.

Mary Potter, domestic rabbit
The two rabbits are brown females (no idea what breed, if any) and come from Dash's 2nd grade menagerie classroom, which also included a few guinea pigs and a couple of turtles. The rabbits are named  "Mary Potter" (has white paw-tips) and "Bugs Bunny." If I were to characterize their personalities, I'd say Mary Potter is more aggressive and Bugs Bunny is more curious. But, I really haven't had much time to get to know them.

Dash's teacher told me that she let the rabbits out for 3-4 hours a day and suggested I put them in the bathroom (easy cleanup, no cords or stuff to chew up) if we wanted to give them free time without worrying that they'd get into trouble. I learned very quickly that it's not a good idea to let them out right after they eat, unless you don't mind wiping up the area thoroughly! The bathroom hasn't really worked out as a good free-play option for us, but I've been letting them hop around in the kitchen while I'm getting everyone's breakfasts ready, then after dinner they hop around some more while I'm doing kitchen cleanup.

They get pellets and lots of hay in the morning, then in the evening after they're back in their cages, I let the kids give them small amounts of lettuce, apples, bananas, or other treats. One thing I don't quite have a handle on yet is the smell. They have very stinky pee!! I need to figure out a better way to mask the ammonia odor. Luckily, my pal Jill in Oregon sent me a really long message about rabbit care. I'll need to revisit the TL;DR note and scan for bedding tips.

I was warned by another parent who had watched the rabbits over a weekend during the school year that we may need to prepare ourselves to get asked to keep them. O_o  She told me that Mary Potter and Bugs Bunny were babies at the beginning of the year and the teacher may want to have babies for the new batch of second graders. That means that these rabbits are only 9-10 months old and may not be full size yet? They already seem too big for their cages, but I'm not really prepared to buy new enclosures for them (or be their forever home).

We may consider keeping bunnies in the future since I'm thrilled that nobody has exhibited allergic reactions to them (crossing fingers!), but I'd like ones that are either litter-box trained or young enough to train easily. These ladies just poop all over their cages, and don't seem to prefer the litter boxes. Not sure what to do about that. More research needed! They are entertaining to watch and super soft; they like being petted. The kids really love them. Weegee's keeping his opinion to himself, as is AJS (who seems to like them outside of mentioning "hantha virus" while they're in the kitchen).

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