Each Rabbit is Unique–My Learning Curve

Piper’s kits have been coming out of the nesting box since Tuesday, which was the day the final kit fully opened his eyes. They have grown so much. I am very curious to see their rate of growth when I weigh them next Thursday as compared to Piper’s last litter or Phoebe’s current ones. I imagine they’ll grow a bit faster than a litter of 7 and a lot faster than a litter of 8.

Our work with Sweetie Belle has paid off. She is no longer completely insane. The first big change we made was to never take anything out of her cage while she was in it. Even though we don’t see it as an aggressive move to clean out the dirty hay while she is in there she does. We see it as improving the cleanliness of her cage. She sees it as infringing on her private territory of the one thing that is hers, her cage space.

We approach her with the same sweet, nonsense tone we use with Starbuck, Piper, and Phoebe who tended to get all the silly, lovey, baby talk because they are the biggest sweethearts in the world. We were talking to Sweetie Belle as if it was a chore, because she was a big pain and she wasn’t all that lovable. Well, she noticed. She knew she was getting talked to differently. So we have made an effort to talk to her the same way as we talk to the others, and actually have started talking to all the rabbits that way, even though the others didn’t seem to care. She has responded to this by not running and hiding in the back corner of her cage and she has not squeaked at us for over a week.

When we open her cage door we talk to her and wait for her to approach us. We let her rub her face all over the opening and then we tell her we are going to pet her now. Then we pet just her head and if she seems amenable she gets a few strokes on her body, too. Then she will put a paw up on one of us and that is her cue that she is ready to come out of her cage. One of us takes her out and strokes her and talks to her while the other very quickly changes her dirty hay for clean hay and cleans out the dropping pan.

When we put her back into her cage she does not run immediately to the back of the cage, instead checking out the new hay and then slowly sauntering to the back of the cage. She no longer completely faces the wall with her back to us, her sign that she was done with us and we were not wanted in her cage. She now sits sideways against the back, or on a diagonal. She hasn’t freaked out or charged us in two weeks or bitten (not even a nip) in 10 days. We have both adjusted our attitudes and learned to read each other better and it shows.

Lola seems to hate the entire world less now. She was never scared, but she often wanted nothing to do with anyone. Since she became pregnant she has gotten a little more affectionate. By that I mean she will tolerate being touched. And she just moves out of the way now when I open the cage to put in fresh feed (she has a crock feeder so I can’t put the feed in from the outside with her) instead of moving as far as possible away from us. She never used to come to the door of her cage at all, but she is starting to. It may seem silly, but I ask her permission to put feed in the feeder and hay in the cage and she seems to like that. I know she is just responding to my tone of voice and the fact that I show her the little cup I transfer feed with, but she is responding and that is the important thing.

The chicken and ducks never showed such varied personalities. I mean they have different personalities, but they were mostly things like a couple of them lack patience or a couple of them are very proud of themselves to the point of ridiculousness when they manage to fly a bit, or one of them likes to scold you for not moving as fast as they think you should to get treats. But none of them were ever crazy. It has been quite a learning curve, but I am learning that not every rabbit is going to be as easy as most chickens, or even most rabbits.

I am also learning that just because you have successfully kept one or two other types of livestock, does not mean that the next one you introduce is going to be easy or the same, just with more creatures. Early on I thought I’d add quail this year, but realized the rabbits were a lot more intensive work than I’d thought they would be so didn’t. I am glad I decided to wait. And I have instituted a rule for myself that I won’t add more than one type of livestock to our homestead in any 12 month period. I’m pretty sure I will keep that rule. At least if I want to keep my sanity, too.

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3 thoughts on “Each Rabbit is Unique–My Learning Curve

  1. I’m SO happy things are working out for you and Sweetie Belle. When I first got Purina she was crazy and she was a biter. Now she’s fine with me around. Kibbles no longer attacks me when I reach into the cage. She dances at the door and waits for me to open it (at which point she runs away until her food comes in but that is WAY better than attacking). When her cage is closed she just wants me to feed her dandelions through the cage bars and will stand all the way up for them. She lets me touch and pet her while she’s eating too. Sometimes all we need is to show a little compassion and patience and things turn around. Rabbits are prey and they’re easily frightened but they’re intelligent companion animals and popular pets too, and for a reason.
    I think the 12 months rule is a good one. We’re trying to grow a little faster than that but that seems like just about the right pace since it looks like that’s what we’re going to end up being at anyhow (no ducks until next spring).

    • LuckyRobin says:

      It is quite a relief to have turned things around with her. Your advice was so helpful with that, so thank you. I did some research on rabbit body language which helped, too. She is like a different rabbit. I no longer have any intention of selling her and she is starting to live up to her name. Lola has clearly responded as well, though we weren’t specifically working with her, just our changes spilled over into her behavior, too.

  2. cecilia says:

    That is a good rule. we don’t want you standing with your head in the corner!! c

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