Today, my fancy English Angora rabbit, Latte, had a litter. She made a nest in her box out of hay and pulled handfuls of soft angora fur from her body to make ready, so I knew her time was near. In the mornings when I go out to the barn to feed the rabbits, chickens, peacocks, etc… etc… I peer into the box, hoping to see something special. Today I thought I saw the wind rustling the soft angora fuzz a bit, so I stared and stared. Sure enough I saw the straw move, then the fur shifted. There had to be babies in that mass! Ye-haw!
I was certain there weren’t any babies there last night, so these kittens must be only hours old. I figured I better not bother the nest because it was a bit cool so early in the morning and newborn bunnies are fragile. But it was KILLING me not to know how many babies Latte had. I tended the animals, pausing to stare at her nest over and over again. I was rather proud of my restraint until I found my hand reaching into that cage. Shoot me. I couldn’t stand it.
“Forgive me,” I said to Latte as I moved a big clump of angora fur aside to make a head count. Five baby rabbits! Three look as if they’ll be snow white like the father and two may end up a mixture of white and pale tan like Mom. With their eyes sealed shut and no ears as yet, they look like little moles. (Same size too.)
I bred Latte the same night I bred my other female angora, Mocha. That rabbit happens to be a dusty brown with a dark brown mask and extremely striking. I bred her with my grey male hoping this would produce a line of dark colored rabbits. Mocha has also pushed hay into her nesting box but she only pulled a pinch or two of hair from her body. She is either behind schedule biologically, or a nest-making-slacker. There were no babies in that cage. Darn. I went to check her later in the afternoon. Nothing. She was lying there as calm as can be, staring at me as if to say, “What do you want? Go away.” Perhaps she is younger than Latte and so the pregnancy didn’t take. The gestation period for rabbits is pretty reliable. Then again, she may just need a day or two to finish the cycle. It’s a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I happened to have watched her get ravished over and over, so I’d be shocked if she wasn’t pregnant. Besides which, she did sort of make a nest so she must be hormonal. I will watch for the next few days to see if another litter surfaces. If not, I could breed her again, but I doubt I will. I really don’t need so many angora bunnies (although pedigreed rabbits such as these sell for 50-75 dollars, so I could sell extras if I ended with more rabbits than I wanted to deal with – after I hired a detective to check out the potential buyers to assure they would provide a Ginny-approved home, of course.) I simply wanted to breed both females as an experiment. I wanted to see what my color combination matchmaking would produce. And I planned to keep the prettiest bunnies for myself and give the others to some friends who have expressed an interest in angoras. I’m selfish when it comes to coveting the prettiest pets.
I adore baby bunnies. In a few weeks they’ll venture out of the nest and hop around the cage like playful, shy kittens. I can’t wait for Neva to get home to let her know we have a fistful of new rabbits for her to name. Christening the new animals is a job she takes very seriously.
Doing the animal thing is fun, but most importantly, it keeps us very connected. It’s always nice to have another excuse to walk down to the barn hand in hand, enthusiastic and happy, to marvel at nature’s most innocent gifts. Some women shop at the mall with their daughters. Neva and I spend our bonding time mucking stalls, grooming animals and discussing the remarkable things we learn together about the animal world. We marvel as we watch the peacock spread his tail, look curiously at the different eggs we collect, debate whether or not the pregnant llama is actually showing, give our opinion about what the donkey is trying to say when he brays at us as we walk down the path, and I say “let’s look at the bees” and she shakes her head and says, “No way.” I guess her love for nature has limits.
Reading this blog, you’d think my life was all about animals, but truthfully, they’re a small part of my world, though I must admit, livestock does become newsworthy this time of year. Tomorrow I’ll be opening my beehive after a long winter. – gotta prove interesting. I could write about other areas of my life. With three active kids, a husband going in a dozen directions, a fledgling writing career, daily activities like working out, cooking, reading, etc… a new business in the works, dance refusing to let us go (I don’t talk much the opportunities that continue to present themselves in our old careers) and a load of life passage issues tugging at our hearts and minds, elements of my life are juggled like too many balls circling over a clown’s head. I certainly could find other subjects to reflect upon, but really, baby bunnies seem the most pertinent in the moment.
Life can be a shady place, but it feels lighter when you focus on the soft, sweet things that touch your days. I am just grateful that despite the drudgery and the stressful elements we grapple with daily, I’m a gal with rabbits forcing me to pause for a moment and smile.
Addendum to this blog: Neva and I just took a walk to the barn and she crawled into the cage to have a look-see. She insists there are at least 6 babies, and possibly 7. One is definitely tan and another is actually black. I saw them too. Just goes to show, you can’t trust first impressions.