I’m not one to anthropomorphize, and I don’t call my dog a “fur kid” but I do believe that animals think and express emotions. Horses swish their tails, flick their ears, roll their eyes and wrinkle their noses. My dog’s tail has a language of it’s own. I can gage her optimism just by seeing how she is carrying it. The chickens cluck and chortle and hurry about. “Food! Food!” they say, and “what is that?” and “hey, that’s mine!”
But Candy, my lop-eared bunny – she’s inscrutable. Sure, I can tell when she is peacefully resting, or when she wants to get out of her hutch. But beyond that, it’s hard to imagine what is going on in her little rabbit brain. Her ears hang, so I can’t gauge her mood by them. She’ll hop right into the midst of the chickens and stare at them. Is this a bunny joke? Is she teasing them? Wants their company? The chickens show annoyance. “Bock!” they say, “get out of our way!” Sometimes Candy gallops through the hens while they are sunbathing. “Ack!” they say. “What an annoying rabbit!” But what Candy is thinking about it, I’m not sure. Sometimes I think I see a twinkling of wicked rabbit humor.
In any event, having Candy live with the hens is great fun for us humans. I love watching interspecies dynamics. Candy was originally a house bunny. She lived in my son’s room, where she chewed the baseboard, which we tolerated, as gnawing goes with house rabbit ownership. But the shedding! Fine fur everywhere. Despite daily vacuuming, her fur clogged the wheels of my son’s electric trains. That was it. Out she went. And it turned out that everyone is happier for it.
I feel sorry for outdoor pet rabbits that sit in a hutch all day with no room to run, or other animals to be companionable with. Candy’s situation, though, is as enriched as could be. Her hutch, which is right in the fenced chicken yard, gives her a perfect aerie from which to watch the hens. During the day, she can come and go as she pleases. Amazingly, the chickens have never gone into her hutch – but Candy goes into all of their spaces!
Candy shares the vegetable scraps that I toss in the yard. She drinks from the chickens’ waterer. She eats their laying hen pellets. We buy high quality pellets – non-medicated – and it hasn’t seemed to hurt the rabbit so far. She also has fresh hay and rabbit pellets in her hutch. She eats all of it. Yes, Candy is on the plump side, but she’s getting a lot of exercise and seems fine.
If you want to add a rabbit to your coop, here are some things to make sure of:
1. The fencing must be very secure. Rabbits dig. Our fence goes underground by 6 inches. She can’t tunnel out.
2. Make sure that the rabbit has her own hutch so she has a place to get away from the hens (and vice versa.)
3. Lock the rabbit up at night. You can’t be too concerned about predators!
4. Always provide your rabbit with dry bedding, a windproof shelter, fresh water, pellets and hay. And your companionship, of course.