A Tale Two Rabbits by volunteer Sharon Richardson

At the beginning of March 2020 we were asked if we could foster a 4 week old bunny kit. The centre had tried to introduce the kit to another litter; however with no success. The little kit, thought to be a boy, was underweight, not eating much and was really too young to be separated from their own mum. He had been found by a member of the public being chased by a cat. The National RSPCA inspector had taken the baby bunny to the animal hospital where he spent the night before moving to the centre. It seems likely that he was born to a wild mum. We could not turn down giving this little kit a chance, and so began our journey…

We set up a pen for the kit in my daughter Courtney’s room with a few cardboard boxes to hide in and placed the carrier in the pen, as it was front opening we left it in the pen. At first the kit never came out when someone was in the room, however we could see the food and hay was being eaten and tiny little poops were left around. After about 3 weeks with us the little kit escaped the pen and it took us nearly an hour to find and catch them! The little kit escaped this pen a further two times despite making changes after the first escape but was still managing to find a space to squeeze through, thus the name Houdini was given. After this I began to sit quietly in the pen and after a week of doing this Houdini would slowly come out with the offer of parsley. Gradually, overtime, Houdini would come out and climb all over me and quite happily play in my presence.

We moved Houdini into a pen in the kitchen instead of being in a bedroom to get used to lots of sounds and hopefully feel more confident around us all. She would always make an appearance when I was around but tease the girls and not come out when it was just them, but if I joined in then she came out.

Houdini was putting on weight and gaining more confidence, having been with us for over 2 months. By 3 months with us Houdini now trusted all the household and their confidence was continually growing, however with this a destructive side also came into play, chewing up the lino, blankets, trying to shred carpet. Discussing the issue with Susie (the branch manager) and she advised to move Houdini outside because it was warm weather and it was hoped she would only have access to chew natural materials that would not be harmful to her. 

Moving Houdini into an outdoor setup was the best thing for her and every day we would add extra space and sit out in the evening for a few hours with her, plus in the morning one of us would sit in her run for about 30 minutes. During all this time I had become extremely attached to this little lady, especially with how she had bonded to me for attention and love. For some time I wondered how she would cope moving to a new home and it worried me, even though we had fostered lots of animals before, and since, but none pulled at my heart strings as much as she did. We had a family chat to discuss options because if we did take her on then at some stage she would need a partner. Everyone was in agreement that we could not let her go and she would become a ‘foster fail’, a term given to foster carers who adopt their foster animals! 

We officially adopted Houdini on 16th June and following on from this Susie suggested Chet, who was a resident at the centre might be a good match for Houdini. My daughters immediately jumped at this suggestion, as they had spent time with him at the centre and said he was a sweetie. He had recently been neutered so would have to wait a few more weeks. Houdini, due to being still quite small, was yet to be neutered. Susie said their characters would complement each other, Houdini being an absolute wild child and Chet a quiet and calm boy. So post- neuter at the beginning of July Chet moved into a set up next to Houdini.  They could see each other daily and were often set at the same spot. Towards the end of July we began bonding introductions under the branches guidance. Just over 2 weeks later they spent their first night together (it was an amazing match and they bonded very quickly) and they have been inseparable ever since. Even going to the vets together for Houdini’s spay and when Chet had early stage gut stasis. On 22nd August we adopted Chet. 

We continued to spend our evenings sat outside with them, putting up a gazebo for when it rained. I was not looking forward to the winter nights being sat outside with them but I didn’t want to break the bond I had with Houdini, and now Chet, so operation Bunningham Palace was put into action!

Building Bunningham Palace took a little planning and some patience, because due to the first lockdown garden sheds had become quite hard to get hold of. Eventually we found a company who could deliver and install within 10 weeks. We were also able to customise where the door would go. So the shed was ordered! Next stage was to decide on how to set things up on the inside. So my husband Keith and my daughters looked at various set ups on Pinterest to get some ideas. Keith then made some plans for the inside layout of the shed. Ordering the wood online was proving rather difficult, as a number of places were out of stock from lockdown DIYing. This proved to be in our favour because it gave us more time to plan and we came up with the idea of give the bunnies  two levels to play on, rather than our original idea of one. This obviously meant more wood, so we had to make a few trips to various DIY stores to obtain we needed. Eventually shed delivery day arrived and once here the two guys took less than an hour to erect. All systems were go to build the inside floors, this took Keith a few weekends to complete so whilst he was doing that I painted the outside when the weather allowed.

Next step  was to design a run so the buns could have access to the outside 24/7.  This required further trips for wood and we ordered fox proof mesh.  Again this took a few weekends to build but it sits flush to the shed and a cat flap was also installed to allow the buns to go between inside and out. I had been keeping a running cost of the build but once we had finished putting the added touches in (lino, mats, covered litter trays plus some luxury items), let’s just let’s say it’s a good job we couldn’t go away on holiday last year!

Now in their new, and seeing the bond these two buns have, puts a big smile on my face. Some of Houdini’s cheeky characteristics are rubbing off on Chet. Every morning and evening I still go and sit with the buns, sitting on a tatty cushion and wrapped in a blanket on colder days, giving headrubs, being climbed all over and receiving bun kisses. My daughters also sit in with them in the evening, so they bunnies have plenty of company. Houdini and Chet have got lots to keep them occupied in the Palace and Santa brought them even more toys at Christmas! Adopting these two has really changed our lives but we would not have it any other way. My heart just melts watching them. We still take in foster animals and divide our time between them all; it is hard work keeping them all cleaned up, socialised and loved but so rewarding.

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