One of our owners, Alex, has always loved rabbits! However, until 2010 he had never had the desire to take on the serious responsibility of caring for them. His brother, Andrew, a fellow Director, however bought two girl rabbits, Flopsy and Wiggles and brought them home, calling Alex to let him know that these two beautiful creatures had joined the extended family. Alex was immediately in the car and round to visit them spending a happy hour just enjoying being in their company.
Andrew asked Alex if, when he and his family went on holiday, would he Alex look after Flopsy and Wiggles in his absence. Alex happily agreed. Always a little OTT in his approach to life he built a large run of approximately 6m x 1.2m incorporating an insulated hutch for them to holiday in. The hutch was so over-engineered it needed 3 people to lift it.
Unfortunately on a second holiday away, indeed on the second night, Alex went to play with and feed the rabbits to discover poor Wiggles making ‘squeaking’ noises, very distressed and Flopsy bothering her. Looking into their hutch he discovered her fur everywhere and thought Flopsy had attacked her. Gently picking her up he could see she indeed appeared to have been attacked as what appeared to be intestines or similar were hanging out of the back of her. Alex was naturally horrified but on closer inspection discovered it was actually the back end of a still-born baby rabbit. Flopsy was actually a boy bunny! The fur in the hutch had been Wiggles creating a nest ready for her babies. Flopsy was separated, Wiggles was carefully placed in the hutch and Alex called a vet out of hours, promptly gathering up Wiggles and driving her to the surgery. There he was greeted by a wonderful Vet called Hannah, after she inspected Wiggles she warned that an operation was needed and there was a chance she wouldn’t make it. The baby was indeed dead. Hannah also stated that she had to offer the alternative of having Wiggles put down. Something Alex had no interest in considering and told a relieved Hannah to proceed to try and save Wiggles having her neutered at the same time as advised.
Wiggles made it! Now she had to be separated from Flopsy for a few weeks however to allow her to heal and Flopsy had to be neutered so that they could continue to live in harmony. Wiggles was moved into the conservatory and a hutch/run system bought and modified to solve the housing problem during this time. During this time Andrew and his family returned having greatly enjoyed their holiday (Alex hadn’t told them about the drama going on at home as he was dealing with it and didn’t want to ruin their holiday). It was agreed that Alex continue to look after Flopsy and Wiggles during their recovery stage and Andrew and family discussed if they wanted to continue being rabbit owners or whether to ask Alex to keep them full time (something Alex was very keen to do). They were grateful to relieve themselves of the responsibility that rabbits are knowing they would be well cared for.
This was the beginning: Shortly after Flopsy and Wiggles were reunited a naïve Alex decided to take on another rabbit he called Binky who’d spent three months unwanted in a pet store, Binky is a beautiful big black rabbit but it seems people don’t like black or red eyed rabbits and they get ignored. He assumed that Binky could be introduced to Flopsy and Wiggles relatively easily. Upon discovering this wasn’t the case and building another home for Binky he rescued another rabbit, to be named BoBo, a lovely, friendly, floppy eared, white rabbit who would become Alex’s best friend for the next couple of years, always desperate for human company and like a puppy dog in manner. Still naïve, however well meaning, Alex discovered that Binky and BoBo couldn’t be left together because they would fight, BoBo was provided with a large store-bought hutch in which he spent 22-23 hours a day, which looking back was wholly inadequate and so, having moved house, Alex got in touch with a rescue centre called Rabbit Residence in Hertfordshire who agreed to take Binky and BoBo and find them friends before returning them to Alex and new, purpose built accommodation that he had built in preparation for them.
Fortunately for rabbit-kind, Alex missed his rabbits and came across two others in a pet store he’d visited for food. These two small, female, black rabbits had been in the small display case in the store for five months and had been reduced in price! Disgusted that their lives were deemed to have such little value he bought them and took them home to a far larger, heated run and named them Fluffle and Puffle.
A teeny, tiny problem now presented itself however. Alex had only designed his home accommodation for 3 sets of rabbits and he was now faced with a need for four sets. Unwilling to split up existing accommodation, making them smaller, he set about bashing through a wall of his, previously beautiful conservatory, and building a rudimentary but effective extension with attached run in which to house his newly acquired dependants. Fluffle and Puffle were happily housed in this before the return from the rescue of Binky, BoBo and their new friends…
BoBo returned with Jaffy whom had bonded with BoBo quickly. Jaffy is a red eyed, white rabbit with a grey nose, ears and ‘socks’. Very docile and content. Her story however is horrible. Taken in by the rescue, Jaffy was seriously underweight, couldn’t stand and had to be fed on a drip to build up her strength. She nearly died on various occasions. Now Jaffy is a fat rabbit, a constant battle for Alex as he seeks to maintain her at a decent weight but is bouncy and happy.
Binky returned with Benny. Binky did not bond so well, indeed Benny was roughly rabbit number 12 attempted with Binky and is also a large rabbit at about 3.5kg and slightly larger than Binky. Also docile, inquisitive and happy, Benny’s history is nearly as poor as Jaffy’s. He was born with numerous siblings into a regular sized hutch where they all subsequently grew but remained confined until they were all living on top of one another. The rescue centre upon being informed about this situation spent a long time persuading the owner to give up the rabbits who were in disgusting accommodation. Their insistence paid off and they were able to rescue them all. Benny was therefore able to be given a new and happier life.
Alex was content. More than content, he’d wanted to have 3-4 rabbits and now had 8. This, he felt, was beyond adequate or normal and was very keen to stop adopting. Unfortunately for Alex he was told of another rabbit by a member of his sales team that if no home was found for it, then it would be put down. Paddy rabbit was dutifully adopted the next day, a gorgeous small, tortoiseshell rabbit. This time a large dog crate was bought and adapted to short-term house Paddy, the hope was he could be bonded with Fluffle and Puffle of similar size and opposite sex but first Paddy had to be neutered. However, after neutering and time to recover, Paddy was indeed successfully bonded with the sisters, moved in with them and seems very happy. Alex now had 9 rabbits.
Unfortunately 9 would become 8 when 6-7 months after adopting Paddy, BoBo became sick. After months of monitoring his weight and a few trips to the vet worried, Alex would take BoBo to the vet’s for the last time as he was lethargic and hardly moving. As always he told the vet to spare no expense and do all they could for his little furry friend but the next day Alex got a call saying that BoBo was struggling and should be put down. Alex, broke down in tears on his driveway where he’d been gardening begging the vet to help his little friend, in the 2 minutes of conversation BoBo passed peacefully away, later diagnosed as having a likely Cancer. BoBo was cremated and his ashes scattered in his run. Alex is in tears now as he recounts this story, such is his all-encompassing passion for these small, harmless, creatures, all with their unique personalities and traits.
Alex was devastated by the loss of BoBo but had to think of Jaffy, BoBo’s wifebun who had now been widowed. The rescue centre was re-contacted and Jaffy collected to be found a new husbun. For the first time Alex made a request for whomever he may end up adopting, that whichever rabbit was chosen to be bonded with Jaffy, if possible, could he have floppy ears as BoBo had. Jaffy returned with Dusty (named in honour after Alex’s father and Dunster House’s founder). Dusty came with his own horror story as well. He and his brother had been locked in a hutch which had been thrown away onto a rubbish pile for them to starve to death. Luckily a passer-by found them and took them into the rescue so they could be re-homed. Dusty is a brown and white floppy eared rabbit. He looks extremely dopey but adores company. Alex was back up to 9 furry house guests again!
The final part of the tale is the result of a phonecall Alex received from his vets. They informed him that they’d taken in a stray rabbit and that, despite spending a couple of weeks phoning around, no rescue could take it, as Alex was rather fond of rabbits, did he want to adopt it? Alex swore under his breath but was hardly going to turn down a rabbit in need. He agreed to pick up the creature the same day. Upon collection he was presented with a yellow and crusty rabbit that turned out to be a boy. The fur on the top of his ears was gone, likely through sunburn and he had clearly been living in his own mess either as a stray or from wherever he’d escaped. Despite his state, he was a friendly rabbit, however, due to how filthy he was, Alex took the decision to very carefully wash him (it is not recommended that rabbits become wet as their skin is very fragile). Running a very shallow bath of about ½ inch he plonked poor Poppet (as he was now named) into the water and gently started to massage the filth from his fur. This was only marginally successful and Poppet, who turns out to be a white rabbit, would take many more brushings and one more gentle wash over many months to start to become white again. Today, his ears are furry again and he is primarily white with only his lower flanks still yellow. His next fur molt will likely mean the loss of this final staining. Poppet also needed neutering and was housed temporarily in the dog crate until he was also successfully bonded with Fluffle, Puffle and Paddy. A very rare instance of four rabbits living together.
You will note none of Alex’s vast warren of rabbits have been bred by him. Alex, like most, would love to have baby rabbits but knows this is irresponsible when there are literally 10’000’s of rabbits needing forever homes each year. All his rabbits, male and female have been neutered to give them a better life and prevent breeding. You’ll also note that in all respects, in effect, his rabbits have chosen him, they’ve all been in need of homes and irrespective of size, look, age etc he’s adopted them and loves them. He would urge anyone to be the same. If you visit a rescue centre to choose your rabbit they will be able to tell you a little about the personalities, but ideally, a rabbit will mostly warm to you if he/she is loved and looked after. Whatever you can do to learn about rabbits will help you enjoy your time with your rabbits and will make them happier too. Alex has not gotten everything right in terms of looking after his pets, but he has learnt and constantly sought to improve their lives. One of two of them did start their lives with Alex in small accommodation but thankfully he realised this and fixed the situation. With Rabbitopia, the information has been provided for you and you can learn from his mistakes, his successes and the significant amount of learning he has sought from external sources to ensure adequate accommodation for your rabbits.