I was watching the Hurt Locker last week. If you haven’t seen it, the movie traces the life of a man who is a demolitions expert as he disarms bombs overseas. At one point a commanding officer asks him how many bombs he has disarmed and the man tries to dodge the question. However, the C.O. pushes and suddenly a very specific number comes out of his mouth. Each bomb, even though he has disarmed many, many, has a special significance to him.
You may feel this is a strange way to start a blog post about rabbits, but stick with me – my point is coming! Rabbits are not bombs, but I keep a running count of these little animals in my heart. Just like that movie character, I know without a pause each little life I have been responsible for, even if only for a short while.
Yes, here at Mad Hatter we breed rabbits primarily as a healthy food source for our family, but that in no way means we don’t care for them deeply. Each day, often many times a day, we are out visiting them, checking on their welfare, and watching their personalities develop. Each rabbit is special to us.
And when it comes to numbers, I can’t tell you off the top of my head exactly how many baby bunnies we’ve bred this year to date, but I can tell you without a pause that we’ve lost 20 kits. I hate seeing a baby bunny die, I just hate it.
The reality? Natural selection is true and there are some babies that simply fail to thrive. Other times we have to face a hard reality that a rabbit mother does not have the same maternal instincts that a human mother would have. She can refuse to feed her litter or even eat portions of them! In our circumstances we’ve lost babies to freezing weather.
Some animal lovers like to think of their friends as passing over the “Rainbow Bridge.” It seems like a silly concept to me, this Rainbow Bridge… and yet it isn’t at all. There is something very wholesome about recognizing the value of life in all forms. Part of valuing life is recognizing the significance of death.
Many times there are no explanations for the loss of baby rabbits, but that usually isn’t a comfort to the rabbit breeder. We grieve over the loss of life and second guess ourselves for how we could have prevented it or try to come up with strategies, get advice from long-time breeders for the healthiest, most successful ways to care for our animals.
We have seven litters expected this week and even though I’m terribly excited for the babies, there is also a piece of me worried about what the week will bring in terms of success rates. We have three first-time moms expecting and the reality for us is most of our first timers lose one (if not all!) of their kits. So, if you think of it, send positive thoughts our way… we’re sending the same to all the other breeders we know!