Unlike the increasingly common trend of backyard chicken coops, rabbit keeping has yet to become, ahem, trendy as of yet. In fact when we told people we were going to start keeping rabbits, they were naturally pretty curious and more than a little perplexed, namely because we’re not keeping them in the ways most people do for the reasons most people do. Not to mention that we’re full grown adults living on about a quarter acre within the city limits in the “up and coming” part of town–AKA the hood. Here are some of the more common questions we get asked:
Q: So, why, like, rabbits? For pets or, like, food, or what?
A: Pets, just pets…and poo. Rabbit poo is garden steroids. Unlike chicken poo, you can scatter it directly at the base of the plant because it’s precomposted via the rabbits’ adorable lil’ digestive systems. Your plants will thank you for it.
Q: Still, like, why rabbits?
A: Because we like them…a lot. They’re cool and cute and have unique personalities like any other pet.
Q: Do you keep them in a hutch?
A: No, we have a big dog kennel-sized cage they all share together outside with nesting boxes they come and go out of at their leisure.
We also have a 25×25 foot fenced in run outside of the kennel that we let them out to run around in. It’s tons of fun to watch. I even set up an office outside in the run so I can work and be with them while they play–it’s win-win.
Q: Why do it that way? Why not keep them inside?
A: Rabbits like it outside. They like being able to play and socialize with each other freely. Plus, we have a dog and cat inside who would probably resent us bringing cute new competition into the house.
Q: Aren’t you worried about predators?
A: Yes. And so are they. It’s their instinct to be on their guards pretty much all the time. We have neighborhood cats, possums, raccoons, birds of prey, even snakes, so we put a lot of thought into fortifying their kennel against outside threats from every angle, as well as giving them lots of places to bolt if they want or need to.
Q: Are you breeding them? If not, aren’t you worried they’ll do what they do best anyway?
We are not breeding them. We have 5 bunnies living together (relatively peacefully…though that changes by the season seems like), four boys and one girl. They are all spayed and neutered. We originally had just the four boys, but we had no choice but to neuter them because they were constantly fighting eachother to the point of injury. Rabbits, even of the same sex, will become insanely agressive toward each other once they hit puberty (and I have the scars on me from getting in between them during fights to prove it).
Q: What about the weather? Won’t they get cold in the winter?
A: Living in South Carolina, even in the Piedmont, it never gets insanely cold, plus we use lots of hay on the ground and in their boxes for insulation. Oh yeah, and they have fur coats! They get crazy fluffy in winter time and crazy frisky too–they are built for the cold. Of course, using a roof and tarps to keep out wind, rain and snow is an essential part of sheltering them too.
The bigger challenge is the heat, since rabbits are super sensitive to it and can very easily get heat stroke if we don’t make sure they have lots of shade. They also instinctively dig down into the ground where it gets nice and cool. Using an outdoor fan and frozen water bottles works well if it gets crazy hot.
Q: What do you feed them? Carrots?
A: Carrots are a treat they certainly enjoy, but it’s actually pretty low on their list of faves (after kudzu, clover, bananas, broccoli spouts, and kale). They are fed a complete rabbit pellet food we get at the feed store in Easley (the pet store stuff is overpriced crap they don’t like anyway). We’re always finding new stuff they enjoy snacking on–rabbits are celebrated snackers.
Q: What in the world made you want to try and do something like this?
A: Back before the boyfriend and I started living together in the hood, he lived in a row-house by the train tracks in an even shittier part of town. The plus side was that he shared a big ass backyard with all his neighbors, and the neighbors at the very end of the row were keeping rabbits in a big cage together (and some in isolated hutches too) and breeding them. We’re still not sure why: the boyfriend says just for fun but I’m pretty sure they were trying to sell them at the flea market down the road (the jury is still out on that one), but they said we were welcome to go into the big cage and play with the rabbits any time we wanted, and so we did…and loved it.
Their set-up was pretty shitty (basically cobbled together with junk they stole or found on the tracks) and they had WAY too many living together in such a small kennel, but the rabbits seemed happy enough and we figured, “hey, if these lovely drunks who can’t even maintain a full set of teeth can do it, why can’t we?” And then they moved away without warning (or paying their rent) and took all the rabbits and the cage with them to their next adventure. Needless to say, we had grown very attached to some of them, especially the ones that had been born there and grew up knowing us (and loving us), so we were pretty bummed out about losing our little fuzzy friends. But we vowed that, whenever we finally moved into a proper house together, we would keep rabbits. And here we are.
Meet the Gang!
Luna (the Leader)
Chewie (His 2nd in command, best buddy/brother, and the biggest bully of the bunch)
Fancy Pants (shy…some might say aloof)
Khaleesi (our princess)