Down the Rabbit Hole
“or Annie’s Adventures in Bunny Land”
My Mom bullied me into entering the fair. I didn’t want to… I wasn’t going to do it…. But mom said,”Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and proceeded on a mission to make sure I was entered in as many classes as possible. I sewed, I crafted, I cooked…. And miracle of miracles- I WON! It was then Mom made the second announcement, with my fair winnings - I could start the rabbit project I had been wanting to do forever. Why I felt practically rich- I had nearly $50 after all. And so began my journey down the rabbit hole, This wasn’t a real live trip in and break your ankle hole, but I was soon to find out getting started in a livestock project could eat up time and money pretty quickly.
Mom and Papa said, “Rabbits have to have somewhere to live.” After some discussion, it was decided a re-vamp of the old chicken house was in order. I didn’t realize Gramps had been storing stuff in it, or that the last person to use it for chickens hadn’t cleaned it out when the chickens were gone… “wow! Four inches of dirt later we could nearly see the floor. On a good note there were a WHOLE bunch of aluminum cans stored in there too, and some old radiators- one trip to the recycling center later I was $256 richer and the proud owner of my own checking account. Thank goodness my parents were willing to pay for the insulation, and inside walls. (Did you realize rabbits need protection from getting too hot AND too cold?) I saw the bill on that one WHEW! I would STILL be saving. Next came cages, we searched online, we checked at the feed store, and Mom stated, “We’ll buy wire- I built my own cages when I had rabbits. Who knew it was going to be hard to find. After we finally found a roll of wire and did some math (ewh… I guess that math teacher was right I did need math in every day life) we started on cages.
Then came the day of the Oklahoma State fair- we were going to go look at the breeds I had chosen as the ones I wanted, American Fuzzy Lops and Jersey Woolies. We found a very nice lady named Tammy, when she heard I was just getting started as a 4-H project she offered to sell me my first Jersey Wooly rabbit. She told me she had actually been planning to keep him, but since I was getting started she would let me have him. This is where I ran into my first big obstacle- I was supposed to only LOOK at rabbits that day (lesson number one- always take an extra carrier to rabbit shows because things have a way of following you home!) She kindly agreed to keep him for another two weeks for me- until after the Tulsa show- if we all worked really hard we should have the rabbitry ready by then.
When we went to Tulsa, we took a carrier that would house not one but TWO bunnies! But there didn’t seem to be any extra’s for sale. Then we saw him, a beautiful little black and white fuzzy lop, I intended to buy him and was talking to some of the knowledgeable folks there, when I got hit by another breeder with a Hard sale. OH you don’t want that rabbit- here let me show you a little doe fuzzy, before I knew what I was doing I had purchased the rabbit he was selling. A kind lady saw what he was doing and said- You go out right now and get this young lady’s paperwork. After he complained how far it was to go out the car, and she kept insisting, he left to get the paperwork.
It was then we realized we had talked to this lady via email when we were doing bunny research. They had some nice bunnies at home and would help me “fill out” a trio of each breed I wanted. As I was talking to them, I noticed the breeder who had talked me out of the bunny, buying him behind my back. Lesson number two- “Know what you want and stick to your guns” I did get home that day with two bunnies- and we had made an appointment to get mates for them the next Sunday afternoon.
We worked really hard getting cages ready for 4 rabbits (I wanted 2 girls and a boy in each breed) The breeders we purchased from worked very hard to make sure I could select from animals that I could keep for a long time, could use as breeding pairs, and would be able to show if I wanted to. We spent a looooong time there making final decisions, but I finally came home with Montoya, Shiraz, Krispy Kreme, and Della.
We had hoped that Della was bred when we purchased her, but sadly no babies, and the other rabbits were about a month too young to breed. The last breeder we had visited had kept in touch with us via email, and had suggested a couple of shows in November- we got brave and chose one just over the Kansas line to begin with. Thus came the next phase of the “rabbit hole” – going to the show
Mom told me that 4 in the morning comes very early… and to load everything I could the night before- I didn’t really believe her, and we just BARELY got everything loaded in time to make it there before the entries were due in. We were totally lost, but some very nice girls (also 4-H ers) helped us find our way and get the rabbits up to the show tables at the right classes. And they actually did pretty well. But going to a show involves a lot of sitting around waiting, while I was waiting I found some really pretty fuzzy lops- they looked kinda like Siamese cats. I really wanted one and was hoping the buck was old enough to breed with my Sr. doe- after some discussion we ended up not only buying him, but his sister as well. This did give us some small measure of satisfaction, the breeder who had sold me the doe at Tulsa, did NOT have a good reputation and the breeder who owned the fuzzies I purchased wanted them to go to a good home. As a result he gave us a very good deal, with the other breeder being quite upset that he was not able to purchase them. However, we evidently had forgotten lesson 1 again- we had to buy another carrier to get them home. Wow this was getting expensive! Entry fees, food at the show, gas, more cages, more rabbits and still no babies! Decided to try breeding my two does that would not be going to the show.
Show number two was a week later- (we took an extra cage remembering rule number one) We also took something to sell besides rabbits- we made rabbit shaped Christmas ornaments. It was a good thing too, because entry fees were twice what I was expecting. Who knew if you entered a double show you had to pay double entry fees? Morning was a lot of hurry up and wait, but I did sell enough of my ornaments to cover the entries, while I was waiting. Then came the shows. I did ok in the first show, but the last show of the day Shiraz one Best of Breed! I was SO excited (by the way- I got a trophy but still no money!) Lets see, so far I’ve spent a lot of money, my parents have spent a lot of money and we still have not seen a return- I guess we are talking a “long term” investment here. OH and we bought a rabbit for my little sister… and had to buy another cage because we were out of wire to build them!
When we got home from that show, we tried palpating the two does and we think we may have baby bunnies on the way. We also bred two of the does I had taken to the show. Since my goal was to be able to raise my own show rabbits- wish me luck perhaps this will slow my journey “down the rabbit hole!” But I must say so far it has been quite an adventure, bringing me new friends, teaching me to treat others fairly if I expect to be treated fair, and it has paid off in a hundred new experiences!
Annie- Age 11