BABY BUN – her story

Here is the enchanting story of Baby Bun, a wild rabbit baby.  It started as any ordinary day at CottonTails. I had just finished cleaning out and feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs when the doorbell rang – it was a young man holding a shoe box.  He said he had found a rabbit being attacked by birds, possibly crows, and could I help?  I carefully opened the box, and inside a small towel was a very small soaking-wet bundle of fur, just about identifiable as a baby wild rabbit, around 14 days old.  The young man seemed very relieved when I confirmed I would do what I could, and I took the box and bunny inside to look closer.

My first thought was to establish whether the baby could be suffering from myxomatosis, as the risk of passing this disease on to the other rabbits here could be high if I was not careful.  The risk of RHD1 and 2 was another factor to consider too.  On first examination, it appeared that the apparent eye damage was due to the crows, so I decided to treat the baby with anti-parasite drops and leave bunny wrapped up in a clean, warm towel somewhere quiet to let it recover from the shock and do a closer examination later.

After a couple of hours, I checked on the baby. it was now lovely and warm, and the fur had dried, so I felt it was safe to examine it further.  There were three main injuries that I could see.  Firstly, around the eyes where the crows had been pecking, but luckily, the bunny was found before permanent damage was done.  The second injury was on the top of the head, a deep nasty wound which thankfully had not got through the skull.  The third injury was more worrying as it was still bleeding and appeared to be a wound to the side of the head, possibly penetrating inside the ear.

Placing the rabbit in an observation and isolation cage, I could then see that there was a definite and severe head tilt, but I thought this was likely the result of the head injuries, so in time, there was a good chance of this rectifying itself sufficiently that the rabbit could eventually be released.  I was also able to identify the gender of the bunny – a female.

Being only around 14 days old, she still needed milk feeds, so we quickly got into a feeding regime three times a day.  Although in the wild, the mother only feeds her litter once a day, usually at night, substitute kitten milk is not as rich as rabbit milk, so extra feeds have to be done to ensure baby rabbits get the right level of nutrition.  It did not take her long to establish a good feeding pattern, and I started introducing her to hay and grass, too, as this would be important for her subsequent release.

It was clear within a day or two that she was quite a character!  Some wild rabbit babies can become relatively tame during the hand-rearing process, but not this little bunny – she was determined to keep her wild streak, which made catching her for feeds quite challenging.  Her head tilt slowly improved until after around two weeks or so, there was no sign of any problem at all – we were right on track for release.

Another week later, she was ready to be moved outside, so she was vaccinated against myxomatosis and RHD1 and moved to a run on the grass with a wooden house at one end for shelter.  I thought I had set everything up well, blocking off any nooks and crannies that I thought she could squeeze down behind, and was congratulating myself on a job well done when I spotted her little tail sticking out from behind the house!  I gave up in the end, as no matter what I did, she managed to find a gap, so I moved the house to the middle of the run so she could not get stuck.  Her other trick was to scale up the side of the house, which was 2’ high, and sit on the top, which she clearly liked to do at every opportunity.

Baby Bun went from strength to strength with each passing day, and with each day, she became more and more wild in behaviour, precisely the characteristic she would need to survive in her natural environment.

After another ten days or so, I felt it was time to release her, especially as the coronavirus pandemic could result in us being in lockdown at any moment, so early one sunny morning, we released her in a safe place and watched her disappear as if by magic into the bramble bushes on the edge of the field.  Job done, but I must admit to choking back some tears as we walked quietly away.  Good luck, little bun …

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