Adventures in Ethics and Science

This week, the Free-Ride family welcomed a new member.

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Snowflake Free-Ride (who also goes by Notorious B.U.N.) is a 9-month old New Zealand White rabbit who we adopted on Tuesday. She is cute, fluffy, and big (nearly 5 kg). And, she seems to be adjusting to life at Casa Free-Ride.

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Indeed, Snowflake has her own casita in the back yard. (I was pleased that I managed to assemble it without smashing my finger more than once.) It’s hard to know how Snowflake feels about the scent of jasmine wafting into her hutch, but she has shown a fondness for both lemon balm and lemon thyme.

As well, Snowflake took the comics we laid down in the solid-bottomed side of the hutch and tore ‘em up to make a little nest.

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Then, she started eating them. We’re guessing that they tasted funny.

We are trying to contain our enthusiasm to let Snowflake find her own way out of the hutch to romp in the yard (heavily supervised, of course — we don’t want any incidents with the random assortment of cats, raccoons, and possums that occasionally wander through).

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Today, she poked her head out, but decided not to hop down the gangplank.

The sprogs, of course, have lots they want to learn about Snowflake. And, they are guessing that there may be a few things Snowflake would like to learn about us.

What the younger offspring wants to know about Snowflake:

  1. When she will poo out the “first run” again (which gets eaten and redigested before the “second run”).
  2. If she spills the food in her bowl because she’s trying to give it to us.
  3. If she will knock out her drawbridge by chewing on it.
  4. If she has ever lived in snow before.
  5. If she is albino.

What the elder offspring wants to know about Snowflake:

  1. How do we read bunny body language?
  2. How good is bunny #2 as fertilizer?
  3. Which food do rabbits like best?
  4. Why do they eat newspaper?
  5. Why are her eyes pink?

What the younger offspring thinks Snowflake wants to know about us:

  1. If we are nice.
  2. If we can eat.
  3. Why our ears aren’t big.
  4. Why we live outside Casita Snowflake.
  5. What is a “ploopy”?

What the elder offspring thinks Snowflake wants to know about us:

  1. Where did their ears go?
  2. Why do they change pelts?
  3. Where are their tails?
  4. Aren’t they cold being bald like that?
  5. Why are their noses so slow?

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Stay tuned as these and other questions are answered.

Comments

  1. #1 Luna_the_cat
    May 7, 2010

    I would really recommend dust-extracted hay (less likely to contain mites than the non-dust-extracted stuff) for bedding rather than newspaper. I’ve known bunnies to get very bad constipation out of eating newspaper. And I really don’t think the ink is good for them.

  2. #2 Sharon Astyk
    May 7, 2010

    Awesome. We rabbits of Casaubons Book are very grateful that some other science bloggers also have rabbits. We imagine we need only one other science blogger to bring hom a rabbit before we can begin to develop an all-bunny blogging team, engaged in serious scientific research to answer the tough questions like “how awesome are dandelions, anyway?” and “why neurochemistry suggests dogs would be happier far away from us.”

    Sincerely,

    Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Thunder Rabbits

  3. #3 Cherish
    May 7, 2010

    She’s gorgeous!

    It’s been a while, but I think the House Rabbit Society has a lot of good references that answer some of the general questions the sprogs were asking. American Rabbit Breeders Society (ARBA) has excellent info on breed-specific information, or there may even be a New Zealand society. At least, that’s where I seem to remember learning about it. (ARBA is a good organization, but I do take issue with the fact that some members breed rabbits like crazy without consideration for finding good homes for non-breeding, pet-type stock.)

  4. #4 Rob Monkey
    May 7, 2010

    Dunno Sharon, my first dog (a Brittany) LOVED bunnies. Not loved like “I wanna see what you taste like,” but loved like “I am going to lick you, cuddle you, and basically pester you like a needy boyfriend.” Till Mr. Bun decided to turn around mid-tongue-bath and wallop Farley across the snout, he was a little more reserved after that ;)

    I would recommend keeping him away from any rabbits who are into the East/West coast rap rivalry, with a name like Notorious B.U.N. he might cause some fights.

  5. #5 becca
    May 7, 2010

    Questions this reader has about Snowflake/Notorious B.U.N:
    Is this an inbred bunny or an outbred bunny?
    Why didn’t you get a control bunny!? (same gender obviously, otherwise…)
    Does bunnydiet affect longevity? Are bunnies *supposed* to be 5kg? Is a lot of that bulk fluff? Can bunnies get metabolic syndrome?
    Are you going to feed Snowflake to a pig and eat the pig?
    Are you going to give Snowflake cocaine and dissect Snowlfake’s brain and stain for D2 receptors?
    Why build a casita? Do not rabbits live in holes? Is going down a rabbit hole really like studying innate immunity signal transduction? And where does Johnny Depp come in?

  6. #6 Mel
    May 7, 2010

    Trying to not be a crazy bunny-owner here, I’m sure you did some research before bringing home the notorious B.U.N. But: 1) those grates can be really bad for bunny feet. I’m glad half the hutch as a wood floor at least. You may want to add a wood or plastic ‘resting board’ for her to sit/lay on.
    2) most bunnies prefer blankets to newspaper for nests. Just don’t use towels as they can eat the fibers. Fleece is popular among bunny owners. I also use old pillowcases.
    3) Adult bunnies should be eating mostly hay with just a little bit of pellets (1/4c to 1/2 c) if you are giving fresh veggies. Breeders tend to just feed pellets and hay because it is cheaper.

  7. #7 Cherish
    May 7, 2010

    becca,

    She looks like a purebred rabbit (yeah, inbred), being an albino with a pretty nice body. (You know, as much as you can tell from pictures.) New Zealands were traditionally bred as small livestock (i.e. meat rabbits), so they’re supposed to be that big. She’s actually a medium size rabbit, as there are other breeds (like checkered giants) that are even bigger. Bunnies can get metabolic syndrome, mostly if they’re not allowed to run around outside of their cages each day, but Snowflake looks like she’s pretty healthy. She’s definitely not what I would call a ‘lap rabbit’, though. :-)

  8. #8 mdiehl
    May 7, 2010

    Snowflake is beautiful. I look forward to posts with the answers to above questions. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane to recall my bunnies!

  9. #9 katie hovany
    May 7, 2010

    What a sweetie! Yay for bunnies!

  10. #10 jabfish
    May 7, 2010

    I’ve got 3 bunnies. All three love to eat paper and routinely kill lab catalogs that come in the mail until the paper ends up in the litter box and get peed on. And sticks (willow, apple) are awesome to throw. Also, everything ends up in a rabbit’s mouth at some point. I swear they’re like toddlers sometimes.

  11. #11 anna
    May 7, 2010

    Congrats on the bun, and I do suggest http://www.rabbit.org as a great place for all manner of bunny info. Have her spayed ASAP, is suggestion #1. I do concur that she’d be better off indoors, and at least not on wire flooring. Bunnies are easily litter trained, and can successfully live free range indoors not unlike a cat or dog. It requires some bunnyproofing, much like childproofing (cover & hide wires, block off-limit areas with baby gates or NIC panels, provide appropriate outlets for chewing & digging behaviours),and makes for very happy bunnies. I have two that live free-range 24-7, with one off-limit room. After 13 years of bunny-having, I’m convinced it’s a great way for them to live. They get more exercise this way, have some control over their environment, and pick when and with whom they socialize.
    Mine love to jump on the bed in the morning, sit beside you while reading, and adore the head scritch. There’s also nothing like watching your bun run & wiggle in the air & flop over in contentment.

    PetBunny is a fun listserv to look up, and Etherbun is a less light, crankier listserv. All the members are indoor bunny owners, and while some are flaky, some are very knowledgeable & there’s a treasure trove of firsthand info about health, behaviour, bonding, diets, grooming, medical info. There’s a great rabbit supply place online that makes bunny “condo’s”, Leith petworks.

    Enjoy Miss B.U.N. Snowflake & give her some parsley & dandelions from me!

  12. #12 Comrade PhysioProf
    May 7, 2010

    Looks fucking tasty!

  13. #13 ambivalent academic
    May 7, 2010

    You might also enjoy learning about the myriad things that bunnies dislike.

    http://www.disapprovingrabbits.com/

  14. #14 Jim Thomerson
    May 7, 2010

    I happened to wander into a rabbit show being held on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. I was impressed by the diversity of bunnies being shown.

  15. #15 notedscholar
    May 8, 2010

    Question: Will you eventually eat Snowflake? He/she looks quite plump! A delicious morsel!

    NS

  16. #16 RM
    May 9, 2010

    We had New Zealand whites growing up – for meat, though, not for pets per se. I’m no expert, but I’ll put forth some guesses as to the answers.

    Younger

    2. Rabbits actually have a good sense of space – she probably doesn’t like where you’ve placed her food. Try moving it, if possible.

    3. Probably. Lagomorphs (rabbits aren’t rodents!), have continuously growing teeth. They gnaw down anything they’ll get their teeth on. You may want to try giving her short lengths of silver-dollar-diameter sized tree branches instead.

    4. If she’s a Californian rabbit, she’s probably not seen snow. Although I’d be careful in the summer. When temperatures get high, they can overheat easily if kept outside. (Rabbit fur coat and all.) Ours appreciated frozen, water filled, two liter soda bottles. (At times there were more rabbit frozen water bottles in the freezer than food.)

    5. Wikipedia says yes. The give-away is the pink eyes.

    Elder

    2. Pretty good, from what I could tell.

    3. Kale. Seriously. Our rabbits went crazy over kale.

    4. Because she can’t find any kale?

    5. Albinism.

    @Luna_the_cat – I agree on using hay vs. newspaper. We used what’s called “marsh hay” in the Midwest. I’m not sure what’s the California equivalent. Be aware there’s a difference between hay and straw. You want hay.

    @Rob Monkey – When our cat had kittens, it was adorable to see her on the lawn caring for the baby rabbits like they were her own.

    @becca – While they live in warrens (burrows) in the wild, most domesticated rabbits live in hutches. Most hutches incorporate a closed off section to function as a “den”, though.

  17. #17 LO
    May 14, 2010

    Finally a successor to Jeannie the light brown hare!

    EO#1 Try Rabbit Language or “Are you going to eat that?” by Carolyn Crampton http://www.cramptonarts.com/rabbits/index.html I got my copy directly from the author at her open studio a couple of years ago, but this season’s open studio just passed, so I won’t see her again ’til fall. The spouse and I do not agree on her art, he likes certain paintings while I prefer others.

    EO#2 Excellent. My first two rabbits were outdoor rabbits. In the winter we moved the hutch to a more sheltered location which would be the tomato section of the garden come spring when the hutch was moved back to it’s shady location close to the creek.

  18. #18 David Harmon
    August 2, 2010

    I beg to differ with anna on keeping rabbits indoors. I had a rabbit indoors (I was living in apartments), and he was the most destructive pet I’ve ever seen! I called my time with him “The War of the Wires” for all the computer, phone, and power cords he chewed through. Not to mention carpet, furniture, clothes, books… 10+ years (and an interstate move) after his death from old age (6yo), I *still* have possessions with toothmarks on them. And then there was the business of pissing on my bed (and carpet)! If I hadn’t loved the little guy so much, he’d have been rabbit stew several times over….

    PS: The big “don’t” for handling rabbits is, don’t touch them under the chin — that triggers a reflex bite.

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