In a blog last spring entitled Fred and Ethel are Back, I introduced two wild Canada geese that return to our farm each year to raise their babies. I had affectionately named them Fred and Ethel after the famous TV sitcom couple.
This blog is about a different Ethel.
Early last summer, my 11-year-old great-niece persuaded her parents into letting her raise rabbits. They purchased two rabbits, hoping they were male and female, so that she could raise one litter of babies. As I stated in an earlier blog Our Dog Ate the Easter Bunny!, determining the sex of rabbits is not as easy as it may sound. They named what they thought was the female Ethel, but they opted for an alternative TV sitcom character for the male’s name. They named him Archie.
As it turned out, they were named appropriately! Ethel became pregnant and the entire family waited anxiously for their new arrivals. Unfortunately, Ethel’s maternal instincts left a little to be desired, and the first litter died. As did the second. And the third.
Ethel got pregnant easily enough, but did little to nourish and protect her babies. Finally, with the help of their human owners, my great-niece was able to raise a litter to independence.
Now, what to do with all the rabbits? My great-niece kept a couple for herself, then gave each of her young, female cousins at least one of the babies. Her uncles and aunts were all thrilled.
There were no plans to raise any more litters, so my great-niece’s parents suggested she give away one of the adult rabbits as well. Let’s see, who else do we know who might be willing to take a rabbit? Who else do we know who is a sucker for animals? Do you see where this is going?
I chose Ethel. I was concerned that introducing another male into the herd, particularly one that was not fixed, might cause discord in the pen. My two rabbits, Salt and Pepper, are both fixed males and, as littermates, are quite compatible with each other. I hoped that they would find a female intriguing, knowing that I was in no danger of raising a litter of my own.
My great-niece and her father (my nephew) delivered Ethel to our farm one Sunday afternoon. We had cleaned the pen and replaced the bales when they arrived with our newest addition. My two males were initially a little intimidated by Ethel because she appeared to be a bit aggressive towards them. But after a few days in the pen, she relaxed, and now the three of them are best of friends.
I like Ethel. She is quite a bit tamer than my other two and she lets me pet her while she eats. She hops out to greet me as soon as she hears my voice, most likely because she knows I always show up with food.
When Ethel first arrived, she was quite a bit thinner than my other two, and I now understand why. Ethel, as it turns out, is a veritable garbage disposal. She eats constantly! She ate the enormous cucumbers from my garden that I had missed when picking, she ate the potatoes from my refrigerator that had gone a little soft, she ate the spinach that had gotten a bit old, and she ate the entire watermelon rind that I tossed into the pen.
The grasses and weeds that were growing through the screened pen floor are now nibbled to nubs, and I have more than doubled the daily rabbit food allotment. I’ll let you do the math on that one.
About a week after Ethel arrived at our farm, my great-niece texted me one day checking on how Ethel and the other rabbits were faring. I told her that they all got along great now, and Ethel appeared to be putting on a little weight.
My great-niece responded to my text with, “She probably likes not getting pregnant every time she is with a boy.”
Hmmmm…Perhaps every prepubescent young girl should raise rabbits.
(Autographed copies of all three of my books are now available from Kansas Originals through my website, yearonthefarm.com)
Next week: Fall Harvest