It looked dead.
Strewn carelessly across the cold wire floor, the baby bunny lay motionless and stiff. The word, "Danggit." quietly fell from my lips when I found it this morning. The little thing must have crawled out of the nestbox in the frigid night (as they have all begun doing, much to my chagrin) and couldn't find its way back in. I couldn't afford to lose another kit, seeing as I had already lost four, but it looked like my swearing wasn't going to help the matter much. I gently pulled the white ball of baby fluff out and set it down on a bit of clean hay. I would deal with it once I fed and watered the rabbits who were still among the living.
Moving smoothly through the simple chores, I mentally argued with myself about what to do with it. Should I compost this one too? Bury it? Let the neighboring hawk have it?
Feeding and watering took five minutes. My boots were squelching in the damp floor bedding, due to a massive amount of rain we got last week, and I noticed that the buck's cages needed to be re-wired on the bottom. Every move they made caused the six foot long cage to swing like something on a child's play structure. Yep, this little rabbitry needed some work.
But such matters would have to wait. I needed to dispose of the kit. I picked it up, and looked at it. Its snow white coat was softly tinged with a shade of soot, giving it an interesting dimensional look. Its ears and nose were a quiet shade of iron; this little kit took after his Californian daddy in looks.
Beginning to turn towards the door, I took one last look at the kit and stared in shock as I watched its red eye slooooooowly blink. So slow, that I wondered if I really saw it move at all. Then its left front leg sluggishly moved a fraction of an inch.
This baby was still alive. By a thread perhaps, but there was still life in this little form.
I wish a had a record on how many times I've done this, but since I don't I can only guess. But what I did next, I have done countless of times over the years. Left hand holds baby. Hand goes under shirt. Furry ice cube snuggles against your skin. Chores are awkward with one hand. I've done this trick with four babies in one hand when, a couple years ago, I found that a doe tipped the entire nest box over, and the kits were barely breathing. I do enjoy it though, when it's just one kit. They start out literally feeling like a cube of ice, and it's coooooold. Then the discomfort slowly wears off as the baby begins to warm up. You go about your chores as best as you can in your position, and after a while you are startled by what feels like a pin poking you. It's a little claw. The baby stretches and bends, looking for the warmest spot and rolls its sharp little feet right up against you. This farm girl is ticklish. Give it a few more minutes, and the baby gives out a few squeaks. What was at first taken for dead, is now crying for food. I love that moment when you pull the little kit out and find a wriggling, living baby, when before you had a lifeless, cold being. It's a good feeling.
But that wasn't quite what happened with this kit. The poor thing just couldn't get warm, no matter how long I held it. The temperature this morning wasn't that bad, but to a newborn kit, it was as ferocious as a Malamute/Wolf hybrid that bites. So I did the next logical thing. I invited him inside for tea.
Armed with a well powered heater, I sat cross legged on the wood floor for the next 45 minutes. Holding that little baby bunny in front of the heat. Its perfect, little ears wiggled and stood straight up upon feeling the warmth flooding over him, and he curled himself up into an adorable ball. He fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.
After maybe 20-30 minutes, he started rooting around, looking for a meal. He sucked on my hand, but upon realizing that I had nothing to offer him he found a substitute. His paw. In all my years of rabbit raising, I have never seen a rabbit suck its paw, but this one did right before my eyes! His little mouth was still making sucking noises as he looked for a food source, and promptly stuck his fat, little paw in his mouth and sucked on it just like a baby sucks its thumb. My heart melted.
When he seemed warm enough, I moved him to more comfortable quarters: a Tupperware bowl lined with English Angora fluff, which I had bought at the Flock and Fiber Festival to spin up. A family member came in the room, and noticing the strange contents of the kitchen bowl, she said, "Well there's something you don't see every day. A baby rabbit it a Tupperware dish!"
And so this little baby was dubbed the Tupperware rabbit.
Little "Tupperware" stayed inside for another hour yet; lazing in the gentle heat procured by the behemoth of the wood stove.
I was tempted to keep him inside a bit longer, just because he's so darn cute, but I figured he should probably try and catch a meal, so back outside he went. He is now snuggled down deep with his four litter mates, and I firmly told him to stay there.
Leaving the rabbitry, I looked in Doe #1's cage and saw a little black ball of fluff sitting in her food dish. Yet another wayward kit, breaking the rules I set down in stone. No bunnies can get out of the nest until it warms up! It looked at me with a look that seemed to say, "Ooops", and I swear it looked sheepish as I helped it scamper back in with its siblings. Baaaaad bunny.
It smirked as I left.
Who knows what's going on out there right now, while I'm sitting here and they're out there. Little Tupperware will be checked on again tonight, and will most likely come in again if he doesn't seem up to par before night falls. I'm such a softie... Some farmer I make, bringing baby rabbits inside when I should firmly put them back in with the litter and let nature take its course.
But I rather liked bringing the one kit inside... It's not every day you find a baby rabbit in a Tupperware dish, after all....