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In just twelve more days we’ll be turning out the nest box and sending our newest litter of babies off to meet their new families.  It’s a hard thing to do.  You can’t soft-sell it, or play down the impact.  It’s tough.
   There is that exciting moment when you breed your doe and think about the possibilities.  Then there’s a month of tedium when you feel like it will be forever before they arrive.  Add three or four days of nail-biting anticipation…  Is she building a nest?  Is she pulling fur?  Will she deliver tonight?  No kid on Christmas morning was ever more excited opening presents than you are while you dig through that huge pillow of fur, counting to see how many ‘presents’ Momma bunny has brought.  (We had thirteen in a litter once.  I think I was hyperventilating before I counted the last one.)  Finally, they’re here and they’re perfect!  And then it starts again…how long ‘til they get furry?  Open their eyes?  Hop out of the box?  Hop up on the sofa?  Eventually they do it all, and it’s wonderful.
   Now they’re leaving.  Already?  We’re just getting to know them. Even though we love them and would like to keep every one, it is time to think about making sure they’re going to good, prepared homes. I have raised two daughters, but parting with the bunnies is different. The girls were able to make their own choices (good ones) and knew when they were ready.  These bunnies have relied on my decisions and guidance entirely for the whole seven weeks of their lives. Now as I pass on my babies to their new homes, I need to also pass on this important advice.
   First, it is important to love them.  I know breeders that raise rabbits on breeding schedules, by the numbers, with all the personal attention of an adding machine.  Sad.  I actually asked an ARBA judge once “If you don’t love them, what’s the point in having them?”  These are living creatures with a limited sphere of experience, and their owners are their sole point of contact.  Love them; they deserve it.  (Those of you who raise meat-rabbits can skip ahead.  I can’t even begin to understand your world, so I won’t criticize.)
   Second, understand them.  When you bring home your baby, understand that they are threatened.  Rabbits are naturally prey animals.  When you bring a new rabbit into your home, everything is a predator.  That refrigerator sound they’ve never heard… predator.  The smell of your house, that they’ve never smelled… predator.  Etcetera, etcetera.  They need a quiet place to ‘hide’ for the first day or two.  The only interaction they should experience is you, their new owner, coming in two or three times a day to feed them and speak soothingly to them.  After a few days, when you introduce them to the rest of the house or their outside hutch, they’ll have your voice as a touchstone of security to reassure them.  Twelve week-olds need a lot of reassurance.
   Third, pay attention to them.  Even when you follow all the best advice, your bunny can still suffer stress from their new situation.  Know what to watch for and how to respond.  Poop is everything.  Watch it; learn it; love it.  If they’re not making solid pellets, their tummies are in distress, and the clock is ticking (quickly) to repair the situation.  If their bellies begin to swell and/or they stop eating…you must act.  Call your breeder for help and be prepared to administer round-the-clock attention.  Again, this is a life in your hands.  Sick bunnies can be saved; we’ve done it.  It’s worth the effort, as you’ll agree every time they hop in your lap and nuzzle your nose.
   Finally, there’s nothing like a bunny to make you smile.  You can return the favor and make them smile, too.  Love your bunny and they will love you in return.  Dogs are fun, and cats are… cats, but bunnies are cool.  Feel special being a new bunny owner.  You are.

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