After a summer that was a challenging mix of wet and hot weather we find ourselves in a particularly soggy autumn. Thank goodness for the plastic rain shields we added to all the hutches this year. They have saved the rabbits from having flooded hutches and saved us from having to spend extra money on hay and bedding to replace wet beds. They can be positioned in a variety of ways depending on the weather. And now the winter covers are on too they are even snugger and more wind proof.
Quite a few changes are afoot. We are trying to reduce the number of groups of rabbits and combine some of the runs so that they all have a roughly equal amount of space. At the moment some are more equal than others! Having fewer groups of rabbits will also reduce the excessive amount of work. With winter approaching we again face the struggle to get everything done during daylight hours. It really is too much and needs to be scaled back to a more manageable level especially as none of us are getting younger. We can’t risk standards slipping or us burning out entirely. In addition we are not very skilled at fund raising and are struggling to make ends meet. A reduction in numbers will mean a reduction in costs and less financial uncertainty.
We are also changing our policy about visiting on Saturdays. Sponsors are still welcome to visit most Saturdays (weather depending) but please let us know you are coming so we can be sure to be available to let you in. Since the robbery entry is no longer through the side gate but through the garage so someone needs to open the door for you.
If sponsors email me to let me know they want to visit I will give them my new mobile number so they can text me to let me know they have arrived so I can let them in. I am not making this number public as I really am phone phobic and only use it for texting known people. If it gets published anywhere I will change it. Contact with Hopper Haven needs to be initiated with an email or through our Facebook group.
Another big change is that Jennifer has resigned as a Trustee. I want to publicly thank her for all her hard work and support over the years. She has been such a valuable team member that she will be incredibly difficult to replace. Happily she will continue to volunteer so we don’t have to say goodbye entirely. She knows we would have missed her much too much! She has played an enormous role in making Hopper Haven the place it is. Thank you so much Jennifer! I couldn’t have got through the difficult times without you.
Despite the changes every day life at the Sanctuary continues much as usual. We have lost some old friends and gained some new ones. Rabbits get into dig and forage and get into arguments. They lose partners or gain new ones. The Beautiful sisters Meili and
Piaoliang had a serious falling out and had to be separated as did Red Currant’s boys
Corinth and Xante. Meili now lives with Xante while Piaoliang stayed with Tarragon. Corinth now lives with Lavender after old Oleander finally left us at the age of ten having spent eight happy years here.
And we found a friend for Sorrel our little black wildie. She had been really bothering me. I don’t like it when our rabbits are not happy. Because she is so very very nervous we never see her moving, she just lurks under piles of hay or in dark corners. Because she is so tiny we can’t put her in an normal open run because she would squeeze through the tiniest of gaps. So I have been seriously worried about her quality of life. When she first arrived I attempted to put her in a group but she was even more afraid of the other rabbits than she was of us. Caroline tried taking her home to get her more socialised but she literally ran up the walls of the shed in terror and squeezed through a crack. But at least we learned what doesn’t work for her. We had in mind the right sort of partner for her – a small confident friendly nice natured buck, perhaps a Nethie or a minirex when we had an email about a minilop with badly misaligned front teeth who was frightening his child and not getting much attention. So we took in Sparrow, and despite some
initial doubts because he is still a lot bigger than she is and still has some growing to do because he was only born this year and is only recently neutered and might have pestered her too much, it has worked out brilliantly. He couldn’t have been better. He is gentle and sweet, doesn’t try to mount her, sets a wonderful example by running to greet us and playing happily and enthusiastically eating his food. Even the fact that we had to remove his front teeth helps because we can tell that she has eaten the big bits of veg that he can’t manage. Perfect! Hopefully he will be able to teach her how to be a happy rabbit.
Poor Sooty lost the third of her companions during October. She used to live with her sister Sweep and our black giant Minerva and crazy little Mr Spice. This summer the group often had the run of the garden, the girls coming out at the same time as the giants Clyde and Kiki because they were good and respectful of them. Mr Spice wasn’t to be trusted and was too inclined to throw himself at Clyde in a jealous rage for it to be safe to let him out unless the giants were shut in. They all had a wonderful time eating the garden down to almost nothing. We eventually fenced off the bottom section before they decimated it entirely. They sulked for a while but then accepted it. But sadly all good things come to an end. First we lost Sweep, then Minerva and then Mr Spice. They were all a good age and had been
unwell for sometime but they all had a wonderful last summer and we are pleased to have been able to give it to them. I was so sorry for poor Sooty when Mr Spice died:( Losing one companion hits a rabbit hard but three! Luckily her familiarity with the giants suggested a good answer. I was able to put her in with Kiki and Clyde so she can continue to have the run of the garden when it is dry. Kiki wasn’t best pleased but her heart is bad and she doesn’t have the energy for fighting and after doing some token chasing and grumbling she has grudgingly accepted Sooty. Clyde is a more laid back rabbit and was quite happy to have another lady friend. They quite often sit together on the shelf in their shed. I am so glad for Sooty that she landed on her feet as it were.
When the giants and Sooty can’t go out because it is too wet for Clyde’s sore hocks the six white ladies have a turn running loose. Red Currant and her daughters moved into the giant’s old shed
and the giants nicked one of the guinea pig sheds because Clyde needed a dry run and the tarp on their old run was damaged and had to be removed. As we only have six guinea pigs at the moment it was possible to divide the other shed for the two groups to share. We are thinking of converting one of the smaller rabbit sheds for them to make up for it, building a covered run on the side. The white ladies are certainly enjoying their extra run around time. Two of them are noticeably braver than the others and were much faster to explore and venture further from their shed. That is Flurry and Blizzard. Nix is the most nervous while Sprinkle the runt comes a close second. The big baby Drift and mum Red Currant are hesitant and wary but not as nervous. We mostly tell them apart by character although there are some size differences too. It is lovely having them wandering about and is very entertaining for the other rabbits too although we hope they aren’t too jealous.
Our most recent loss was Nala. She had been failing since last year, losing her mobility and suffering from ear and heart problems but she kept going through sheer willpower right through the summer. She was eleven or twelve and had been here for five years, had done some wonderful tunneling and had generally had as happy a life as a rabbit could wish for. She is survived by her brother Kovu, a very grumpy old fellow who I was afraid would be very difficult to rebond. Well I am trying him with grumpy difficult old Anemone and so far it is going well although I remain sceptical because Anemone has had at least four failed bondings this year already. Whether it works or not it will have distracted Kovu from grieving over Nala. He looked quite shell shocked sitting beside her body after she died. I always leave them time to say goodbye and he took a lot longer than most but then they had been together for over a decade. She was a huge part of his life.
If the bonding between Kovu and Anemone works we will just have two singles left, down from six
a few months ago. I was thinking that I had completely lost my touch with bonding as there were so many failures. It is a relief as I don’t like keeping rabbits alone especially in the winter. Just Hamish and Filbert remain alone. It is such a shame putting them together wouldn’t work, but they are both fighters and Filbert being unneutered throws hormones into the mix too. We put extra layers of insulation on their hutches and give them extra food and attention and I will continue to try and come up with a solution about who they could get along with. That is the best we can do for the moment.
We are in pretty good shape going towards winter. Almost all the winterising is done, the hutches are covered, the windows are back in tne sheds and the garage roof is better although there are still a few leaks but at least the asbestos is covered and snow and rats can’t get in anymore. And hopefully no animals will have to live in there this winter. Once it gets cold in there it is like a fridge and doesn’t warm up even on a nice day. It is also boring for them with no neighbours, birds, weather or leaves to provide variety and stimulation. But it will be very strange!