“You call to a dog and a dog will break its neck to get to you. Dogs just want to please.” – Lewis Grizzard

Morleigh, in 2010, standing in what was to become my Vegetable Garden.

Last night I went out with my Great Dane, Morleigh, to feed my animals.  Morleigh is getting old, so I like spending as much time with her as I can.  When I entered my garden to feed the animals living there I noticed a black Rabbit sitting on the grass and having a meal.  She was not in her hutch and was all by herself.  I calmly walked to her hutch and noticed that there was a gap at the back through which she must have escaped.  I realised that when I last moved the hutch I apparently ripped the backboard from the rear, making a gap large enough for a rabbit to push through.  I could not leave her to roam the garden as she would damage my young trees and my vegetables.

This is not the first time a Rabbit has escaped a hutch.  I normally have no problem at all in catching the rogue Rabbits.  They are fairly tame as I have been their primary carer/feeder their whole lives.  I normally walk up calmly and quietly, talking gently to the Rabbit is a low voice.  Once I get close I quickly reach out and grab them on their skin at the back of their neck (the skin there is flexible, similar to a young puppy, so it doesn’t hurt them) and then I carefully place them back in their home.  I have had 100% success rate in this method until last night.  When I reached out and grabbed the Rabbit she moved.  I tried to grab a hold of her, yet I couldn’t get a grip.  She hopped away and for the next 20 minutes she kept running away as I chased her around the yard… she progressively became faster, I became tired.  The light was beginning to fade so I did not have long to complete this.  I decided to try to coax her with some food, yet she had been eating flowers and grass all day, so she wasn’t interested in anything I had to offer.  After another 10 minutes I decided I would have to get some help.  Morleigh was just outside the fence and I know she is good at catching Possums (She apparently has an intense hatred for them, I don’t know why and I don’t think she would tell me if I asked).  I decided to let her in and I gave her a command to catch the Rabbit.  She was off immediately, running after the Rabbit… I helped, yet the Rabbit hid behind one of my Compost bins (one made out of old wooden Pallets).  I tried to reach her, yet the Rabbit was just out of reach.  For minutes I kept trying, scratching my arms, bumping my head, being attacked my ants.  Eventually, I managed to grab her… all I could reach were her ears so I picked her up by them.  Now, it is vital that I tell you that this is something you should never do… that old image of a Magician plucking a rabbit from their hat and holding it aloft by it’s ears is not accurate.  It can hurt the Rabbit so if you need to hold a Rabbit in one hand you should hold it by the skin on the back of it’s neck (or cradle it in your arms, which is even better)… yet I had no choice, it was all I could reach.  I lifted her from behind the compost bin and held her aloft for a moment, smiling with pride that I had finally caught the Rabbit.  In that second of exultation Morleigh (who I had forgotten in all the excitement and who was standing next to me) snatched the Rabbit from my hand and leapt away, shaking the Rabbit violently.  I shouted at her to stop, which she did (she is a very good dog) and she dropped the now stunned Rabbit on the ground.  I rushed over, the Rabbit seemed to be dead, yet on examination it was just feigning.  I picked it up and examined it.  I could see no blood, yet it was very floppy… like it had feinted.  I placed it back in the hutch and after a few minutes it moved around it’s home.  It was not moving properly, it was having trouble breathing and it was obviously in shock as it’s heart was beating like crazy.  I could see that it would not last the night.  It was then that I decided that I would have to put the animal down.  I could not, as a caring owner, allow it to suffer.  As a Prepper I could not allow the animal to die on that hot evening and for the meat and pelt to go to waste.

This was the gap through which the Rabbit escaped… very similar to that scene in The Shawshank Redemption.

I told Morleigh that she was a good dog, and she was happy.  I think she thought she was in trouble, which she wasn’t.  It was my fault as I held the Rabbit up in the air… she must have thought I wanted to play with her.  I went inside, prepared the equipment I needed… knives, a hatchet, plastic bags and a bowl for the meat.  I placed an oil lantern near my butchering table (as I have no light there… something I will have to correct in the future) and I was finally ready.  I usually don’t butcher in the night as it is harder to see… as I mentioned, I have no light where my table is located.  I collected the rabbit and it was very limp, yet still alive.  I quickly dispatched it and then proceeded to skin/butcher the animal.  I could see where my dog had injured the rabbit when I was processing the meat, I suspect sever internal damage and broken ribs, yet I consoled myself that it did not suffer for long.  I blame myself for thinking that my dog could help me catch the Rabbit, and for not paying attention once I had caught her.

The Rabbit is the black coloured one on the left.

This was a Rabbit that I had intended to butcher many months ago, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it as it seemed so cute and tame.  I had decided to turn it into one of my breeding stock.  With this incident I feel I did the right thing for the animal in the end, yet I will now have to inspect all my hutches to ensure the Rabbits don’t escape.  Have I learned anything from this?  Definitely, I have learned the following lessons:

  • Get a portable light so I can position it where needed.
  • Pay more attention to where my dog is if I am handling Rabbits.
  • Inspect the hutches for weaknesses.
  • If a Rabbit escapes and I can’t catch it, it may be more humane to shoot it.

“You can’t just let nature run wild.” – Walt Disney

I have spent most of the last few days working in the garden as well as removing some weeds which are making our property look a little unsightly.  We are still intending to sell the house so I need to keep vigilant about this.  To assist me in the removal of the weeds I have enlisted the help of some of my rabbits.  As you can see in the below video they really seem to enjoy helping me.

I am trying to make my videos a little more interesting to watch, so I am trying out some new editing software.

The weed over which I placed their hutch is one of the persistent types of weeds I have growing here on the property.  The rabbits really took to knocking it down.  Interesting point for those of you looking to get rabbits, these two females live together in another hutch.  They get along very well and seem to enjoy each others company.  When I placed these two in this new hutch, they began to fight each other till the Ginger rabbit took the submissive role and ran from the Black rabbit.  This lasted 5 minutes till I began filming, which was when they calmed down and began to act more friendly.  I am not sure what caused the behavior, could be the smaller hutch (it is a temporary hutch which is smaller, yet they are only ever in there for a couple of hours at a time), could be that they needed to re-establish who was the dominant rabbit.

Only a sample of my bountiful harvest – These are snow peas.

With my work in the garden over these few days I have completed another of my 13 skills.  This skill is Gardening.  While my garden isn’t huge, it is producing food for my family.  We have enjoyed produce from my garden every day this past week, this made our Christmas day lunch extra special.