Regarding Rabbits

It isn’t by accident that rabbits have long been associated with fertility. I recently learned that, over a single season, a female rabbit can engender up to 800 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. That’s a whole lot of Thumpers. This is not a fact I chose to highlight when teaching a recent rabbit-themed preschool program. Instead, I focused on more child-friendly rabbit facts, followed by a rousing whole-class rendition of the Bunny Hop.

Spring is a wonderful time for rabbit watching. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when many children (and adults) stumble upon seemingly abandoned baby bunnies and decide to intervene. This is a big mistake! Mother rabbits only need to feed their babies twice a day, for about two minutes per feeding. During the remainder of the day, they’re free to frolic through the clover while their babies snuggle in shallow, fur-lined depressions (often in my vegetable garden). When well-intentioned humans attempt to “rescue” bunnies, they’re actually depriving them of the maternal feedings that will ensure their survival.

Bunnies (known in more scientific circles as “kits”) depend on their mothers for a mere two weeks. My preschoolers and I were thrilled to spot one such recently independent rabbit on a walk to the Arboretum’s Funshine Garden. When confronted with a mob of three- to five-year-olds, the rabbit froze long enough for us to appreciate his soft brown fur, velvety ears, and trembling nose. Scared stiff? Probably. Or maybe just posing for a chance at Disney stardom.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

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