- Granddaughter Savannah never tires of playing with our chickens and retired outdoor bunnies!
Our rabbits do indeed have very soft and snuggly fur, but as a premier meat breed, they grow to be very large (9 to12 pounds) and their strong legs have the potential to really claw one’s arms and legs. There’s also the issue of how they might react to other pets such as dogs and cats. Rabbits have the prey animal’s fight or flight instinct hardwired into their DNA, so hoping they might “play well with others” may or may not prove to be true.
As responsible breeders committed to raising rabbits that meet the ARBA Standard of Perfection, we have always included an assessment of each rabbit’s personality as a part of making responsible breeding decisions. Because of this, we do not hesitate to eliminate any consistently ill-tempered or irritable (“petulant”) livestock from our breeding program. Although our rabbits are generally sweet-natured, due to their size and typically nervous nature we had never considered them to be the best choice for a pet, particularly for small children. Add to that a rabbit’s natural propensity for chewing and destroying property of all kinds, and one could conclude that successfully house-training a Champagne is just too risky and not worth the trouble. Just keep them in the barn.
Not that Wes hasn’t tried! He had one ill-fated attempt to keep a Blue Dutch rabbit doe named Jenny indoors when he was a youngster raising hundreds – yea, even thousands – of rabbits for the NY/NJ markets. Like practically all rabbits, this one had a natural fondness for chewing everything in sight. Predictably, the day Jenny destroyed Wes’s school jacket was the day his mother banned her and any future rabbits from living in her house! It therefore should come as no surprise that we have always discouraged anyone from purchasing a bunny to be used only as a pet. Until now.
Laura Towner, a rabbit breeder from Northeastern Illinois, traveled all the way down to our Homestead Rabbitry in Horse Shoe, NC to pick up some young Champagne does. Imagine our surprise when she sent us photos of all three Homestead rabbits blissfully settling in with their new owners as house pets! However, this is nothing new for Laura and her husband, Carl. Indeed, many other Champagne owners keep Champagnes as indoor pets. According to Laura, offering a new rabbit some small treats of banana and apple slices at their cage door is an effective way to help them transition to being petted and held for long periods of time. We are so gratified that these Homestead rabbits all have sweet temperaments, and are already easily handled and groomed.
Meet some of the Homestead Champagne pets and their owners below:
Helena loves to be held and comes up nose to nose with Laura when the cage door is opened. According to Laura, “Helena runs around in our screened-in porch for exercise. We try to give all our rabbits exercise time outside of their cages. At first she was spooked by our dogs and ran under a loveseat we have out there, but now she just hops around as if they don't exist. It's pretty funny watching a little bunny hopping around on the ground in and around the long legs of German Shepherds and a big Cane Corso Mastiff! They won't hurt her, but she didn't know that when I first brought her home!”
Laura’s rabbits like to play with plastic waffle balls from the dollar store. Laura also picks up infant teething rings at garage sales and flea markets that she gives to her bunnies to chew on and flip around. All kinds of very affordable toys are out there for pet champagnes to keep them stimulated.
This is Katja Walls holding her new pet rabbit, “Homestead’s Hydra”. Hydra, who actually has the run of the house, is kept in a cage in Katja’s living room along with their guinea pig!
Hydra took a first place in youth and got her first leg two weekends ago when she took Best of Breed! Congratulations, Katja and Hydra!
Hannah Atkinson with “Homestead’s Hailey”.
Hailey is kept in a cage in Hannah’s bedroom. Every time Hannah goes in her bedroom, Hailey runs right up to the front of the cage and rams her nose through the wire with her little front feet up on the wire waiting for Hannah to open the door. Hannah currently has an entire menagerie comprising a bearded dragon, two pet rats, some sort of a snake, two family dogs that wander in and out – and now Hailey. And they all get along well!
Hannah also plans to show Hailey in the future.
Perhaps the most amazing of all is this photo of Laura’s father, taken in the hospital, with his favorite rabbit named Abbey. (Yes, Laura agrees that Abbey’s color is too dark for the Standard, but she’s a wonderful pet!)
Laura states, “Dad is pushing 90 and was in the hospital for 3 weeks in May with a lung infection and again for a few weeks in June with bacterial pneumonia and asked for his rabbit. I couldn't deprive my Dad. The staff said they'd seen therapy dogs and even a few cats brought in over the years but never a rabbit. There was a constant stream of aides, nurses, and doctors stopping in with Dad to see her both times I brought her in.”
According to Laura, “The new champagne breeder breeds them, shows them, sleeps with them, gives them the run of the house, and uses them as therapy animals. Champagnes really are a fantastic breed temperament wise!”
Now when someone asks us if our rabbits make good pets, I believe we can confidently state, “Yes, absolutely!” I guess even old rabbit breeders can learn some new tricks.
The Homestead Rabbitry
August 22, 2017