Last Saturday Senia came in to the kitchen as I took crumbling nettles out of the dehydrator.
“I’m a grandmother!” she exclaimed with a beaming grin.
I froze with the tongs in mid-air. Since our goat Honey was due to kid any day, I was paralyzed to think that I had missed the birth.
“Honey?” I croaked.
“No, Hen!” said Senia. Hen is Senia’s rabbit, and in the night she had given birth to 9 pink kits. Incredibly adorable, the kits squirmed in a nest of their mother’s fur.
The trouble began when three days later Senia came into the house holding a basket. Tears ran down her face. “They’re all dead!” she wailed. “They were scattered all around the cage, cold!”
She pulled back the blanket to reveal stiff baby corpses, little ears and tails bent where they had fallen.
“Let’s put them in the dehydrator,” I said. “They’re not dead until they’re warm and dead.”
Three rabbits revived in the warmth of the dehydrator. I fed them warm goat milk every few hours that day while Senia was at work. The irony of painstakingly hand-feeding baby rabbits in order to raise them up and eat them was not lost on me, or on either of the human mothers who visited me during feeding time.
“NINE babies?” said one. “I’d kick them all out of the nest, too.”
I fulfilled my promise of keeping the babies alive while Senia was at work. She put the kits back in with their mother, who continued to reject them. The last kit succumbed a few days later. Hen is pregnant again. Soon we’ll know if her mothering instincts kick in with Batch Number Two.