Category Archives: Rabbit Business

Daily Drama 68 – Duck Herding 101

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Daily Drama 68 – Duck Herding 101

I took a little trip to Canada in February to witness my son’s marriage. The big news is this fabulous Guinea Pig coffee cup that his bride bought me!

Right handed view: little piggy swimming inside

Left-handed view: reminds me of furry Stevie Ray (RIP)

We also went to Costco (they have poutine at the snack bar!) where I saw this nice Mason Bee house. My store has them, too, so I got one when I returned from Toronto.

Mason Bee house (accidental photobomb of Dobby)

Mason bees have been using the frames on this window screen. They lay their eggs in there, daubing with mud between, and then they seal it up. when the bees emerge, they come screaming out straight at my shoulder if I’m sitting on the chair right there. It’s annoying for both of us.

Their entry/exit hole is that teeny gray rectangle under where it says $500 on the sign.

They also have a couple mudded-up areas on the siding, above the door and windows. They are all under a wide overhang on the East side of the house.

Mason Bee activity over the front door

Mason Bee activity over the window

Do you think the bees will use the new house? I have it mounted deep under the wide overhang, high on the East side of the house, within walking distance of local shops and schools. I’ll let you know.

“Can you please help me with this jacket?

Meanwhile, we were talking about ducks, right? The afternoon Garden Party is when all the poultry explode from the aviary to eat snacks with Dobby and destroy the back yard. They usually return to roost, but I often have to herd them in to the aviary at dusk. I do a head count to make certain nobody gets locked out. It’s harder than it sounds, and I am always surprised to discover a duck pacing outside the aviary as I lock up. The last time it happened, it was a suspicious drake, notably without his lady friend. A third sweep of the garden revealed Bev, one of my two Muscovy hens, snug on Princess’s tiny nest in Dobby’s pen. One more hiding place to check on this season.

“Have you seen my jacket anywhere?”

We have the opposite problem, too. About a million local mallards now know about the afternoon garden party, and it isn’t uncommon to see thirty of them on the roof, waiting for the Happy Hour snacks to be put out. Lately, to discourage them, I have varied the snack time, or offered nothing at all. Not to be deterred, they all parade into the aviary to help themselves to the layer pellets in the barn. Setting out the Happy Hour treats inside the aviary backfires for the same reason. The herding happens later, and I call this game Brown Duck at Dusk. My own flock is in the aviary/barn, and I could close the gate and call it a day, except for the mallards who can’t find their way back out. They panic when they see me, hitting the top wire, crashing into the fence, pacing at the gate itself, but not at the gate opening. This is a skilled herding: keeping their attention, quelling the panic, easing them toward the gate, using “eye” and body language like a Border Collie. Dobby likes to help, and because they are wary of him, I can use his presence to drive them to the gate. Unless he is sitting at the gate. Oh, Dobby!

Tony, Vinny, & Sal, moving on out

Currently, there is a third herding. Twice a day for fourteen days, eye drops for Sal. Tony, Vinny, & Sal are a tight sub-flock who came in to sanctuary together about five years ago. The aviary is big, but it is set up with a barn and a bully pen that I use to sequester the flock for various reasons. The trick is to herd as few animals as possible (but including Sal) into a “corner” so I can nab him. Again with the Border Collie skills, I move them gradually into the barn or bully pen, without spooking anybody. The herd thins until I have Tony, Vinny and Sal separated out. Moving Sal (who looks remarkably like Vinny) onto the bench (Get out of here, Kitty Hawk!) I can finally administer one eye drop to his left eye. I’m halfway through the treatment, fourteen more round-ups to go.

Get down from there, Conchita!

This is why I try not to move quickly or make the flock scatter. There’s always a smart-aleck who jumps up, down, or performs a risky evasion technique. I wasn’t a witness to Conchita’s Folly (when she broke her leg) but now that she’s healed and rejoined the flock, I have noticed she is always flying up to a high point. Let’s not repeat the broken leg, okay?

“Can you heat this up? Maybe float some lemons in here?”

Dobby’s limping is worse during cold weather. The calcification that occurred during the healing of his fractured vertebra pinches a nerve, causing a sciatica-like pain. I know it well, and he walks like me. He can still hop up to his pool, though it is too cold to swim. He prefers a hot tub this time of year.

Dobby and Samantha

Dobby and Princess

Dobby is eating my bamboo hedge, one bucketful at a time. He also has an Instant Pasture in the back yard. After eight winters of lousy winter front yard grazing, it finally occurred to me that he might “graze” on scattered hay. Sure enough, strewn-about rain-soaked hay has been a big hit. With a bit of luck, some of the seeds will sprout in spring.

Fat Bonnie begs in her day pen

Phoenix bathes in his water dish

 

 

Gentrification of the kitchen continues unabated. Fat Bonnie, who moved into the kitchen four years ago, has finally overcome her terror of wide open spaces. Every night, after Dobby went out to bed in his night pen, The Bartender cleaned his area, and we spent the next hour cajoling the rabbit into running around the corner to play in the area he set up for her.

Phoenix chases Fat Bonnie around the box. She’ll sneak up on him later and chase him back.

Enter Phoenix the pigeon. Now that we wheel his cage in there, too, Fat Bonnie races around to claim the ground plane before he gets out. She lets us pet her, she begs for treats, she hauls out verboten birdseed, rips wallpaper off the wall, exactly like a regular pet rabbit. So, we traded Good Bonnie for Bad Bonnie, but she seems a lot happier.

Fat Bonnie: the new relaxed model

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Daily Drama 57

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Daily Drama 57

Blogging is not a priority for me this month. Dobby is participating in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. The Prince has decided to write his autobiography. You might think this has nothing to do with me, but it has resulted in a lot of encouragement, research, consultation, and plain old butt-kicking from ye olde Farm Manager. He wants to do this very much, but he hasn’t the discipline or skills to go it alone.

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Sonya’s sketchbook

Fortunately, my illustrator, Sonya Reasor has stepped in to help Dobby on this worthy project. It’s inspiring to see Dobby come to life on someone else’s sketch pad for a change. 

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Breakfast is served! At the bowl: Carmen, Emilio, and Tony. Beyond: Ping, Shamrock, and Sal.

My mornings are busy, and in addition to the usual chores, leaves are falling onto the wire netting that secures the roof of the aviary. If I don’t pick those before it snows, the weight of snow+leaves=broken roof. We had temperatures down to freezing night before last, so I will soon be winterizing the swimming pool pump and packing away all of the freeze-sensitive accoutrements around here. Time to switch Dobby to his heavier blankets, ratchet up his heater, increase his corn ration.

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Dobby is thrilled about his new hens (in the background.)

The three new four-year-old Golden Laced Wyandotte hens have already moved from the bully pen out to the general population. I guess they have never had a roosting perch, because they roost in a huddled pile-up next to the cat food dishes. Not a big hit with the cats, but they are sweet old traditional hens. They remind me of the hens in Chicken Run. (One of the best movies ever made, BTW.) Frieda, in particular is a friendly old gal, curious about everything I do.

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Frieda watches Windy and Eartha take dust baths in the barn. They are all molting.

Princess Blur is one of a kind, and I have known quite a few chickens. She befriended my old handicapped hen, Lula, and I have to carry them everywhere together. Blur is the only hen who doesn’t go home to roost, unlike the old adage. Oh, no, she flies up into the apple tree at dusk. Fortunately she prefers a low branch where I can pluck her down and carry her to her Official, if not preferred, roost in the safe and dry barn, near her beloved Lula.

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Petite Princess Blur. Not a good climate for feathered legs, she carries a bit of mud on her slippers.

Princess Blur is so funny and tiny. My other hens don’t know what to make of her.

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Look! You can see shadows! Enjoying the sun, Blur, Conchita, Jello, and Adelita.

Dobby is waiting patiently for me to take him to the front yard. The grass is nearly gone, but he still finds greens here and there. The bamboo is spreading like wildfire, but he eats it all winter long.

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Dobby looks a little shaggy this season.


We walk through this storage area when we go to the front yard. We have had record rainfall and the ground is saturated. My entire yard is a mudhole, and there is an inch of standing water over most of the front lawn.

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Dobby stops in a mud puddle to scratch on his way to the front yard.

Dobby wants everyone to see his feet.

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That’s good organic mud, black and gooey like crude oil.

Dobby’s preference is to have his grazing catered so that he can enjoy a snack with his friends. I used to provide a cracked corn snack in the afternoons, but a gang of mallards keep crashing the party. Seriously, 30-40 mallards fly over, land in Dobby’s pool, and present vouchers for drinks and bar snacks as if they were entitled. I have been weaning them of this indulgence, but there is still a core group of half a dozen mallards who know their way around here and go into the aviary where the real duck food is available. Scoundrels.

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A round of cracked corn and bamboo-in-a-bucket. Carmen, Norman, Boondock, Boxcar, Cubicle, Dobby, and Ping.

For some reason, I cannot take a decent photograph of my silly little white duck, Ping. Today she sat and gave me the stinkeye while I administered medication to a dove. Yesterday, Norman and the flock was antsy at the end of the day. Turns out Ping forgot how to come around the apple tree fence, and was left behind, frantically pacing when Norman brought everyone else into the aviary for the night.

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Ping keeps an eye on me.

It isn’t much different indoors. Rats, it turns out, are little beggars. Fortunately, they are eternally grateful even for stale graham crackers.

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Yuki will eat almost anything, though she balks a bit at carrots.

We are all devastated at the death of our little old guinea pig, Carl Sagan. No one felt the loss more than Stevie Ray, who kept vigil in his special observation post long beyond necessity. He gazed longingly at the former location of Carl’s cuddle cup, and rather ignored snack time unless I handed him the treats. Fortunately, Squirrel was ready to be introduced into Stevie Ray’s spacious cage, and after nightly floor time on neutral territory, the big day arrived.

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Squirrel the maniac, and Stevie Ray, a sadder but wiser gentleman pig.

During the Monday Mayhem otherwise known as Guinea Pig Cage Cleaning Day, Squirrel moved in. He was so, well, squirrely, that I wasn’t convinced it would work, but poor Stevie Ray was so despondent, that even rambunctious Squirrel was a welcome respite. The two boars are getting along nicely. Stevie Ray is eating normally again and as long as the carrots keep coming, Squirrel will be happy!

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Fat Bonnie snuggles up to a plush piglet.

Dobby goes out to sleep in his night pen every night. Fat Bonnie takes advantage of this and hops around to his side of the wall where we set up toys and treats for her. She would like it better if we didn’t also let the birds out for an evening flight. They like to land on her blanket and tease her. It’s not nice to tease dummies, but she is smarter than I thought! Not only does she “stand up for a cookie” but she also “turns around for a blueberry!” I never thought I’d see the day when Bonnie could do a trick!

Daily Drama 55

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Daily Drama 55

Writing a blog is easy when there is so much to write about. Sometimes, though, the material piles up so fast and furious that there is no time to write! Taking a vacation creates a windfall of material, but if taken correctly, induces a predictable and even desirable stupor. The school year aspect of my life (that I don’t write about) creates an artificial deadline which looms like a cliff of doom to rodent aficionados. So while I have a couple blog posts in the works, why not start and finish a third, and really confuse the heck out of everyone?

As a sanctuary (also called a LOFT, Live Out Full Term facility) I see many animals through to their last days. Older pets aren’t as adoptable and often find their way here. Some have just been here a hella long time. Carl Sagan the Guinea pig is one of them.

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Bath and blow-dry time for Carl Sagan

His brother, Ankhsheshonq, left us long ago, complications due to dementia. Carl will be NINE* TEN years old in October, but he is having some issues with right rear axle paralysis. He’s perky, doesn’t seem to be in any pain, still interacts positively with Stevie Ray, and races to the treat bowls on cue. Still, he has no strength in his hip and leg, and flops over as soon as he is stationary. Because he isn’t as active, this gets fairly messy, so he has been getting baths, as needed. He likes the extra attention, and the older I get, the more sympathy I have for these old pets. I hope Carl makes it another year, to TEN ELEVEN years old, but in case he doesn’t, I have located an older boar companion for Stevie Ray, who remembers when the Dude Ranch was 5, not 2 dudes. You will be hearing about him in a while.

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Fat Bonnie attempts to explore the living room. Watch out, Fat Bonnie! The wood floor is LAVA!

Fat Bonnie Bunnie seems to be making an effort to overcome her fears, and we have started to let her into the living room for romps. She doesn’t seem as fearful there as she is in the kitchen, such nonsense. Her sister and litter-mate, Helen, was so joyous and playful, I know Fat Bonnie had a nearly identical history. I am reading some of Temple Grandin‘s fine work, and thinking maybe my little fatty has some brain anomalies, but whatever the problem, the treatment is the same: minor adjustments, one at a time, to her daily routine until she responds positively to something.

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If he performs outdoors, that is one big help! Thank you, Dobby!

Dobby continues to be a big help around here. He eats grass from my bucket, apples from the raked up pile, bamboo that sticks through the protective fencing. He marks my tool handles, my jackets, and surprisingly, he now marks Kitty Hawk the tomcat!

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Grover (Cleveland) and Kitty Hawk

He’s back up to 116# but that’s still below his pre-veterinary visit weight of 117.5#, and well below his previous 125#. He has gained weight during apple season before, so we’ll see. His big secret is that he’s writing his memoirs, but I’ve seen it and if he wants my help publishing it, he’d better tone it down a bit.

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Dobby taste-tests the bird seed. Is it okay for the hens to eat?

I can tell you that a capybara that falls off his bed- it’s a pillow on the floor!- during a nap doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room in the dignity department.

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Seriously, he fell off this bed.

In other Dobby News, he has a couple new-from-Florida wind chimes, and a beach ball that he despises!

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“My mom and dad went to Florida and all I got was this cheesy beach ball.”

The wild animals around here are out of control. A mother raccoon and three babies peered in at me while I was feeding the chickens- during the day. I had to pick the bumper crop of grapes, too tart to eat, but rats in the arbor are not as adorable as they sound. These aren’t my cute Wistar rats, no they are the other mangy kind, and they don’t look so hot this year. 

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There are rats up in the apple tree, too. [No rats in this photo, use your imagination.] Go ahead, walk right under this arbor. Don’t cheat and look up!

And Dobby had 28 visiting mallards yesterday, prompting a brisk recall of the cracked corn appetizer I put out for Happy Hour.

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Only a few Mallards here, but my little flock is still too timid to chase them away from the treat bowl. Imagine this scene with 16 in the pool, the remainder distributed in the yard. Too many freeloaders!

Enough is enough.

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Mrs. Mallard is the only one brave enough to swim with Dobby. She’s been hanging out here (pre-pool) longer than Dobby has, 8-9 years.

At least the hummingbirds are satisfied: my garden blooms for them all summer and I can ignore the feeders for a while.

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Ping the duck! She has angel-wing and is tiny, but she’s very spunky.

I was contacted by a Facebook friend of many years, and we made a very satisfactory duck exchange. Her little Ping is small, white, and has angel wing, and probably wouldn’t thrive in the natural environment available to her there. My thuggish Muscovy drake, Romeo, has not mended his ways, and my little hens have been living in fear. Norman the goose isn’t too fond of him either.

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Dobby checks out the new duck. Ping is that little white blob beyond him, keeping her distance.

Romeo’s hen-directed activities are inappropriate, but he is friendly to people and ducks, and he is a big drake, able to take care of himself. So we traded, and while we are still watching to see how it goes, I think we both came out ahead. Just yesterday I noticed how quiet it is around here. Romeo himself was quiet, but he had a way of stirring things up, and it is nice not to hear Norman honking at 2am!

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Dobby says it’s time to return to the back yard, asking to go through the front door this time. He’s right, it’s closer, but oy vey, the cleanup as he trashes his way through the living room! Never again!

UPDATE: I stand corrected. After talking to Carl Sagan’s owner (Carl is a foster guinea pig), I am stunned to report that Carl will be 10 years old in October. He’s doing great, and I honestly think he’s going for 11!

Daily Special: Luna the Lionhead

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Daily Special: Luna the Lionhead

Now available! Meet Luna the rabbit! She appears to be at least part lionhead, but she is guaranteed to be 100% rabbit! If you can give a beautiful bunny a good home, please contact me.

20160407_153359This is what I know: the shelters are full and are no longer taking rabbits in our area, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. This is a real pickle for someone trying to rehome a rabbit. I don’t have space, either, so she is still at her home, but she needs a new one.

20160513_150005Luna is about a year old, not spayed, and not particularly friendly. She has not had much attention for most of her life, but is indoors, uses her litter box, and has had half a bedroom for romping. She is healthy and gets along great with her family cat.

20160330_144806Luna comes with her cage, various rabbit accoutrements and paraphernalia, and she is available NOW!

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Spread the word!

Daily Drama 52

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Daily Drama 52

There will be more than one blog topic generated this week, but I will be lucky if I manage to write up even one. First, this is the worst trip to Florida I’ve ever taken, but the Seattle weather here at home is cooperating and we’re going to try a couple local Cuban restaurants this week and pretend we are in Hollywood Beach. My mint has enough tender new foliage for mojitos, we have stocked up on rum, and The Bartender is doing his best to take our minds off the unexpectedly aborted vacation. This is the stay-cation, classic version, and it is nice to have a week off my grueling 8.75 hour a week work schedule.


My little turtle, Quasimodo, emerged early in spring to say goodbye, I guess. He was never quite right, as you can tell from his name, but we had six nice years together. Doctor Pepper inherits his portion of the tank, and I hope he overcomes his extreme shyness the way Quasi eventually did. They rarely played “Turtle Pile” so I don’t think Doc had enough emotional attachment to feel grief, but animals are unpredictable that way.

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Farewell, Quasimodo

Lula the hen still receives her daily pain meds, but has had a couple setbacks in spite of it. She has walked stiff-legged for about a year, but recently added a stanky leg flourish to her amble. On sunny days, I bring her out to the yard to keep Dobby company. It also prevents my crazier hens from pecking at her.

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Bianca, being obnoxious

The bully pen has only three drakes this year, but one more has been “asking for it.” Romeo, Shamrock, and Emilio beg to attend the Garden Party every afternoon, but they are tricksters and I refuse to fall for their “Poor Me!” act. Tony, Vinny, and Sal have managed to retain their territory and it is refreshing to see them work together as a team. The twins Boondock and Boxcar are an even match to the trio, but one of them is a meany. Or maybe they both are, taking turns with sneak attacks. Because they work independently, Norman the Flock Manager is usually able to settle the disputes.

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Honey Bunny is listening.

The big news is very rabbity. Honey Bunny, my foster, has been surrendered to me. I just scheduled her to be spayed next week and then she will be available for adoption. It’s breaking my heart because she has been here since December and she is the best pet rabbit I have ever had, except maybe for Wiley. But he was a garden rabbit. Honey has taken over the house guinea pig room. Sadly, she is much more fun than my own rabbit, Fat Bonnie.

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Relaxed, are we?

Fat Bonnie doesn’t move. She sits, hunkered down in unjustified fear. A gorgeous mini-rex, “black otter” in color, she is the softest rabbit I have ever had. Too bad she hates to be touched. She doesn’t tolerate much attention of any kind, come to think of it. She loved Wiley Wabbit so much that in a jealous rage she tried to kill her sister, Helen. Fat Bonnie bit her and drove her far under the deck where I found her two days later, scared, hungry, and dehydrated. So I don’t trust Fat Bonnie with other female rabbits and she has never met Honey. They are aware of each other, but live in different areas of the house.

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Run, Fat Bonnie, run away! Quick, get under the shelves!

Every night, The Bartender cleans and sets up Dobby’s kitchen area for her, and Fat Bonnie’s door is opened so she can scamper and run and explore and browse and interact with us. And every night we encourage and beckon and cajole and beg her to leave her pen and find the salad waiting for her around the corner. And every night (for eight months now) we end up pushing and nudging and shooing and sometimes I even just carry her around that corner to her evening play area. And there she sits all night until it is time to go back to her pen. She’ll emerge for a treat tossed her way, but mostly she’ll retreat behind the door at a sudden noise or activity in the kitchen. Like someone opening the refrigerator door. Is she the only pet on earth who is scared of that sound? The guinea pigs are down the hall wheeking, and Fat Bonnie is quivering under the shelves

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Honey is probably a Hotot.

I can’t really keep both rabbits. If they could live together or even if they would play together nicely, I would keep them both. I would prefer to find a new home for finicky Fat Bonnie, but it would be a hard sell. So I will be re-homing Honey Bunny, the better bunny. 

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Honey’s night cage

Friendly Honey Bunny runs to EVERYONE for petting and attention. When I step into her area, she gets the zoomies and rips around the room in big circles, next around my legs a couple times, then the room for a few more circuits before she settles down for some attention. Toss her some lettuce and she’ll ignore it, preferring to come over for a pet. I had never seen a bunny who flopped her ears so much, and thought she had mites. Turns out it is a Happy Thing. (Fat Bonnie doesn’t do it.)

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Oopsie

She hops readily into her cage at bedtime, but is perfectly well behaved out of it during the day. Well, except for the time she hopped up to the bookcase and broke a lamp. Or maybe that time she got behind the bunny barrier and ate her way through the guinea pig hay bags. Or when she opened the bag of shavings and decorated the room, or chewed a wire, or pulled a stack of towels through the bunny barrier. Or when she sticks her head through the gate to the hall and chews the edge of the hall runner.

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Honey’s “nest” box

She has made a couple nests. She has an active litter box in her cage, and another in the corner of her room that she doesn’t use. Twice she has pulled fur and made a nest in the clean corner box. A few days ago, I saw her pulling fur again and looked in the box. She had dragged a blanket in there and two little stuffed animals- the monkey and the hamster! Her babies. She knew that it would be wrong to include the stuffed banana toy.

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Slug bunny

So, little Honey is available. Let me know if you are interested!