After getting acquainted with them, I understood why their pelts are so prized. Their fur is so thick and soft, I would consider it an ultimate luxury to have a pair of mitten lining made out of them. My hands would never be cold.
Over the next month, the duo gained almost two pounds. I pack them up into separate cat carriers for their trip to the mountains. They were so heavy that I walked like Igor, of Frankstien fame, when I carried the cases to the van. In my rabbitry, they were well fed. Treats were fed to them by hand so they were used to me and the cats who traversed to house often giving them a cursory sniff in their cages.
What a different world I took them to. The rabbit hutches were outside in all types of weather. Mostly cold because at this higher elevation they were still in near freezing temperatures at night. There were chickens who had free range of their hutch area with strange cats, and dogs also running to and fro. The hutches were built out of scrap lumber, mostly deconstructed pallets, and 1/2" hardware cloth. They were meant for 3-4 pound English angora rabbits and Jersey Woolies. Needless to say, it was pretty easy for them pushing their weight against the hutch doors for them to strain the latches.
Kieran 2's hutch is four feet above the ground so while he could push the door open, he couldn't escape far. Colleen had the lower cage..a mere foot off the ground. Mel had fed and watered them that morning. She then went to work. I went out in the early afternoon to check on them. It was a big upheaval for these rabbits who'd only had my indoor rabbitry.
"Babies! How's my babies today?" My usual high pitched greeting when I entered my rabbitry. All my rabbits sat up on their haunches, ears up, and waited for their personal attention. For Buddy, it meant a Momma ear rub and a cuddle. After which, at the old house, her door would be left open and she'd have free run of the house. She was litter trained and rarely had accidents. She could hop in and out of her cage at will. This rabbit would also get into her "pen" on command. She would also visit all the other rabbits. Age and longevity with me had its privileges. I've had her for 2 1/2 years. Plus we'd play tag and hide and go seek while she was out. But now, she doesn't have that freedom.
I made my way down the two rows of cages treating all the rabbits to attention making my way down the to my meat rabbits. They were breeding age now. The plan was to move the angora to a purchased shed building so we could maintain a cooler and warmer temperature for them, and for us. I just haven't bought the outbuilding yet because we need to chop down two small oak trees first. The meat rabbits would fill the outdoor hutches.
I got to the meat rabbit cages and Kieran greeted with a snuffle that demanded, "Where's my treat?" I ignored it and gave him an ear rub instead. Bending to access Colleen's cage, I noticed the door was slightly ajar. I peered in looking for her to no avail. She had escaped. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I frantically called and searched for her. I didn't find her. I asked Mel, when she returned home from work, whether or not she'd seen Collen that morning. She had, so I knew she hadn't escaped during the night. She had never lived in the great outdoors before.
Mel's dog, Nnyus, is the guard dog of the property. She regularly kills opossum, racoon, (even rabbits), chases deer, and fights coyotes within her territory. She went into deep mourning when a coyote killed Mel's rooster, Lunch, a few years back. She redoubled her guarding efforts after that. So later that night when Nnyus went crazy with barking and growling we expected to find Colleen dead. A totally logical assumption, right?
The next morning, I got up early and ventured towards the rabbit hutches. But instead of seeing bits of fur torn asunder and a bloody carcass, I was greeted by two gray ears twitching under a bush between two rabbit hutches. My heart lept with pure joy. I called out my usual greeting. Her ears turned towards me as her feet brought her closer to me from behind the bush. A moment later Mel's very large, New Hampshire Red rooster came bursting from under the closest hutch. Colleen scampered through the under skirting underneath the trailer. At least I knew she was alive.
Everyday Mel and I tried to capture Colleen and put her back in her cage. Everyday we failed for almost two weeks. That continued until last night. After dinner, I sat on the bench by the hutches playing with Patches, the cat. The sun was going down and getting chilly. We hadn't seen Colleen in a couple of days. Even her goodies, lettuce and carrots had been left untouched. We'd left the cage door open hoping to catch her in it. I figure after two weeks she had reverted back into her wild counterpart.
As I was rubbing Patches, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. There she was hopping across the front yard towards the hutches. I called out my usual greeting and talk to her in a calm voice, even though inside I was hopping up and down. She eventually got closer and started what I assume was her nightly ritual of visiting all the rabbits from my rabbitry... especially Kieran.
I grabbed the carrot from her cage. It was wimpy from being in her cage for forty-eight hours, but it was the best I could do. She came for the carrot to eat it out of my hand as usual. If I'd had two working hands I could have grabbed her, but I didn't.
So when she hopped back to Buddy's cage, I hobbled to the back porch and tapped on the window. Mel just about jumped out of her skin. The next second she was running to the back door. I yelled at her to get some fresh lettuce and that I'd found Colleen. In a flash, she was beside me at the hutches. "Where's she at?" I pointed. She circled one way and I the other each holding a small handful of lettuce.
We ended up by a broken cage in one of the hutches. There she sat just as calmly as could be as we closed in. I told Mel that she could react in two ways when she grabbed her: 1) fight, bite, and scratch; or 2) calm, snuggle close, and thank you for rescuing me. Forewarned, Mel was ready. She reached and grabbed her. Luckily, Colleen reacted in a snuggling fashion. With a sigh of relief we put her in her cage. I held it closed while Mel affixed another latch on the door. We returned inside ecstatic that we'd captured our wayward meat rabbit.