With any luck, by the time you read this, there will be half-dozen or so baby bunnies snuggling in a nest box in our rabbit hutch.
    Last year, Monika decided she wanted to show a rabbit at the fair. If you read my last column, you’ll recall rabbits are one of the species that fit our requirements for non-dairy fair animals.
    But, two weeks before the fair, the rabbit she chose was bitten by its hutch-mate, so she didn’t go to the show. The bunny recovered from the injury, and we ended up keeping her for a pet.
    This spring, Glen’s dad suggested breeding Monika’s rabbit so there would be young rabbits for both Monika and Daphne to show at the fair. Of course, the girls loved the idea. So, we came up with a plan for making bunnies. The first step was finding a daddy bunny. A 4-H friend of ours offered to let us borrow one of her bucks.
    On Easter Sunday, Glen’s dad brought the buck to our place for the mating.
    If, like me, you’re not as familiar with rabbit reproduction as you are dairy cow reproduction, allow me to share what I’ve learned. Essentially, female rabbits ovulate on demand. They don’t have estrus cycles like other mammals. Instead, they release their eggs shortly after mating.
    Dang! Just think of how convenient dairy cow reproduction would be if cows simply ovulated as needed.
    Anyway, we put the buck into an empty cage and then put the doe into the cage. Apparently, if you try to put the buck into the doe’s hutch, she will attack him.
    The girls crowded around the cage to watch. Like most children raised on farms, our kids have a basic understanding of how life starts. We don’t have any bulls on the farm, since we only use artificial insemination. But, we’ve explained the process. The analogy we use is that, through artificial insemination, we’re putting seeds into the cow’s body and, if everything goes right, one of those seeds will grow into a baby calf.
    Our kids have also seen the natural process countless times – we have free-range chickens and free-range cats. They mate all the time.
    So, I figured the rabbit mating would be fairly uninteresting.
    I figured wrong.
    The rabbits got right to it and, just as quickly, the questions started.
    “Why is he biting her?”
    “Why is the mommy bunny just laying there while the daddy bunny does all the work?”
    “How exactly does the daddy bunny get the seeds into the mommy bunny?”
    Thankfully, the mating didn’t take long, because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep a straight face while replying with, “I’ll explain that another time.”
    I did explain, however, that even though the rabbits mated, there was no guarantee we would end up with baby bunnies. First, the seeds would need to grow, and then the mommy bunny would need to take good care of them when they were born.
    I found out later that one of the kids prayed for the baby bunnies in the prayer circle at school. I hope that was all that was said.
    Another thing I learned about rabbit reproduction is the gestation period is approximately 31 days. That means I only had to answer 31 days’ worth of “When are the baby bunnies going to be born?”
    Today is day 29. We put the nest box in the mommy bunny’s hutch with some shavings and straw. She immediately started pulling the fluffy white fur out of her dewlap and mixing it with the straw. I’m told this nesting behavior is a good sign she’s about to kindle. No, she’s not going to start on fire. The technical term for birthing in rabbits is kindling. Cows calve, sheep lamb, and rabbits kindle.
    The technical term for baby bunnies is kits. If all of the hoping and finger-crossing and praying go our way, there will soon be a number of kits for Monika and Daphne to cuddle and tame.
    Monika is hoping for a spotted rabbit. The mommy bunny is an albino and the daddy bunny is a broken red (i.e. white with red markings), so there’s a good chance we could end up with some of each.
    Daphne said she’d be happy with any bunnies. She already has their greeting written on our walkway with sidewalk chalk: “Welcome to the world baby bunnies!”
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.