Bunny's Story

 

April 24th, Easter Sunday morning I went out to feed, and a little spotted girl was  following her mom into the barn  - just like she had been there already for a couple of days. This was Zykena’s first foal and we missed her birth. We had always wondered if Zykena’s foals would get her independent personality, and I could tell from far away – yup – she got it. Since she was born on Easter Sunday we named her Bunny – our daughter says we named her Bunny because she would always hop like a bunny – all four feet up in the air at the same time – just bursting with energy. We always had to watch our back because Bunny would come running right between our legs with a nudge. She had the best time playing with the other foals and seemed to be enjoying life to the fullest. Each morning I fed her and mom Zykena separately since Zykena would gobble her feed down and go on to the next bowl that didn’t belong to her. They knew their routine and Bunny would eat with her mom a few grains from the same bowl each morning. 

When Bunny was 5 ˝ weeks old her perfect little world came crashing down. I went out to feed as every morning and noticed that none of the moms/babies were up around the barn – I got that horrible feeling that something was really wrong – and the second I opened the door I saw Zykena dead on the ground – next to the mineral block. She was full of life the day before and suddenly she was gone – I just couldn’t grasp it. She was young and healthy – never been sick in her life - no sign of struggle.

My thoughts immediately went to Bunny – where was she at? I literally ran outside looking for her and there she was in the middle of all the other moms and babies. When she saw me she put out the most heartbreaking little bray and came running straight to me. She felt so hot – it was the hottest time of the year – and I knew she must not have nursed for several hours – otherwise she wouldn’t be this hot this early in the morning. It was still too early for the farm store to open so I tried to give her water. She was still too young to drink water on her own – so she just stuck her nose into the water bucket but couldn’t suck and swallow – I ended up feeding her some water with a syringe and let her back out with the other moms and babies – then went on to the farm store for some milk replacer. When I returned she was with the other moms and babies in the pasture – she came straight to me when she saw me. I brought her up to the barn – not really knowing what to do with her. I tried to feed her the milk and she refused it all – I fed her some with the syringe since she didn’t want to take a bottle. I was going to offer her milk every couple of hours – the next time I went out – she was all alone in a hay pile – not with the herd. She looked so sad but nibbled on a few sprigs of hay. I had to come up with a different plan quickly.

 The only one I could think of was to get one of the retired jennies and hope she would take care of Bunny for emotional support. I thought of Tinkerbell and Bumblebee – they are best friends – neither would probably take on a baby leaving a best friend behind. Then there was Thelma. Thelma had weaned her foal last fall and then babysitted a group of weanling jacks for a couple of months – which she did a great job with. When they left for their new home she missed them.

So we got Thelma up – she had made friends with Tinkerbell and Bumblebee. She wasn’t excited about being separated from them. Thelma is normally a very shy and very smart donkey. We think she got abused when she was younger since she seems very afraid of  men – she starts shaking when she sees one. She has accepted the fact that she needs hoof trims, vaccines and dewormings which most of it my husband takes care of. She always used to be the last one in the group since she would avoid to get caught till the very end. Over the years she has gotten smarter and now is one of the first ones to get it over with to be able to get out of the paddock sooner. Therefore I figured she may not be the perfect new mom for Bunny since she may make her shy, or she may get scared each time we handle the baby at feeding time or just from the fact being locked up in a barn. Still, she was our only real option.

We put Bunny and Thelma into the small barn and left both stalls open as well as the hallway for them to move around in. That way they could get away from each other if they wanted to. Thelma smelled Bunny and Bunny smelled her – hoping it would be her moma. When she realized Thelma wasn’t her moma she immediately started crying again. Thelma never left her side since. We would try to feed Bunny separately since Thelma didn’t need any extra feed and Bunny really needed it now. Bunny of course was extremely slow eating. Trying to feed them separately didn’t work – Thelma would get so upset and leave her feed – she wanted to be with Bunny every second – so we fed them together. Thelma would allow Bunny to eat from her feed bowl – and when her bowl was empty which of courses went quickly – Bunny would go to her own feed bowl. It would take her 20 minutes or better to finish her feed – but Thelma learned quickly that the feed was for the baby. I attempted to feed milk replacer to Bunny without any luck. After 10 days of  trying unsuccessfully to get Bunny to voluntarily take any milk replacer in different forms - I gave up. I wasn’t going to force her. She learned to drink water within a couple of days – the first attempts were a mess – but she caught on pretty quickly. We built a corral in our back yard so that she would be in the shade and that the water buckets were close by. That way she could also have some fresh grass which has liquid as well. We ended up moving the corral from place to place and water the yard every day when the weather was so dry so she would always have some fresh grass. We got her some mare and foal feed and got her used to it. After a good month of it – we started to integrate them into the herd. First just a couple of hours at the time since we figured that Thelma wouldn’t bring her up to the automatic water trough often enough. Bunny didn’t have the luxury of getting her tummy full whenever she felt like it like the other foals had. Each time when we got her out of the pasture we took her straight up to the water trough and she would drink some water. Over the weeks we extended the time to half days, then to full days. At nights we would still separate them from the herd so she could get her quiet time with plenty of water and hay to munch on all night. Since about 4 days now Bunny and Thelma are fully integrated with the herd. Bunny only gets fed separately in the morning with her special feed. Thelma waits for her on the other side of the gate.

Thelma has taken care of Bunny from the first day we asked her to. She has not made her timid or afraid of us – Thelma actually has learned to enjoy some of our attention in the process – especially when it comes from our 10 year old daughter. She stands by her side and lets her pet her neck and will not move away. She has accepted us putting fly spray (of which she always was terrified of) on her legs – also especially when our daughter does it. For the first time in many years I think Thelma is not afraid anymore – except of strangers and men. She does accept our son but I can tell she is not as much at ease with him as she is with myself or with our daughter. I think Thelma helped Bunny to survive and Bunny helped Thelma get over her fears. While we wean other foals at 5-6 months of age - I think I will never be able to separate Bunny and Thelma since they are truly attached to one another. Maybe Bunny can have a same aged friend in the future but have Thelma at her side as well. That is what I would like for both of them. Bunny is now going on 4 months old and is doing wonderful – always with Thelma at her side. Thelma does everything for Bunny as she would for her own biological foals – except nurse her. She is protective of her, grooms her, takes her to water, and always knows where she is at. She stands over her while Bunny lays down to sleep. I think somehow she knows that Bunny really needed her and we are so thankful for that.   

Update: At almost 6 months old Bunny is doing great. She is now up for "adoption" - only with her surrogate mother only - with the agreement that the two will be able to remain together. As mentioned above - the perfect scenario for her would be to add another same aged friend (Thelma has always been a great baby sitter) - so that she gets to grow up with a same aged friend as well. She will go to a good home only that can offer stability for the future.

 

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Nadia Attia-O'Bryan

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Almo, KY 42020

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Last modified: 03/05/17 04:33 PM

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