Cute little bunnies are not all oversized ears, wiggly noses and fluffy tails.
They also have soft, furry fuzzy butts.
Behind is where Helga Falconer went when naming her business, Helga’s Fuzzybutts Rabbitry.
“I don’t know how I came up with it,” she says. “I was sitting around one night trying to think of a name and that popped in my head.”
Or maybe it hopped in.
She also advertises with this fun pun: “Want big bunns? Look no further, Flemish Giants, Checkered Giant X and more! Stud service available.”
Falconer and her two children raise all kinds of bunnies for pets and pots. (Cover your ears children, vegetarians and Easter Bunny-believers.) Yes, even on Whidbey Island, rabbit ends up in stews, enchiladas, pot pies; some say they’re delicious smoked on the grill. Rabbit meat is higher in protein and lower in fat than chicken, beef and pork and less expensive than store-bought meat.
But it’s Easter, a time of bunnies in baskets, bunnies in hutches and bunnies in children’s clutches. That’s what keeps Fuzzybutts hopping these days.
“I’ve been having calls from people wanting Flemish Giants for Easter,” Falconer said. “Last year, we sold some to parents buying pets for their kids. But if kids outgrow them or they are not going to take care of them, I tell them I’ll take them back.”
She’s also taken in rabbits who’ve been neglected and need special care.
“I’ve had as many as 130,” Falconer said, “depending on breeding season.” Her mama rabbits, called does, have had litters from one baby, called kitts, to 18. No kitting.
Her current brood is about 90 rabbits, including six litters born on Valentine’s Day.
Falconer usually shows her bunnies out at her North Whidbey farm, where she raises a few other farm animals. But because she’s in the middle of a move, the back of a pickup truck recently served as fuzzybutts central with a sampling of pure breeds and mixed breeds.
Ears were everywhere. Size ranged from extra, extra large to teeny tiny fur balls, all in separate traveling cages.
“This is a Flemish Giant,” Falconer said, picking up a cat-size rabbit with calico-like coloring. “He weighs about 20 pounds. I also have Checkered Giant X, Continental Giant, Rex – the standard and mini, and Fleming New Zealand.
“They all live in huge cages, 4-feet by 10-feet with two stories so they have a shelf to lay around on. Each cage has a name plate on it because we give them all names.”
Others breeds include Havana, Cinnamon, Holland Lop, American Chinchilla and Beveren.
“You can’t put them together, they just fight,” explained Falconer’s 13-year-old daughter, Megan Cantrell. “The only time you can keep them together is when they’re young. At eight weeks old, we separate them.”
Rabbits can breed every 31 days. Talk about a “hopulation” explosion.
But Falconer gives the females breaks in between pregnancies. She also makes sure at least two does are breeding at the same time in case one rejects her babies.
“If that happens, I can put them in with the other litter in the morning,” she explained. “When the mom comes in to feed them at night, she never even notices the foster kitts.”
Another trick — placing a really cold litter of bunnies in her bra to warm them up with body heat. Bunnies are born naked but within two weeks are “fully furred with eyes open.”
The bunny biz all started with her daughter’s plea a few years back, “Mom, can I have a rabbit for Christmas.”
Soon a girl rabbit came home to keep the boy Lionhead rabbit company. Two pets beget eight, beget 15, beget a business, although Falconer insists it’s “just a hobby.”
“It’s not a money maker,” she said. “What we charge for the rabbits about pays for their food.”
Depending on size, sex and breed, cost ranges from $25 to $30 for baby rabbits; $50 to $80 for big pure breeds. Buyers come from all over the region, Falconer said, because she keeps a diverse selection of breeds.
Megan, now a sixth-grader at Oak Harbor Intermediate School, is really the head rabbit keeper with help from her younger brother.
They feed them, clean cages and tend to other bunny needs, such as trimming their nails and checking for ear mites. She also shows them at the Whidbey Island Fair.
“Half of them are litter box trained and they’re very easy to train,” Megan says. “We only keep one rabbit in the house. He’s a Lop named Vadar.”
Only one, fur real.
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