This morning I went to let the rabbits out and found a little red squirrel in with them. They seemed rather oblivious to him. He had a bit of a panic as he tried to find the way out, but in the end he managed. It is moments like this, when confronted with the unknown and unanticipated antics of the animal world, that I am reminded not to make assumptions but rather watch, wait and see what happens.
As part of raising Maggie, our duckling, I am slowly introducing her to the outside world, and our other animals in it. I take her with me, sitting in my pashmina, as I go about the garden. Her head is always quick to poke out and she is keen to see what the world has to offer. Once she was a week old, I took her to meet the rabbits. They live outside, with a house (where they are locked away in at night) and an enclosure they can go out and run around in during the day, a.k.a Rabbit World. Because it is completely enclosed I decided this would be the safest place to introduce Maggie to the great outdoors.
Besides letting the animals out in the morning and putting them to bed at night, I like to visit with the rabbits and other animals every day, bringing treats of lettuce for the ducks and chickens, and carrot tops or parsley for the rabbits. We all sort of ‘hang out’ together. If the weather is nice I take the opportunity to bring a project or letter writing materials and spend some time amongst the animal kingdom. They are a very socialable lot and we all enjoy the company.
I lay a blanket down in Rabbit World and put Maggie down on it and then lay down next to her to write a letter, whilst keeping an eye on her and the others to see what they would all do. I had no fear that Maggie would wander far as she never goes further than 5 feet from me, part of the imprinting on me. In fact, she generally didn’t leave the blanket, only occasionally exploring just beyond its edge to try some grass or peck at a daisy head.
Maggie was more interested in her exploration of this new world than those around her, happily peeping away to herself as she ran about nibbling this, tasting that. Our two female rabbits wandered past, but essentially showed no interest. This tiny creature was obviously beneath their radar, both figuratively and in reality. Only our male rabbit had a slight interest, possibly in thought of protecting his domain, but he was more interested in the smells of Maggie than in Maggie herself.
The chickens came around for a visit, but it was more in the hopes of some lettuce than an interest in Maggie. Still, Maggie dutiful had a look at them, and then carried on tasting grass. Only the ducks had any real interest in our duckling, which doesn’t really come as any surprise. They wandered over and spotted her and then continued to watch her with great interest and the odd quacking. Maggie on the other hand totally ignored them.
Now this was surprising. We had assumed that as she is a duck she would take an interest at least in her own kind, but nope, didn’t even register with her, neither the sight or the sound. Another consequence of imprinting we were starting to think is that Maggie has no idea of what she is, e.g. it is the old nature versus nurture argument. She just explores her little world, taste by taste, and with the odd nap in between.
And speaking of naps, the rabbits are also keen nappers and it wasn’t long before they started to gather round for a lie down in the afternoon sun. Having a human there meant more protection (safety in numbers) and this always seemed to mean its safe to have a snooze together. Maggie took advantage of their sleep to go and taste their fur, checking out if it was good to eat. This simply caused a shrug of indifference and a subtle shifting further away from her pecking beak.
Such is the excitement of our animal kingdom.