“Can I bring my bunny here to play with the rabbits?” This and similar requests got Caroline Charland, founder of the Bunny Bunch rescue, wondering if play dates were possible. She previously told people no, because she believed all bunnies unknown to each other would fight if not properly acclimated. But the requests kept coming. In early 2014, things changed. “We did a test one and from there it took off,” Charland said.
Charland said the turnout for the play dates, which they call Hoppy Hour, has been fantastic and is growing with each event. People who participated before come back and new people show up. And it’s not just for rabbit owners. “People now want to come that don’t even have rabbits,” Charland said. “You don’t have to have rabbits to have fun.” She refers to people who stop by the rescue, hear the laughter from Hoppy Hour and end up joining the group.
What is a play date? All the rabbits are brought by local rabbit owners and placed into a giant exercise pen that contains toys, litter boxes, water and hay. As people show up, the walls of the exercise pen are gradually replaced by people sitting on the floor forming a human wall, until there is a large circle of people surrounding a bunch of happy bunnies. It does sound like fun.
The Bunny Bunch has held six or seven play dates already this year, always on the second Sunday of the month. July 13 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. is the last Hoppy Hour until October, due to the hot weather. The Bunny Bunch has two locations, but Hoppy Hour takes place at the Fountain Valley location at 10534 Bechler River Avenue.
There are some rules. Any bunny who participates must be spayed or neutered at least one month prior to attending an event. Any bunny who participates must be healthy. The Bunny Bunch staff does a mini health-check for any obvious signs of illness. Also, bunny owners must fill out a form and sign a waiver before their pet(s) can participate. A $5 donation per rabbit (or person if no rabbit is brought) to the Bunny Bunch is also required. These funds aid the rabbits and other animals at the rescue.
Rabbit owners do not need to bring anything but their bunny to participate, although Charland said people might like to bring a cushion or yoga mat for themselves to be more comfortable sitting on the floor. She said they have chairs available for people who don’t want to sit on the floor, but it’s more fun to be in the circle and on the floor at the bunnies’ level. No chairs are permitted in the circle, as that might allow rabbits to escape.
Two Bunny Bunch volunteers act as chaperones within the circle, armed with small brooms to gently separate any rabbits who might get feisty. So far, though, there has only been one instance where one rabbit was making trouble and had to be separated from the group.
Charland said people have told her they were unsure if their rabbit would do well or behave at a Hoppy Hour, and all who have come are amazed. She said that a rabbit who might be shy around the house or around other people can act completely different among other rabbits. She said it’s normal for some rabbits to be a bit shy the first time they attend a Hoppy Hour, but that fades with each event. “In a situation where it sees other rabbits, it has lots of fun,” Charland said.
The rabbits at the rescue do not participate in Hoppy Hour. It’s strictly an event for bunnies brought in by local rabbit owners who want their pet to play with other rabbits. However, the rescue rabbits benefit through the funds raised, and even adoptions. Charland said someone who attended a Hoppy Hour with their rabbit subsequently did a bunny date with a rescue rabbit that ended with the rescue rabbit finding a Forever Home.
As an added bonus, everyone who attends a Hoppy Hour is given a ticket, and a drawing is done during the event to give away prizes donated by the Bunny Bunch Boutique.
This Sunday’s Hoppy Hour will also debut the Veggie Finale, which involves giving all the rabbits fresh vegetables at the end of Hoppy Hour. If it goes well, Charland said this will be a regular feature of Hoppy Hour when it returns in October.
The hiatus of Hoppy Hour does not mean the end of fun events at the Bunny Bunch. Charland said that a Summer Bunny Photo Shoot is planned for the beginning of August, two classes will be coming up (How To Groom Your Rabbit and How To Pick Up And Hold Your Rabbit) and free nail trims for rabbits and guinea pigs are available every weekend. The Bunny Bunch website and Facebook page will post time and date information for the photo shoot and classes.
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