Houdi, in his free-ranging days

 

When we moved the male rabbits
into their own pen inside the barn,
they burrowed their way out
and into the barn,
then hopped out the barn door,
with free run of the farm,
returning to the barn
in the evening
before we shut the barn door.
When the chicken massacre took place,
we barricaded the barn door
to secure the remaining Guinea Fowl.
We left food and water outside
for Pappa Rabbit and Houdi,
the two surviving male rabbits.
We saw them all over the yard
and pens, the corral.
They’d come back to the food and water
and take water too
with cats and birds
under the big Hackberry Tree
in the farmhouse yard.
We loved seeing them have such
freedom,
harass the cats to play with them.
But every evening at twilight,
and into the night,
coyotes have been coming close
to the houses,
killing cats at the pond house.
We knew the rabbits were in jeopardy,
so we set a live trap.
Every night, Ann put fresh lettuce
in the trap
and every morning it would be gone,
the trap door still open.
This went on for days
and then we stopped seeing Pappa Rabbit.
His white fur made him the most vulnerable
to coyotes
during his run-abouts
at night.
Houdi,
whose fur is black,
was still free-ranging.
Every night
we put out fresh lettuce,
every morning
it was gone
and Houdi (short for Houdini)
had magically
escaped the trap.
Then one evening,
Ann put the lettuce in the trap
and kept an eye on it
while she was feeding the other animals.
She saw Houdi hop up to the trap
and from the outside,
nibble on the lettuce,
pulling it out of the trap.
Ann was delighted.
She reset lettuce in the trap
so that Houdi couldn’t get to it
without going in the trap
and next morning,
his days of hopping around the farm
were over.
He’s in the barn now
with the chickens and guineas.
He can see his mother and sisters
who don’t have free run of the barn
but live in the very large rabbit village,
from which he long-ago now
burrowed out.
He sleeps behind the chicken roosts
and hops around the barn,
evading rooster’s pecks
and sometimes we see him
nose-to-nose with his sisters
on either side of the wire pen.
We don’t know which he would prefer:
being in a somewhat smaller area
with his family,
or in the bigger barn
where he has more room to roam—
but not as much as he had
before.
He’s safe now,
relatively,
and we’re waiting
for some indication
from him,
about his preferred
living arrangement.