Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue Is Raising Funds To Build Burrows

The nonprofit rabbit rescue seeks a new approach to housing its rescue rabbits, and it needs help from crowdfunding to get it done.

The nonprofit rabbit rescue seeks a new approach to housing its rescue rabbits, and it needs help from crowdfunding to get it done.

rabbit snuggling with person
Courtesy of Jenny Nichols 
Blackavarr is one of the adoptable rabbits at Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue. He was rescued from the woods and was covered with ticks and fleas, and very wild. Nichols said he is now the sweetest bunny.

Could a rabbit “shire” full of tiny hobbit-like homes for rabbits soon be a reality in Maine? It could if Jenny Nichols has any say. Nichols operates Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue in Lamoine, Maine, and on September 15, the rescue posted a campaign on the LoveAnimals.org crowdfunding website to raise $5,000 to make this project a reality. The campaign runs for only 30 days (and the countdown has already begun).

Creating A More Natural Burrow Living Environment
The project calls for 10 tiny rabbit burrows to be built in the organic garden of Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue. Each burrow could house up to six rabbits, or more depending on the size of the rabbits. The specific description of the burrows follows.

“Each miniature, hobbit-type house will have a large living space (fully insulated) with windows to let in air and light and access through a tunnel (mimicking a rabbit’s natural warren) that leads to a large, enclosed, predator-safe pen. The Burrows will be built by a master-craftsman and are designed to withstand even our toughest northern winters, keeping the bunnies, dry, safe and warm — or cool, depending on the season.”

The rescue has used an outbuilding to house rabbits previously, so why the desire to create burrows? The project description also addresses this. 

“The idea behind creating the burrows is to keep our orphaned rabbits in isolated, natural habitats, where there is no risk of passing illnesses that are often-times induced by stressful living quarters. We have discovered that keeping rabbits in cages stacked next to each other in a shelter-type building leads to a highly stressful environment for these delicate creatures.”

Nichols’ enthusiasm for the burrows was evident in an interview.

“We are extremely excited about this project,” she said. “’The Burrows is a completely new and original concept for rabbit housing.”

She stressed that the homes will be temperature-controlled.  

“The burrows are insulated — keeping bunny cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Tiny houses!” she said. “Just like humans are enjoying — but for rabbits. For us, it becomes a full circle as we also utilize the [rabbit] manure for our organic gardens, which then helps to feed our rescues.”

Each burrow would measure approximately 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, and Nichols said this area includes a predator-safe pen where the rabbits can run and play. In addition to the play area of each burrow, she said the rabbits will be given supervised time in a big, fenced-in area that gives them access to fresh organic, rabbit-safe vegetables and lots of room to run.

“They will only be able to use it in family groups or by themselves, one or two at a time, so they don’t fight,” Nichols said. She explained that territorial instincts can cause fights between different groups of rabbits or individuals.

History Of Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue
Nichols drew on a few years of rabbit rescue experience to formulate this dream project. It began with a pet bunny named Flopsy, she told The Maine Edge back in 2012. Nichols got the rabbit after her daughter begged her for one. When her daughter lost interest in the pet, Nichols took over her care and decided Flopsy needed a friend. They adopted Lucky, who was supposed to be female. He wasn’t, and soon Nichols and her family welcomed a litter of rabbits. From there, Nichols did research and learned that many pet rabbits get abandoned. She decided to do something about this and opened Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue in the summer of 2011. It’s motto states: “Together, we can save somebunny today.”

Nichols said that Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue typically houses about 30 bunnies in the “bunny barn,” but has had the number go as high as 75. Foster homes help out. She estimates that the rescue has directly saved about 700 rabbits since it opened. She added that their public outreach and education likely helped save more rabbit lives they don’t even know about.

In addition to the burrows fundraising project, it has the usual needs of all animal rescues — donations to cover veterinary care, supply costs and operating costs, and volunteers to help with housing, transport, tasks, etc.

Nichols faced a personal challenge last year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“It was a huge shock,” she said. “I had a long road ahead of me and it took many months for me to recover both physically and mentally. Luckily, at the time, our rabbit intake was low and we were able to place most of the bunnies in foster homes while I kept a few here at the bunny barn. Since then, I have received the ‘thumbs up’ from my doctors and feel back to my old self again. This break gave me a chance to reevaluate the way rabbits are kept.”

She said the full plan for housing is still being formulated, but right now if the burrows get built, she expects that the bunny barn would be used mostly for intake and a place to keep any sick or injured rabbits who need extra care.

Fundraising For The Burrows
The fundraiser on LoveAnimals.org is scheduled to last for 30 days, with the clock already ticking. The organization states in its FAQ that it vets every nonprofit partner before allowing a project on its website. And it has other methods to ensure money is spent as expected.

“When their project reaches its funding goal and we transfer the money, the nonprofit must provide photos of the project taking place, and supply a report showing how every dollar was spent. This allows us to ensure every donation is being used to help animals as intended.”

LoveAnimals.org does not take a percentage of the donation. According to its FAQ, all money raised is forwarded to the nonprofit, minus any credit card or payment processing fees, which LoveAnimals.org has no control over. It can forward all money because it does ask for a 15 percent admin donation at check out, but this is optional. Admin donations that are given and sponsorship by companies like Halo Natural Pet Foods allow the website to keep running.

If a project does not meet its goal by the end of the campaign, either the project gets revised or funds get returned to donors.

Nichols hopes to reach the goal of $5,000, but if that doesn’t happen, she has a plan.

“We will build what we can and keep working towards that goal,” she said. “I have contacted local lumber yards and hope for some material donations. That will help.”

The campaign promises that the burrows will help create a magical place for the rabbits and for people: 

“Visitors are always welcome at Cottontail Cottage. AND, once our colony is complete, all of you who have donated will be invited to a very special open house and reception here at Cottontail Cottage, to get a first look at the burrows and meet the new bunny residents!”

For those of you interested in trivia, here are two fun facts:
1.Flopsy and Lucky still have a happy home with Nichols and her family. 
2. Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue is located on Cottontail Lane. Nichols said the house came with the name when her family bought it, and at the time she had no thoughts of starting a rabbit rescue. “Isn’t that a crazy coincidence?” she said.
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