Later that day we hosted playgroup. My fears came true when the bunnies got spooked by all the people going in and out of the house and scattered. Being so small and mostly blind, they couldn't get far. So after everyone left the kids and I went and gathered them back up and tucked all seven of them back in their cozy hole. During this I noticed that two of them were smaller and weaker then the others. They didn't try to hop away at all when I went to pick them up and were shivering more than the other five.
Our neighbor, who had noticed them as well, came home just as we finished gathering them back up. He reasoned that because we hadn't noticed their mother around, and because they were pests (a point that he gently brought up several times) it would be best if he took them away. He said that he had a friend who had a rabbit cage and could care for them until they were older and release them somewhere far away. He told us he would take a few pictures of them to show us. I had a hunch that maybe the mother came at night when it was safer but I wasn't sure so I reluctantly agreed.
As soon as he went into his house to get a box, I looked at Charlie and knew that we couldn't let him take the bunnies. At least not all of them.
I knocked on his door and explained that Charlie really wanted to keep a couple. I admit that I wasn't entirely truthful with him. The whole truth was that, although Charlie had voiced some sadness with the plan, he seemed more okay with it than I was. I desperately wanted to keep those babies and watch them grow. Besides, I had my doubts about our neighbors intentions. I explained to the neighbor that two of them were smaller and weaker than the others and we would like to at least keep those. He agreed.
Charlie and I got a box with some towels and brought them inside. I got on the computer and looked up info about baby cottontails. I learned three things: first, I confirmed that they were in fact cottontails (not the much bigger jackrabbits), secondly, the mother does come at night, and third, all seven, and especially the little ones that we had, were too young to survive without their mother.
The next morning they were alive and well. I checked the weather forecast for that night and saw that there was a freeze warning with a chance of precipitation. I panicked. We had filled the nest with cotton balls. Every backpacker knows that "cotton kills!" I needed wool.
Keith came home to me cutting up a wool sock to replace the cotton balls. I explained the mistake I had made and he just shook his head and smiled. Like the killdeer incident of last year, I had adopted these bunnies.
We watched the mother come back that evening and first thing in the morning I went and made sure they had made it through okay. They had. :)
And so that is how things continued for several days. Watching for the mother to come each night and checking on them in the morning. They quickly grew until they were feisty little guys that no longer would patiently sit in our hands. Charlie was really sad about that.
My assumption was confirmed when the kids found a little bunny in the tall grass of the backyard. It was the same size as "our" bunnies would have been. My heart was at ease.
Even if they are considered pests.