What's the deal with the Bunny House?
On a warm day in October, Salem’s resident bunny queen Angel shared her yard and provided some insight into her passion for bunnies. Standing among the crowd of floppy-eared friends, she gave insight into the loving nature of her rabbits, her personal mission and her motivation for maintaining a communal space. The famous Bunny House is located a short walk from campus on Mill Street. Maintained by a mother-daughter duo, the yard serves as a safe haven for bunnies and bunny lovers alike.
There has been an outpouring of love from the Willamette community towards the bunny village. Often occupied by Willamette students, a bench sits right at the entryway, eager for guests to sit and observe the bunnies running around the yard. Angel mentioned that finals season seems to be the peak of popularity for the yard. “The bunnies seem to take away from the stress and angst of test taking,” she said. "When I’m a wreck, if there’s an animal in need that’s where I go."
The house itself has a deep connection to the Willamette community. Angel noted that she bought the house from a previous owner who used to be a Willamette grad student, and that she is always welcoming to Willamette students in particular. “I cannot imagine living in a dorm,” she added.
With the soothing presence of a mother amid her young, Angel showed off her bunny palace. She added that typical bunny burrowing habitats are called warrens, consisting of intricate, interconnected underground dwellings. Her goal is to turn her yard into warrens—a center for the bunnies to live in bliss and for bunny-loving humans to engage with their environment.
Within the first five minutes of the tour, Angel introduced a one-month-old bunny named Dirt. He was small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, curling up into the cup of her hands. Angel said she doesn't typically name the bunnies until they get older, but Dirt seemed to be an exception.
The photographer for this piece was drawn to holding one of the bunnies that Angel’s daughter brought out. Placing the bunny into her arms, Angel instructed her to “hold her close to your heart.” She detailed how bunnies are similar to humans in the way that when humans are close to one another, enough to hear or feel a heartbeat, the rhythms slow to match each other. “It’s similar to human touch, human chemistry,” she said. Rabbits are actually used as a point of reference in studying the human immune system. Angel noted that baby rabbits consume the mulberry pellets that their mothers release, which contain a variety of protein and antibiotic properties. With the development of vaccines and disease prevention, the study of these pellets has been very crucial.
When bunnies get excited they do a jump and twisting movement that Angel refers to as a “binky.” She noted how when she was younger and living with her family they would sit outside and watch the rabbits have their “zoomies”: running around the yard, kicking and doing binkies. Her family referred to this as “TV time.”
The space has an overwhelming sense of community, aided by the presence of the many, many bunnies. This was emphasized by the surprise visit of a mother-daughter duo on bicycles. Angel explained that every week two neighborhood women bring their excess food scraps by the house. She then repurposes the organic plant matter as bunny feed, creating a sustainable circle in which the bunnies feed the soil and the unused food scraps feed the bunnies.
Through discussion of her career history, Angel demonstrated that her nurturing tendencies could be linked back to her service as a nurse. Whether it was discussing neighborly service or how people contribute to her, her focus is on “sharing the wealth,” as she put it. “What’s the point of putting in the work to have good things if you can’t share them?” she asked.
If you ever feel the need to cuddle a bunny, de-stress from finals or otherwise spend some time in a caring community, Angel has put in the work to share the joy of her abundant bunny kingdom.