Rabbit season: A day of joy and learning at Lanett Senior Center

Published 9:00 am Friday, April 14, 2023

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LANETT — Thursday was rabbit day at the Lanett Senior Center. Cynthia Banks brought six of the New Zealand rabbits she breeds at her home off Highway 50 near Lanett. They included the ten-pound daddy rabbit of the bunch, who she has named Sugar Ray Leonard, and five of his babies. Banks has yet to name the little ones but they will likely have Christmas-related names since they were born on Dec. 25.

Banks is the wife of a retired minister, the Rev. Jackie Banks. They have been married for 45 years and are the parents of four grown children and grandparents of three young children. Banks thanked Mayor Jamie Heard, who was present at the event, on having had a positive influence on her children, all of whom have graduate degrees from colleges.

Banks worked for WellStar West Georgia in LaGrange for 40 years before retiring. She and her husband have the time to do some advanced gardening and to raise rabbits.

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“We started with two and now have 24,” she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Banks grow crops year round in their garden, which has an irrigation system. They grow their crops from seeds and transplant them when the plants are ready.

“We grow a little bit of everything,” she said. “We are a lot of tomato plants, beans, cabbage and squash this time of year and collards, turnips and kale in the fall. I am very, very active in my garden. It provides us a healthy way to eat, and it’s great for stress relief to be there. I pray and meditate a lot when I am in my garden.”

The rabbit she has named Sugar Ray Leonard is a little more than a year old. He has ballooned from the size of a small mouse to weigh ten pounds. His female companion, Trina, weighs a whopping 18 pounds. Trina gave birth to 12 baby rabbits this past Monday.

Sugar Ray and Trina are a load to handle, but their babies are gentle and love to be cuddled. Lanett seniors loved holding them. They took turns hugging each one.

“I love my rabbits,” Mrs. Banks said. “They are my babies.”

She offered to bring some garden-grown vegetables to the senior center when they are ready for picking.

Banks keeps Sugar Ray in a big cage and the baby rabbits in a smaller one. She took them on a visit to Valley Haven School in the morning and made it to the senior center by 11 a.m.

According to the American Rabbit Breeders Association, there are five primary varieties of the New Zealand Rabbit. They are classified by their color. Some are white, some red, some are black, others bluish gray and some white and light brown. The breed is native to California and has been known by that name since 1916. American breeders combined such rabbit breeds as the Flemish Giant, Golden Fawn and Belgian hare to produce the first New Zealand rabbits. Because of their fine flyback fur and their high feed-to-meat ratio, they are among the most popular commercial rabbit breeds.

New Zealand rabbits are gentle, docile and hardy. Good health and temperament make them a favorite for lab work. The New Zealand white rabbit is ideal for testing beauty products.

As the Banks family and Lanett seniors know, they make great pets, too.