For the past two years, 11-year-old Khelsea Welsh has been tending to a large colony of rabbits in a covered enclosure at her home in Clydesdale, Antigonish County.

CLYDESDALE: An 11-year-old in Antigonish County has gained a lot of experience caring for animals.

Khelsea Welsh was nine years old when she received her first pet rabbit. Two years later, she tends a colony of 32.

“I’d been begging for a rabbit for a while, and then one day I came home from school and my dad surprised me with one and his name was Oreo,” said Welsh.

Welsh said her sister also received a rabbit, which she began caring for as well. When the family decided to acquire two more rabbits including one female, Welsh kept and cared for the first set of babies. As her group of rabbits continued to grow, she began selling some of them as pets.

Caring for the animals is a big job for 11-year-old Welsh. She keeps them in a covered, heated enclosure at her family’s home in Clydesdale, which had been used as a dog kennel by the home’s previous owners. She visits them at least twice a day to brush them and give them food and water. She says cold winter weather can be a challenge, so she checks her animals frequently to make sure that they are warm enough and their water doesn’t freeze.

She also makes sure that the animals are safe.

“My males fight,” said Welsh. “I usually have all my girls out and then my boys in cages.”

Khelsea Welsh visits her rabbits at least twice a day to handle them, feed them, and make sure they are warm enough.

Although raising the rabbits is hard work, Welsh enjoys caring for them.

“I love to pet them when I walk in. There’s a whole bunch of babies all over the ground and they’re really nice.”

Welsh said she currently has five baby rabbits she is feeding by hand. Her favourite animals are her first rabbit Oreo, who is now five years old, and her first rescue rabbit Daisy, who was found by the side of the road.

“Her owners abandoned her, and then somebody picked her up and was giving her away, so we picked her up,” said Welsh, adding that she hopes to rescue more animals in the future.

Caring for animals comes naturally to Welsh, whose family also has two cockatiels, two dogs, and a cat. Her mother, Melissa Welsh said her daughter developed her interest in animals early in life.

“She’s always loved animals, right from a little girl,” she said. “All of her bunnies are hand-held every day and they’re very friendly. We actually had a few people purchase them from us and they were quite happy with how tame and friendly they were.”

For Christmas, Welsh received a new heat lamp for the enclosure and a new watering dish. Although she receives some help from her parents, especially with cleaning the cages, Welsh has taken on the primary responsibility of caring for her rabbits.

“She does get some help from mommy and daddy at times, but for the most part, she’s been great at taking care of them,” said Welsh’s mother. “As for the food and water and brushing them and handling them, she is in charge of all that.”

Although she enjoys taking care of her animals, Welsh advises anyone who wants to raise a rabbit to be prepared for the responsibility.

“They’re harder than you think…” she added.

Khelsea Welsh currently has five baby rabbits she is feeding by hand.