The Well Kept Rabbit is a small animal bakery and boutique that specializes in all-natural herbal forages and handmade treats. It is also home to the original Hop n’ Flops. Partners in life and business, founders Anna Ehredt and Robert Bowman live with their adopted rabbits and a cat named Kitten in North Carolina.
The Well Kept Rabbit was previously featured in 10 Bunny Owners & Their Bunny-Inspired Businesses.
This article is dedicated to Buster the lovebug and one little black rabbit, Jujube.
In the wild, rabbits have a very wide range of delicious, nutritious offerings from earth to consume. For domestic house rabbits, it’s up to us humans to provide such enrichment for them. Not everyone has the option of going out into their yard to harvest fresh, chemical-free herbs, flowers and roots for their bunnies, especially those in RDHV outbreak states. Dried herbs offer an appealing alternative when fresh herbs are not available or hard to come by.Anna Ehredt, HRS educator. Extract from House Rabbit Journal article, Summer 2020.
The first idea for a pet-oriented business came to Anna in August 2018. While working part-time to decompress from a former high-pressure job, she began making fun products for her rabbits and listed the items on Etsy for sale.
“I think it’s a lot of people’s beginning of their stories – the ‘just kind of see what happens’,” she says. “I have always wanted to create. I love art and making things with my hands. Robert’s similar too. So it was an outlet for our creativity to blossom.” And so, The Well Kept Rabbit started in their humble 650-square-feet home.
Having worked as a naturopathic clinic manager for several years, her strength naturally lies in organization and herb research when it comes to the business side of their bunny bakery. On the other hand, Robert’s years of restaurant experience contributed greatly to production procedures.
“We do everything up to the standard of a restaurant in the US, which makes the production process safer and cleaner,” he says. He also credits his skills to a childhood of observing his father’s business, which he describes as “learning by absorption and osmosis.”
About 6 months later, Anna managed to quit both part-time jobs to run The Well Kept Rabbit full-time. Robert joined her at the 9th-month mark.
Enriching, Healing Herbs
Where large companies like Oxbow sell tablet supplements, a significant highlight of The Well Kept Rabbit is its emphasis on herb mixtures. The aim is to improve both the physical and mental wellness of the animal. Such an approach is rarely found in commercial products targeted at small pets.
Anna began experimenting with herb blends because of Small Pet Select: “I wanted to make health-focused blends they didn’t have, so I came up with the 6 main core supportive groups: anxiety, digestive, molt, urinary, immune, pain and inflammation support.”
“I always believe herbs have very powerful healing properties,” she says. “They can be a gentler and proactive approach to health because they prevent problems rather than attempt to treat issues with a bandaid.”
“Herbs also encourage natural behavior like foraging. They’re another form of enrichment and healthy stimulation for our rabbits throughout the day. Imagine that you’re out in this beautiful garden. You got all these different herbs and flowers to stimulate your smell and taste. That’s what I imagine happening every time we give them these herbs.”
As herbs are free (or very low) in sugar and fat, Anna says that they also make an excellent snack and serve as an alternative to sweet treats.
To determine which herbs were safe for rabbits, the resources used include scientific journals as well as publications on rabbit health, wellness, and diet, all of which are reviewed by veterinarians and rabbit experts.
“I have a whole Google Sheets document where I lay out every single herb,” Anna says. “Its Latin name, intended use … Then I source where I have found that information.” The document is a tough undertaking, a compilation of invaluable information compiled over months and years—her magnum opus on herbs.
After completing the herbal forage line, she began creating rounded treats called poppers that would correlate with each blend. The poppers remain one of their bestselling products.
As rabbits come in different breeds and sizes and therefore grow at different rates, the general recommendation is to give herbs when they’re around 6 months old. For owners who are new to herbs, Anna suggests that The Well Kept Rabbit’s sampler kit is a good place to start.
“There are several types of herbs and they’re packed in these little recyclable packets. It’s the perfect size for people to try them out slowly, one by one, for their rabbits,” she says.
Anna and Robert once considered growing their own herbs to meet supply: “Our neighbor had a garden. There was a brief window of time where we grew some of the herbs there. That was the plan: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to grow all of this?’ But it’s just not feasible,” Robert reflects with a chuckle.
Even though they’re sourcing from an external party, they ensure that the herbs are organic, fair trade, grown and harvested sustainability. One of their current suppliers is Mountain Rose Herbs, a zero waste certified company.
Family-Made Hop n’ Flops
The Hop n’ Flop is an adorable mattress for small animals. It has two bolster-like cushions sewn on either side. Anna expressed that the creation of the bed started with one of her rabbits, Delilah, who kept “flopping between her two pillows every night.”
“So I asked my mum, who’s an amazing seamstress, if she could make something so I don’t have to lay these two pillows out every night for this princess.”
Anna’s mother, lovingly nicknamed “Bunny Grandma”, went on to make the first iteration of the Hop n’ Flop. The first bed was smaller but already similar to its current design. When Anna started posting about the bunny bed on social media, interested buyers soon trickled in.
“People would see Delilah flopping in it. They would see Symphony flopping in it. Eventually, we had people asking if we were going to start selling them. We listed them, we got sales, and it just snowballed like the treats!”
The Hop n’ Flop was initially created as a comfy bed for rabbits to burrow and lounge in, but its design became unexpectedly useful for those with special needs as well.
“Many owners who have head-tilt buns found that it was a supportive bed that would help their rabbits, especially with their balance issues. It’s been a wonderful surprise to see how helpful they’ve been for those special bunnies!”
Anna further shares that the production of the handmade Hop n’ Flops is a family activity.
“My Grandma does these enrichment mats, which she loves doing and she’ll get mad if anyone else does it,” she laughs. “My little brother learned from my mum and he helps with the sewing and packing … There are days where my stepdad is helping to stuff beds. Or when my sister is home from college, she’ll be stuffing the beds.”
“Obviously you get into the grind and you’re just working and working. But every so often, I take a moment to step back and take a mental photograph of these moments.”
“All these bunnies, all over the world are now laying in a Hop n’ Flop that’s been made by my mum, my grandma and my brother. They’re also eating the treats that we roll or cut out by hand. It’s really special and emotional,” she says.
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The Biggest Challenge
In 2021, The Well Kept Rabbit reached its third year of business. When asked what the biggest challenge was, the couple shared that it was the level of work involved, especially when it was just the two of them.
“There were nights where we were up until 4 am, working to make sure that things got out the next day,” Robert says.
“We definitely hit these thresholds where it’s like: ‘Okay, we can stay up till 3 in the morning and get everything done by ourselves.’ But that’s only for an amount of time until we burn out. So, we needed to know when to add another person,” Anna says. The couple now has two additional team members and acquired a workshop.
Through various challenges and learning experiences to improve their work process, they also share some amusing stories when making their signature treats.
“We have these carrot biscuits with green tops,” Anna gives an example. “In the very beginning, I made an orange dough, cut a full carrot out from that, but cut off the carrot’s top. Next, I’d make a green dough, cut a carrot out, but this time cutting off its bottom.”
“With the orange bottom and green top, I’d put them together. Every single carrot, I’d do that until one day, I realized I can make the orange carrots and simply pipe on the green tops using a piping bag! Like an icing. When I look back on that, I can’t believe I spent so much time on these carrots to make them have green tops!” she chuckles in good humor.
“Also Halloween, the first year we used to sell these pumpkin poppers and they’re very popular,” Robert adds. “I don’t think we slept for a week. We were up all night with those little tiny poppers. Poking a little hole with an instrument on the top, then taking a piece of dandelion root and putting that in there. We did that thousands and thousands of times … We were almost losing our minds,” he laughs at the memory.
“We’ve been working on techniques to increase production,” he continues. “Currently, Anna and the other bakers make as many treats as they can in a week. We list them for sale, first come first serve, but we noticed they’ve been selling out faster. In the new year, we’ll definitely make more available for our customers.”
What’s Ahead for The Well Kept Rabbit
The Well Kept Rabbit recently moved from Etsy to have its own website. As a House Rabbit Society educator, Anna hopes to contribute more towards the welfare of rabbits by writing blog posts for her website.
“I hope to build the educational portion so it’ll be a one-stop-shop. People can feel, ‘I get my treats, herbs, and toys here but this is where I also go to reference anything that has to do with rabbit care and health.
“We also have talked about the idea of a podcast but we’ll need more time. We’ll see how it goes!”
The couple also started a donation feature on the site: “People can donate with their purchases to our current quarterly rescue. Then we’ll also donate a big ol’ box of Hop n’ Flops to that rescue. We already donated once to the House Rabbit Society in California and another rescue,” Anna says.
There are a few other projects on the horizon as well.
“On the Hop n’ Flops, we’re currently working on a hay sack which you can hang onto an x-pen to keep the hay contained and your bunny’s space cleaner. Bunny Grandma has been working on that, so we hope to release that soon.”
“We have also sent off almost all of our products for guaranteed analysis, which is huge because small online sellers rarely do that,” Anna says.
“The Department of Agriculture in North Carolina oversees rabbit feed, so it’s an assurance to the customer that they can look at the back label and know what they’re getting,” Robert explains. “That’s a promise because it’s regulated, meaning we’ll get in trouble if we lie to our customers.”
“It’s all part of our commitment to making sure that everything we make and provide is consistent,” Anna continues. “The only other companies that you see are the main big ones that make treats, so we’re very excited to offer that pretty soon.”
“The past several years have been so wonderful and so exhausting, as any small business owner would understand. It’s amazing that we’re able to be our own bosses and control our world in this sense, though a lot of times, we work 24/7 and it can get crazy,” they reflect, smiling. “But we wouldn’t change anything.”
Featured image by Courtney Armistead. All photographs courtesy of The Well Kept Rabbit, unless otherwise specified.