Animal control officers are trying to figure out why at least 19 domestic rabbits were living and breeding, unattended, in an aviary off White Road this week.

The rabbits were found Thursday at a rural Emerald City Way property, injured and malnourished alongside a pair of nesting geese, pigeons, doves and about 30 chickens, after a tip, according to Todd Stosuy of the county Animal Services Authority.

Two Rabbit Haven volunteers hopped to the task of rescuing 14 rabbits — a probably pregnant mother rabbit, her litter of day-old brood, four month-old bunnies and four male adults — from the enclosure Thursday.

“Each one we took out was worse than the one before, but the babies were cute as buttons,” Rabbit Haven volunteer Sherri Lynch said.

Animal control officers opened an investigation Friday into the bunnies’ care and who was responsible for them.

Animal neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and a County Jail sentence.

Officers were alerted to the ailing rabbits a week ago when a woman living at the property brought in an injured bunny that was later euthanized, Stosuy said.

An animal control officer visited the site Monday and found rabbits living in burrows dug into the aviary’s dirt floor.

On Thursday, Rabbit Haven volunteers found two dead rabbits — an adult female and a four-week old — inside the 800-square-foot enclosure.

“The timing was good and bad,” Lynch said. “We got the babies out, but we didn’t get there in time to save the other adult”

Stosuy said they were lucky there weren’t more rabbits in the aviary.

Rabbits breed every 28 days and can have litters as large as 12, according to Heather Bechtel, director of Scotts Valley-based Rabbit Haven. The mother rabbit, a little chocolate-brown lop, had given birth to a litter of seven earlier this week and was probably already pregnant again, she said.

The adult males fought one another to breed with her, Lynch said. One had a serious eye injury and another had the top half-inch of his ears chewed off, she said.

“All the adults are covered in wounds, top to bottom,” Lynch said. “They battled”

In addition, the rabbits had not been properly fed, could only get water from a koi pond and were covered in bird feces from their feathered roommates roosting above.

“Our priority now is to get these guys medical care and get them into foster homes where there’s time and quiet and patience,” Lynch said. “I’ve seen hand-shy rabbits come around and become snuggle-bugs”

The bunnies were distributed to some of the 60 foster families Rabbit Haven uses to rehabilitate and socialize rescued rabbits.

The organization, started in 1987, puts rescued bunnies up for adoption and also offers classes about rabbit care in Scotts Valley and Watsonville.

“If we can help these bunnies heal, they’ll find homes,” she said.