A Sad Bunny tale…

Our two female rabbits were due to have babies on Memorial day weekend (about May 27th).  We moved the rabbits to their outside cages around May 21st, for the summer.  Marigold, my usually skittish bunny, immediately started pulling fur once she was out there (we gave them both nest boxes when they were moved.).  Petunia didn’t pull any fur at all even when they were due.

Marigold became less skittish while outside, which is really strange – I figure maybe because they don’t see the dogs anymore – their cages inside were in our shed so the dogs would move through there sometimes.  Marigold had a litter of 11 babies on about the 27th of May – quite a lot, and it was her first litter. A couple days passed, and Petunia didn’t have any babies, so I thought maybe the pregnancy didn’t take – that had happened the month before when I attempted to breed them. I wasn’t sure what to do, but just figured I would wait.

On May 30th, Petunia had 6 or 7 babies – we found them and they were either killed by her or stillborn.  We thought maybe she had been spooked by something outside, or something. Later that day, we went out to feed the rabbits and she had died. I’m not sure what was wrong with her, but I read that sometimes they can get a baby stuck and then go septic really fast.  That is possibly what happened.

Marigold has been a decent mother, but we still lost many of her babies. We had a bit of a cold snap over the first few days of June, like in the 40s at night, and here and there we’d find a dead baby bunny – it looks like one would get separated from the group of them and get cold.  I have been making sure they are covered up with fur and all together in a group, but we still lost a lot of them.  We are now down to three babies.  She has been really good at feeding them though, since those three are all growing really well.  So at least we still have the dad, Buddy, and Marigold and her three babies.

Here are the three babies and their mama, Marigold:

It is a sad tale, but the remaining rabbits are all doing well so it has a somewhat happy ending.

 

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A Nice Autumn Day

It was a bit chilly today, but the sun was out.  We have had colder temperatures lately, and the garden is mostly done. We had a couple of watermelons that just were not growing anymore.  My son asked if he could pick them today, so I said yes. I figured they weren’t ripe, but when we cut into the largest one (the one we’d set up a sling for, from previous posts), it actually had some pink to it. And it was surprisingly sweet tasting. So this was our first ever successful watermelon:

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Our watermelon, cut up.

For some reason (maybe the sunshine), I got the bright idea to let the chickens and ducks out of their run today.  We have had so much rain, and it rains so often, that we just haven’t gotten a chance to mow our lawn in the last couple weeks.  So I thought, since they’ll eat grass, and they’re hanging around in a semi-wet / muddy run, maybe they’d like to hang out in the yard for the day.  It wasn’t that unwise, I suppose.  It was just a cluster trying to get them back in. They wanted to hang out in the woods, and they found the sand pile for some much-needed dust baths, and didn’t want to give that up so easily.  They didn’t really do much “mowing” for us, but they enjoyed themselves. We got some good pictures:

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The slow spillage into the yard. We just left the door wide open – it didn’t take them very long to figure it out.
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Here they are, wandering around. They don’t usually stray too far from their home.
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Here they are near the sand pile.
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Basking in the sun.
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The ducks had fun too. They rooted around a bit – you can see one of them has a huge mudpile on her bill. I tried to catch her to clean that off but she was not cooperative. It came off later.
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Here is the General with some of his older-hen harem. They were weeding / de-bugging the strawberry patch.

We also moved the adult rabbits to their winter home, inside our entrance shed/mud room.  We got some new cages, and my husband has been putting them together and setting them up for us.  Last winter was really hard with our old setup, so we wanted to make it easier this year. Here are photos:

rabbit-cages
Here is the setup in our shed. They are all about chest high. We had to make sure they are taller than our dogs’ noses.
wind-day
Here is wind (now “Day” – we somehow changed their names in recent weeks).
fire-night
Here is Fire (her name is now “night”)
buddy
Here is Buddy (he was Earth).

The cages are pretty nice, we got them from KW Cages. They have a slide-out tray for easy cleanup, which should make it really nice. The rabbits are getting settled in – they weren’t so sure at first but  they seem to be relaxing more tonight. We have a gate to the shed, so we can keep the nosy dogs out (Especially Atat, who is almost as tall as the cages, and very curious).  I think this will work well for winter.  We’ll get them set up outside again in spring.

Tiny bunnies

We have a lot of tiny bunnies – 13 at the moment (11 with Wind, our white rabbit, and two with Fire, our black rabbit). They are growing pretty quickly, and they are so cute.

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Our tiny bunnies

There’s a space behind the doors of Buddy/Earth (the dad) and Wind’s cage, and her babies keep going over to visit.  At first I was worried that he’d hurt the babies, and then I realized that he was being nice to them.  He would lick/clean them, and they kept going over to visit.  But then he started getting too excited – actually looked like he was humping the air near them – so we are not letting them over there anymore.  If we find them over there we move them back with mom.  They will be moving into their own cage soon, once they are all weaned from her milk.

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Tiny bunnies with mama
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Here’s a gray one – he’s a bit bigger than everyone else.

 

Farming is hard sometimes

We currently have a lot of roosters. We had 3 adults, and I’m not yet sure how many up-and-comers from this year’s hatches.  I really wasn’t noticing the crowing, until last week my neighbor said something – he mentioned that the roosters were getting a bit annoying.  His mentioning it made me notice it, of course.  So I figured out who the worst offenders (at that time) were – it was mostly our older roosters Wonky Top and Splash, and one of our younger roosters from our first batch.  I thought about it and realized that the only reason I had kept so many was for breeding purposes, which have now been accomplished. I have 14 chicks that were all from my chickens, so my older roos have spread their genes.  We culled the three worst offenders, for now.  We were planning on taking out some of the younger ones anyway, but I hadn’t planned on Wonky and Splash (since we named them), so that was a bit hard.  We kept our best (and quietest) year-old rooster, General Dorko.

dorko
General Dorko, the Dorking rooster.

It has been quieter on the farm lately… or it was, until my silly little bantam roosters started crowing more.  They are very small so their crows are little (it sounds like a regular rooster sucked some helium first).  They are really tiny, so in terms of meat it would be a lot of work for not much payoff.  I think I may sell them along with the hen.  Her eggs are going to be small – the bantams were a bonus when I bought my hatching eggs anyway. They are cute, but not really what we’re trying to do here.

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Here’s one of my bantam roosters.
bantam roo 2
Here’s the other rooster
bantam hen
Here is the little hen

With all the harvesting we are having to do, I feel like I’m killing something every weekend.  Actually, I literally have been lately. I need to figure out timing for future years.  We did 5 rabbits a few weeks ago, then a duck (we skinned it instead of trying to mess with waxing / scalding – the meat was delicious). Then the three roosters last weekend.  And I have a backlog of “animals we need to cull soon” – ducks, chickens, and rabbits.  I have to do some rabbits later tonight.

Next year, we are not planning on hatching any chicks, so that will help.  We won’t have ducks, since we are going to take them all out this year, and we don’t plan on having them ever again since they are ridiculously messy.   The rabbits are relatively easy (no feathers to pluck) but it still sucks having to actually kill them.  And they are eating a lot, or at least this batch is – I don’t know if it’s the summer heat or what.  We were trying to decide whether to keep rabbits at all anymore, and I think that we will, at least one more year to see where we are at (if it’s actually saving us money or not). But I won’t breed them again this year, and I need a different schedule for next year – maybe a batch in spring, one in the fall, or something.  Summer seems too hard on the does. We will be retiring Fire (our black Rex doe), because this last litter was only 3 bunnies – I don’t know if something is wrong with her or not, but we will be taking one of the younger bunnies we have and raising it up to be a breeder. I’ll probably sell her to someone as a pet.

I enjoy farming, I just need to figure out a better balance in terms of timing.

A cure for hot bunnies

We had some really hot days last weekend.  My poor rabbits were not enjoying it – it was in the high 80s, low 90s, with high humidity.  I was trying to figure out what to do for them, when I remembered – we keep old milk jugs full of water in our chest freezer when we don’t have a lot of stuff in there; it helps to keep the freezer running more efficiently if it’s full. Luckily I had enough frozen milk jugs to put one milk jug in each cage.  The rabbits loved it, you could tell within a few minutes that it made them feel better. The babies were scratching at the jugs and licking them, and I noticed Fire had some frost on her mouth after she licked her milk jug.  Later that night, when it had cooled off, I pulled the jugs out.  I noticed they had chewed them a bit, but not enough to really hurt the rabbits. I did have to replace a few of the milk jugs. I tend to save them for different uses, so we have a lot laying around. This is a nice solution if you have rabbits that are not doing so well with the heat. Here are some pictures of my rabbits with their make-shift air conditioners:

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Wind with her milk jug.
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She looks a lot more content here.
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Here is Earth/Buddy and his milk jug.
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Here are some of the babies.
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You can see the white baby bunny is kind of climbing the milk jug. The babies really liked the cooling effect.

Somehow I didn’t get any pictures of Fire with her cooler.  You could probably use water bottles instead of milk jugs, although some water bottles have such thin plastic I’d be worried the rabbits would chew through it really quickly. The jugs are good because they take all day long (sometimes a couple of days) to thaw.

Bunnies growing up

Our baby bunnies are about a month old. I’ve noticed they have been drinking less and less from their moms, and eating more of their mothers’ food.  The moms, Wind and Fire, have been seeming like they’re starting to get a little tired of being crammed in with their children, so I moved the babies today. We have two extra hutch compartments, but one needs to have the door fixed, so I put them all in one side for now. We will fix that door soon and split them up when needed as they grow.

I was worried the two batches may not get along, but they are so young that they are pretty friendly with each other.  Here is everyone in their new / non-cramped housing:

bunnies 1
Here you can see the bunnies – Our white Californian, Wind, had white, gray, and white/gray bunnies.
bunnies 2
The brown ones are our Rex, Fire’s babies. Everyone has the same Dad – Earth, our American Chinchilla Rabbit.
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Some of the white bunnies have pink eyes like their mama.
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Here is Wind, relaxing in her much larger space.
fire
Here is Fire, looking for some treats (grass/dandelions), which she will get to enjoy all of, since she won’t have to share anymore.
earth buddy
Here is Earth (or Buddy – my son is attempting to change his name to this, but I still like Earth).

This is the first batch of our planned three for this year.  I’ll be breeding them again in the next couple days.  That way the females have a little break between each litter.  We won’t breed them in the wintertime.

Chicks and bunnies – updates

I counted our baby rabbits tonight.  Wind (our white Californian) had 10 live babies! Fire, our black Rex, had 7 total – 2 died the other day, but we counted 5 alive this evening. Wind’s babies are all different colors. Some are naked pink, some are black, and some are  spotted.

For the chicks – we are still mid-hatch, and we are up to 22 hatched out of 42.  I don’t see any more pipping at the moment, but from how this hatch has been going I’m not worried. Today was their due date, and they started hatching 2 days ago so I’m going to give any stragglers until Saturday night.  So far we’ve gotten 11 Marans, 5 Easter/olive eggers, three bantams and three from our home grown eggs.   Here are some updated pictures of our newest fuzzballs:

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Thoughts on Rabbit Harvesting

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Our rabbit kits

We raise our rabbits for meat.  We have three adults, and I got them this past fall so that we can have meat for our family.  One small step towards our greater goal of being food independent.  Although I would have preferred to wait until spring to breed our rabbits, one of the does was pregnant when I got them in late October.  That left us with 7 kits ready for harvest at the beginning of January.

The second week of January, I harvested four of the kits. They were 9 weeks old at that point.  I had been looking into what the most humane way of killing them would be – my parents raised rabbits when I was a kid, and my mom told me that they had always used a .22 pistol – it’s fast, easy on the rabbit since they feel nothing – it’s over in an instant.  That’s what we ended up doing.  A shot in the back of the head, and it’s over.  It was a lot easier than I thought.  It’s never easy to take an animal’s life, but I feel we did it in the most humane way.  I also thanked them each for their sacrifice to us before taking them.

The first four took me a couple of hours from start to finish – from culling to having meat ready.  I’m not going to go into detail here, but they are pretty easy to process – especially compared to chickens.  It is still quite a bit of work, and it was cold out that day, so I decided to wait to take the other three at a later date.  For the first four, we got about 6.5 lbs of meat – I weighed one beforehand, and it was about 4 lbs live weight.  I got 1.5 to 1.75 lbs of meat from each kit.

A couple weeks later I culled the other three.  I again got about 6 lbs of meat – they had grown a little more – one produced about 2 lbs of meat and the other two were just shy of 2 lbs each.  I’d heard that you want to harvest them from 8-10 weeks old, because beyond that you are losing out on efficiency in terms of a meat harvested to food spent ratio.  Also older rabbits tend to have a tougher meat texture.  The first four we did at 9 weeks, the other three were 11 weeks.

One thing that made this whole thing easier was that we had not handled the babies a lot – they weren’t very friendly. They saw us as food and water providers.  We try to pet the adults, our breeding stock, when we go out to feed them.  But our plans are not to cull them – someday when they aren’t good breeding stock we may have to rethink that.  I think in the summer the babies would get more handling, since it will be nice out and I’m sure my son will want to play with some.  It may get a little harder then.  But it’s kind of the same with our chickens. I’ve culled roosters that I really liked – I had reasons that they needed to be culled though – some were aggressive, or aggressive to hens.  It’s all part of farming, and processing your own food.  My son was interested in watching the harvest a bit, but did not participate at all. I always try to impart this lesson to him – “This is where our food comes from.  If you buy a chicken or other meat at the store, it had a life once, and someone else killed it.  At least we know our animals had the best life we could give them when they were alive.”

We are going to wait to breed the adults again until spring.  We aren’t planning on having any rabbit kits during the winter anymore.  Winter makes it harder to take care of everyone – water freezing, and me being worried they are cold – I don’t feel it’s fair to the does to make them have litters in the winter.  I’ve planned out a breeding schedule for summer, so we should be able to get about 3 litters from each of the two does throughout the warmer months.  I have an uncle that keeps saying we should get more.  I think that the adults we have are plenty for now.

 

Disgruntled Rabbits

I went out to feed the rabbits the other afternoon, and the door of my white bunny’s hutch fell off when I opened it.  I had to quickly figure out where to put her while I figured out her door.  We have a cage outside that we usually put them in while we clean their hutches, but it is currently covered in snow.  I was in a rush, so I thought, “oh, I’ll put her in with the black female, since they lived together before.”  That was a huge mistake.

They immediately started fighting – the black rabbit (her name is Fire) was not happy about the other one (Wind) being put in HER cage.  She attacked and I heard crazy squealing, and I quickly grabbed Wind out of there.  Phew.  There was rabbit fur everywhere.  Fire even bit me as I was pulling Wind out of her cage. Luckily nobody was hurt, but they did not seem very happy.

Here are the fighting rabbits:

fire the black rabbit
Fire, the angry bunny
wind the white bunny
Wind, the happy-to-be-out-of-Fire’s-cage bunny

I brought Wind into the house, and put her in a cat carrier while I went to look for the cordless drill to fix her door.  The piece of the door that the hinges were attached to had split at that spot from the weight of the door.  Poor rabbit – the dogs were trying to see what I was carrying around the house with me.  I was able to keep them away most of the time, but I’m sure she was not happy.  I found the drill, and then brought her outside with me to figure out her door.

I then realized that we have an empty hutch that I could have put her in in the first place.  The hutch that the babies are in is 2-sided. We enclosed the side that they are in, to block the cold winds and snow, but the other side is still there, just not enclosed.  I wouldn’t want to house her in there for very long, but it works in a pinch.  So if this ever happens again, I have that option.

At that point my husband heard me dealing with the mess, and came out to help me with the door.  We got it back on with a new larger hinge, and Wind is safely back in her hutch now.

I told my coworker about the rabbit fight.  She sent me the below video – I’ll have to get my chickens involved in crowd control in the future:

 

The runaway bunny

We had an escapee today.  Yesterday I moved the babies into their new home, which is on one side of the extra hutch. This morning I was heading out to feed the rabbits and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little fuzzy blur running away.  There was a loose spot where the door meets the floor of their cage, and I think he squeezed through there.  We spent most of the day trying to catch him.  We set up a cage on the ground with a water bottle and food, hoping he’d go in on his own when he got thirsty.

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The runaway bunny

We don’t have any snow right now, so he was happy munching on grass. The food in the cage was not as enticing as the grass.

the hiding spot
His favorite spot to hide was under the truck. I think he actually climbed up on the axles at one point. I was afraid he’d climb into the engine, but I don’t know if he’s agile enough to do that.
going to hide
Here he is running back under the truck on one of our many attempts throughout the day to catch him.

Our cat Wizard snuck out this morning and seemed like he was attempting to help me catch the bunny.  But he’d get up to the bunny and swat at it, so I think he just wanted to play with it.  Luckily he didn’t seem too intent on attacking it, which was what I thought he’d do.  He wasn’t very helpful though, so we made him go back inside, and were hoping the rabbit would go into the cage if the cat wasn’t there.  That didn’t work very well though. In the end we had to chase him into the cage. He did not want to be caught, but we got him. He’s now back with his brothers and sisters.

babies new home
Here are the babies in their new home.

I’ve fixed the loose spot in the hutch, so hopefully we won’t have a repeat of today. Oh, and I found out when moving them that we have 7 babies.