24 Carrot Rabbitry

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Category : Rabbits

Handfeeding Baby Rabbits

Squeak, one of our does, had trouble producing enough milk for one of her litters.  She hadn’t had any trouble before, and I don’t know why she had trouble that time, but she did.  My helpful friends at RabbitTalk advised me to give her some rolled oats (old-fashioned plain oatmeal) lightly coated in blackstrap molasses.  Blackstrap contains many nutrients, and can help a doe produce the milk her babies need.

It did indeed help, but she still didn’t produce enough.  So I started looking up recipes for baby bunny formula.

I found several.  The ones I came across first involved using canned evaporated goat’s milk, and then mixing it with water, syrup, and egg.  I found in some forums, however, advice regarding powdered goat’s milk for rabbits — to mix it at double strength.  Baby rabbits drink so very little.  Their mother’s milk is very rich, to give them all the nutrition they need in a very small amount.  There were remarks that the kits raised on the formula with the water grew up looking malnourished, so I figured maybe that was the reason.

Evaporated goat’s milk is already double strength, so I took the formula recipe I had, cut it in half so I wouldn’t have as much waste, and eliminated the water.  This is what I ended up with:

1/2 Cup evaporated goat’s milk
1 egg yolk (kinda hard to cut in half, so…)
1/2 Tablespoon corn syrup

Cow’s milk is not as easily digested as goat’s milk, so that’s why most recipes suggest goat’s milk.

I poured a little into a small bowl, and then microwaved it for 5 seconds at a time, stirring it well with a fork each time I stopped the microwave, until it was really warm — a little too warm for the bunnies, because by the time I’ve stirred it the last time, taken it to the table, and filled an eyedropper, it’s cooled to just about the right temperature.

I fed it to them with an eyedropper, only about half a drop to a whole drop at a time. Handfeeding babies takes a while, but I don't want them to aspirate the formula. The divided upper lip rabbits have makes it especially easy for the formula to travel to the nose. We were always ready with a towel to quickly dry their little noses. They don't make much noise when they get their noses full of formula. They just suddenly start opening their mouths and moving their heads around. Sometimes they'll produce the quietest sneeze you can imagine.

Some of the babies were very receptive right from the start, and very eager to drink the formula. Others took a while to get past the fact that this HARD GLASS THING IS TOUCHING MY LIPS! Once they realized that hard glass thing had yummy food in it, though, they were fine with it.

I fed them about two half-droppers before they zonked out.  They didn’t look as full as they would with a full feeding from Squeak, but I was only trying to supplement her, not replace her.  As they grew, I increased the amount.

Then we discovered that one of Squeak’s ten babies (about 4-5 days old) was missing. After looking as well as we could on the chutes and around in the dark, we called it quits and hoped he had burrowed into a pile of dropped hay we had let grow too large. The next day, we started pulling the hay out slowly, and, sure enough, he was in there, alive and frantic! He was pretty warm, thanks to all the hay and the fact that this litter managed to fur out early. He was hard to hold, he was so desperately searching for food! So we gave him a formula feeding, too.

Hungry, hungry baby bunny sucking on his toes!

"Stop taking pictures and feed me... I'm about to dry up and blow away here!"

ILoveBunnies commented that the formula looks like egg nog. I started thinking… double-strength milk, egg yolk, sugar… it basically IS egg nog!  Guess I’d better hold the nutmeg, though.

One of my more resistant popples, finally won over by the formula.

Look at the little tiny teeth! We had to hold this one's head until he realized he was getting fed.

One of the two babies that did stuff himself on the formula. They both started looking like toads with wide, flat bellies. That's when I learned that you can overfeed them, and it will cause their organs to shut down. The other one died, but I withheld a couple of feedings from this one, and then limited his intake after that.

A couple of them got really messy!

I realized that it wasn't always the same ones that were smallest, and I wanted to keep track of the ones I had started supplementing, to see how they did in comparison. I took some enamel (I can't remember if it was nail polish or some of Shay's train enamel), and marked the backs of the ones I had started out with.

Now they would stand out from their littermates!

The enamel stayed on for a couple of weeks, long enough for me to see that the supplementing ultimately helped them catch up to the others. When butchering day came, they were all almost the same size.

Here’s a video of three of them at three weeks, not long before I stopped supplementing them (it’s at Vimeo, which I’m new to, so hopefully it works).  Enjoy — it is pretty funny:

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vimeo DirektHand Feeding Baby Bunnies

Here’s a link to the video:  https://vimeo.com/46203530

The New 24-Carrot Bunny!

Last weekend, we went to a rabbit show, with the purpose of buying a doe to replace Pearl.  I know, I know… why would I be buying a rabbit when I’m getting ready to move?  Well, there are several reasons.

One, I will have enough time from bringing her home to moving her to a new location so that she should not be doubly stressed out.  Two, I wanted to have a bunny in hand before trying to learn a new area and who I could get rabbits from.  Three, it helps bring some excitement to two kids who can use it, considering all the packing we’re doing.

So, without further ado, here’s our new 24-Carrot bunny rabbit:

Looking around from the safety of her carrier.

She's a Chocolate Californian. I love chocolate. <3

From above. She's not a "perfect" bun, but she's plenty perfect enough for me. You can see how her shoulders are nearly as wide as her hindquarters. I actually did not want a "perfect" doe, because I have a mutt rabbitry. I would feel like I was stifling the potential of a really superb rabbit. For me, good is good enough (and actually preferable), and this is a good doe.

Her name is “Yuki”, pronounced /YOO-kee/.  It’s Japanese for “snow”.  ILoveBunnies and Bunny-Wan Kenobi brainstormed for her name, and came up with that one, since they both are working on learning Japanese.  We think it sounds cute and fits her.

She’s 15 weeks old now, but she was 14 weeks when we bought her.  When we got her home and weighed her, she was 4 lbs, 15 oz — a little lighter than I had hoped she was, but we’ll see how she does.  Californians are bred for meat because of their high meat:bone ratio, and for their fast growout time — they tend to reach around 5 pounds in 10 weeks.  Yuki apparently took 14 weeks to get there.

Still, we don’t know if she was on measured feed or not.  Many meat rabbit raisers don’t put their growout rabbits on measured feed, because they want them to grow as quickly as possible.  We’ll see how her kits do, though we’ll never know her full potential until Pinto one day kicks the bucket, and we have to get a “real” meat buck.  Since we are producing only for ourselves, she should work out perfectly.

None of us had ever been to a rabbit show.  We expected the rabbits for sale to have their own area, but they were all around the rabbits being shown; it was nuts! The show was not nearly the size I expected. There was one guy there with champagne d’argents that were just amazing. He knew it, too, and was all too eager to go on and on about them. Once I learned they were grand champions, from lines of grand champions, I really wasn’t interested (think $$$$$). Then he said he didn’t sell rabbits, so I was even less interested. Then… I learned that he bred his champagnes to have litter sizes of only 2 – 4, so the rabbits would be larger! I’m like DUDE… weren’t they supposed to be a meat breed? Breeding for a small litter size kinda defeats that purpose! :roll: But he’s concerned only about size, because he breeds strictly for show.

I wasn’t really impressed by this litter of Cals at first, but came back to them later. I thought it may have just been the way they were lying at the time.  They can fool you a bit once they get past 12 weeks or so, until they get a few more months on them.  So I started looking at the single doe in the lot of them, with another guy watching over my shoulder in case I decided not to buy.

With the owner’s permission, I pulled her out and put her in the classic “meatloaf” position, and, that way, she did look pretty well filled out to me. I looked at teeth, fur, eyes, ears, sexed her, and all that. She wasn’t as wide as I might have hoped, but she is also between the baby and adult stages, which means she should be better once she gets past that gangly, awkward teenager phase — yes, even rabbits go through that!  She came with a pedigree, which I really didn’t need, but it was really nice to be able to see some of the attributes of the line she came from.  I also got to see some of the senior does she’s related to. They were very, very nice! :P   She does come from a line that averages ~9.75 – 10 lbs.  If she ends up with the physique of those senior does I saw, I will be very happy!

So I decided to buy her, and the man who was also interested asked if he could take a look at her. I let him, and he started doing this gentle pinchy-pinchy-pinchy thing all up and down her back. I asked what he was doing, and he explained that he could basically tell what she would look like skinned that way, and he used one of the little bucks to contrast (the buck was better, even I could tell). He may or may not have bought the doe if I had not, but the doe was good enough, as was her brother (which he may have bought, I don’t know), that he was interested in future does from this seller.  This made me feel good about my appraisal of Yuki — it’s been three years since I needed to buy a rabbit, and that was my first purchase!

I got her for $15, which I thought was a very fair price for a non-showable (chocolate Cals aren’t recognized yet), young meat doe.

Now Yuki's in quarantine. This protects both her and our other rabbits from each other, while she settles in and recovers from the stress of transport, strange surroundings at a show, being handled by strangers, more transport, a new cage, and being cared for by strangers in a strange place.

Sometimes, stress will bring out illness in a rabbit.  Thus, it is very important to keep new rabbits in quarantine for 30 days before bringing them into your rabbitry.  If the rabbit becomes sick, you don’t risk making your entire herd sick.  Usually, a rabbit will transition just fine, though, and can join your bunny family after the 30 days are up.

For the first week, we tended to the rabbitry first, then washed up and tended to Yuki.  Now, we still tend to Yuki after the others, but we do not wash up first.  So she is slowly being exposed to the germs that are unique to our rabbitry.  Every rabbitry will have its own set of germs in it, and rabbits will do well if their immune systems can handle what’s there.

Eventually, we’ll start tending to Yuki first, then the rabbitry, so they can be exposed to her.  We’ll do this shortly before we put her into the rabbitry.

It was one of the ladies on RabbitTalk who told me that she’s a chocolate Californian, because she’s got brown points, rather than black.  I have a chocolate bunny!!!  I love chocolate.  Especially dark chocolate.  But I already said that.

*sigh* Well, back to packing.

Rabbitry Rehab

I cannot believe the massive quantities of pollen that are currently being spewed into the air by all the plants around here right now.  After a very mild winter (not quite as mild as last winter, but still), everything has just suddenly kicked into high gear.  Even the oaks are pollinating right now, and I’m sure it’s way early for that!

I was convinced I was coming down with a cold.  Allergies will sometimes give me a swollen, blistered throat in the morning, but it subsides during the day.  If I have a swollen, blistered throat that stays around, or begins to creep down into my bronchial tubes, I have a virus.

Or so I thought.

Three of us had the same symptoms, and we thought we were all getting sick.  Mom went to the doctor today.  Nope, not sick.  It’s allergies.  It’s all this pollen!  Ugh!

So in the midst of this pollen dump, it was time to refurbish the rabbitry.

Refurbish?  Already?  Isn’t the thing just over a year and a half old?

Well… yes.  But we had some flaws in our rabbitry that needed fixing.  I will say that I figured we’d get more than a year and a half out of the rabbitry before it would need an overhaul. But we have learned a few things.

1. Don’t use corrugated waste chutes, especially corrugated tin, if you do not have much clearance between the chutes and the bottoms of the cages. If you do, you will not be able to clean them well at all. If you use tin, it will rust quickly anywhere you are unable to clear the bunny berries that get regular doses of urine.

2. Don’t use 16-gauge floors. They bow between J-clips, and the whole floor bows, giving you even less cleaning clearance. We even had one wire break. We didn’t have problems just in growout cages, but even in the buck’s cage. It’s just not strong enough, unless maybe you’re raising dwarf rabbits.

3. Don’t have your top gutter come to the middle to drain. It makes reaching the cage below potentially very unpleasant.

4. Don’t use regular Bass J-clips. We ordered our cages from Bass (oddly, 14 gauge sides and top, 16 gauge floors — still trying to figure that one out), and they came with J-clips, which we used to assemble the cages. These clips are way too weak. They would fail occasionally, and we once had a bun get loose because three of them failed. She could have gotten hurt, or it could have happened with a litter of babies in the cage. The instructions said to put them at 6″ intervals.  Shay put them every 5″.  Still, the floors sagged and the clips failed.  If the clip is weak enough for a 10-year-old with a pair of pliers to yank off in less than ten seconds, you need stronger clips.

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5. Once you have good J-clips, you will suddenly find you want a better J-clip tool, and you will suddenly realize why you need a set of J-clip removal pliers.

So it was time to correct the flaws.

Woody’s Wabbits sells cages with 14 gauge floors for just a couple dollars more.  I just didn’t know that at the time.  The floors began sagging pretty quickly, both overall and at the edges, between the J-clips.

I ordered replacement 14 gauge floor panels, heavy stainless steel J-clips, and floor supports from Klubertanz.  I ordered precut panels, because I can’t seem to make more than 5 cuts on 14 gauge wire before my hands start begging for mercy (I can cut 16 gauge wire all day).  I also didn’t want to ask Shay to do all that cutting.

 

16 gauge 1"x1/2" floor wire at left. The same wire in 14 gauge at right. The 14 gauge is much, much stronger.

I burned the cage floors with Shay’s torch to sterilize them, and then we pulled out all the 16-gauge floors. ILoveBunnies and Bunny-Wan Kenobi were responsible for this. Once ILoveBunnies began putting a new floor on Pinto’s cage with the new, hefty stainless steel J-clips from Klubertanz (very impressive things), all floor removal went to Bunny-Wan Kenobi.

I had heard on RabbitTalk about the nightmare of removing J-clips… that it was nigh unto impossible without the special removal pliers. I wasn’t sure why it should be so hard. Sure enough, I set the kids up with an array of tools to choose from, and within just a few minutes, they had perfected a fast removal technique. What was all the fuss about? Were my kids really putting to shame a forum full of experienced cage-building adults? It sure seemed like it.

ILoveBunnies grasps a J-clip and rotates it to find the end.

With the clip end up, she approaches the clip again.

She grasps the clip end and pulls it back.

She continues to pull back, twisting if needed. You can see the clip is quite open now.

And she's done! Less than 10 seconds have elapsed. Actually, I had her do it extra-slowly so I could take pictures. I ended up taking them over two clips, because she still did them too fast!

Both of the kids could do it in less than 10 seconds. Once Pinto’s cage had the floor off, ILoveBunnies started putting the new one on. Suddenly, it was very clear why all the talk about J-clips being such a pain! These things were strong!!! Now it was abundantly clear that the regular Bass clips were not desirable at all in cage flooring.  It was also clear that if I ever needed to remove these new clips, I was going to need that removal tool!

With the kids working on the cages, Shay began on the waste chutes and gutters.  First, he pulled out all the corrugated metal.  This was a pain, and he finally resorted to hammering them off from below — which, of course, sent all kinds of dried *ahem* stuff into the air.  He probably should have worn a dust mask.  Yuck.

(Over the course of the rest of the day, Shay gashed his hands on leftover slivers of metal from the old chutes.  We would dash inside, clean it, dress it, and dash back out.  We needed to have the rabbits back in the rabbitry before dusk, when the mosquitoes suddenly all come after you at once!)

Once the old chutes and gutters were out, it was time to install the new ones.  For chutes, I had bought 10mm Coroplast 4′x8′ sheets from a local sign company for $26 per sheet, three sheets total.  They cut the sheets in half for me.  We bought some vinyl gutters both for gutters and for diverters.

The diverters keep waste away from the wood frame. Shay cut the front off of a piece of gutter, to make a piece of vinyl flashing. Here is a diverter after it was affixed with the correct angle.

Shay ended up removing them, and reattaching them as he installed the chutes.  Don’t know why, but his usually flawless math failed him somewhat, causing him to cut to fit instead of cutting off a calculated triangle.

Close-up of a diverter.

 

An end diverter.

While Shay wrangled with diverters, Coroplast, triangles, and numbers, I spread pelletized lime under the rabbitry.

I spread 4 20-pound bags of lime with a garden rake. It'll help keep smell down, and hopefully create a hostile environment under there.

 

The new chute material going in. Like I said before, Shay had to take the diverters back out, and install them with the chutes. You can see that the top corner of this diverter has not been pulled all the way up so the ends can be screwed to the post.

A view from the west end of the rabbitry. You can see that the diverter has been pulled up and secured.

After the chutes were on, Shay installed the new vinyl gutter. To get maximum angle, he sliced off some of the top edge of the back of the gutter on the high end, so he could raise it higher.

I came behind and caulked with clear silicone. It's only been, say... almost 20 years since I caulked? It's true that the caulk would not have the proper curing time before we set the rabbits over it, but Shay figured it would be okay anyway. It is.

The opposite end of the gutter. We had to use a joiner to extend it another couple of feet, then a corner to direct it over a bucket. I caulked all around the joiner and everything. We do get some urine that sits there, but it's easy to remove.

Meanwhile, ILoveBunnies cuts the old floors into baby-saver wire strips (then realizes she's cutting 3", instead of 4"). We have had quite a few baby bunny escapes, so we knew we needed to put some closer wire on the does' cages. These strips will be attached to the outside bottom edges of the cages with the old, unused Bass J-clips, since they don't need to bear weight.

Bunny-Wan Kenobi bends over the ends of the baby-saver wire where it crosses under the doorway. This will keep us from cutting ourselves when we reach into a cage.

Keep going, Bunny-Wan Kenobi! You're getting there!

With the baby-saver wire on, it was time to install the floor supports (also called "floor spreaders") I had bought to help ensure that the floors would not sag. Unfortunately, there were no instructions with them or online anywhere, so I emailed them.

First, I took pliers and bent the tab out a bit, to make it easier to wrap around the cage edge.

I slid the tab behind the baby-saver wire, so that it would go around only the edges of the side and the floor. The tabs weren't long enough to go around all three securely. Sometimes, I could reach inside the cage with pliers and help bend it through, but mostly I just pushed on it from outside with the pliers. Some things there just isn't a tool for.

The instructions from Klubertanz told me to "crimp" the tab firmly to the cage floor, but there was no floor wire close enough to clamp it to. Instead, I pulled out my J-clip pliers, and clamped it with that. It bent the tab all the way around, so that it almost met itself. Maybe that's what they meant.

A view of a tab from the inside, after being clamped with the J-clip pliers. That should be secure.

Another view of a tab. The J-clip to the right is supporting the floor, while the one to the left is holding baby-saver wire. I added more J-clips to the floor edge after installing the floor support.

An entire floor support, front to back. I also took the opportunity to use needlenose pliers to further bend the long baby-saver wire ends that curl around the doorway. Don't want any injured bunnies!

Fluffy and Nibbles settle back in after the day's upheaval. We didn't get the baby-saver and floor supports finished that day, so we did them a few days later.

Fluffy eyes me warily... she's had enough excitement today! I'm not taking her out again, am I? No, I'm not. Not today, anyway.

Squeak heads immediately for the farthest corner. She's glad to be back home!

Pinto doesn't care, he's investigating the camera.

East end of the rabbitry. Top is Pinto, bottom is Fluffy and Nibbles.

The middle of the rabbitry. A growout cage is at top, while Squeak is below. No longer does the top gutter split and drain over her cage! The bottom gutter still splits there in the middle, though, and drains into a pan.

The west end of the rabbitry. Thumper is at top left, and another growout cage goes to the right. Below is where the third doe cage goes. It was Pearl's cage before she died.

Pinto checks out another disturbance coming from just outside his cage. What's going on? He's such a curious bun. He must find out what's happening!

Yay! The visqueen is coming down! Winter's over, so it's time to let the breezes in! Pinto is beside himself.

And it’s done!  We bought a couple of heavy-duty squeegee heads, and a long handle.  Shay cut the handle in half, and put the squeegees on the two parts.  Time will tell how well this works, but I think it will be great! :)

Making do when you run out of rabbit food

I do try to make sure I’ve got rabbit pellets on hand.  They may not be the best, but I feed Purina Complete pellets, and I buy it in 50-lb. bags, usually two at a time.  As far as I’ve been able to see, they’re the closest feed store to me — I don’t count places like Petsmart, which tend to have pretty junky rabbit food that contains a good amount of corn (think about your kids dumping a half a cup of sugar on their cereal in the morning).

Now and then, though, I just don’t get there before I run out.  This is rare, but it does happen.  The store is about a half-hour away… not unreasonable, but sometimes, I just can’t make it.  Such was the case last week, when I called to make sure they had rabbit food in stock before going.  They did, but they were closing, because it was New Year’s weekend.  Okay!

I almost made it.  If something unexpected hadn’t come up Monday, I’d have made it.  But I didn’t, so, when I went to feed the bunnies Monday night, I had to improvise.

A mixture of plain rolled oats (old fashioned, regular kitchen oatmeal) and white winter wheat berries.

It isn’t hard to make do, actually.  Rabbits can eat lots of things we can.  The wheat I had bought at Whole Foods for just such an emergency, at $.99/lb.  For sure, this is more expensive than bunny pellets, but I don’t have a lot of rabbits, and this is just for getting by.  I had the oatmeal on hand, so I just mixed some up and put it out in the feeders.

Some rabbits welcome a change now and then, and others don’t.  Fluffy and Nibbles weren’t interested in what I offered, and scratched all the food out of the feeder in search of pellets.  All the others ate it, though.

Other times, I have given them BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds), or even birdseed.  Birdseed is nothing but a mixture of grains and other seeds.  Birdseed and BOSS are both very nutritious.

Tuesday, I made it to the feed store, and everybunny’s happy again.

Battening down the hutches

Well, I was hoping we’d get our last meat litter of the year butchered today.  Then, I realized that the temperatures were finally going to drop enough to warrant enclosing the rabbitry.  50s during the day and 30s at night all this coming week.  So, after Bible study and a nice rest, we grabbed the visqueen and got to it.

Last year, Shay tried just stapling the visqueen up, but the breezes started pulling it off pretty quickly. We started pulling the staples out of leftover lattice, which he then nailed over the edges of the plastic. This year, we ran over to Home Depot for another, easier option.

This year, the visqueen is held in place by plastic-capped roofing nails. This should work out well, but we'll be keeping our eyes on it.

We did have enough daylight left to butcher the meat litter, but….. it started raining again.  Oh, well.  Next couple of weeks, maybe…

Aunt Nibbles

I was wondering how Nibbles and Fluffy were going to work things out once Fluffy had babies. Up until then, they’d have their spats now and then, like a pair of sisters, and then they’d be snuggled up together again. I think Nibbles tries to rearrange the pecking order occasionally, and Fluffy will patiently take her antics for a while, and then she will turn her hulking white figure around and remind Nibbles just how much bigger she is. Heehee!

But all sorts of things can happen when you have more than one doe in a cage or area, and one of them has a litter of popples. The new mother can get super defensive, and lash out at anyone who comes anywhere near (which, in a cage, would be anywhere in the cage!). I would have to remove Nibbles for her own safety.

Or the other doe (not the mother) could get jealous of the babies or feel threatened by them, and harm them. In this case, I would have to remove Nibbles for the safety of the babies.

But where to put Nibbles? I’m maxed out. I do have a kennel, but the spaces between the wires are too big. Cats, coons, etc. would be able to terrorize her, unless I put the kennel in the rabbitry. And I don’t have space for that.

So I left Nibbles in there, and watched.

Luckily, Fluffy kindled in the daytime, which isn’t terribly common among rabbits. So I was able to watch and see what would happen. When Fluffy was finished, she just lay down. Nibbles came and went, Nibbles got in with the kits to investigate, and no rise from Fluffy at all. And it has stayed that way.

In fact, Nibbles seems to be more concerned about and more protective of the babies than Fluffy is, like an overbearing aunt. Fluffy is laid back, “Hey, I feed them twice a day, they’re fine.”  Nibbles keeps looking in on them and worrying over them, and even gave me a warning bite once when I reached into the nest box to do a head count! (On the inside of my upper arm, too… OUCH!) Needless to say, I keep an eye on Nibbles when I’m messing with the babies. Pretty funny, since they’re not even her popples. But I’m very relieved to see that they are still okay to keep together, since I was worrying about cage space if they stopped getting along.

"Hey, Fluffy... are you sure you're feeding these guys enough? They're still so little!"

Fluffy’s First Babies! :)

Saturday was Day 31 for Fluffy, and she kindled that afternoon.  She had already been in hormonal pregnant rabbit mode, driving her cagemate Nibbles crazy.  Well, Nibbles hadn’t seen the half of it.

Saturday, Fluffy finally started pulling fur for her nest.  She covered the entire floor of the cage just about, and stuffed some in the nest box as well.  I did catch her pulling her fur in the cage, and then collecting it from the floor to put into the nest, but she left plenty of fur behind!

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Fluffy covered everything with white fur, including Nibbles, who kept worriedly nosing up to her.

Fluffy drops fur on Nibbles' head.

Once Fluffy had just about denuded her dewlap, and thinned out the fur on her belly, sides, and legs, she took a break.  Nibbles wasn’t sure what to expect next at this point.  Then, Fluffy hopped into the nestbox and started kindling (delivering her babies).  This just about freaked poor Nibbles out.  She got so worried about Fluffy!

"Fluffy? What's going on? What are you doing?"

"Fluffy? You okay? Fluffy? Fluffy?"

She anxiously crawled all over Fluffy, trying to see if everything was alright.  Finally, Fluffy was done, and Nibbles was confused.  She sat in the nestbox and sniffed at the babies, then turned around and sat there and looked at me.

Once Nibbles got out, ILoveBunnies noticed one of the babies wasn’t moving.  She pulled it out, and I tried a little to revive it.  But it was dead, and it seemed to have some sort of deformity to its chest cavity.  It is not uncommon for this to happen, but it was our first loss.

Later on, when we were sure Fluffy was indeed finished, we pulled out the nestbox to count the babies, check their health, and make sure the nest was clean and dry.  Fluffy had not cleaned up as well as Pearl and Squeak do, but she may get the hang of it better with future litters.  Even if not, all it takes is the removal of some hay and the replacement of it with fresh hay.  No big deal.

I found a clump of hay and fur in the bottom of the back of the box.  It was stuck together with some stuff from the birth, and, in it was another stillborn kit.  It was tiny, and apparently had not been fully developed.  This, also, is not uncommon.

I pulled out the newborn kits and handed them out to excited kids.

ILoveBunnies always goes for the dark ones, while Bunny-Wan Kenobi favors the spotted ones. My mom (top left) takes whichever ones come to her.

There were seven healthy, terribly wiggly babies! :)  So Fluffy delivered 9, a record for 24 Carrot Rabbitry, and 7 survived.  Very nicely done for a first-time doe!

Here’s the father of these kits:

 

Pinto, our working buck. Or, as Shay calls him, "Pinto the Barbarian". I love him because he gets the job done! We had to retire his father, who became too much of a gentleman. Pinto is pictured here at about 4 months of age.

Growing Bunnies in your Garden

Well, once we got our elevated garden bed built, it was time to plant.  So, what better to plant than rabbits! :)

It all started when the pest control people needed to come out and apply a new treatment they had for Formosan termites (Think regular termites are bad?  Look these critters up!).  I set this appointment up for a Monday, several weeks in advance, anticipating sending both litters of 6 to freezer camp the weekend right before.  As it happened, we spent that Saturday working on the elevated garden, and Sunday we mostly finished it.  Sunday evening, we butchered one of the litters, but not the other.

So then Monday morning was the termite treatment appointment.  The one problem with it was the wall that the rabbitry was built on.  I had to get the wall of the house, which was at the back of the rabbitry, as accessible as possible for the treatment, so we wouldn’t have an incomplete treatment.  You see, the three front posts of the rabbitry are set in concrete, and there is no way to remove the frame from which the cages are suspended from the rabbitry.

When the gentleman applying the treatment arrived, I requested that he treat that wall last, so I could do everything possible to give him access to it.  He was a really nice man, and we enjoyed chatting with him some near the end of the treatment.  But anyway, he agreed, but didn’t see that access would really be a problem.

So he went about treating the remainder of the house, and we continued the task we had started before he had arrived — removing the rabbits and their cages from the rabbitry.  Thank goodness we had taken care of the one litter, because this really would have been difficult with two litters of 6!

None of the trees in the back yard were leafing out yet, and I didn’t want to deal with bunny pee in the carport, so we were momentarily stuck as to where to put the rabbits.  Then, my mom suggested the new elevated garden.

Why, it was perfect!  Two feet high, give or take, so they would be safe.  The overhead structure was ideal for tying tarps to for shade.  And on grass… so no cement to clean up, and they could graze the day away. :)

The rabbit garden. This was the orientation for morning; later we changed the tarps so the northeastern corners were up.

Fluffy and Nibbles relax in the shade amongst the shreds of a box I gave them to play with, while Pearl guards her nest. You can see an adventerous popple poking its head up in the nest box.

The other meat litter, three in the left cage and three in the right, with Thumper in the middle. He's behind his wooden house.

Three of the meat litter munch happily on the grass.

The whole thing went really well.  After we had all the rabbits out, we cleaned the rabbitry and spread limestone in it.  The pest control man was able to just kneel at the front and lean through to the back, and he was able to fully treat the wall.  YAY!

He came and looked at the rabbits.  When he learned that we raised them for meat, he was pleasantly surprised.  A friend of his had just brought him two cleaned cottontails the previous day!  :D

Then we got to move them all back again…

Six down, six to go…

With two litters of six, one Pearl’s, one Squeak’s, reaching 12 1/2 weeks of age, it was time to send them to freezer camp.  We got Squeak’s litter done today; we would have gotten both litters done, but we are also building a raised vegetable garden.  So we’ll take care of Pearl’s litter tomorrow after Shay gets home from work.

It went more smoothly this time.  This was only our second time butchering rabbits, so we’re still getting the hang of it.  It certainly is no fun, and it shouldn’t be.

We did learn that they are probably ready at 10 weeks.  I’m sure they gained weight in the last 2 1/2 weeks, but most of it had to be fat.  They had just as much fat on them as the first ones we butchered, which were at least twice as old.  They were certainly eating a lot, so we don’t need to keep feeding them so they can produce a bunch of fat.  The skin was also already starting to stick to the meat.

It is a privilege to be producing some of our own meat for our family.  We are grateful that we can do it.  Butchering day is sad, but knowing that we are putting meat on our table that is well-treated, unmedicated, and clean is priceless.  It is also a bit of insurance against a troubled economy, as well as any other anxious times that may come our way.

The first cycle is in full swing!

So, Pearl’s most recent litter is now just over two weeks old, and they’ve just opened their eyes (okay, yeah, I should have taken another picture, now that they’re all furred out).  Squeak will get a nest box next week, and, when Pearl’s are about 3 weeks old, she should have her litter.

Wednesday, we bred Fluffy for the first time!  I was a bit concerned, because she (as a New Zealand) is significantly larger than Pearl and Squeak, and therefore more powerful and capable of inflicting a world of hurt on the poor human she gets upset with.  And she did get a little spooked and managed to scratch my mom through four light layers of clothing!  (Like most rabbits, she doesn’t particularly like being held.)  But, on the whole, she was much less combative than Pearl and Squeak.

She was quite receptive to breeding, though.  Since she’s 9 1/2 months old now, I was concerned she may be a little past her prime first breeding age.  Some breeders find that after 8 – 9 months of age, does can be less receptive to a first breeding than they would have been around that age.  She had also put on a little weight.  I hadn’t had an issue with any of the rabbits we have had.  They all seemed to self-regulate, pretty much.  They ate what they needed, and no more.  But a few weeks ago I realized I could barely feel her spine at all, and that is how you gauge a rabbit’s weight.

Basically, if you run your hand down the rabbit’s back from head to tail, if the rabbit’s spine feels spiky, like you are petting a small, furry stegosaurus, then your rabbit is too thin.  If the spine feels like a series of gentle, rolling bumps, the rabbit is the right weight.  If you can’t feel the rabbit’s spine, then it is overweight.

It can be impossible to breed a fat rabbit.  If the rabbit does mate, then there is a greater chance that the mating will not produce a litter.  This is true of does and bucks… a fat buck may not be able to father a litter, and a fat doe may not be able to conceive or carry one.  So it is in the best interests of a breeder to maintain good weight and overall health of his or her rabbits.

So at this point I realized that Fluffy does not regulate her eating on her own, so I’m going to have to do it for her.  Unfortunately, Nibbles is along for the ride at this point, whether she regulates her eating or not.  I have no plans to breed Nibbles, since I breed meat rabbits, and Nibbles is a dwarf.  I’d have to be pretty desperate in order to look at her as breeding stock!  So I may not be as concerned with Nibbles’ weight, but she and Fluffy share food, so…

So I cut down on their food, and, over the next few weeks, I slowly began to feel Fluffy’s spine again.  It wasn’t quite to the rolling bumps stage when I bred her, but close enough.  Now that she’s bred, she gets all the food she wants, haha!  Nibbles must be happy about that, and I know Fluffy is.

So anyway, I bred Squeak three weeks after Pearl, and Fluffy three weeks after Squeak.  Three weeks from now, I will breed Pearl again, when her babies are five weeks old.

Woohoo!