Summer is the Good Life

Hello everyone!  I’ve been behind in posting, but I’ll blame that on keeping myself busy with other ventures.

The rabbitry and the wanna-be city homestead is doing swimmingly so far!  First of all, the yard is improved and the garden is in.   It actually went in about 9 days ago, but the way the rain was working – we didn’t have 3 days in a row with no rain (and warm weather) until the beginning of June.  So first opportunity to till – we took it.  I have to thank my parents for that, they came over and were a huge help.  Weather has been funny around here – it is Wisconsin, but normally by now we’re solidly into the 70s weather.  We’re coming off of a warm weekend (80s), but now today it’s back down to 63 for a high.  On the bright side, the peas I planted a month or more ago are just going NUTS.  (They love cool weather).   Plus it’s far better for the rabbits, who struggle with heat.

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The plants before going into the ground.  Cucumbers are foreground, tomatoes are background.  If you have a greenhouse to start your seeds, I highly recommend it.  Makes for very strong plants.

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The two sides of the garden right after planting – Lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, pickling cukes, some heirloom eggplant (I WILL give those their own post… these things are unbelievable.), Dill, and cilantro.  I fully intend to be a canning nut at the end of the growing season.

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The two sides about a week in.  This is one of my favorite parts of summer – watching the garden grow. 🙂  The tomatoes on the right are really taking off – the soil is also “fresh”, so it should be interesting to see how they grow.

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And, of course, the after-effects of spending all day in the sun.  Oops.

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Have an old tree stump?  We “re-purposed”the old tree stump and logs to make a firepit in the backyard. We’ll be adding in a ring, and getting some stones to line it etc.  But for now, it’s nice.  Over time we’ll cut down the logs and replace with seating that has a back.

 

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Big Mama’s litter is now at the “Cottonball with ears” phase.  (I.e. melt-your-heart adorable.)  The 8 that made it past the first day are all doing very well.  They’re about 14/15 days old.  I actually turned the nestbox on its side about 2 days ago – normally I would never do that so early, but with the heat over the weekend some were climbing out anyways.  This way they could at least get back into the box on their own accord.  Big Mama has climbers in her litters, Little Mama so far does not.

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And this is the preface to a future topic – gathering wild hay/grasses for rabbits.  I’ve taken to cutting wild grasses/wild wheat/wild hay on the side of the road.  If you can’t tell by the picture, the rabbits love it and now to come greet me in the morning in hopes of some green hay. (I’ve scrapped the “no greens to kits” rule when it comes to green hay.  I figure it’s basically high fiber hay with water content, and so far it’s gone fine.  No rich greens to them at all, though.)  I’m planning to compile a list of what I use, and it has helped me cut back on my feed bill a bit.  Also, one of the does from the original litter topped out at 5lbs when she was just a little over 10 weeks.  I’m very happy about that, and she’ll be staying on as a breeding doe for certain.

Until next time!

2 Lessons Learned While Raising Rabbits

I’m probably at about Lesson #1000 by now, but a few stick with you.

1.  Always check the ground for kits after a birth, the day of and the next day.

I found out this morning that Big Mama actually had 10 babies total.  1 DoA.  The other one, well – on a day a rabbit gives birth, inspect the whole area – ground included, for stray kits.  She must have had one on the wire, and it crawled out of the hutch.  By the time I saw it, it was too late.   In retrospect, I’m lucky Little Mama didn’t have all of her kits on the cage floor (some new does do that).  I checked the cage for extra kits, but never looked around the ground.   For the next litters, I’ll be putting up a litter-saver border around, which will stop them from being able to crawl through the side of the cage.  Lesson learned.

2.  Rabbits reproduce like, well, rabbits.  It’s a very appropriate saying.

Before I embarked on this endeavor, I literally spent about 4-5 months researching, tearing my way through a book, and visualizing/planning.  Somewhere, in all of that, I completely missed one crucial thing – Fully understanding how quickly rabbits can reproduce, and some key rabbit behavior.  In fairness, I thought I would leave the litters in with the mother until they were close to 3 months, then butcher.  (Somehow, I figured she’d keep feeding them, and all I would need to do is feed her.)  Hah, fool.  I had an ideal picture of a rabbit lounging, nursing her young like a dog or pig would.  Apparently, rabbits freaking hate nursing.  Once the litter is out of the box,  Mom’s new mission in life is to avoid her kits’ appetites.  So, essentially, the kits chow down on pellets and hay regardless.   Which also means there isn’t a whole lot of reason to leave them in with Mom past 6-8 weeks.

Somewhat too late I also discovered that rabbits can  easily have a litter every 2 months (re-discovered, really.  I had read the whole book, but I didn’t commit this to memory the first time through)- and in fact, it’s best to breed them again while the kits are still with Mom. (Less internal fat, easier for her to conceive)   The economics caught up with me too – if I’m feeding 3 seniors, more kits help balance out the feed costs.   I had PLANNED on 5-6 breeding adults with hutches, and 2 cages for growing out kits.  Well that’s right out the freaking window.   Right now I have a bank of 6 smaller hutches (Which aren’t really ideal for growing out rabbits), and 2 big hutches.   I’m pretty much set on the fact I’ll need to give up some of the already limited space in there – and put in at least 2 more growing out cages.  Even so, this means I may not have any extra room to keep a promising junior or two.  Ultimately, I will probably have to stop at about 3 breeding does.  I don’t want to put up another greenhouse/building yet, so for now – I just have to adapt my plans and decide between butchering/selling every kit, or dedicating a little space to keeping some promising rabbits.  Someday we’ll move out to a lot of land, preferably with an out-building or two, and I won’t worry about space!

On a happier note, Big Mama’s new kits are doing very well.  They have insanely plump little bellies (to the point there’s some color difference from how distended they are), and the 8 I knew about are all fed and moving.   (Champion fur-puller)

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More New Additions…Finally!

Last time Big Mama gave birth, she did so after 30 days.  So when I woke up this morning, Day 33, I REALLY expected to see baby rabbits.  So imagine my surprise when I went out at 6am, and nothing.  Last time, she gave birth in the dead of night.  I was definitely starting to question my palpation skills (which are shaky to begin with), and was starting to wonder if this was a false pregnancy.  Actually, a lot of things were going through my mind.  I went back out at 7:30am, and BAM.  Bunny bomb had gone off.  (She really, really, really makes a mess of her hutch.  Fur and blood everywhere, every time.)  She also didn’t get as fat this time, so I also assumed the litter was smaller.  Wrong on that count too – 9 kits total.  However, this time, we had one DOA.  It definitely perished sometime while still inside mom – it was mostly  developed, but had some discoloration and was very small.    So 8 live, squirmy, and apparently healthy kits.  Way to go Big Mama!  No pictures of them, I was ill prepared.  Tomorrow. 🙂

Garden is STILL not in, weather is just not cooperating for tilling.  My plants are exploding in their poor little pots, and I’m really trying to resist transplanting to larger (as I intend to put them in the ground anyways).

The other two litters are growing well..the older ones seem to be slowing down in weight gain.   They’ll be 9 weeks in 2 more days, and may manage to tap 4lbs.  I’d like to hold off to 5lbs – and honestly, the two does I’ll be keeping for now.  The topic for next time – space, and how to fail to plan for growing litters.  Case study:  Me.  How I long for a lot of land and outbuildings.  🙂   But I’ll probably have to build “up” and put another layer up to make sure we have enough room for growing buns.

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Big Mama resting up.  I didn’t get a photo of her right after the birth – but it’s better that way.  She had a lot of blood on her, not a pretty sight!

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My poor plants.  They’re growing well, but it simply must stop raining so we can till!

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Pack of babies.  They’re starting to sleep a little less now, but they are still almost always snoozing when I come in.

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Exercise set-up with 2 of the junior does.