Circle of Life

Summer has, undoubtedly, been busy.  The newest litter arrived last Tuesday – Little Mama had a total of 11 kits.  (Wow!)  One was DoA, and three were runty.  One of those three didn’t make it past the second day, but the other two seem to be doing quite well.  I’m amazed – at first I was helping them get some extra cracks at Mama’s milk, but the last few days they’ve both had decently full bellies without any of my interference.  Nature is pretty darn amazing.

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The newest litter from Little Mama.  Now 9 strong!

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Comparison of runt vs. brother/sister.  Itty bitty!  (But still getting fed, and actually doing very well)

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This is one of the 12-week old juniors from Little Mama’s first litter.  Can’t believe how big they’re getting!  If all goes well, the first two will be on their way to be new breeding stock this Friday!

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Then this the poor buck from Big Mama’s first litter – the poor guy just can’t catch a break.  He was the unlucky one who got a toe nipped by one of the dogs back when he was little (which we’ve since re-dog-proofed the greenhouse, and it has been effective).  He was going to a new home to be breeding stock this Friday with the girls – but Sunday night I went in, and noticed some moisture under his eye.  I segregated him, and next morning it looked like this already.  I planned to attempt to treat it, but by the time I got home last night – it was in his other eye as well.   “Weepy Eye” indicates a few things.  1)  Infection 2) Blocked Tear Duct or 3) Teeth issues.  There are some possible treatments for it, but they either cost a lot of $$$ (2x what I was planning to charge for the rabbit) or will take 18 days to get here from overseas.  Yipe.   Not to mention the fact it’s likely he’ll continue to have eye issues.   I’ve been able to sell a lot of the rabbits we’ve had here so far, so if we finally get a rabbit dinner that we’d originally been planning on – it won’t be the worst thing.  I just don’t want the poor bugger to be uncomfortable a moment longer than necessary – so he’s getting one more day of observation to see if it resolves.

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And the other circle of life – I found this pretty caterpillar in my garden.  I was appreciating it until I realized it wasn’t sitting atop one of the overgrown things of grass in said garden – it was sitting atop a sheared off dill plant.  So he’s now been relocated to our maple tree, which can take a lot more damage than dillweed. 🙂  (It’s a black Swallowtail, for reference!)

That’s it for now. 🙂  Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

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Tattooing Your Rabbits

Good morning everyone!

Apparently, my writer’s block has gone on longer than anticipated.  The update really is “The rabbits are all thriving, no new litters expected until 7/21 at the earliest.”   So I’ve been struggling to write much in regards to that.  One litter is weaned and doing very well, the other batch of kits recently turned 4 weeks and will hopefully be weaned in about 2 more.

So that said, I’ll instead post on a topic I’ve now had the pleasure of starting to learn – tattooing rabbits.  I use a brand called “Stone”, and as you can see from the photo it is a pressure type.  Personally I handle the vast majority of rabbit operations by myself (except nail trimming), and in my current opinion – I can’t see trying to use a free-hand tattooer by myself.   Two of my rabbits have free-hand tattoos, and the advantage of those is they look just like sharpie marker.  You’ll see the difference below.

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This is what a free-hand tattoo looks like vs. the “stamping” kit I have.

So, onto the tattooing.  I’ll say outright, it’s currently my least favorite tasks.  It hurts them a little, and it takes them by surprise.  However, in the world of rabbits, provable pedigrees and good record keeping are king – and realistically, there is no other good way to mark them and tell them apart. (Especially on an all-white bun who, for all intensive purposes, looks just like its siblings).   If you plan to use them all for meat, then there’s definitely no reason to tattoo them. However, if there’s a chance you’ll sell – and especially if you plan to mix with another litter – it’s a good idea.  I recommend tattooing them, if you can, from around 6 – 8 weeks of age.  They’re easier to handle, and their ears are just about the right size to fit the tattoo comfortably and easily.

You want to tattoo the rabbit’s left ear (if you were the rabbit).  If you’re facing the rabbit head-on, it’ll be the one on the right.  If you ever get into showing, the “official” number from registration or a Grand Champion will go in the right ear – so leave that one clear.  You’ll need an alcohol wipe or some kind of sanitizer, a towel, a heavy piece of fabric (I find an old rug works perfectly), your tattoo kit and ink.

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My tattooing supplies.

The goal  is not just to get the rabbit marked – it’s to make sure that both you and the rabbit are safe during the quick procedure.  Set up the numbers you want in advance – each rabbit should have a different tattoo.  As I select a rabbit, I look it over first for all of the signs of good health.  Make sure the teeth are proper (no wolf teeth, etc.), there’s nothing going on with the nose, and no other issues.  Plus, I’ll check the sex to record with the tattoo number for my records.   Once everything is set, I get the rabbit set up.

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I make a “Rabbit Burrito” with the towel.  Make sure it’s long enough that it’s wrapped around the bun in such a way so that the rabbit’s weight is resting on both ends.  This way, if the rabbit tries to jump, it’s weight will help hold it in place.  Secondly, I wrap the rug around in something of the same procedure.  But make sure to wrap the rug around the front of the rabbit – it’s not uncommon for them to try to just sprint forward.

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Once the rabbit is set up, I’ll clean the ear (on both sides) with the alcohol wipe.  This helps with infection, etc.

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I do the tattooing by myself, so this is the demonstration of the holding technique I use.  Rabbit in the crook of the arm, firm grip, and if done right – the towel/rug will hold the rabbit for the 1 second it takes to do the tattoo.  (It took me awhile to perfect this technique – I’ve had at least 2 rabbits fall off the table from bolting forward.  Press the tattooer into a piece of paper first to make certain you have it orientated correctly – then line it up in the rabbit’s ear.  This part takes me the longest, but I want to make certain everything is square and that the whole number will end up inside the ear – not on the fur.

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Now here’s the REAL trick – you must squeeze  hard.  (If you squeeze things for a living – adjust accordingly.)  But for the rest of us, the kits are designed to not go through the ear.  I usually end up pressing hard for about one second, then releasing.  As long as you have a good hold on the rabbit, they won’t be able to jump free and hurt themselves – and the indentations must be legible and very well defined when you are done.  I took a picture above to show you what it looks like before I put the ink in.

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Once you check your work – and you have nice, legible, clean and clear indents in the ear – you roll the ink in.  Make sure each well gets filled.  I usually fold the ear in two and rub the ink in quickly to make sure it’s in there well.  (I only want to do this once to each rabbit)  I put the rabbit in a separate hutch to let the ink dry, then I put it back with its siblings.  If the rabbit has a hutchmate, they’ll take care of cleaning off the excess ink in no time.  Even if the rabbit is by itself, it’ll flake off eventually.  Don’t worry about washing it off.

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And finally, a picture of “Not squeezing hard enough” vs. “Squeezing hard enough”.

If you do need to tattoo, I hope that this is of help to you.  I learned a lot of this the hard way, because the videos I watched didn’t always seem to use a rug or anything to brace the buns.  This technique so far has been working very, very well for me.  Happy rabbiting!

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.

Rabbits, Rabbits, Everywhere!

This was too cute to not share.  We don’t see wild rabbits very often anymore, probably due to the feral cat population.  So my husband actually called me from his car to check out the rabbit in our front yard.  Something look familiar?

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She was running it right back to the same spot under the tree.  I daresay, we’re going to be having baby rabbits in the front yard soon.  (And please forgive me on the long grass – we’ve had a ton of rain, and it’s only been a week and a half since I mowed.  Haven’t been able to do it again because it’s been too wet.)   I’m going to have to resist the urge to look, as I don’t think a wild rabbit will be as forgiving with her babies being disturbed.  The other nice thing is that it’s not in the BACK yard, so as long as they don’t do something dumb – (i.e. go in the back yard), they’ll be safe from the dogs.

Otherwise, everything is going well here.  The newest litter is squarely in the “So cute my cheeks are going to burst” stage.  All 7 are still surviving, and harassing Little Mama.  No litter from Big Mama yet, but she should be due either tonight or tomorrow night.  Part of the fun is finding out how many she’ll have.  She’s not as..bulbous as last time, so I’m thinking less than 8.

No more bites on selling the rabbits, which is fine.  I expect it’ll take some time, if at all.  Not many people selling around the area, but supply tends to reflect demand.  We need to fill our freezer, anyways!  The older kits are growing well.  I suppose I can start calling them “Juniors” soon.  (That’s what they’ll be until 6 months, at which point they’re technically “seniors”.)

 

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We actually had a somewhat hot day, so I put a frozen gallon jug in the hutch for them to cool off by/lick/explore.

 

 

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Bunny Photobomb!

 

 

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And…pile of fuzz.

 

That’s it for now, kind of in a holding pattern.  I’m going to hold off on the automatic watering system for now, though I’ll start planning it soon and pricing it.  Hopefully tomorrow or the next I’ll have a new litter to report on!

 

Rabbit Litters Day….Oh, Who the Heck Knows?

Well, I’ve lost track.  Too many babies!

The new litter is about 14-15 days old, and doing great.  Despite the unfortunate peeing incident, they’ve done well.  They’re definitely about to be out of the nest box, their ears are up and they’re a lot more awake than usual.  (And they’re starting to hit that stupidly adorable phase)

Big Mama should be expecting soon.  In fact, tonight, I was debating as to whether or not to put her nest box in. (Approximately day 26 or day 27).  Well, I went out after deciding to put in the nest box, and this is what I saw:

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Big Mama with her “haystache”.  In retrospect, I had wondered why she was digging at the bottom of the cage this morning.  I feel silly now for not realizing why! (For anyone who doesn’t know, carrying around a mouthful of hay is a very good sign of pregnancy)

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And, within a minute or so..all you can see is a little bit of rabbit tush.

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My father-in-law made some lovely catch pans for us. 🙂  They’re going to work splendidly, and look SO much better!

I’m also working on a website…it’ll be up and running shortly!  Hoping it will help with marketing in time.

 

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A few photos of fluffball adorableness. 🙂

Guide to Being an Effective Parent

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone, and for all who have sacrificed – we’ll never forget those who gave all and those who came back.

No pictures today as we’re out of town, but I wanted to make certain I recorded my thoughts on parenting.

Now in fairness, we’re not parents (yet).  Someday, hopefully.  So I’ll stay away from anything about homeschooling vs. not, breastfeeding or not, etc.    I’ll stick with down and dirty basics.  So, without further ado…

HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE PARENT (mammal edition)

1.  If your offspring is helpless, keep them in a place reasonably safe and protected. 

2.  If  your offspring is helpless, feed them. 

3.   Don’t eat your offspring, unless they’ve perished (or perhaps are going to perish shortly regardless of intervention).

4.  Don’t pee on your offspring unless a jellyfish sting is involved.

Little Mama was in the running for new mom of the year until she screwed up #4.  And I didn’t see any jellyfish around.  Seriously, who does that?   We’re not talking “she now pees a little when she laughs” pee that comes with pushing babies through holes that were previously left to their own devices, either.  Oh no, it was a “Hey I just drank 5 beers over the last 2 hours” kind.  Rabbits are odd critters. 

So I gave baby rabbit baths 30 minutes before we were supposed to leave.  They were dry by the time I saw what happened, but if you see above paragraph – I wasn’t going to leave them without cleaning them up.  And now, I fear what I’ll come back to.  If they can make it through her crazy, they’ll be out of the nest box in another week or so anyways. Good luck little kits…good luck!