Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Bunnies, Kits, Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
The Christmas kits are now about 3 1/2 weeks. Darn cute, eh?
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Kindling, Kits, meat, Rabbits, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
My last post on December 14th showed Ruby, my New Zealand doe, getting ready to have kits. I was a little surprised, because by my math (a rabbit’s gestation period is about 31 days) she was about five days early.
We really try to care for our mommas when they kindle, usually by packing a really large box full of straw/hay, and taking them inside for regulated temperature. I took her in the day after she started kindling but the day came and went with no babies. And the next day. And the next. I had almost given up on her when Christmas eve morning I walked in to discover four tiny little rabbits. This was the smallest litter she had birthed, but they were all warm and well fed. Ruby had made a tight little nest, even though we found during her extended stay inside, that she could escape from her cage, and kept wandering about the birthing room (my office), leaving hair everywhere.
Ruby seemed more nervous than usual this time. Even before she birthed, she had quickly chewed her way through the box we had her in, and kept wandering the office. We’d place her back in the box, barricade the hole, and hope for the best, only to find her wandering the next time we came to check on her. She also seemed more nervous around the kits. This is her second litter (we’ve had a total of three at the Scott homestead), and she was a bit rough on the kits in my opinion. On Christmas day I came in to find that she had escaped once again, and that at some time during the night one of the kits had been separated from the rest, and was squished up against the side of the nesting box, dead.
At that point, I moved Ruby to a full-blown cage and transferred the nest to a shallow cardboard box lid. Ruby has cared for them fine in her new cage (even though she managed to escape a few more times). But I don’t like the cage. Rabbit kits are quickly mobile, and at three days they were already climbing the sides of the lid, falling over the edge to the cage floor, their little feet getting stuck between the holes of the cage. As of today (day 9), they are making the climb, but I’ve also seen them climb back over, managing strictly by feel and smell (?), since they are only today beginning to open their eyes.
These are by far the most active of the 15 kits we’ve raised. They twitch when you barely touch them, even to the point of a crude hop when you pick them up. If you’re not careful, they will jump out of your hand. And it seems they’ve inherited their mom’s disposition; If I was raising show rabbits or pets, Ruby would have been culled long ago. I still have to convince my boys that she’s worth keeping because of the size of her kits. She’s temperamental, she scratches, she bites. I have already been bitten by one of the babies, and so has my 15-year old son (since we handle them the most, we’re more likely to incur their wrath). Again – it makes butchering them a bit easier later, but in the mean time, I’m hoping they’ll chill out. I’ve always attributed Ruby’s nasty temper to the fact that she was kept isolated in a barn until we bought her, with very little human interaction. Our last litter of kits were held often, and turned out to be as sweet as any animal could be. It will be hard to cull them when the time comes.
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Kindling, Kits, Meat Rabbits, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag
I wasn’t really expecting this today. By may calculations Ruby, our #1 for, is about 5 days early. I hope this is just my bad math, and that I don’t end up with some premies this week.
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Kindling, Kits, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
For those of you who don’t follow on Twitter, you may not know that we had another litter of kits three weeks ago. It was pretty hard to work out the whole rabbit-breeding thing the first time around. The second time? Not so much. In fact, this litter was a complete accident.
At the time the first litter of rabbits started coming of age, I split the males and females into separate cages. It’s been a crazy busy summer and I had planned on butchering this litter in mid-July, but didn’t have time before the Mexico trip (and haven’t had time since). I had noticed them being a little frisky, so I knew I better get ‘em apart.
Well, Thursday a few weeks ago, my 15 year old walks into the house and says, “Dad, we have a problem.”. Son number 2 is my rabbit man. He feeds and waters the rabbits first thing each morning. “What’s the problem?” I asked. He unfurls his shirt and reveals a tiny, baby bunny. “Oh crap.” was about all I could muster at first. But then I tried to find out how many we had. Turns out, only one.
I rushed out to check on the mamma, but couldn’t figure out which female (of four) was the mother. Usually a doe will pull fur from her underbelly just before giving birth, to prepare a nest and make it easy for kits to nurse (if you’ve never a doe kindling, check it out here). Sure enough, there was lots of hair in the cage. But when I picked up each doe to check them, I could find no sign that she had given birth, or pulled hair. On closer examination, you could see that the hair that was present was from the BACK of one of the does (obviously not the momma!)
In the middle of this, one of our (three) dogs started barking at a clump of grass about 15 feet away from the cage. I rushed over to find…another kit. We spent the next twenty minutes or so having a summer Easter egg hunt looking for kits. We found four, for a total of five kits. These dudes were TOUGH!
We quickly put them in a box, and went back to the dilemma of picking a momma from our four does. I finally decided that the one with the worst attitude must be the one. That sounds funny, but seriously, when we had our last litter, our doe was down right persnickety. She would really snip at you when you reached in the cage. So I pulled her out and shut her in the box and waited, unsure of whether I had the right one or not. We took the litter inside to wait.
After an hour or so, we checked in. We had stocked the box with lots of straw and leaf litter, along with food and water. When we peeked in, she was busily going through all the nesting behaviors she had missed out on in her bare, outside cage. She had a mouthful of hay, moving it back and forth across the cage, and had already shed lots of hair. This was either the momma that had given birth, or she was another mother ABOUT to give birth.
I’m very happy to say that three weeks later these kits look AWESOME. They are so incredibly healthy. On their three week birthday last Thursday we gave them a long romp outside in the grass. They had a blast and ate lots of little seedheads off my weedy lawn. They’ve been happily munching on timothy hay and now feed pellets for close to a week now (though they are still nursing whenever they can).
Twelve rabbits in the Scott rabbitry. Full freezer by winter.
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits | Tags: Kindling, Kits, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits | Tags: Kindling, Kits, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag
I’ve been trying to broaden my backyard livestock from simply bees to rabbits (and hopefully, soon, chickens). Someone gave me a dutch buck over a year ago, which I was glad to receive just for the poop (great fertilizer). But I decided to pick up a New Zealand doe and see if I could breed some meat rabbits. You’ve heard the jokes about breeding like rabbits. How hard could it be?
Harder than you think, actually.
After three breeding sessions over three months, I think we finally got “Ruby” mated. I think the difficulty had to do with her being a rodent of unusually large size, and Bugsy (our buck) being much smaller. Basically, it took an incredible feat of strength and balance for Bugsy to…do what he needed to do.
Based on her breeding date, Ruby should have been due on Valentine’s day (awww, isn’t that sweet?). On the 13th, Ruby started the day with some really weird behavior. She was gathering large mouthfuls of hay and moving it frantically around the cage. I shot off a note to my new friend Meg the Brooklyn Homesteader (http://brooklynhomesteader.com or http://twitter.com/#!/BKHomesteader) who has been coaching me through my breeding issues. She sent me a video of what pre-kindling nesting should look like (check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eRo84D-rpY). That was exactly what I was seeing.
It was really cold and raining here. I didn’t want the newborns to be in the outside cage, so I snapped up Ruby and brought her inside. Then I watched. And watched. And watched. Nothing.
Occasionally Ruby would go into a fit of this nesting behavior again, but then, again, nothing. Here it is, February 16th, and I still don’t have kits (baby bunnies).
However…as of this morning, she’s taken the nesting up a notch. She’s yanking huge balls of fur from her underside to line the nest with. It’s incredible. You wouldn’t believe anyone could get that much hair in one mouthful. The pic above should give you an idea of just how much hair she’s yanked off her belly.
So we’re anxiously awaiting the birth of our first batch of kits. Stay tuned.