Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Baby Growth, and the Bear

We've had a lot going on this week in the homesteading department, the baby rabbits being the obvious major part of that. The other part of what has been going on is that on Saturday we got a bunch of herbs, some vegetables, and some grape vines and planted them. I don't have pictures of what we planted, nor do I even remember exactly what all we planted since that was mostly the Lady of the House's project. I just know we've got a good number of cooking herbs growing, and 4 grape vines planted in the side of the hill. The babies are getting tough to take good photos of because of how much they move.

In good news, most of the babies are doing well, and growing quickly. The bad news is, two of them didn't make it. Right you can see the two who didn't make it. We weren't expecting the one on the right to survive, but we were somewhat surprised by the one on the left. From day 2 we had been supplementing feed for them, and we were hopeful that the smallest ones were going to make it. Then I came home from work Sunday night, and found these two cold and limp. Heeding the advice of Michelle Chandler that rabbit babies aren't dead until they are warm and dead, we put them on a heating pad with a good cover on it so they wouldn't get burned and turned it on low and waited. 40 minutes later, and warm they were still limp and lifeless. In the wake of their deaths we've been considering whether removing the smallest baby instead of trying to supplement the feeding of the smallest three would have ended up with the second smallest surviving. We are going to do more research into that in the future of course. However, as you can see on the Right all of the other babies are doing quite well, as is their mother Below. At this point some of the babies are really looking like small rabbits, not alien creatures.

 On the Right you can see that I'm now having to make a barrier around the scale to get measurements since they now have enough motivation and strength to roll themselves off the scale. We try to avoid that because we don't want to hurt them, and it makes Dawn very unhappy with us. As the week has gone on she has gotten progressively more possessive of her babies, though she still lets us handle them. She just comes and thoroughly investigates us as we take care of our measurements and daily counts.

To the Left this is one of the bigger ones actively exploring my hand as he's taken out for pictures and being weighed. They quickly get frustrated and start digging if they don't get to go where they want. Below is Sunny, very much expecting. We will be putting in a nest box for her tomorrow or Thursday as we are expecting a litter on the 12th. We are more concerned with her letting us near her kittens as she is much less friendly than Dawn. We hope that she has an easy first litter as well.

The excitement of last night was the arrival of a large Black Bear. Not quite sure how big the bear was, but the bear wasn't intimidated by 2 barking dogs, 5 people making lots of noise, banging of pots and pans. The bear wasn't even intimidated by the sounds of rifle fire until I shot near the bear. Even then it took quite a lot to scare the bear enough for it to leave the light. We are taking precautions to make sure we have nothing interesting to it as much as we can by taking in bird feeders at night, and putting the garbage bins inside instead of out. That said we are concerned for the rabbits.  As I said to the Lady of the House, I can make the hutches raccoon proof, coyote proof, at least strongly fisher cat resistant. I can't make them bear proof. I hope the bear doesn't get into its head that the rabbits are good eating, and worth smashing through the hutches to get at. We are reporting the incident to animal control since the bear is clearly habituated to people which makes it more dangerous.

Last but not least, the weights of the kits since Thursday.

     05/03           05/04            05/05         05/06           05/06            05/07             05/08
1:  71                80                 89              87                Weights        103                 113
2:  67                75                 80              84                At                 91                   110
3:  65                73                 77              84                Death            91                   101
4:  65                66                 68              75                                     88                   100
5:  54                56                 58              62                                     75                   100
6:  54                52                 55              60                                     62                   70
7:  52                49                 50              52                46
8:  49                48                 46              50                43

A2 you can see the sudden death of #7 was a surprise to us, while growth hadn't been fast it had been steady. With the smallest we weren't sure what was going on, though starting to do supplemental feeding seemed to have helped. We started supplemental feeding morning of 05/04 after taking weights, and as you can see there was a sudden weight increase 05/06 that had us hopeful. We started supplemental feeding due to the down turn in weight of 6, 7, and 8 and limited growth if any. We figured that Dawn as a first time mother was having trouble producing enough milk for all 8 of her babies. Since the death of the two smallest the growth of 6 has shot up. Tomorrow we will see if that is an anomaly or if it is a new pattern.


  1. Perhaps a strange question, but what does one do with a dead baby rabbit?

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying. What we are doing with the dead baby rabbits is finding ways to not waste them. In the case of the two dead kits in this case we froze the bodies to insure they were parasite free, and are going to be using them as we work towards getting our dog on a bones and raw flesh diet.