Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Behavior, Rain, and Other Environments

As you all know, this weekend the Lady of the House and I went to Nauticon to sell her art. While we were away the baby rabbits grew apace, as did the lawn due to the combination of regular rain and a sunny weekend. On our return we found the babies substantially larger in both cases, and very alert and mobile in the case of Dawn's babies. Below you can see all six of them wondering why we have so cruelly woken them up. I should say, all six of them are in the picture, actually seeing all six is difficult.

Also while we were gone, Sunny's babies grew a good bit. They are already moving around many days before Dawn's really did more than sit there. Unfortunately all they do when moving is try to get away from us. Weighing babies has become a two person job when it comes to Sunny's babies because it just isn't feasible to weigh all of them accurately by ones self. As you can see they are mostly furred out at this point.
It is interesting how early temperament differences are showing in the babies. Dawn's babies would at this point curl up and go to sleep in our hands. Even now as they are more active they come up and investigate rather than flee. Much like their mother, Sunny's babies instead struggle to get away, avoid me if at all possible, and make noises of protest regularly. Their commotion riles up their mother, which causes problems of another sort when I'm trying to weigh the babies. When we went to Michelle Chandler to get our breeding stock, she recommended against us starting with any Californians. She recommended that not because Californians aren't good breeders, they are excellent and easy care breeders. She recommended it because the Lady of the House and I are inexperienced rabbit breeders and handlers, and the personality of Californians can be difficult and off putting. In hindsight, I think she was absolutely right, and we probably should have stuck with Blues, Cremes, and Cinnamons for an easy first time. That said, it is valuable for the Lady of the House and I to experience this tougher behavior early on and learn to handle it. It is also important for us to see how much more productive the commercial Californian is compared to the heritage breeds we prefer.
Left and Above both are pictures of Sunny's nest and the pile of babies in it.  Sunny's babies are, as you will see in the weight chart below, growing faster than Sunny's did. I'm going to want to have more data points before I say it is consistently so or how significant it is in this litter. Obviously being able to make any conclusions will take years of data, but it is interesting to look at the trends as we record the data. One of the things I'm curious about that we may or may not be able to get any information about is if we can tell whether one parent influences temperament more.

While we didn't have enormous amounts of time off, the Lady of the House and I still got out to look at nature out on the Cape while we were there. We saw a good number of birds of various sorts, mating of horseshoe crabs, and this rabbit you see on the Right. This is as you can tell a fairly standard wild rabbit. There isn't a lot of scale to tell how big it is, but it is definitely smaller than our breeders. You can also see a few differences between it and our animals.  Obviously the nervous expression, and pose instead of the relaxed pose we have come to expect of our rabbits is a big one.

The agouti coat that the wild rabbit has is rather different than our breeders. If you look at Sunny on the Left you can see that the body shape is rather different, with Sunny's body being more rounded in shape. This is due to meat rabbits having been bred for many years for larger hindquarters for more meat production. Even the face shape is different. The wild rabbit has a narrower face. As for the lack of the dewlap of fur under the chin on the wild rabbit, that may just be due to it being a male since only females make nests.
Just some sand birds doing their thing on the tidal flats before we move on to the weight charts.
Weight Charts

Dawn's Litter

    5/03    5/04     5/05     5/06     5/06         5/07     5/08     5/09     5/10     5/11      5/12      5/13    5/14
1:  71       80        89        87       Weights   103       113      125      133      148       158       158     167
2:  67       75        80        84       At             91        110      119      116      133       144       153     158
3:  65       73        77        84       Death       91        101      110      113      123        130       129    156
4:  65       66        68        75                       88        100       106      110      112       121       128     140
5:  54       56        58        62                       75        100       103      102      109       110       110     132
6:  54       52        55        60                       62        70         71        78        90         106       101    105
7:  52       49        50        52       46
8:  49       48        46        50       43

    5/15     5/16     5/17     Prediction 5/21    5/21    5/22
1: 180      189      192                        222    248     289
2: 178      182      191                        221    244     270
3: 175      176      182                        202    226     247
4: 163      163      170                        190    221     225
5: 145      134      136                        156    177     191
6: 116      124      135                        150    167     183

As you can see, my prediction for 5/21 was rather off from the actual weights on 5/21. It was around 20 grams light across the board compared to reality with the smallest margin of error being 17 grams and the largest being 24 grams. I am somewhat astounded by how fast #1 is growing at this point, having gained 41 grams in a day if my weights today were accurate. When I put the babies out of the private space to remove and replace the cardboard they have been living on again due to the rain all of them were investigating and trying to eat the hay that was around for their mother.  Today was also the first time I have seen Dawn grooming her babies. She was cleaning one of them when she found him out and that he was wet. Given the quantity of rain that we are getting I am going to need to put a sealant into the small gaps in the side of the nest area to prevent the cardboard, and the babies, from getting so wet again.

Sunny's Litter

    5/14  5/15  5/16  5/17   5/21   5/22
1: 65     65     71     92      134    163
2: 60     60     71     91      133    156
3: 57     58     68     89      131    155
4: 56     58     67     88      129    146
5: 55     58     62     83      125    145
6: 55     57     60     79      125    144
7: 53     56     58     78      121    139
8: 47     49     56     67      110    114

Sunny's litter is growing well, and quickly. Having missed 4 days of their growth makes that period's changes easier for us the handlers to see than if we see them every day. Compared to Dawn's babies at this stage they are larger and more active. They also weigh more by a fairly significant amount. at 8 days old Dawn's largest baby was 133 grams, and her smallest was 78. At 8 days Sunny's largest is 163, and her smallest 114.  The difference between the smallest and the largest is larger for Dawn's litter at 55 grams compared to Sunny's at 44 grams. The greatest growth in Dawn's litter at that point was 62 grams over 8 days compared to Sunny's litter having the greatest growth at 98 grams. Indeed, the baby with the least growth in Sunny's litter, #8 has grown 67 grams in the 8 days. The average weight at 8 days for Sunny's litter is 145.25 grams and the average weight for Dawn's litter at the same time was 108.66. To reach approximately the same average weight for Dawn's litter too until day 12 at an average of 143 grams with a top weight of 167 and a bottom weight of 105. As I mentioned last Thursday there are a number of factors weather wise, as well as handler experience wise, but the difference is impressive. Especially since Sunny is getting fed as close to the exact same amount that Dawn is that we can achieve when hay is involved.


  1. I'm just agog at your record-keeping. I never did that, even with my first litter. Then again, you're not chasing four children around *grins*

    Glad the girls are doing so well there! Keep up the reports, please!

    1. I can't imagine trying to keep records as well as be a parent. Having pets is enough work! We're hoping that by doing extensive record keeping we will be able to provide a baseline of information for people like us who start knowing next to nothing. Hope we will be able to keep up the reports. The girls and Umbra have been doing great. Thanks again for your continuing help with questions.

  2. OMG, that first pic. Tiny bunny nose buried under the pile is sooooo cute.

    1. I know, it's funny, when I don't have a camera they come out and investigate me and wander. When I have a camera I have to be there for a while before they'll relax. That pile is "Oh god, it's a camera! HIDE!!!"