Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kits Open Their Eyes, A New Birth, And The First Luna Moth

An eventful last week all around including assisting with graduation at the school the Lady of the House works at. On the homesteading front, the lady of the house has been working on growing herbs, and for the most part they are doing well, though we just can't seem to keep the Dill alive. The babies are growing well though, and Dawn's babies opened their eyes over the weekend. They are getting very active and inquisitive.  As you can see below, even the smallest of the litter is very active, and looking like a baby rabbit now.

 Given that the babies can now maintain homeostasis the Lady of the House took them out to get some photos of them with a background other than my hairy hands. On the Left you can see one of the pictures that did come out. They were moving around enough to make getting good photos of them somewhat difficult. It is also hard to get pictures of the fact that they aren't just black. They are a VERY dark gray agouti, with the ticking coming in on their backs as they grow.
 To the Right is one of them having decided that it's time for a nap. They are all very sensitive to light at this point. Unsurprising as their eyes just opened recently and they still live in the darkness of the private space of the hutches. They opened their eyes like clockwork on Day 10 of being out of their mother which was a comforting consistency with what has been predicted by all of our reading.
 Again, as you can see on the Right the smallest of them is very inquisitive compared to its litter mates. Usually for young rabbits the hungrier they are the more curious and inquisitive they are because if their belly is completely full they just konk out after feeding. That said, that doesn't hold true between feedings when everyone wants food now now now! Obviously we are still learning a lot, but with all we have read we aren't surprised too often by behaviors and developments.
Most of the time when taken out for being weighed the babies just want to go back to sleep. To the Right is one of the babies in the process of doing just that. As you can tell, it is not so easy to get all of the fur from the nest off the babies to get photos of them. There are a few reasons we have been taking the time to handle and care for each individually. First is the obvious we want to make sure all of them are healthy, happy, and growing. Second is that as inexperienced rabbit owners the Lady of the House and I want to make sure all of the kits are docile because we aren't experienced enough to handle spooky or upset rabbits confidently. While I am certain we will be getting to that point, we aren't there yet. Finally, just because these are going to be butchered for meat doesn't mean they shouldn't have a happy comfortable existence up to that point. That is after all the whole point of the operation. Raising our own ethically raised and slaughtered meat animals that don't live in fear.  If the kits are used to being handled from day one and associate human holding with comfort, or at least not fear then they won't be scared when we bring them to slaughter. Will it make it harder for me? Yes. That isn't the concern though, making it easier for them is.

Sunny also gave birth over the weekend with a healthy litter popping out some time after dusk Sunday evening. We haven't managed to get good photos yet, but will have some for Thursday. Her litter has 8 living kits, and one was still born. It was a very strange thing for us to find because it was dead when we located it. It had no bones, was misshapen, its skin was off and strange, it was covered in blood, and actually larger and heavier than any of the living kits. Michelle Chandler said that she has encountered that sort of stillborn before so we aren't too concerned.

These are the herbs that the Lady of the House has been growing, and as you can see most of them are doing fairly well. We started with herbs because neither the Lady of the House nor I have ever gardened before. The pots you see the plants sitting in are called Dirt Bags that we got at Here we Grow in Hadley MA. Given that we were getting inexpensive herbs which we don't know how to fully maintain, we went with pots that made it easier. The gentleman at Here we Grow recommended the Dirt Bags because they prevent (or at least ameliorate) root binding which can be the bane of pot growing.

Finally before we get to the weights of the babies, we saw our first Luna Moth for the season! We love having these huge, beautiful moths at our house. Not only are they a beautiful creature they are an indication of a healthy eco-system. While they aren't uncommon they tend not to do well where any sort of pesticide has been applied recently.

Baby 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   5/15
1:  71       80        89        87       Weights  103     113      125      133      148     158      158   167    180
2:  67       75        80        84       At           91      110       119      116      133     144      153   158   178
3:  65       73        77        84       Death      91      101       110      113      123     130      129   156   175
4:  65       66        68        75                      88      100       106      110      112     121      128   140   163
5:  54       56        58        62                      75      100       103      102      109     110      110   132   145
6:  54       52        55        60                      62      70         71        78        90       106      101   105   116
7:  52       49        50        52       46
8:  49       48        46        50       43

Dawn's litter is doing well. The bobble in weights on the 13th I think is likely due to me taking weights before they ate in the morning. It is hard for me to really be able to affect whether I weigh before or after feeding because I have a set departure time in the morning.It does strongly affect the weights of the babies when I do weigh them. The babies are always weighed between 8:00 and 8:30 in the morning each day. Overall I am pleased with how well they are doing. As of Thursday I am going to be linking to a Google Docs spreadsheet for the weight chart for Dawn's litter. The chart here is getting unwieldy to format since Blogger doesn't have a table function I've been able to locate.

Sunny's Litter

    05/14  05/15
1: 65       65
2: 60       60
3: 57       58
4: 56       58
5: 55       58
6: 55       57
7: 53       56
8: 47       49

Sunny's litter is extremely consistent in weight range compared to Dawn's. It has also been easier for me to be able to tell if the babies have been fed compared to the first few days with Dawn's. Some of that I'm sure is me gaining experience, some of it was that when we found Sunny's babies they were clearly fed. When I handled and weighed Sunny's litter this morning I know they hadn't been fed yet. Getting weights for Sunny's litter is also harder than with Dawn because bribery or no, Sunny is sitting and watching me the whole time, carefully. If her babies start squeaking she comes over. So far she hasn't threatened me yet but she clearly does not appreciate what I am doing. Californians are known for being some of the best mothers of all rabbits, and many if not most meat breeds have bred in Californians recently for the mothering and large litters. That said they are not known for good temperament compared to others so I am a little wary. I have rarely been bitten by any animal, but that isn't due to lack of interaction, or having only friendly animals. It is because of being wary and watching for signs that the animal is going to strike before it happens, and avoiding those actions in the future.


  1. What a bunch of cuties! On the subject of biting, I found that being smooth in my motions was the best, and to take a break if I got jumpy. (Or, as I explained to a collegue who was terrified of the mice, be slow like a deer, not fast like a cat.) The biggest problem I had when I got bitten was that my instinctive reaction is to flick my hand as hard as possible to get it *off*! Which probably wouldn't hurt a full-sized rabbit, but could be very detrimental to the mice.

    As for your dill: it is delicate, and slugs love it, so you might need some beer traps if that's what's getting it.

    Good Luck!

    1. Many thanks on the recommendations, very much appreciated. I hadn't thought about how much slugs love dill. I was thinking the fact that it's been as low as the 40s at night regularly might have been an issue since dill is such a warm weather plant.

      I love the slow like a deer, not fast like a cat description. The only times I've been bitten so far have been with an escaped Degu who was terrified and I did a snap grab to get to him before the cat did, and a rat we were fostering. Both times were my fault. Fortunately I've trained my "I got bitten reflex" to keep a firm hold of what I have in my hand, and don't let myself be deterred by the pain. With rats especially, and I suspect rabbits you don't want them to learn that biting gets them anything useful.