Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lots going on right now, including rat rescue.

Obviously, first and foremost the babies are doing well. The one small weak one did not make it, dying the night after I posted concerns about his health. The rest of them however are as you can see doing well. They didn't get weighed today due to the rain and cold weather, but their eyes are opening.
Here you can see the first of them who's eyes are starting to open adventuring. They are growing well, but they are fairly small in comparison to litters growing in the summer. I will be going into that further in a post with fewer pictures and other things going on. Below you can see a close up of a very serious looking baby rabbit with an eye half open. The fur on them is gorgeous, and I think that the Lady of the House has convinced me that we should hold on to Dorado, at least until we can find an unrelated buck.
I am very curious about how the babies continue to grow, and how the cold will affect the quality of meat and fur. We know the fur will be better quality, but how much so. The babies from Dawn's last litter that are being butchered now have amazingly better quality fur than the summer babies. The skin is also thicker making it much easier to skin them without botching it, and cutting holes in the hide. If there is a similar jump with this set of babies, we may have to reconsider our breeding scheme, and figure out how to make sure babies survive in the colder weather.
Our other concern is Twilight. She is one of our favorites because of her personality. Sure, she can be a little demanding. Ok, a lot demanding, but we really enjoy her. That said, if we can't get her to accept breeding and have babies, we can't afford to keep her. She has a gorgeous conformation to go with her personality so we're really hoping. Below you can see her informing us that life is very hard, and that we need to give her more pellets. She's never, ever in her life had any pellets at all and is starving.
And if you believe her I have a bridge to sell you. Anyhow, to try to cope with her refusal to breed we are going to be trying something different. Once the last of Dawn's last litter is butchered, we will be putting her and Umbra together in the big growing out hutch for a while. We will watch carefully to make sure there is no fighting. But we figure if Umbra has time to work his studly charm on her she will come around and accept breeding. I think the standard practice of in, wham bam thank you ma'm and out isn't working for her. We don't want to do forced breeding because it doesn't feel right to us, and we'd rather make accepting breeding a positive thing for the rabbits rather than something they fear. Obviously in general we are trying to avoid having them fear anything about their day to day lives. Above you can see one of the remaining three of Dawn's last litter. They are big, strong, and have gorgeous coats. I'm holding off on butchering the last few so I can show a friend how it is done. As you can see though, they're good looking rabbits with solid conformation. They are all about 3 kilograms at this point, so around 6.6 lbs. Well into roaster weight rather than fryer weight, but that helps the fur be better as well.
What else is going on? Well, working on the wood pile obviously. I haven't had a lot of time to work at it due to usually being home from work after dark. Even so we have quite a lot of wood stacked up, and nothing that has been split that is not yet stacked. In the interests of a big safe block of piled wood we have been doing effectively random stacking. How ever wood stacks and sits in a stable way, we put it. It looks a bit haphazard, but it isn't going anywhere 
Also in the same area, the Studio. I really keep meaning to get photos of what I am doing in there but I have been just getting things done, then looking at them and saying, "Well damn, I forgot to get photos." What I have finished at this point is building the shelves that will be our entertainment center entirely out of reclaimed wood from pallets. The shelf brackets since they will be holding up things like the TV and my video gaming consoles and computer (Yes, I'm a computer and gaming nerd too) are commercially purchased and can hold my weight with the TV safely. I'll try to get photos as I'm building the next segment of shelf to show you how it's done since it isn't difficult, just time consuming.
Gardening has also been occurring, but not the pretty gardening that we can show off. Right now we are preparing for next year. One of the important steps of that was getting the garlic in the ground before everything freezes like a rock. It isn't pretty, and it doesn't look like much but this bed has five different kinds of garlic growing in it. We purchased seed garlic so we could grow it, and we are going to be trying to set up a growing system where we have edible garlic every year that we're growing ourselves. Garlic could probably be its own post because, like a number of crops it has a two year seed cycle.
Finally, we have been getting back to our roots as animal welfare activists. Animal rescue. For 6 years now we have been a foster home for Mainely Rats Rescue. Over the past few months as we got started with raising rabbits, homesteading, and just being first time home owners, we stopped fostering rats for the first time in that entire time. Saturday we picked up new fosters, and brought rats and rescue back into our house. These two rats are double rex, and quite sweet. If anyone doesn't know already, rats are amazing pets. I strongly recommend looking into them if you haven't already. And before you say "Oh, they don't do anything useful," you'd be surprised. Even on a homesteading level they are very useful. I can hear the skepticism from here, yes, even before I finish writing the post. What can rats do for your homestead? Other than be vermin? Well for one thing, if you have rats in your house, mice won't come in. We live in the woods with field mice and so on all over the place and don't have a mouse problem in the house. That's with dog food in unsealed containers, rabbit food in bags, and just the food of being people around. We actually do have a mouse problem in the studio, and there's nothing to eat in there! So, as strange as it sounds, rats, they do a homestead good.


  1. I don't think I'll ever love rats as you do, but I'm glad that you walk your talk and do rescue work :)

    Re: Twilight. She's 7 1/2 months old now. What's her weight? I'm also wondering if it's the time of year. I had a lot of trouble getting does to lift this weekend for breeding, especially the younger ones. She might be waiting for spring. Make sure she doesn't get overweight, though - lots of hay should ensure that.

    1. We don't have a scale that can weigh the bigger rabbits, and should get one. She's on free choice hay, and about 1/4th cup of 16 a day. She just thinks she's not being fed enough. She weighs about the same as Umbra who is the same size he was when we got him from you. Our concern is that she's been refusing breeding for a couple months now, and we want to make sure she has her first litter before she gets to be a year old.

  2. Not that I know anything about rabbits (adorable! tasty!), but here's something I found in a scientific paper when I was having trouble with breeding some of my mice: give the females a choice (or at least the illusion of choice).

    The researchers described building this T-shaped mouse-tube with a male at either end of the short arms of the T. (Plexi barriers with holes, so they can be seen and smelled, but not get out to fight each other.) You then release the female into the long arm of the T and let her walk down and pick a guy she likes better. Then you put them in a cage together to breed. In the paper they found that this made her more receptive and more likely to carry the litter to term. (Of course I don't have the citation anymore, sorry.)

    I didn't realize rats would keep away mice, but I bet it's easier on the rabbits than having a cat or snakes. (Are rabbits afraid of snakes? Or are they just afraid of everything?)