Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dawn's babies stabilized

We have mostly good news. 3 of Dawns kits are still alive! We haven't mixed them in with Twilight's kits because the size difference is too great, but that three are still alive is great news. The Lady of the House wanted to try putting a 1 gallon flat water bottle of hot water under the nest every 8 hours, and I think that extra energy they don't have to use to stay warm is keeping them going. They are growing slowly, but they are finally growing again. The photo above just has one of Dawn's kits with Twilight's monsters to show size difference.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A rough weekend of learning led to some hard thinking.

 It's been a rough few days up the hill. The temperatures have been low, and we've continued getting on and off snow since Wednesday. There's been good things and bad things happening, and it's caused me to think a bit. So the facts first, then I'll talk about what I've been thinking about.

Twilight's litter is doing very well, though she is still very aggressive and scaring me when I go to check on them. We've come up with how to cope with her finally which is put up a barricade using the granite tile that we use for cooling in the summer, put the kits in a box and take them elsewhere to weigh them. When we come back put them back as quickly as possible before she knocks down or jumps over the barricade and get away. She hasn't managed to injure me since the first weight check, but I'm a bit gun shy at the moment with her, and very much not taking risks. As you can see from the photos her babies are gigantic, and moving around much earlier than they should. The litter average is 20 grams over the litter averages of previous litters. The biggest one is 195 grams which is positively massive, and all of them are doing well and quite large. One of the challenges with them is they are already moving around with some facility which means we have to be careful weighing them beyond worry about Twilight assaulting us.

This picture quite nicely shows Twilight in protective mode. What it doesn't show is the growl she produces when we're even near the babies side of the hutch these days. She is calming down to an extent but she is making our lives quite difficult on her side of the isle. Most mother rabbits generally try to ignore where their babies are when they aren't feeding them. She is nothing like that going in to check them if we so much as look at or touch that side of the hutch.

Unfortunately there is no such good news when it comes to Dawn's litter. Her babies are still hovering around 65 - 75 grams, those that are still alive. We've lost 6 of 10 so far. The first one died because it fell out of the nest at some point over the course of a night and was dead by the time we got back. Three died when ice popped open a seam on the hutch and poured melt water from the snow finally starting to melt from the roof in to the nest. The Lady of the House and I spent 3 hours Sunday morning before I went in to work struggling to re warm as many of them as we could. When I got home from work around Midnight they were all still alive, but Monday afternoon another was dead on the wire from having held on to the nipple too long and being dragged out of the nest. Today we came out to the second biggest kit dead and cold in the nest, and the others barely hanging on. At this point we may have dropped below the critical mass point where they can't stay warm in the nest no matter what without us helping by putting in hot water bottles. I'm not sure if the ones that are left would be able to grow up to full sized rabbits even if we do manage to get them growing again at this point since they're basically the same size they came out, just with some fur.

Obviously this is what has gotten me thinking. There are a lot of difficult things about Homesteading between keeping motivated, the physical labor involved, planning, handling the ever changing world and what she throws at you. With animals one of the difficult things is killing and butchering these animals you've raised from being babies. That's been particularly tough for me and after every time I kill one of our rabbits I wander around disquieted for a couple of days. Despite that it is something I can handle knowing that the other choice is to eat food from unethical sources, or not be able to afford to eat in a way I'm comfortable with.

This is the first time though that probably the most difficult part of animal husbandry with homesteading really hit home. In Homesteading you have to make decisions all the time, and sometimes they will be wrong. With plants it means you're short or lacking on harvest. You're the one who suffers. The same with many things in homesteading. With raising animals when you screw up the animals suffer. Our wrong decision was to breed for mid March. Most places say it should be ok, and last year it would have been fine. Unfortunately this year as of today we have 12" as our base depth of snow with drifts substantially higher. Saturday morning we had 18" as base snow depth, and that melt combined with insufficient building on my part  what killed most of Dawn's kits. So now we get to learn from our mistakes.

Dawn's stressed and concerned about her babies. She's been very listless, and I think the stress has actually been making her less and less able to care for them. I'd initially planned to foster two of Dawn's kits to Twilight, and didn't end up doing so in what now looks like a not so good choice. At this point it's past the 5 days that it's recommended not to foster beyond, and Twilight is very aggressive about policing her nest. We're at a point where we have to decide what to do about Dawn's kits, and I'm not entirely sure what to do at this point. It definitely motivates me to build hutches in the chicken coop so if anything like this happens again they can be in a place that's at least warmer. And next year we won't breed this early for certain! This afternoon when we get home we will see if any are alive, and if they are we will decide then how to handle the remaining kits, and we will let you all know Thursday.

For feel goods, Twilight's litter in a clementine orange box.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Twilight's first baby pictures!

Twilight has relented, and allowed us contact with her babies without more than an occasional grumble and check up that we aren't doing anything wrong to her babies. The Lady of the House managed to get some nice photos while I was getting weight checks done quickly in the unpleasantly winter like weather.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two litters, and yet more snow.

We have babies on the ground from both Dawn and Twilight, both seem to be doing alright so far despite the cold weather yesterday, and the snow today. Above is the only baby pic we have at the moment of one of Dawn's litter. We didn't get pictures much this time because it was 10 degrees and we didn't want them to get cold. That ended up with me moving too fast to get good shots.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sororal conflict, and the countdown to spring babies.

This morning I was cold, tired, and none to alert until I heard thumping and scuffling from Halley and Comet's hutch. I immediately went over to check, and see them fighting. Now, I haven't seen rabbits fight much so I don't know how serious it was. I do know that when I gave the same sort of "Hey" I give when the dog is being a jerk, they stopped and stared at me. It is clearly dominance fighting, but we don't know what to expect in severity. If you look in the lower left you can see some fur that got ripped out. We're hoping it isn't too bad. To minimize the conflict we will be butchering their two brothers today, and moving the girls back to the bigger hutch so there is more room for them to not get in each other's way. On the up side, once I put food and water in they went to calmly eating next to each other again. Just a very startling and quick boost to high alertness!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring is coming!

I can tell because the driveway is almost clear of ice on the actual driving surface, and the average level of snow is a little below knee deep rather than a little above knee deep. It is warm and pleasant outside by comparison, and the mist is epic. Obviously with the indicators of spring's impending arrival we are excited about a whole bunch of things, and our minds are whirling with how to most efficiently handle everything we need to do while still both working full time plus.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dawn is preparing for her upcoming litter

As winter isn't quite done with us yet, it isn't too much of a shock that we have more snow today. As we left the house it was only about an inch, and we're hoping it won't be too bad by the time we get home. The delays of dealing with morning snow though set everything behind schedule to the point that the Lady of the House and I both were late to work, and I'm rather obviously late with this post! Given that we aren't supposed to have That much snow today, I tried something to be proactive about our always challenging driveway.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The first planting begins

Yep, already. The very first bit of planting has started in the form of planting a bunch of Amaranth seeds to germinate before we put them in the ground in somewhere around two months after our last frost date which should be around May 15th.