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.

 I decided to try salting the driving areas before we left. Getting that done was decidedly part of being late getting out since it was an extra 20 minutes of work on top of shoveling, feeding and watering the rabbits, health checks, and getting a fire started in the wood stove to keep the house from freezing during the day. Over all we left 30 minutes late, but hopefully that will lead to saving an hour or more of work when we come home. As you can tell from the photo Right, even in the time It took to walk back up from laying salt to the bottom, it cleared a good bit of the snow on the ground. I'm really hoping that it will keep too much from settling so I can just drive back up when we get home. Best case scenario, there's little enough snow the tire tracks are no problem when we get home. Worst case scenario, the salt just gets things liquid enough before it becomes not a factor that we have nice solid ice. We shall see!

There's one more thing that was notable this morning, and that shouldn't have come to a surprise to us. Dawn has started nest building already. It is about 8 days before she should be giving birth. If you look back you'll see that other than her first litter this seems to be the norm for her. I had a conversation with the Lady of the House about this particular behavior on the way in this morning. In most advice you'll find you don't give the does a nesting box until just a few days before the litter so they don't soil the nesting box. With the private areas off to the side, we don't decide when to give that area, the does do. We've also never once had a doe soil the nesting area even when, like Dawn, she makes it hugely early.  The discussion was about why that is. Our suspicion is that it's because they have a lot of room in comparison to most meat breeders. Due to the substantial amount of room, and always having that private space I think that they are less inclined to soil the nesting area when they aren't crowded. The reason we think that is because folks who do colony raised rabbits don't tend to have the same problems with the does soiling their nesting areas.
Twilight is difficult to photograph against a white background
The other thing that colony style breeders don't tend to have  problems with is keeping does together, even during breeding. Common wisdom in the meat breeding community is that in the best case if you keep two does together only one will breed, namely the dominant one. In the worst case kits will be killed or the mothers will fight. That's another behavior that doesn't happen in the colony situations. The Lady of the House suggested that a lot of these stress behaviors like soiling the nesting box, and breeding problems with shared space may just be due to a lack of space. One of the things we hope to test this summer is the two does in one area for breeding. Rabbits are happier with a companion, and it is well known. The reason to keep them alone when breeding is for safety reasons. We're going to be trying to keep Halley and Comet together and breed them together to see if they'll both take, and if they do if there are problems with the kits. We will be making a new 8' by 3' hutch with two private areas so they can feel safe and secure, and see how it works. the fact that they are sisters we expect will give us a somewhat better chance of a positive outcome.

So here's hoping the snow isn't a problem, and that the upcoming litters do well!

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