Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baby rabbits and a barred owl visitor!

Spring is here! Snow is melting and we can see the ground in a number of places. Ignore the fact that there's still foot deep snow in plenty of places, we can see the ground! We can start getting frost hearty plants in the ground as soon as I can jam a shovel through it! And obviously with this warmer weather combined with their age, Twilight's babies are coming out of the nest on their own to harass her!

The kits are growing fast still and very healthy. One of the black kits is genuinely a runt of the litter, but at 323 grams he is only 9 grams smaller than the largest kit in either of Dawn's litters with Umbra at that age and 64 grams larger than Dawn's litter with Dorado at that age! The biggest of the kits right now is 414 grams which is more of the weight range for the top rabbit on day 26 - 30 rather than day 22 which is where we are now with their litter. There are a lot of things that are different about how we are handling this litter which makes it difficult to isolate just one thing that is causing it.

1: Twilight as a mother.
2: 18% protein feed rather than 16% protein feed.
3: Different time of year.

I think that it is a combination of Twilight ad mother and the higher protein feed for Twilight as a lactating mother.

Either way it is a nice thing to see. We are planning to breed Dawn again Friday, and if I can do the work to prepare the growing out hutch to have two nesting areas before Friday Halley and Comet as well so we hope to have a bunch of litters going at once for as much of the summer as we can so we have enough food put by this time to avoid a few months of minimal meat in the future.

As you can see from the various photos, the camera loves the one white kit, and it shows up well in just about every photo of it. I actually had to work to pick out photos that weren't of that one kit! I particularly liked the photo Right because it's just disgustingly cute. It's difficult to get across with the photos for the blog, but one day you come out and the babies are still wiggling balls in the nest. The next day suddenly, and seemingly without warning they are little rabbits hopping around the hutch, discovering hay, and harassing their mother for food. Right is a great example of suddenly, a little rabbit with the white one posing for the Lady of the House.

Speaking of mothers, you will notice that in many of the photos of the babies you can see Twilight. Though she isn't assaulting me anymore and I can do weight checks in the hutch she is still quite protective of her babies. She hovers around them and watches them. For all that she's nervous about them she is quite a different style of mother from Dawn. Dawn made a step out of herself to let her babies get to pellets, she carefully didn't kick them sprawling across the hutch just going by, and was very tolerant of them. Twilight on the other hand bounces around the hutch occasionally sending a baby tumbling, has made NO move to help them get to food at all, but is very definitely concerned for their every move. So concerned her primary focus is getting them back in the nest!
On a totally different note, on Saturday we were visited by a Barred Owl! Usually they tend to be virtually invisible in the trees unless you know exactly what you are looking for. We came out Saturday morning to this one sitting on our shed roof, and later that afternoon on a tree out in plain view. It was very exciting for us, especially the Lady of the House. Her focus in her biology degree was ornithology so obviously this was great. Given it's behavior and the time of year we were wondering if it was a recently mated male who's partner built a nest close by who has no idea what he's doing. Our back woods actually is a great environment for owls because we don't fell dead trees, we just leave them where they are to provide environment for owls, woodpeckers, and many other unusual birds. The up side to having owls around is they cut down on the rodent population fairly strongly. The down side is their shrieking monkey like screams in the middle of the night as they duet and debate territory.

The rabbits were definitely a bit nervous when they could see the owl, but I am not actually concerned about this particular predator since the hutches are quite sturdy enough to keep a coyote out which is WAY tougher than it needs to be to keep an owl out. It is part of why the private areas are so important though, a scared rabbit that has no place to feel like it is hiding and safe will stress out far more than one that can just go in to a hidey hole and play "I can't see you, you can't see me!"

So here is hoping we will have more owl photos for you some time soon, and enjoy these flying photos to end the day. Thursday I will talk about the seed starting the Lady of the House got done on Sunday!

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