It’s been a rough week in the rabbitry. The litter I’ve been photographing is definitely sick, with snotty noses on at least one kit so far (I culled it this morning). So we’re no longer handling that one (except for me to check noses) to limit the risk of transferring disease back to the rest of the herd. After talking with my mentors, the goal is to hopefully get some healthy kits that are immune to whatever their mom has (probably bordatella).
Following that, yesterday I found all nine colony kits dead. Based on the damage (they were eviscerated and some eyes were eaten) I suspect rats got in and ate them. I had hoped with all of the modifications that the colony was rat proof, but it obviously isn’t. I am abandoning colony style raising for now. The location I picked up against our garage is proving very difficult to adequately seal against predators.
I was already planning on building some hutches to hold the growouts but with the deaths in the colony I will build more of them and transition back to all cages. Colony raising has a lot of pluses so I will possibly revisit it in the future. The hutch pictured above is 30″ deep and 96″ wide. Access will be from the top, which I’ve found much easier when needing to handle the rabbits. I thought about also installing a front door but I’m going to try top-only on this for simplicity’s sake. I can retrofit a front door later if I decide I want one.
So we’re down to 4 healthy kits and 5 maybe-healthy-maybe-not kits. Once the new hutches are complete and the colony does have a week to adjust back to cage life, I’m going to breed them.
Enjoy some more pictures of this litter as they turn 3 weeks old. These have an interesting size spread, one is over 400g, two are about 320g, and the last is barely over 200g.
Here is the same litter from last week, now two weeks old. It looks like all of these will end up as food for us if they survive that long. Their mom has been isolated from the rest of our rabbitry since they were born with signs of a respiratory infection (no visible snot, but regular sneezing). Most of the kits are sneezing too. I’m hoping to let them grow out to harvest size.
Respiratory illness in rabbits is something that’s not really treatable – if antibiotics work at all, they just knock it back and the animal is still going to be subpar. Ethical owners and breeders cull it out of their herds. Most rabbits are silent carriers of the various bacteria that can cause these symptoms, so signs of symptoms is a sign of a weak immune system – genetics you don’t want. According to one of my mentors, pregnancy and birth is one stressor that can bring it out.
I was hoping to be able to sell some breeding stock and may still be able to from the other litters but if we lose all six of these I will probably need to keep all of the good stock for ourselves.
As you can see from the main pictures, their eyes are open now. This litter opened their eyes a couple days before two weeks and likes to move around. Unlike my other cage litter, they were already out of the nest box by the time I tipped the nest box over today to encourage them to get out. We’re continually shocked by how fast they grow. But in our colony, their are at least two kits bigger than these are despite being 4 days younger.
Even if we don’t eat all of the kits, this one is for sure to be eaten if he reaches size. His back leg (on the left in the picture above) was either injured or malformed, so he’s a three-legged rabbit. We will keep an eye on it and euthanize earlier if there’s evidence of low quality of life.
Lastly, I took a video to give you a sense of how they look in motion. These are hard to photograph, so video in a lot of ways captures them better than a still image.
One of the colony does gave birth last night and a second one gave birth this morning. Originally there were 10 kits but I found three dead in the bottom of the nest this afternoon. We pulled them briefly inside the house to take a couple pictures.
We also got two new adult rabbits. I originally drove up just to buy a beautiful 9 month old Flemish Giant doe who is very docile and friendly.
She is in a cage during quarantine but was raised in a colony and will join our other colony does when she is clear. I haven’t decided on a name but “Cinnamon” is a possibility.
The breeder we bought her from showed us some of their other rabbits, including a litter of a very silly experiment crossing a Lionhead buck with a Flemish Giant doe. This results in some really cute rabbits that don’t have an easy market or purpose. They gave us this guy for free, tentatively named either “Lion Turtle” or “Frankie” (for Frankenstein rabbit). This one is definitely just a pet, but he might make interesting babies with our smallest Rex/NZ colony doe.
These are not our first baby farm animals (we had one-day old chicks this summer) but these are the first animals born on our little homestead. Our 2 caged New Zealand does both delivered kits today, one had 4 and the other had 7. This is a very exciting development for us!
Assuming they survive we’ll see if, in truth, we have the heart to harvest the ones we don’t sell or keep as additional breeding stock but for now it’s a wonderful shot of new life as we head into the dead times of winter.
(Apologies for the soft focus on all the pictures, I think the autofocus on our camera is broken but I didn’t realize it until I was home.)
I’ve been spending time the past month finishing bed preparation on the country garden we have at a friend’s place. While there’s one and a half beds left to prep the design is good to go. It will have one bed that is 24″ x 70′, nine beds that are 48″ by 70′ and an additional area approximately 72″ x 70′ that I’ll use for perennial plantings like cane fruits and possibly blueberries.
Three of the beds are raised (paths dug out to overfill the bed area). I’m not sure how well they will work in this site with the soil, as the soil is sandy and free-draining in most spots. Raised beds are easier on the back, however, which is why I wanted to try them.
The site slopes gently with a southwest exposure with a very warm microclimate compared to the surrounding farm. It will be interesting to see how this site evolves as I gain experience and build soil.