From last week there isn’t much of a change in appearance, just size. I’m starting to track the kit weights now. Blue Velvet’s 4 kits weigh 1.29 lb, 1.18, 1.09, and a runt weighs only 0.51. Oreo’s surviving 4 kits weigh 1.19, 1.15, 1.04, and 1.0. Not sure how this tracks with wanting them to be ~3.5lbs at 8 weeks for 5lbs by 12 weeks but we’ll see.
Weight gain in rabbits is affected by both genetics and feed program. I know our feed isn’t optimal as I have not found a brand of pellet available here that has the hallmark bright green color of a very fresh product.
I finished a second hutch yesterday and moved Blue Velvet and her litter into one of the compartments. They have more space than the cage they had been in and the top access design of my hutches makes it much easier to clean them. Between rabbits’ tendencies to poop on top of their hay and the poop being frozen (though not so much in the milder weather we’re getting this week) it often needs a little encouragement to fall through the bottom cage wire.
I’ve been attempting to breed this week too, to little avail. Stewie, our lone mature buck, lost his virginity quite quickly by getting one falloff but has not gotten any more. The does have not been lifting and most are growling at him. Being the winter solstice, it’s probably the worst time of year to try breeding because does are affected by hours of daylight. Not sure if I want to keep trying or give it a couple more weeks and try then.
It’s been fun seeing how active the little kits are. Until I moved Blue Velvet and her litter to her new hutch, they were right next to Stewie’s cage, so I could watch them while keeping an eye on the breeding sessions. One thing that particularly surprised me is that they can climb the cage wire and get to the top of the cage!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas for those who celebrate it.
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.
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.