Tag Archives: animal husbandry

Bad Timing

Rabbits! There are so many rabbits!

Rabbits! There are so many rabbits!

It’s been a busy weekend for us – three does from three different breeds gave birth! Our Champagne d’Argent, Silver Bell, Silver Fox, Ceres, and Silver Marten, Bonfire, all had large, healthy litters and we’re still waiting on one more mama to pop any time.

 

That’s a wonderful place to be because getting stock that produces and raises what they bear is quite nice and all of these does are proven and have our trust. They don’t typically lose any babies. Having all of this happen at once is also a bit scary because the size of our rabbitry doubled in a day! Whew! We’ll have babies for sale soon!

 

Silver Bell threw us a curve ball this time, however, and I thought it would be worth writing about as our friend Primrose the Holland Lop did something similar a few weeks ago.

 

While I was feeding and watering the rabbits yesterday morning I noticed Silver Bell looked… distressed. We had given her a hard time because she had taken all of the hay out of her nest box and put it in the corner of her cage on the wire. We called her crazy and put the hay back in the nest box, and she began to gather it in her mouth and start to move it out again. We decided to let her be and went on with our chores.

 

When I came back by in a few minutes I saw the hair around her eye brows was different and I just knew she was in labor. I put my water bottles down and sat still. Within a few minutes I watched Silver Bell deliver a kit, right in front of my eyes! She popped that baby out on the wire in the spot she had tried to make a nest before we took her hay away.

 

I didn’t want to disturb her, so we left for a bit. When we came back the kit was still alive but she had not pulled any hair. She was still rearranging her hay and didn’t give the impression she was finished delivering. My husband pulled her out and palpated her – her stomach was still hard as a rock and it seemed there were babies still to be had. We spread hay all over the wire of the cage and let her be.

 

We took her little kit, which was starting to get cold, and tucked it into a warm place for a few hours. When we checked her again mid-afternoon and there was still no hair pulled and no babies we identified the newborn singleton with sharpie marker and put it in with the silver fox litter that was born that morning.

 

Bed time came and we checked Silver Bell – this is a doe with a proven track record as a mom! She’s a great girl! She was pulling hair frantically and putting it in her hay nest on the wire. The nest box was right there, unused and full of hay. Very strange.

 

To make a long story short, when we came out this morning Silver Bell had a nice little nest of hay and hair set up in the corner of her cage and nine little babies tucked inside! She delivered the first kit and the other nine at least 14 hours apart from one another!

 

We got the original kit out of its foster nest and tucked it in with its siblings. Covered in marker but none the worse for the wear.

 

I mention this because I always expected a rabbit to deliver their babies on Day 31 within about 10 – 15 minutes. That’s what all the experts and books say… yet yesterday’s experience proved this isn’t always the case. Duchess, a Champagne d’Argent, always delivers on Day 33 or 34 (once even on Day 36!).

 

As another story of non-traditional rabbit birthing, our friend who has Holland lops noticed her first-time mom doe go into labor (displaying spots of blood and amniotic fluid) on Day 30, deliver one kit on Day 32 and another on Day 34. Sadly, both of those kits were born dead. But it was shocking to both of us that there could be a span of five days between the beginning of labor and the end. (And she did consult a veterinarian to ensure the best care for her rabbit… and was told to wait it out.)

 

I’ve read raspberry leaves can help when a doe is in labor. We don’t have a supply of those handy, so I’ve made Raspberry Zinger tea for our does. I can’t guarantee it’s helped them, but I do know it hasn’t hurt them at all! We also typically follow up the birth with a yummy treat like carrot, apple, banana, or celery and a couple of calcium-enriched antacid tablets.

 

Good luck with your litters – I’d love to hear your stories of non-traditional rabbit births!

 

 

 

Games Bunnies Play

Richard Dawson hosts - Games Rabbits Play!

Richard Dawson hosts – Games Bunnies Play!

Thanks to M. Marshall for sharing this via the ARBA Facebook page!

 

We’re talking mind games here, folks, not binkies.

Here are a few that my bunnies like to play:

Are there Buns in my Oven? A simple guessing game that does like to play. She shows no signs of pregnancy up until the very last moment… and then when you figure she’s not pregnant after all, she presents you with a fine litter and a bunny smirk of satisfaction.

The Dead Buck Game. You go into the rabbitry and your favourite buck is flat out on his side, seemingly not breathing. No amount of calling his name or prodding seems to get a response. Just when you’re ready to go dig a hole out back, he stirs slightly, gives himself a shake and asks what’s for supper.

Nya-nya! You Can’t Make Me! A game enjoyed by all rabbits of all ages. The object is simple: drive the bunny caregiver crazy by refusing to do the simplest things. Can be applied to eating, drinking, breeding, caring for kits or any other aspect of daily bunny life.

Cold Butt aka The Great Bunny Snit. You do some small thing that offends one of your rabbits. The rabbit immediately turns his back on you and shuns you for hours or days, depending on the degree of offendedness. Half the time, you don’t even know what you did wrong.

What Sex Am I This Week? A fun little game played by youngsters. They really enjoy this one when you have a waiting list of buyers.

Escape Hatch Hurry up! “If we get all of this food eaten, we can squirrel our way out through the J-feeder! That crazy woman LOVES to play chase!!!”

Are there Buns in my Oven? Version Two. The object is to drive the bunny caregiver mad with frustration. Bunny lifts for the buck, acts pregnant for the next month getting away with all kinds of crankiness, builds a lovely nest, pulls fur… and then nothing.

How’d They Do That? To keep you guessing, they accomplish impossible things that have no explanation. A good example of this was when we found one of our youngsters roaming around the flower pots one morning. The hutch door that closes with barrel bolts was open, and all the other youngsters were leaning out of the doorway. At least in “Escape Hatch,” there is an explanation!

What Color Am I Going To Be When I Grow Up? In this game,  a black bunny decides that it needs to turn into a rabbit with tipping, or an agouti, or who knows what?!
“I am the Guru Bunny.” One of the kits sits all by itself, eyes closed, usually in a corner, while all the rest of the kits come running up to see ya when you arrive, all bouncing and acting like…well..bunnies… ..ya can almost hear the “Ohm…Ohm….”coming from that back corner.
How Many Ways Can We Waste Feed? This includes digging in the feeder, throwing hay out of the rack, pooping in the feeder….tipping bowls of treats, etc. (My response is to cut back on the amounts. If they aren’t hungry, they can afford to play with food!)

 

Big thank you to M. Marshall for sharing the creativity!

Running Totals

kodakgold / stock.xchng

kodakgold / stock.xchng

I was watching the Hurt Locker last week. If you haven’t seen it, the movie traces the life of a man who is a demolitions expert as he disarms bombs overseas. At one point a commanding officer asks him how many bombs he has disarmed and the man tries to dodge the question. However, the C.O. pushes and suddenly a very specific number comes out of his mouth. Each bomb, even though he has disarmed many, many, has a special significance to him.

 

You may feel this is a strange way to start a blog post about rabbits, but stick with me – my point is coming! Rabbits are not bombs, but I keep a running count of these little animals in my heart. Just like that movie character, I know without a pause each little life I have been responsible for, even if only for a short while.

 

Yes, here at Mad Hatter we breed rabbits primarily as a healthy food source for our family, but that in no way means we don’t care for them deeply. Each day, often many times a day, we are out visiting them, checking on their welfare, and watching their personalities develop. Each rabbit is special to us.

 

And when it comes to numbers, I can’t tell you off the top of my head exactly how many baby bunnies we’ve bred this year to date, but I can tell you without a pause that we’ve lost 20 kits. I hate seeing a baby bunny die, I just hate it.

 

The reality? Natural selection is true and there are some babies that simply fail to thrive. Other times we have to face a hard reality that a rabbit mother does not have the same maternal instincts that a human mother would have. She can refuse to feed her litter or even eat portions of them! In our circumstances we’ve lost babies to freezing weather.

 

Some animal lovers like to think of their friends as passing over the “Rainbow Bridge.” It seems like a silly concept to me, this Rainbow Bridge… and yet it isn’t at all. There is something very wholesome about recognizing the value of life in all forms. Part of valuing life is recognizing the significance of death.

 

Many times there are no explanations for the loss of baby rabbits, but that usually isn’t a comfort to the rabbit breeder. We grieve over the loss of life and second guess ourselves for how we could have prevented it or try to come up with strategies, get advice from long-time breeders for the healthiest, most successful ways to care for our animals.

 

We have seven litters expected this week and even though I’m terribly excited for the babies, there is also a piece of me worried about what the week will bring in terms of success rates. We have three first-time moms expecting and the reality for us is most of our first timers lose one (if not all!) of their kits. So, if you think of it, send positive thoughts our way… we’re sending the same to all the other breeders we know!

 

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