Wednesday, July 22, 2015

raising bunnies

Job 35:11 Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and makes us wiser than the fowls of heaven?

 I have decided that a riding lawn mower is the most stress relieving thing in the whole world.
I was up before 8 this morning, leaving the kids still sleeping in the house, riding and riding and riding.  My mind churned like it always does when I mow on a riding mower, thinking of the things I want to do with my little farm, and praying for all my children...

So, as I rode and mowed, a blog post came to my mind.  This one is a bit of a tutorial for raising rabbits in colonies, which means that instead of each rabbit being in an individual cage, the rabbits are raised in one large pen, usually, as in my case, with several does living with one buck.
I know people have lots of questions about that, but here are a few things I have learned since beginning my rabbitry:


The buck will not harm the kits (baby rabbits) if you leave him in the pen with the nests.

It's not hurting the does to let them bred at will with the buck.  I have lots and lots of more nests this way, yes.  But the does are all fat and healthy and doing very well in colonies.

Rabbits can and will dig out every chance they get.  You MUST put something over the ground that they can not dig through.  Chicken wire is NOT a good choice, they tear right through it.  I learned this the hard way.

First time mama rabbits will sometimes give birth EVERYWHERE.  Picking up the kits scattered all over and making a nest for her sometimes work, but most of the time doesn't. Catch mama rabbit and pull hair from her tummy to make a nest.  That's what she does, it doesn't hurt her.  If a doe consistently fails to make a nest, it's time to cull her.  It happens sometimes.

The old wives tale that a mama rabbit will abandon her babies if you pick them up is absolutely not true.  We handle baby rabbits all the time, and I have never had a mother rabbit reject a nest because of it.

 It's no more cruel to butcher your rabbits that it is to eat a hamburger or chicken nuggests.  Yes they are cute and cuddly, but have you ever seen a doe eyed baby calf?  Or a downy newborn chick?


Back to the riding lawn mower...

Rabbits were made to eat grass and plants in the wild.  I have 12 wonderful acres.  And it keeps the food bill down.  Rabbits do not have to eat only pellets, and at around $13 for 50 pounds, that's a good thing.  I pull grass all the time to feed them, but gathering cut grass after I mow is sure a lot easier.  So this morning, after I got a wire stuck in the mower and had to quit mowing until Luke woke up to help me cut it off, I gathered grass:

And yes, if you read my blog or facebook page, you are familiar with Samantha the goose.  She is a terror to everyone but me, but the children are bigger now and have learned if they throw their arms out and hiss back at her, she backs off quickly.  Samantha's sidekick the brown duck is my neighbors, or at least, it used to be my neighbors until it married Samantha the goose or something and came to live with us and follow her around all day long.

The bunnies LOVE the cut grass.  In fact, if I feed them grass and pellets at the same time, they will usually run to the grass first.

These are my "grow outs", which means I have removed these rabbits from the does.  I put them all in one big cage to finish growing up.  These bunnies are the ones for sale, or if they do not sell, they go into the freezer:

 These guys are getting big.  They have one more chance at a garage sale this weekend.  Anyone want to buy a bunny?
They love the cut grass, too!

This cage of breeders, the big white rabbits, always look so dirty, and I wasn't sure why or what to do about it.  But reading a rabbit blog, I learned that what I am probably doing wrong is cleaning the cage too often.  According to this blog, rather than clean the cages each week, I should be constantly adding hay and grass up to 12 inches deep.  Then clean it when it begins to attract flies or smells bad. The bedding of hay and grass absorbs the urine instead of letting it build up on top.  That means I have been doing a lot of work for nothing.  So I started doing that this week.  No improvement so far, but the bedding is not very deep yet, as you can see.  It's going to take a lot of grass to make the bedding 12 inches deep in this big pen, especially when they are eating as much of it as they can hold. I'm hopeful, though, and thankful to know I don't have to clean so much after all!


One more interesting note.  When I was out in the goat pen yesterday, I found a very small baby bunny.  No nest or anything, just a bunny laying in a goat pen in the corner.  I am not real sure where it came from.  I looked around for more, but couldn't find any.  We do have one bunny loose, one that was a pet of one of my children who doesn't live with us anymore, so rather than butcher it, and rather than keep feeding it since it's mama is one of those who doesn't care for her kits, I let her go to live in our yard.  But she is black, and this kit is white.
I gathered it up and put it into the youngest nest I could find, my Dutch bunnies who are several days older than this little one is.  She has lived for 24 hours in that nest, although she is not as fat and full looking as the rest of them.  I hope she makes it.


So that's it for my morning musings while riding the lawn mower. I am wondering where to go with my rabbitry now.  I'm not sure I want to continue raising the Dutch bunnies.  I may sell or butcher them soon, and stick with the meat rabbits and the fiber rabbits.  I am hoping to buy an Angora buck next month for my two does.

Let me know if you want to buy a bunny.  My grow outs will thank you! 

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