Eleven new Animals

We have a new banner this week. Yep. It’s nowhere near a finished product but it’s a start. The rabbit is a little too white and open compared to the rest of it, and I may fiddle with making it that aged-photo brown instead of a strict black and white… But I think it’s better than my boggle board for now. If people hate it I’ll change it back.

We have two new chickens on the homestead. I recently slapped up an ad for people to buy chicken eggs from me CSA-style. They pay for three months of eggs in advance and pick them up on a pre-arranged day. But the response I got was a bit more than I was expecting and I found myself with dix dozen eggs worth of customers each month and only two hens properly producing still. (Copper hen is STILL brooding. I hope she decides to lay soon!) So we went out and bought two new hens. The four still laying should supply up with just over 6 dozen eggs a month, enough to easily get by on cereal instead of eggs until our broody girl finally breaks.

The new girls are Golden Buffs and they lay HUMUNGO eggs. The Australorp eggs were a wee bit on the small size, falling most commonly in the “medium” egg category by grocery standards. These new girls lay EXTRA JUMBO LARGE eggs. The lady we bought them from said they wouldn’t fit in the egg cartons. I thought she was just bragging or at least exhibiting a bit of hyperbole but they really WON’T fit in the egg cartons. The downside is that they are not as pretty, smart or sweet as the Australorps and may not lay well over the winter, although to lady we got them from said they did that too. I still like the old guard better, but I like the new girls as well. Their names are “Tender” and “Nugget”, and they are easy to tell apart from one-another. The chicken in the new banner was originally a sketch I did of one of them that I just couldn’t clean up properly for the life of me. I gave up and fiddled around until I got what’s up there now.

Six kits went home this week. We had two leftover from Purina’s last breeding; “red”, one that was never picked up and was re-sold and “purple”, the doe we are keeping for future breeding. The rest of the rabbits from that litter were processed giving me a whopping %80 dressage ratio! We were getting carcass weights of 3.2lbs out of a 4lb rabbit, not including edible organs.
Red went home along with two Rex cross does, one NZW doe out of Evo and two bucks, a Rex cross and a NZW. They have traveled all the way to PA for their new home where they’ll become a nice lady’s new healthy home-raised meat suppliers. The Rex crosses are amazing little kits weighing a whole POUND more than their NZW half-siblings at only four days older. They’re packing on the weight and I hope it translates into carcass value as well as the NZW rabbits do.

Six bucks and “Purple” the doe still remain. The bucks, however may serve a purpose other than simply meat yet… I was recently contacted by a community college near Toledo asking me to do a demonstration for them on processing rabbits for their urban livestock class. This could be a field trip to my house, or done streaming through something like Skype. If it’s done online, I may do a “livestream” of it or post a recording so people on the blog can see as well. This would be very exciting if it went through and could be the most official thing I can put on my resume in regards to farming to date. And those bucks may go towards teaching a group of people, probably very close to my own age, how to grow their own food.

On Sunday, Purina gave us a new litter, our biggest yet at nine kits! Go, Purina, go! I hope there are lots of ladies in this one! This is wonderful to see so many kits! I also re-bred Kibbles today. It’s a little early (only by about a week) but the schedule was thrown off by breeding both she and Evo at the same time. Also, because she is a young, new mom still, it is important for her to get as experienced as she can be as soon as she can.

Some of my plants, like my peas and beets are growing strong and hardy! Others like my arugula, less so. I think I need to re-think where I have what planted in future years, especially now that I know my lawn a little better. I think that the arugula may be getting too much sun even for it’s “full sun” taste. The spinach simply bolted and died, and the tomatoes need more sun than where they are allows. Next year the garden will be in reverse, the arugula in a bit of shade and the tomatoes in the sunniest spot I can get! It’s hard to know where to plant before the trees come in full leaf.

End of next month I’ll be adding 15 meat chickens to my pile of critters here on the homestead. We’ll see how THAT goes! Wish me luck!

12 thoughts on “Eleven new Animals

  1. It sound like you know what you are doing.. how ever I do not, I cant get any help here even from the feed stores as they say they know nothing about rabbits… I have a set of rabbits as you have, the white ones got them so i could use the off spring for table meat, and maybe thats why no ones willing to help me. Ive done every thing I have found on the net but I guess its not enough. My female had 5 kits all dead but one now, she will not feed them. So please any and all your help on what I should be doing and what I may be doing wrong would help…Thank you..

    • Well, I’m going to need a little more info before I can give you any real ihelp, although I’d be happy to help. Do you know what breed your rabbits are? How old they are? How much they weigh? What sort of cages are they in? What is their exposure to the elements (sun, airflow, shade, wind)? Are there any local predators that have access to their enclosure, even from the outside? Are they housed individually or in a group? Can they see eachother through their cages? Do you have nest boxes and if so, what kind? What sort of feed do they get? Do you have any additives in the water or not?

      Any of these things (and dozens of other things) could cause a mom to loose her kits or not care for them. I’ll do my best to help if you can give me the info to work with.

  2. I got my cages from a farm action, that action is now closed.but they told me they where rabbit cages…..I will get pics and try to post them here for you so you have an idea, cages are facing the east. All the threads that I looked at on the net said to move the buck but put him where the female could still see him, I did that. Another thread said that a litter box with a lid would work for a nesting box so i got that. The people at atwoods where I got the rabbits told me to feed them and bed them with alfalfa, They never told me to put any thing in there water, ive been feeding them Ranch Pro Pellets from atwoods
    I have been giving them red apples,,lettice, carotts, and they had me buy a mineral wheel for rabbits.. I noticed you give yours toys, i did not know there where toys for rabbits. I did get them carott shaped wood treats, they dont last a day when you put them in the pen, they said to keep the female and male together till ya noticed she was prego then move the buck,. Ive seen nothing around there cages, I have dogs in a pen on the other side of the yard and they yell out when something like deer come in the yard…

    • Do the cages have wire bottoms or solid roofs? A litter box will work but better that the box be a proper nest box in size and shape.
      It sounds like your rabbits may be eating a lot of junk food. I don’t know what the ingredients on atwood pellets are but I’d bet my bottom it’s not very good. Alfalfa is something that should be sparing at best. Corn, if it’s in the pellets, is a winter-only food at best. A rabbit should have a diet low in fat and calcium which alfalfa is PACKED with. Alfalfa is what they feed to cows to fatten them up, but rabbits can’t carry very much fat before they get sick. Carrots and apples are both high in fat, and lettuce has no nutritional value. They need a good 25% fiber, which most feeds don’t provide; so you need a low-calcium low-fat long strand hay like timothy or orchard grasses. (Orchard grass is better. Avoid clover hays.) Nursing or gestating does need %18 protein in their pellets, and lots of them. You CAN feed alfalfa to nursing/late pregnancy does to give some more protein (Alfalfa has 20% protein) but sparingly. Fat is hard to get off of rabbits once it’s on and can cause stillbirths, heart problems and breeding issues. If you want to feed snacks, fresh grass, dandelions, carrot, beet, turnip or radish tops are all good options. If your doe is eating a lot of junk it could throw her whole system out of whack.

      I’m also not sure where you’re getting your advice from. I would suggest keeping the doe and buck separated so they can’t even see eachother unless they’re breeding. Sometimes a doe will reject her kits because a buck is around. Having the buck near-by stimulates her to want to breed, and she can’t breed if she has kits. She may also reject her kits around the buck because she doesn’t want him to eat them. So smelling the buck is fine, but seeing him isn’t. If you have frequent predators or other does in sight she may abandon her kits for the same reason.

      It’s also possible that you could fix everything and she still wouldn’t take care of her kits. The unfortunate reality is that some does are just bad moms. If she’s too old or too young or has never had kits before it could be causing her to reject them as well.
      How old is she? Has she had litters before? How old was she during her first litter? Most rabbits don’t care for their first litter, some don’t for their second either. If they don’t care for their third you don’t want that rabbit in your breeding program. If she was never bred in her first year of life she may never take care of her kits, ever. If she’s too old (2-3 years could be too old) her body may not be able to handle it.

    • Oh, as for toys, the toys I give are things like cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls stuffed with food hung from the roof of the cage with twine, things like that. Rabbits like to chew and toss things to play. A small branch of a consumption safe tree (like an apple, mulberry or rose) also is a good toy.

  3. Im not sure on there age, if I had a way I would send you the pics of them, maybe you could tell that way. atwoods had them on sale for 20 for the smaller ones and 15 for the bigger ones so I got 2 of each.
    The cages are wire bottems,and the roofs are wood..
    three sides of the cage is wood, the front of the cage is wire, with a wood door.. They are eating the cage…. So I have been finding stcks to put in there for them to chew on..
    On the food is there a kind that you feel is better for them and that I should look for?
    You asked about something that you put in water, what is that and where do I get it? And whats it for?
    Is the mineral wheel good for them?
    so ive been doing all the WRONG things. Suprised I have not killed them with the type of food n stuff been giving them..
    I never did see much fur in the pen, so when I went out and seen the babies I kind of stresed a bit..
    What dose a whelping box look like ?, even the feed stores in town said they dont know what that..
    is.. Sorry im bugging you but you know what your doing and I kind of went in blind…. Not doing anything right…
    See I have chickens and button quail, got that under control…. Ive raised chikens b4, Quail is new but almost the same as the chickens.. I take the quail eggs n pickle them or boil them and put them on a salad..
    Rabbits a whole new ball park…
    Thank you for your help, thank you alot, seems no one here can tell ya anything about rabbits but you can buy them at a store..

    • Don’t feel too bad. I spent a good 50+ hours reasearching the best way to do things before I jumped in and even I screwed up. People in stores like that aren’t trained to know what they’re doing. When I worked at a pet store I was the only one who had the care sheet for all the animals memorized and I was the only one that knew when the care sheets were wrong. To be fair, your rabbit could LIVE off of the food you’re giving them… But it’s akin to feeding them highly processed fast food every day. Even if you go for the lighter options like Subway, you’re not getting the right nutrient levels. It’s better to eat healthy home-cooked meals. Rabbits are exceptionally sensitive and you’re not going to get good litters out of them that way.

      Your rabbits are eating the cage because they are bored and lack fiber in their diet. Rabbits NEED to chew. Not only is it for fiber, but their teeth can become over-grown if they don’t. The only complete pellet I have found in over six years of rabbit care that has an appropriate fiber level is too low calorie/protein for a breeding bunny. It’s great for pets, not for breeders. I, personally, feed Purina Professional which is a feed that has %18 protein but reasonably high fiber at %19. I free-feed a timothy and orchard grass hay; my cages are solid bottom so I line the cages with hay as bedding. Here’s something they never tell you; a non-breeding rabbit can eat hay as it’s EXCLUSIVE food source, it’s THAT important to their diet. I supplement with lots of fresh grass and local edible weeds and small branches (roses and mulberry are good) like a wild rabbit would eat. Occasionally I give them a cube of compressed alfalfa but with all these healthier foods they actually don’t like the alfalfa any more. If a rabbit is chewing a lot I’ll give a thick, woody branch, something made of undyed cardboard to play with and extra hay.
      In regards to the cage, if it has a wire bottom, make sure they have somewhere to sit that’s not on the wires. This can just be a sheet of cardboard you stick in the cage, but their feet can develop sores from being on wires all day and it stresses them out. Wire bottom cages are popular because they are easy to keep clean and sanitary but this is one of the downsides to them.

      Some people put vitamin drops in their rabbits water or probiotics. Rabbits need lots of vitamin C to stay healthy and they do this to get them vitamin C amongst other things. I give a little bit of apple cider vinegar (1tbs per gallon) to my rabbits in their water sometimes if I think they need a boost because they’re sick, looking kind of shabby, or nursing/pregnant. The mineral block is similar in concept, but if they lick the block a LOT you should take it away. My rabbits get all their trace minerals through an extremely varied diet. I do give carrots and apples (usually the peels), but like the alfalfa it’s a sometimes food and they’re not overly fond of it. Even when I feed them the same thing (like dandelions) I try to pull weeds from different areas (different soils and sun levels) so the nutrients in each leaf are a little bit different. But there’s nothing wrong with a mineral block unless they’re over-consuming it. You shouldn’t be able to notice the difference day-to-day on how much of it they’re eating. They’re for TRACE minerals so they only need to lick it occasionally.

      Introduce new things to your rabbits diet slowly (like once a week tops), one at a time and watch for runny poos. Rabbit poo should be hard, individual balls. They should only poo soft poos 1-2 times a day, usually at night, and then they re-eat those for vital nutrients. I would not be surprised to see a lot of squishy poos right now because they have this overload of calories. I would start with a new low-calorie hay to help with the fiber, then pellets mixing them with your old over a couple of weeks, then different fresh foods one at a time.

      This is a generic nest box;

      It should be just a little bigger than the rabbit itself is. I use cardboard ones and throw them away when the litter is done. In the summer I use boxes that are very low and flat because the kits need the insulation less. The lower the entrance is the better because their teats can scrape against it and pick up bacteria causing mastitis.

      The only thing I can suggest to determine the age of your rabbit is weigh them. If they are NZW rabbits they should be 9-11lbs at adulthood. If they’re much smaller than that they may be young yet or not a breed meant for meat.
      To be honest, I am not sure that having gotten “store” rabbits you will ever see a litter out of them. Think about where a rabbit like that must have come from? What sort of precautions are they taking to see that THEIR animals are healthy, free of defects and solid breeders? You have no idea what the age is on them if they’re adults… They could be spent overworked breeders at 3-4 years old, or rabbits that were never bred young enough to know to take care of their litters. Not to say you can’t try, but think about that when you breed them next. And remember, if this is your doe’s first few litters she probably has no idea what she’s doing. Only one in three first time moms care for their litters, and sometimes not their second litter. The fact they were born in the nest box at all is a good sign in that case.

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