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Posts Tagged ‘rabbits’

seedlingsAfter a hiatus, I have agreed to resume writing for The American Preppers Network.  I feel very honored to have been asked to participate in this project.  Please do watch for my articles there.  I sent in my first (in a long while) submission this morning.  I called it “Sourcing Seeds, Saving Seeds and Walking the Tightrope, It’s All a Matter of Balance.

I’ll be submitting one article a week for them.  Geez, people, I can hear you laughing from here.  I know, I don’t even manage to submit an article HERE every week.  What can I say?  Even my wife calls me a Wingnut.  Ah, love, sweet love.

Besides that, the only other news to report is that the garden is coming along well, just a little behind because of my post surgical limitations.  I’m starting to catch up now.  Also, the aquaponics systems should be back online next week.  I’ll take some pics of that for your dining pleasure.  We have a litter of American Chinchilla bunnies to go with all the baby pigs and baby goats.  Spring is such a wonderful time on the Homestead.

Brittan has been busy with her flower and kitchen gardens as well as mowing the grass and a little auto maintenance, among other things. Her chiropractor is regularly amazed at her strength and muscle tone. We chuckle about it, but she really is S T R O N G!  And she is a dead shot.  I pity the fool who messes with my woman!

Finally, I’ve coined a new word for where we live.  Technically, we’re somewhere between the suburbs and rural America now.  So I call this neighborhood, ‘Sub Rural’.  I am not changing the name of the blog, though. No way.  No How.

Have a great Thursday, everyone.

 

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American Chinchilla Rabbit

The days are getting shorter.  The nights are slowly cooling down.  I’m loving it.  In fact, I’m taking my morning coffee out to the front porch about 5:30 a.m. and enjoying the early morning cooler temperatures.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and here in Georgia we have long, very long autumns. It’s one of my favorite things about living here.

Fall is also the time of year we start looking ahead to next year.  We review what went well, what went poorly and what didn’t go at all. It’s the season in which we breed our goats, our cows and our rabbits.

Rabbits love this time of year, too.  From September through May they are in their element.  They thrive in cool and cold weather.  Their coats take on a warm, soft extra layer and their hormones kick into overdrive.  We begin our breeding program the first week of September. That’s sort of my unofficial start of autumn.

Rabbits hate summer. They don’t do well in the heat.  We try and keep them in shady locations where they can get any breezes that might blow and we put plastic jugs of ice in their crates to help keep their body temperatures down.  Despite those extra efforts, over the years we’ve lost some good rabbits and even entire litters of babies to heat stroke. So we rarely have any litters from late May till we breed again in September.

Sure, it impacts our profits, but Our Edible Suburb is about much more than profits. Animal welfare is one of our priorities, too. Each of our does will have a maximum of three litters a year. This way they remain healthier, are less stressed and we prolong both their breeding lives and their lives in general.

Besides, meat is only one of the reasons we raise rabbits. Their by-product is as important to our operation as is their meat. Rabbits produce copious quantities of the finest manure on earth.  It is high in nitrogen and trace minerals, but is not ‘hot’ like chicken manure so it doesn’t have to be composted.  When it IS composted it is the richest, most nutritious garden food you can imagine.  You can kick it up further by using it to feed red wiggler compost worms and let the worms convert it, or at least some of it, into worm castings.  Talk about a feast for your soil!

Even in the dead of winter, the middle of the pile is toasty warm and the wigglers will keep working. We keep our compost pile going year round, so that in the spring we can add a nice thick layer of the stuff to our raised beds.  Even the most inexperienced gardener can have success by using composted rabbit manure.

If you start in the fall, one or two rabbits will give you enough manure for a couple of raised beds by the time spring rolls around.  Unless you’re looking for pedigreed rabbits for showing, you can get a pair of rabbits very cheaply at your local small animal auction, from a local breeder, or even off of Craigslist.

If you’re planning to breed, mature bunnies will cost a bit more, but will pay for themselves in just a few months in either meat, manure or both. Since most does will produce 6 to 8 offspring in a litter that are ready to be processed by 12 weeks, it won’t take long to have your freezer full of nutritious protein, or have your compost heap filled to capacity.

We started with about 12 rabbits. We had a mixed bag of young and mature.  We grew out some of the young males for the table and kept all the young does along with a couple unrelated mature males.  That first winter we had rabbits everywhere. There were weeks we had multiple days with two or more litters arriving.  It was work, but it was also fun.  That next spring we had our best garden ever.

If you have a small space, or are not interested in meat, you could consider some of the dwarf rabbit varieties.  Some of them are really cute, make great pets and can be wonderful with

Dwarf Rabbits

children.  Despite their tiny size, they do a great job in the manure department.

Fall is upon us. If you’ve been thinking about adding rabbits to your farm or garden, now’s the time to get started. If you’ve got questions, please feel free to send them our way. We’d love to hear from you.

For those of you already raising rabbits, we’d like to hear from you, too. When did you get started and why? What has your experience been? Don’t be shy now.  You’re among friends.

 

 

 

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Kindle

While out at the farm this morning, unloading feed and hay, Brittan flagged me down from the rabbit pasture and asked me to hurry down.  It seems that our rabbit does, Nibbles and Amber had kindled overnight.  It was a bit of good news, bad news.  Both girls had built beautiful nests.  Amber, though, had only had one kit and she killed it.  I won’t disturb you with the details, but she did and ever so effective job.  That’s two litters in a row she has rejected after building super nests and giving birth with no trouble.  That is not good at all.

Nibbles, on the other hand, has 6 warm, snug little bundles in the comfort of her nest box.  I checked on them just a few minutes ago and they are warm and wiggly, just as we would expect them to be.

It was Nibbles sister, Helen that was taken by a predator over the weekend.  We will likely keep a doe from this litter and name her Helen II.

I never get tired of new baby animals around here.

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Update on Bunnies

About 10 minutes after I finished my post last night, I heard Brittan call out, “Come here quick, Misty is eating something weird.  Is it a baby?”  Turns out, our little gray psycho was eating a placenta.  In a matter of a quarter hour, she produced 7 little bundles of dark gray, wiggling matter.

Since she had taken everything out of the nest box and built a nest on the wire, we had do a quick move of everyone.  I held Misty, who was unimpressed by the activity, while B moved straw, fur and babies back into the nest box.  I quickly placed Misty back with her babies.  She sniffed around, found them and returned to active duty as if nothing had happened.

I checked on them this a.m. and apart from moving the whole bunch of them to the front corner of the nest box, everyone seems well.

Since I was already being invasive, I decided to check on Helen’s kits as well.  Under her watchful gaze, I gently pulled back the fur covering her little ones and counted five.  They are quite wiggly and warm.  Since I was apprehensive I may have miscounted.  There may be 4 or there may be 6, but 5 looks like the right number to me.  After checking that they were warm and seemed to have eaten, I quickly covered them up, apologized to Helen for the intrusion, and came in here to tell you about it.

This is all very exciting for us.  We’re still nervous, mostly because we’ve read that mortality rate in winter kindle is quite high.  It makes me wonder if I should bring home the does we have out at the farm.  On the other hand, we’re trying to be as natural as possible and the does out there have plenty of straw for their nest boxes.  I’ll probably err on the side of natural.  If we lose any litters, I will not breed any of the does again until February, so they can get through the worst of the winter.

I do love this farming gig.

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Today was a big day for our E of E rabbit crew as they moved from the burb out to the farm.  We have been testing the Rabbit Rangers for a couple weeks and they are a big success.  The bunnies love them.  Feeding and watering are a snap.  They are easy to move and the top opening makes catching rabbits much easier than a front door crate.  Brittan did an awesome job on them.

We have the rabbits paired up for a few days hoping for some little rabbits in a month or so.  The Rabbit Rangers allow a lot more room so we can leave the doe in with the buck for an extended period of time which should improve our chances of success.

B and I are very fond of the bunnies and are looking forward to some cute baby New Zealands in a few weeks.

 

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We’ve all heard the derogatory statement, “breeding like rabbits”.  The idea behind the slur, of course, is that rabbits breed indiscriminately, constantly, prolifically.   Maybe in nature that’s true, but here in the burbs, life has not been so reproductively bountiful.  We’ve had back to back misses in the rabbit breeding plan.  Sad but true.

We have pregnant goats (we bought them that way), at least one, and probably both of our ewes are pregnant, and there is a darned good chance our jennet donkey is expecting, but our rabbits are letting us down.

By the calendar, they should have kindled (given birth) yesterday, but neither doe has even begun nesting.  Oh well.  If they don’t show any signs by tomorrow, we’ll try again.  Ironic, that what I assumed would be the easiest part of self sufficiency would turn out to be one of the most challenging.  But that’s life, full of surprise and irony.  Some of it good and some of it just makes us scratch our bald heads.

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Rabbit Ranger 2.0

We’ve been racking our brains for months trying to figure a way to get our rabbits full time on pasture, but nothing seemed to work right for us.  For a while we gave up and brought fresh pasture to the rabbits in their cages, but that is time consuming and does not fit our model of wanting animals to enjoy their lives in a natural way, yet protected from the elements and predators.

Then a month or so ago, we saw a video clip from Tim and Liz Young down at Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton, GA that got our creative juices going.  In the clip, Tim introduced their new “Hare Razr”, which would allow their rabbits to live their lives safely in a pastured environment.  We loved it.

B and I watched it several times, and using the “Hare Razr” as a model, made our adjustments and created the concept for the “Rabbit Ranger”.

Rabbit Ranger 1.0

Brittan is the carpenter around here.  She loves the smell of sawdust in the morning.  I’ve lost track of the number of evenings I’ve come home from fighting rush hour traffic to find her grinning ear to ear, holding a jig saw, sander, hammer or all of the above, high in the air, like a surgeon in the middle of a brain transplant.  She has created some wonderful and useful things for our home and farm.

There are two versions of the Rabbit Ranger in field testing now.  She was not happy with RR 1.0.  The second version is lower to the ground, has more grazing space and a handle to ease moving it.  Both versions have a raised nesting area in the back, with a hardware cloth floor, where the bunnies can give birth and raise their young off the ground.  That section is covered by a piece of tarp.  Inside the open area there is an inner perimeter framed with a chicken wire bottom that allows grazing but prevents the rabbit from digging out.  The central grazing area has a open bottom allowing the rabbit to graze a play freely.

Under Construction

The Rabbit Ranger will make it possible for us to keep all of our New Zealand White Rabbits permanently on the ground, resulting in happier, healthier rabbits and lower feed costs.  The will live like rabbits.  I can tell you that after only a few days, we have noticed improvement in the rabbits’ contentment and temperament.  They are happier.

We have two doe bunnies outside now.  Both are expected to kindle in the next week or so.  At least that’s our hope.  It will be nice to know their babies will be raised in this environment.  In the meantime, B is ready to build two more Rangers, one for each of our bucks.  The woman is amazing.  You can keep your Hollywood “Real” and “Desperate” (or is it ‘real desperate’) “Housewives”.  Mine ROCKS!

Field Testing

 

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