Thursday, April 24, 2014

No bunnies yet... but we have ducklings!

So I'm thinking that Coy is actually pregnant from the test breeding, and not from the breeding back in March. Otherwise she is one late bunny. Or I'm just seeing things. I'll leave the nesting box in there for another couple of days, just in case. But for now it's just become her favored lounging area. And bathroom.

Her new kindle date is May 5th, so here in a few days I'll take it out, clean it (again) and refill it with more nesting material. She still has shown no interest whatsoever in nest building. She does like digging in it though.

While I was disappointed at the absence of bunnies, the ducklings arrived right on schedule!

They threw in one extra Silver Appleyard, and two White Appleyards for good measure. So 13! Our cup runneth over.

 While most baby animals are pretty cute, there's just something about ducklings that really push me over the edge.

And they already provide Ian with an additional source of entertainment.


Of course the downside of ducklings is how MESSY they are. We've not even had them 24 hours and our house already smells like a duck pen.

I'll have to do some juggling to house them for the next few weeks, but we'll make it work.

We'll keep the best for breeding, and sell or eat the rest.

The Miami Mist was in full bloom over Easter weekend, so I attempted some photo shoots with Ian. He enjoys outside so much, he simply will NOT look up at the camera. He's too fascinated by the world around him.

He's also still learning to sit up, so most pictures had to include a hand or arm.

A closeup of Miami Mist. It blooms in great carpets along the floodplains. Mist is a very appropriate descriptor.

So now ducks have been added to our daily routine. Despite their messiness I will miss them when it's time to haul them off to the farm. But I do look forward to watching them enjoy the creek.

For now, I'm still waiting on those bunnies.........

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bunnies on the way?

Well, it looks like little bunnies are on the way!

I’ve had my doubts the past few weeks, but yesterday I was observing Coy while she was stretched out on the cage floor, belly flattened. I happened to notice little kicks and movements that were unmistakable. So I’m pretty well convinced at this point, despite the fact that she hasn’t passed the “straw test.”

So today or tomorrow I will disinfect the nesting box and put it in her cage. I also really need to disinfect the cage itself, which is a much more involved affair. Suspended cages would be much easier, because I could just remove the cage, wash it , and be done. But since the whole thing is one unit, I have to move the rabbits then drag the entire [heavy] thing out to scrub it down.

I’m not finding much motivation to do anything today. I've had a nasty cold for the past week, and Ian has also been having a snotty/stuffy nose. With all his extra night waking due to nasal discomfort, I am more exhausted than ever. Not just tired, but weak and fatigued.

On top of that I taught a class yesterday on Herps for the Tennessee Naturalist program. Ian was separated from me for two 2-hr intervals. Not the longest we've been apart, technically, but with him all stuffy and distracted from being in a new place, he refused to nurse the whole time we were there, a total of nearly 8 hours. So, that was very stressful for both of us.

So it was no surprise really when we woke up every 45 minutes all night. Even with Mark taking him around 5:30 and letting me sleep until nearly 9:00, I am soooo sapped. Mark informed me that I got extra sleep this morning. I informed him that it hardly counted as “extra.” Just SLEEP!

 And here we are, once again, back at square one. …….. must……………… sleep…………………….

While I'm excited about the arrival of bunnies, there is certainly a fly in the ointment. There is a chance that all the babies could become infected with Pasteurella and die. There's a chance the Baytril had a negative effect on them even. Or if they don't die from the get-go, they may become infected later, and I'll be forced to put them down.

I'm trying to remain positive about the situation. I've actually spent a great deal of time praying about it. Seems a little silly to pray over rabbits, I suppose. But this is an important project for us, and if I have no foundation stock, I have no rabbits. No rabbits, no home-grown meat. I've been looking forward to this endeavor for years now, and it's been really disheartening to deal with this disease. But, even with the worst scenario, it's a learning experience. I just hate for it to be costing us in the mean time.

So for now, I will focus on the miracle of this Resurrection Sunday. And be thankful.

(P.S: There are no pictures in this post because the rubber band that was holding our little old Nikon together finally broke, and I can't find a new one. Ha! Isn't that pathetic? :) )

Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Rabbit Routine

Things have finally settled into a regular routine with the rabbits, now that we've had them these three weeks....

Every morning I head out to the shed and check on everyone. I observe them for a minute or two, to see if there are any changes in behavior. I then check their water levels, hay, and whether or not they left any pellets from the previous night's feeding.

I then grab my basket, and head off to pick their daily salad. They immediately begin to circle in their cages, and Turn will even skip as he runs laps. They know what's coming.

So I walk to different parts of the yard, gathering as I go. Right now their daily salad consists of :

dock, flowering violets (which, by the way, are pound for pound higher in vitamin C than oranges), blackberry, plantain, maple seedlings, chickweed (one of their current favorites), cleavers, clover, dandelion (plus blooms), grasses & honeysuckle.



My daily foraging session also gives me a chance to listen for new migratory birds that have arrived, and just enjoy the spring air (and sans baby time).

I give the salad a good toss, and return to the rabbits. They run to their doors in eager anticipation, and I dispense a small mountain of greens in front of them. They nose around for their favorites, and start munching away.

I usually check on them throughout the day, baby in tow, giving them a treat when I visit: a comfrey leaf, or maybe a newly leafed twig.

Sometime between 4 & 6 PM, depending on when I have my husband to assist with the baby, I head out to give Coy her Baytril (only has a couple of doses left), and then feed them their pellets afterwards.

Every few days I pull out their trays and either give them a stir, or replace the substrate. I've been placing a mix of well rotted compost & soil with pine shavings in the trays. This helps absorb the urine, and begin to break down some of their waste.

 So far this seems to work pretty well, and I've already got a good rabbit/compost heap going. I need more partitions!

I've also been adding raw apple cider vinegar to their water, at around a tablespoon per gallon (distilled first). There are multiple benefits, including boosting fertility, improving coat & reducing ammonia odor in their urine. Here is list of other good reasons to add it daily, compiled by another successful rabbitry in Arizona.

Later next week it will be time for the "straw test" on Coy. If I toss a handful of straw or hay on the cage floor and she starts carrying it around in her mouth like she's looking for a place to stuff it, she should be pregnant. Either way I'll be adding the nesting box on the 18th.

Coy has gone back to appearing asymptomatic, in regards to the pasteurella, but I know it's there, lurking just beneath the surface. This will be the one and only time I will administer antibiotics for the infection. In the future I will give them garlic at the first sign of the snuffles. If it doesn't clear up, I will cull.

Right now I really can't afford to cull so aggressively, because I will have nothing left to breed! I can't afford to go gallivanting around the country purchasing new rabbits every so often, especially with an infant. It probably isn't wise to start with rabbits susceptible to pasteurella in the first place, but with such a rare breed, I'm not sure I can afford to be so choosy. I'll certainly selectively breed for strong, resistant stock in the future, but I've got to have rabbits to start with!

For now we'll continue on with our daily routine, and I'll do my best to ensure optimal health with a sound management plan.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tough Decisions

Yesterday I test-bred COY to Turn. The results were in-conclusive. She wanted to, then she didn't. She mounted him, he mounted her from every angle...... oy. I figured rabbits were better at this.

So I'm not really convinced one way or another, whether or not she was already pregnant.

What I am convinced of, however, is that her pasteurellosis isn't going to just "go away."

After all of the breeding excitement I noticed a return of the snots. I spent a great deal of time at this webpage, where a longtime and well-respected breeder of standard Rex rabbits lays out her breeding program for eliminating pasteurella in her herd.

It's a simple fix, but not necessarily an easy one: cull, cull, cull.

So here's what I've decided:

I will let COY raise at least one litter. Any babies that get the snots, get culled. Any that are exposed and show no symptoms will stay in the breeding program. Then I will cull the old doe.

I will either separate COY & her litter from the rest of the herd, or isolate the new doe (does, hopefully) during this period.

So that's my decision, and I am at peace with it. Keeping rabbits going by pumping them full of antibiotics is doing nothing for the genetic integrity of the breed. Of course, I run the risk of losing all the rabbits. But I am willing to take that risk. I have confidence it is the right course of action.

So with that out of the way, let's focus on the positive....

Spring is really revving up!

Dutchman's Breeches blooming at the forest edge

Ian watching the chickens

yellow and blue violets

the hens enjoying their freedom 

chickweed, enjoyed by chickens and rabbits alike

Lucy disappearing under a tree after a critter

a bouquet for a rabbit

for me? why, thank you

[munch, munch, munch]

Friday, April 4, 2014

.... And Then There Was Summer

So, as per usual in middle Tennessee, we go from frigid blizzards to searing heat – well, if you consider 80 degrees searing. The sun is so much more intense when you get a warm spell in early spring before the trees leaf out. We haven’t had time to adapt!

Neither have the rabbits. I've been keeping a close eye on them, during this summer spell. Lucky it has also been dry and breezy. They really haven’t appeared to be too stressed by it. They were stretched out but otherwise seemed alright. It feels like it’s going to get warmer today than yesterday, so I went ahead and put frozen water bottles in their cages.

Coy shunned her water bottle

Turn has the right idea

I’m having concerns about the site of their shed. It will be in full sun during the heat of the day throughout the summer. But it really was the only practical location, considering the direction it needed to face. The backyard probably would have been better (shadier), but I just do NOT trust the dogs where the rabbits are concerned. Well, really just TWO of the dogs. But they are the two that stay in the backyard. The front of the shed should be in shade the whole day, so hopefully that will help. And I’m going to train the grape to grow over it, so that should help as well. I’m afraid I won’t be able to get very many litters in before the heat sets in, especially if COY isn't already pregnant.

Speaking of whom, I am going to test breed her on Friday, as long as it isn’t too warm again. I’m pretty sure the rain is supposed to move in sometime in the next couple of days. That should cool things down.
And, finally the Baytril seems to be kicking in, as this is the first time she has been symptom-free. The other two have also continued to have clean noses, so I think we are finally out of the woods. Big relief.

After several days of little green treats throughout the day, I picked them all a big salad this morning: new grass, white clover, cleavers, violets, chickweed, dock, blackberry and honeysuckle. I didn’t gather it as early as I wanted, since little buddy got fussy and needed a nap. So unfortunately most of it wilted before they ate it all, and the rising heat sapped their appetite. They still enjoyed it though!

The heat doesn’t seem to bother the young buck nearly as much. He cleaned up his little mountain of greens and begged for more!

Now that the rabbits are in good shape, I need to turn my attention to the chickens. Normally we don’t have any health issues with them whatsoever, but they all appear to have scaly leg mites. They apparently get infestations from filthy conditions and wild birds. Sadly the cleanliness of their roosting house has suffered over the winter, with the addition of our boy. And the wild birds are always coming in and sharing their food pan, so I’m sure that combination is what did it.

So one of these mornings I’m going to have to catch each chicken, scrub their legs down, and slather them with Vaseline. At least that’s what the books say. I’m sure there are some essential oil treatments I could use, but I’ll go with the cheaper option at this point. At least we only have four.

I’m not one to get squeamish when it comes to animal ailments, but something about this condition really gives me the heebie-jeebies. Just looking at them makes my skin crawl and itch like crazy. [shudder]

Ian has, not surprisingly, shown a remarkable affinity for the outdoors. He is content for hours to be outside, sticking his feet in the grass or watching the chickens scratch and the dogs play. At least when he isn’t tired, but then I guess most babies are like that.

Despite worries about the rabbits, this warm spell has been a blessing for all of us!

Diapers drying in the spring sunshine

 Every spring the flowers bloom, the trees leaf out, and the migrating birds start to arrive. And yet it is always a miracle and a joy we never tire of.