Saturday, January 31, 2015

Grow-out Pen, Completed!

It took some chicken wire, a little ingenuity, and a TON of zip ties, but it is finally DONE!

The pen is on the other side of our yard, so I had to load them up in a carrier to get them there. Once I got all seven buns in the cage and tried to lift it, I realized they were really freakin' heavy! So I set the cage on the wheelbarrow and rolled them across the yard. I got a funny look from the hubby as I wheeled them past the living room window. Haha! (Too bad there's no picture.)

This is their little "burrow" area. I ended up doing something different with their feed, by the way. I knew that would get knocked over in no time. Which it did, of course.

I'm still doing a little tweaking, as far as their food and water set up is concerned, but so far it's working out great!

They will be 10 weeks old, tomorrow. Hopefully I can get some weights on them this evening. Some of them are already pretty solid and meaty! All except for the doe, of course. :/

I'm not sure if you can tell in these pictures or not, but they are actually getting some silvering! How pretty is that?

They have plenty of places to hide, and lots of room to run and bounce around.

They are so much fun to watch, I could stay out here all day.

Somebody else likes to watch them too....

Tala (the shepherd) and Dioji (the terrier) are accustomed to the rules regarding livestock, but little Mika is still learning. I'm having to watch her like a hawk. Even though she's hardly given the chickens a second glance, she is very interested in the rabbits.

Luckily, she is highly responsive to vocal reprimands, so I'm hoping those will be the only corrections I will need to curb any unwanted behavior.

It would take any of them a LOT of work to get into the pen, but my fear is that she will really have a go at it sometime when we are not around, digging her way in. This may trigger the other two to get in on it too. I'm probably going to have to do some serious one-on-one training sessions with Mika, right in among the rabbits, to let her know in no uncertain terms that they are MINE, not HERS.

She has been a really great dog, otherwise. She joined us for her first pack walk, the other day, and has taken right to the leash.

She's still not thrilled with loading into the car, but I'm sure that will improve with time.

I have to hold her there to keep her from jumping out before I can close the hatch.

The new babies are all doing well. I took one more of the runty broken reds from Cardamom's group and put it in Acer's box. It just could not seem to catch up with its siblings.

Even after 24 hours with Acer, I could tell that it had grown a little, and had a nice big, bursting belly.

I'm hoping that all the extra nursing will help Acer lose a little internal fat. I'm thinking that that is why she had only two kits, this time around. Since I re-bred her when her kits were 4 weeks old, she probably weaned them a lot earlier than 8 weeks, which is when I removed her from them. So I think she was pigging out on their food, a little too much.

In just a few weeks I will be breeding the New Zealands back, and breeding my little Creme doe for the first time. Yippee! 

The wood stove installation is FINALLY done, at our park residence!

That's a terrible picture, but you get the idea. The wall behind still needs to be covered, obviously. I think Mark said they will be hanging some air stone. We will be lighting our first fire in it tonight, even though it really isn't going to be cold enough for one....

The roofers also began working at our new place, yesterday. We've not been over there to see how far they've gotten with it, but my dad said they had been busy pulling up the old shingled roof.

Tomorrow the rain moves back in again..... ugh.

But it feels good to get so much accomplished today!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go do some more bunny watching....

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Comparing Brood Does

Both litters are doing well, and looking pretty good overall, on day 6.

It's been interesting to compare the mothering abilities of the two does, this time around.

Here is Cardamom's litter:

They all have full bellies, so no real complaints, here, I suppose. But then you have Acer's group:

... now those are some FAT, SASSY babies!

Both does have had the same access to the same types of food, but it's evident that Acer gives richer, more abundant milk. Her kits are bigger, sleeker, and downright rolly!

I'm not writing Cardamom off, by any means, as I know she pooled a lot of her body's resources to produce 10 kits; but I really think her group should be in better condition, by now. I thought about taking yet another kit out of Cardamom's group to give to Acer, but decided to hold off for now.

Even though Acer is a little smaller, and has been producing smaller litters, I really think she is the better brood doe, out of the two of them. I'll be continuing to watch Cardamom, as the weeks go by. But I'm still thinking about replacing Cardamom with Acer's doe from her last litter. My rabbitry is small, so if I want to improve my meat stock, I'll need to cull aggressively. 

So far, Acer's abilities fit more into the goals I have set for my breeding program. We shall see.

It's another gorgeous day, so I am eager to get that grow-out pen finished!

I'll leave you with some gorgeous photos my husband took on his daily rounds, yesterday morning...

Center Hill Lake

The observation tower, rising out of the mist.

Have a great Wednesday, everybody!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Babies at 4 Days

The other day I had decided to pull Acer's one surviving kit and give it to Cardamom, but my friend over at Hendrick's Hearth gave me a much better idea: I separated Cardamom's litter into two groups: 6 for her, and 5 for Acer.

Cardamom's allotted litter

Acer's: her single dark red kit is pretty easy to pick out.

Now, all of the babies have an equal chance, and Acer still gets to raise a litter.

She was very eager to be a mother again, and jumped straight into the nest box to feed the babies when we returned it to her. She obviously gives abundant milk, because those babies' bellies are bursting! I made sure to give her the more runty of the lot because I know she would feed them well.

I'm fascinated by the color outcome in Cardamom's litter. I'm still learning about rabbit color genetics, but a majority of the litter appear to be broken reds, with only 3 broken chestnuts. I expected a little more variety, considering she was crossed to a Creme d'Argent, but I guess that means both lines are pretty pure, in regards to color. That's my simplistic explanation, anyhow. :)

Obviously the red gene is pretty dominant. I just wonder if any of them will develop the silvering of the Creme d'Argent. I can't keep them all until they're 4 months old, though! I think I might at least keep the one doe from Acer's last litter.

I'm not exactly sure why Acer had only two kits, this time. I'm wondering if I left her last litter in with her too long, allowing her to pig out and pack on some internal fat. She probably weaned them a lot earlier than 8 weeks, since I re-bred her four weeks before that.

We made a little more progress on the grow out pen Saturday, but I need more zip ties to finish laying the chicken wire. I've also got to figure out what I'm going to do with the gap in the gate.

We did get the tarp on the top, and we have a bale of straw to scatter inside. Maybe, just maybe, we can get the grow-outs moved in there before it's time to process them. Maybe.

Good news! The roofers are getting started on our new house, this Wednesday. They might be finished by Friday. Once the roof is on, we can start addressing the water damage and get the painting done and new floors down.

THEN we can actually start talking about MOVING IN. 

It still seems like that will take forever, but getting the new roof on is a BIG step.

So I'll be trying to enjoy these ridgetop sunrises while I can...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Litter Update

Well, Acer finally kindled.

We found one partially eaten kit on the wire and one, alive but cool, in the nest box.

I warmed him up and put him in Cardamom's nest box for the meantime, just to see if Acer would have any more kits.

It doesn't appear that she is going to at this point, but I will still be watching her.

I'm wondering if she got spooked, yesterday evening. I noticed when I went out to feed them last night that her J-feeder had been knocked out, the nest box was on its side and her cage door was askew, as if she was running around spastically her cage.

That might explain her difficulty, this time around.

The one kit still looks really good, and she had already fed it by the time I looked at it.

I suppose I could always keep the box indoors, and take it out to her a couple of times a day for feeding, but I think I'd rather just let Cardamom raise it, and re-breed Acer again in a few days to try for another litter.

She did such a fantastic job last time. It's disappointing that she didn't repeat her success.

Cardamom's kits are looking great, however...

Acer's is the chunky red one, second from the front.

Two or three of the kits are a little on the runty side, so I've pulled the box and will return it to Cardamom with just the little guys so they can get a good feeding on their own.

I'll be very impressed if she successfully raises all eleven!

Funny, how the tables turned with these does, this time around.

We were a little surprised to wake up to snow this morning.

It's mostly melted by now, but it was lovely while it lasted.

Mark and I finally agreed on the name Mika, for our new little dog.

She made her first vet visit today, getting a checkup and shots and such. The vet agreed on the breed mixture we decided on, and determined she was 6-8 months old, but not yet sexually mature. NOT pregnant, in other words, which is a huge relief! We'll still be getting her fixed pretty soon, though.

She's still trying to gain acceptance from the pack, especially Tala.

We actually caught them playing together, this morning.

Welcome to the family, Mika!

Friday, January 23, 2015

One litter down, one to go!

Not only that, but it just so happens that the first one to have her litter was none other than the bumbling Cardamom....

... and she has done a STELLAR job! :)

After her last failure I was ready to do her in, but Mark really encouraged me to give her a second chance. I'm so glad I did!

10 healthy, well-fed babies, and a perfect nest with mounds of fur.

Those babies were cloaked in such a huge sphere of fluff, I had a hard time locating them all! (She didn't pull fur at all last time, in addition to not building a nest.)

I couldn't be more pleased with her, at this point.

Acer, however, is still keeping me guessing.

She didn't plump up much this time around, although I know that's not a good indicator whether she's pregnant or not.

She has shown no nest building interest, whatsoever, but we are only on day 32, so I'm just going to have to wait her out.

She was bred to my first-time New Zealand buck, so hopefully he's not shooting blanks. He is built like a brick and has the sweetest personality ever. I really hope he doesn't turn out to be sterile.

But it's really too early to be worrying about that. I'll have my eye on her.

In the meantime, I've got these little boogers to play around with!

I'm still learning about rabbit colors, but it looks like there are three broken chestnuts and seven that look like broken reds or fawns.

Whatever they are, they look great!

Alright, Acer, your turn!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Project, New Dog

Yesterday Mark finally had a day off, after working for seven days straight. I was planning on giving him a fishing day, even though I've been itching to get some projects done around the house.

But then we got a call from the park maintenance workers, saying they had just found a dog at the treatment plant, and asking if we wanted them to bring her to us.

"May as well, we thought."

Drop-offs in the park are all too common, sadly enough. Our dogs Lucy and Dioji were drop-offs, and we get a half-dozen each year, it seems. What's even more tragic, is that there is no animal shelter in our county, just a euthanasia clinic where you pay to have unwanted animals put to sleep. Other county shelters won't take them in.

Lucy, shortly after she was dropped off, nearly 8 years ago
Dioji showed up on Mark's doorstep back in the winter of 2006
 A few other past drop-offs...

Sometimes we can re-home them, if we can catch them. Every once in awhile a park visitor will take one. One little dog went to my sister. Another (the handsome dog in the last picture) actually ended up being trained as narcotics dog, I believe.

Then there's this little pup...

She was just too sweet to say "no" to. So, it looks like she's joining the family.

She's really not in bad condition, but her nails are really worn down, probably from running on the roads a lot.

She looks to be a mix of cur and dachshund, but you never can know for sure. She has a black tongue, which is characteristic of most curs.

So now we are playing the "naming game." It usually takes us awhile to decide, as we bounce names off of each other and usually have a hard time agreeing on one. Mark started calling her Sadie, but I thought we could surely come up with something more original than that, but even after skimming through thousands of names, nothing really stood out to me.

This afternoon I spent some time outside, observing her in a more relaxed, natural state. She really makes me think of some primitive, tribal hunting dog, kind of like the type you would see in some remote village, following her people through the forest.

So I began to read through Native American names, and narrowed it down to two: Ayasha (Cheyenne for "little one") and Mika (Sioux for "intelligent raccoon").

I'm strongly leaning towards Mika, at this point, but I need to discuss it with the hubby first.

She is very good with Ian, as well.

We'll be setting up a vet visit soon. I'm thinking she's probably between 6 and 12 months of age, but I'll be interested to see what the vet thinks. 

Needless to say, our Monday went a little differently than we expected. Sorry Mark, I still owe you a fishing trip.

We did make it into town so we could pick up a few needed supplies for my latest project.

I mentioned in my last post about modifying the old bird pen into a grow out pen for the rabbits.

It's already pretty secure, but I decided to add a row of chicken wire for added security, and to help keep rabbits from digging out.

I probably should have pulled the wire down further, but I had such a good start, I hated to go back and re-do it. It will probably be sufficient. This pen won't be housing rabbits any longer than a month or two at a time. I'm going to rake the ground back over it and tamp it down real well.

I wasn't  expecting to even get that far with it, really, so I was pleasantly surprised. 

Cable ties are fun! I think he threw them in every corner of the yard.
Progress is slow, with this kid in tow, but it is progress, nonetheless. 

It was great for him to have so much outside time today, even if I was chasing him half the time.

Hopefully we can get the grow outs moved in there this weekend. All I really lack after laying the chicken wire is weather proofing (tarps) and making a couple of shelters out of plastic storage bins.

It's amazing how warmer weather makes you more productive! This trend will continue for awhile, but I'm sure the bitter cold will visit us again, soon. It is January, after all.

I'll leave you with a short video from today. The new pup is right at home with us, just as Ian is right at home with the pack. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Return of Sunny Days

Just like anything else in life, just when you think you can't take anymore, there is no more left to take.

I sometimes don't realize how much I miss the sun until it finally appears after weeks of cold, overcast skies.

That's one reason I like Tennessee. Even within seasons, there is a constant state of flux between warm and cold. I don't think I could live anywhere up north, with their endless winters.

Needless to say we took advantage of it!

I finally got some things done in the rabbitry I had been putting off because of the bitter cold (not a good excuse, really.)

I weighed the grow outs, clipped nails on all the adults, disinfected cages and trays, moved some buns around, and even weighed most of my adult rabbits (except for the pregnant does).

Needless to say, I have the scratches to prove it. One of these days, my husband is going to get questioned for spousal abuse. :)

They're starting to look more like rabbits and less like bunnies, but I still think they are SUPER cute!

Here are their weights and sexes at 8 weeks (in pounds):

  • Buck - 3.13
  • Buck - 3.11
  • Buck - 4.2
  • Buck - 4.3
  • Doe - 3.9
  • Buck - 4.1
  • Buck - 4.0
Notice that there is ONE doe in this group. I was considering retaining a doe from this litter to replace Cardamom if she botches her next upcoming litter. I'll see how they look at 10 weeks. 

I'm also really curious to see whether they get silvering. I wouldn't know that until the 4 month mark, however.

My plan is to fix up the old duck/chicken/quarantine pen into a grow out pen for the young buns. 

This was back in summer

I just need a couple of tarps, some rubbermaid box shelters, and probably a little more wire around the base of the pen. 

They are getting a little big for their 36 x 32 hole. Besides, I really need to get my other poor Creme buck out of his 24 x 24 cage. I've got 3 other 36 x 32 cages to set up, but I need to disinfect them and treat them for rust first. Maybe I can get around to it next week, while we still have warmth and sunshine.

I have high hopes to work on the grow out pen today, but unfortunately Mark has to work this weekend (never fails). Sundays are also the day that we gather as a family at my parents' farm for food and fellowship. 

Tomorrow is supposed to be really beautiful too, and Mark is actually off, since it's a state holiday. But, I really need to let that man take a fishing day. He has been working so hard.

Oh yeah! It's nest box day for the girls! 

All eyes are on you, Cardamom....

... this is your last chance to redeem yourself. She's giving me the stink eye because I just trimmed her nails and treated her for ear mites (AGAIN). I swear, I'm going to have to break out the big guns for these mites. The oil treatments just don't seem to be cutting it. She's the ONLY one having this recurring problem.

I really do hope she gets this litter right. It looks like she's got another good batch of babies in there. She's got good size on her as well.

Here are the weights on the other rabbits, by the way:
  • Ichigo, broken red New Zealand buck (8 mos) - 9.5
  • Turn, Creme d'Argent buck (3 yrs)  - 8.3
  • Colbert, Creme d'Argent buck (1 yr) - 9.3
  • Babette, Creme d'Argent doe (5 mos) - 7.2
I know the standard weights for Cremes are less than that for New Zealands, but I think these Cremes are a little on the small side, especially Turn (considering he has one show leg under his belt). The standard calls for 8.5 - 11 pounds. Colbert has a decent weight, but he is a little weak in the shoulders.

I think, in addition to good body type and other good meat rabbit qualities, I'm going to really select for better size in my Cremes. I'd like to see weights in the 10 pound range, I think.

While I'm anxious to get tasks done around the homestead today, I'm going to try and enjoy the simple fact that the sun is shining, and it is a BEAUTIFUL DAY!