New Adventure for 2016! Rabbits!
Original Publish Date: 2016-04-20 10:28:58 So this year I decided to add Rabbits and some more Fowl to our little homestead.    We started this project by obtaining 2 very nice New Zealand Meat rabbits from Laurie over at Circle M Farms. Laurie ends up being my mentor, so most of my "working" animals have come thru her farm as we both like trying new projects, and we have built a mutual trust that  I'll take good care of livestock that comes here. She had decided to cut back on her workload and downsize a bit focusing on chickens. I jumped at being able to try rabbits as I had been considering it for a while. Its still a pretty fast learning curve. Our first litter  wasn't the best. I really wasn't quite ready to handle them  so out of 7 kits and a false pregnancy, only 2 are left.  But  the goal is to learn from mistakes.   Mom rejected 4 that were very small.   One just disappeared. One was stepped on and broke it's leg, then escaped and sadly died of hypothermia out of the nest. Then there were three I thought were doing very good. Until one that was healthy and active a few hours earlier was found dead in it's cage. So now their are 2. But what's important is learning and correcting those errors.   Things to learn
  1. Mom needs to be settled and kept calm during pregnancy.
  2. Have wire cages of good size for rabbits.
  3. baby pens need to have openings no larger then 1/2 inch squares so they can not escape.
  4. make sure you have a good nesting box set up, one with a lip is ideal.
  5. Mom needs toys and things to chew on.
  6. Wean bunnies at 4-5 weeks!  Their is a chance that leaving them on mom while they are eating pellets can cause severe stomach upset .  The issue that caused sudden death in the bunny that seemed otherwise healthy was gastric inflammation,  the combination of the milk and feed, mixed in the stomach created a toxic environment in the gut. I know I skinned it and did a bit of a post mortem, no point wasting a perfectly good hide.  What I found was a full but inflamed stomach and a very strong smell of acidic urine mixed with blood. 
  7. breed mom back at week 6-8 just after kits are weaned. Apparently rabbits are  engineered for back to back litters and although they should get a little break breaks that are tooo long can effect future fertility so it's ok to  rebreed. Some facilities do it as soon as 10 days after kitting(birth), while others do a 42 day cycle.
  My current set up is a 4 cage hut, with 4sqft wire bottomed cages separated by plywood dividers. I choose the 1/2 in wire square for their feet, These are ideal becuse they are large enough for poop to fall thru while small enough to be easy on the rabbits feet.  I have 32oz water bottles that get checked and filled with clean water daily,  mineral block hangers. Rabbits are on pelleted food of high quality, and are given free choice grass/alfalfa hay, and have minerals, a little red cell, vit, and electrolytes added to their water as needed.  I like to keep my rabbits entertained, so I gave then Kong toys , balls, and sticks and untreated lumbar to chew on and play with. I'll be adding cage toys  latter , like bells and  various cage puzzles.   My Rabbits are not pets. Although when I first brought them home I felt it was too chilly outside  in a stall where I had them and brought the female in to live in our "master bathroom".  This worked for a little bit although she was very wild( bitey). That arrangement ended when she moved from ripping up the linoleum flooring.  Which angered my husband. But I felt was a favor, since I wanted to re-tile anyway... to.. chewing through  the hose on the back of the toliet and creating the great flood of 2016. At that point Miss Bellatrix was moved outside to large a reinforced dog crate. That arrangement worked pretty well at first and she kitted with 7 babies 3-14-2016. Except the wire I had added to the dog cages  wasn't small enough and was unable to contain wandering kits. I lost 4 :  one to the cold,  one eventually wandering off, and two for being too small. of those three I tried to bottle rasie but the two smallest were just not viable and the bunny with the broken leg wandered off after he was back nursing his mom. Sometimes you just can't win. Then as I stated above  I lost one two days ago at  5 weeks old to what I'm pretty sure was gastroenteritis.   After that I removed the siblings from Mom and am monitoring them. I added  everything to their water.  a little backing soda, Acidiphodolis , some electrolytes, and a little b-12 and red cell.    From here we continue this new adventure If all goes well we will be roasting that remaining kits in a few weeks .       

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