Failure to Thrive

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The passing of young rabbits.

 

Sometimes there is no answer. Sometimes that little one in the litter just doesn’t grow. Why are all it’s littermates twice the size? Why is it so weak, so docile? It’s eating and drinking, what’s the matter?

We had our first kit die this weekend from failure to thrive. It had the same access to all the same resources as it’s siblings, and yet, it didn’t grow. There have been recent growth spurts from the rest of the litter, so now the one that seemed to be a “little behind” was now definitely behind. On Saturday all the five week olds went into the grass growout cage and the little one ate the veritable feast below it’s feet and drank from the water bowl, resting at the sides of the cage. The next morning my daughter found the little kit dead. She buried the little kit in our rabbit cemetery, near one who had died two months ago in a cage accident.

Failure to thrive is exactly what that sounds like. Generally, kits who are afflicted with FTT have something genetically wrong with it, somewhere in it’s DNA. Possibly this kit was damaged at birth, perhaps stuck too long behind the kit who died at birth, while it’s mother struggled to give birth. Maybe there was a DNA coding error, a protein not manufactured in appropriate amounts. Maybe there was just a fatal flaw somewhere in it’s biologic design that couldn’t cope with growth. I don’t know.

All the rabbits that are born into Soaring Goose are cared for from the moment of birth to the moment they go wherever their destiny takes them. It’s frustrating to see a potential life wither away and there is nothing I can do about it. No medicinal plant, no amount of probiotics, nothing I do can make a FTT kit be the kit it should have been. It makes me sad. It makes my daughter sad too. I hope she knows that I feel sad too. And that I am thankful for her tender care of those who have passed beyond the realm of the living and safely ensconcing them into their earthen graves.

She has a big heart and it shows; she is thriving where some of her charges have not.

I am so proud of her.

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Root Crop

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Free food from my yard!

This is a five gallon bucket full of dandelions. Every single one of them came out of my front yard. This picture would delight the local Yard Service Guy or horrify the neighbors that use a weed-n-feed to stave off invasion. Picky horticulturalists would note that the tap roots are not attached to the dandelions in the bucket and shake their heads, commenting, ‘What a waste of work’.

This is the second bucket of dandelions I have popped out of my front yard. I will be honest, I hadn’t expected them to be so everywhere in the lawn. Insidious.

When we first moved to this house the lawn could have been an advertisement for ‘Barefoot Grass’ of yesteryear. Lush, deep grass, full of single bladed grass from edge to edge. Green so deep you it seemed you could swim in the grass.

By the second year (and no yard treatments) the grass was still proud, but the invaders had begun to edge in. I knew what was going to happen and said a silent good-bye to the lush jungle that use to be the Yard to Envy to the neighbors.

The third year the grass receded and made way for dandelions, clover, plantain, sow thistle, and it was a raggedy lawn. I put down a weed-n-feed fertilizer in desperation, and after it recovered from the burn of too much, it looked great–in spots.

The fourth year we got our first rabbit and I began to do research. The back yard was struggling, having had the same lawn treatment as the front, but it was now infested with white grubs, aka Japanese beetle larva, and wherever they were, the grass died and didn’t come back. That fourth year we let the rabbit out on the back lawn and I noticed that wherever she hung out, the grass brightened up, fortified by calcium pee and bunny poops. That winter we got more rabbits and I started to save the rabbit poop to add to the flower beds the following spring.

Late winter and early spring of the fifth year I began to rinse out the rabbit poop trays and chutes on the back lawn. When spring turned into summer, the back yard exploded with verdant greenery. Last summer we had to mow the back twice as often as the front and the white grub problem went away. Last fall I raked the thatch out of the back lawn and applied a generous layer of rabbit poop to disintegrate over the course of winter.

It’s now May 4th, the beginning of our sixth year here, and our back yard lawn health rivals anything the Yard Service Guy could accomplish.

Seeing the magnificence of the back yard, I have turned my attention to the front lawn, poor struggling thing. I have begun to rake the thatch out and wash the rabbit pans in the front, although it’s inconvenient. The garden beds that have received rabbit poop for the last two years? You can see where the nutrients from the beds have washed down into the lawn, a veritable green tide of health spreading down the slope, a darker shade of green than the rest of the front lawn. Don’t get me started on how amazing the flower and vegetable garden beds are.

Which leads me to dandelions. The dandelions have benefitted from the non-management of the front lawn. They’ve got deep tap roots and compete with the plantain for space in the front and the treelawn (also known as the devil’s strip and just “lawn” in other parts of the USA) and that’s okay, because those weeds are free food for rabbits. Me, too, if I really needed to eat. I went into a local grocery story back in December looking for dandelion for my nursing does and the store wanted $7 for a handful of organically grown dandelion leaves!!! Now look at me–I’ve got ten gallons of dandelions for free!!! Plus their nutritious, vitamin C packed flower heads!! Over the course of the last day and a half, the rabbits ate the first bucket of dandelions (except for the roots). So today I went out and plucked another 5 gallon bucket of dandelions from my lawn. I left the tap roots–I want them to come back so I can keep feeding the rabbits all summer. When the rabbits eat the dandelions, they poop, and I take that poop back to the nutritionally starved front lawn, which is really starting to love the rabbits and is greening up quickly.

My daughter found a small white flower the other day and asked me to identify it since she’d never seen it before–it was a wild white violet. I see the occasional Johnny Jump Up popping through the lawn. I’ve planted crocus in random spots in the front lawn, so we can see when spring arrives in Ohio. Tonight, as I look over my mostly dandelion free front yard, I think the Yard Service Guy would still be horrified. There’s clover, alfalfa, fescue, violets, plantain, and all sorts of other ‘not-grass’ growing in amongst the fading ‘barefoot’ bluegrass. It’s a diverse ecosystem of a lawn, something for Everybug.

The plantain (a member of the spinach family and can be prepared the same) is getting bigger and should be ready to start harvesting soon. It is the one of the safest, most perfect food for rabbits and babies starting on greens for the first time ever. And it’s a great bug bite remedy.

Weeds are awesome.

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Blue Ribbon Rabbits

Blue Ribbon Rabbits

 

First and Second Place

 

End of Day Results

 

I will be the first to admit that when I started showing rabbits last year, I knew nothing about rabbit shows. Nada. Zip. Zero. I researched enough to know I needed to get there early, bring a chair, the rabbits, water for the rabbits, and a pen.

I arrived early and found a spot in the fairground barn (an exhibitor barn) by the big doors and set up my chair, claiming my area. There were six judging tables, each about 15 feet long, that covered one long side of the barn. Opposite the judging tables on the other side of the room was the check-in table and judging tables for guinea pigs. Other competitors were arriving through the big barn doors, bringing in what looked like pallets of rabbits on landscaping wagons. Rabbits of all types–big, small, fluffy, sleek, black, white, silver–all looking out of their rabbit carriers, drinking from tiny water bottles. Those folks set up in the middle of the barn and then walked over to the check-in table, handing over their required paperwork for the show.

Looking at the parade of professionals and their gleaming carriers and wagons, my heart sunk just a little bit. I headed out to my car and started to bring in my rabbits, all of them ensconced in small dog and cat carriers. Four trips back and forth to my car, the carriers in each hand stuffed with straw and hay that left a trail through the barn like bread crumbs, leading right to my spot.

I was the only person there that had cat carriers.

I went to the check-in table and was handed a small mountain of papers to fill out; a slip for each rabbit of my rabbits to fill out name, address, breed, age, sex, etc. Since this was a triple show, that meant I had to fill out 24 slips in addition to the main exhibitioner’s page which listed all my rabbits, tattoos, age, etc, all over again. Ever fill out all your basic information 25 times, maybe at the social security or welfare office? From the hand cramps after all the repetitious writing I felt entitled to some portion of WIC or SNAP!!

After filling out the paperwork and turning it in, I realized I needed a tattooist for my rabbits! I had put tattoo numbers for them on their paperwork (since a rabbit has to have an ear tattoo to be shown) but now I needed it to actually have it done. A visiting judge had a tattoo station set up by the check- in table and after paying her $2 per tattoo, I had to pick up all those cat carriers again and take them over to where she was set up. If you ever have to wrestle six young rabbits in and out of cat carriers full of straw, you will find to your growing embarassment that there will be a small mountain of stems on the floor and brand new cuts on your arms from struggling rabbit toenails when you’re done. I was hot and exhausted and judging hadn’t even started yet. Humping those carriers back to my spot (I bribed two young girls to help me) I settled into my chair for a rest. Just to have the first class for New Zealands called at the other end of the barn.

At this point there were probably 150 people and their rabbits in the barn and it was extremely crowded with walking area at a minimum. I grabbed two carriers (10 lbs of rabbit in each carrier) and made the long walk to the other end of the barn, and by my third trip I was the spectacle to watch at the NZ table. Once I got there, huffing and puffing, the judge was waiting for me to put my rabbits on the table in the little individual cages. A fellow competitor who was showing New Zealand Whites took one look at me and my set up and said, “First show? Everyone has cat carriers for their first couple shows. Let me help.” Another gentleman joined us in breaking out the rabbits a moment later. When the judge got huffy over the delay (those tables are high and difficult to see over) my rescuer said, “It’s her first show, please be patient.”

It turns out I was the only person with New Zealand Reds at that show and was competing against myself in all three classes. In retrospect I’m glad, I learned a lot about NZR conformation, show etiquette, and what the best breeding options I had for my next generation of Reds. Near the end of the show I traded one of my Red doelings for a genuine top-opening rabbit carrier, which enabled me to retire two cat carriers. I made some new friends and was proud of how well my rabbits and I did our first show out.

That evening as I packed up the car there was another trail of straw behind us but this time it led to blue ribbon rabbits.

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***If you’re going to show rabbits, here is some advice: 1. Eat breakfast and bring lunch, 2. Bring return address labels to apply to the show paperwork, it’ll cut down on the carpal tunnel from writing your info over and over, 3. BORROW/BUY/STEAL a wagon for moving your rabbits, 4. Do NOT bring open topped water bottles (Lixit brand for example), when you have to take them off the cages they spill water all over the ground since they can’t be set on their sides.

Are We Pregnant Yet?


Rabbits are supposed to breed, well, like rabbits, right?

Wrong.

Whomever coined that generalization apparently didn’t actually breed rabbits, he merely saw the results of successful matings. When rabbits don’t want to mate (a shocker, right?) it can be extremely frustrating to get them in the mood. Barry White, the Songmaster of Gettin’ It On, just doesn’t do it for lagomorphs. A variety of things may be tried (and successful, otherwise I wouldn’t list them) which includes long car rides, switching cages with the intended buck for a day or two, raspberry zinger tea, weight loss, attempted table breedings, or daily exposure to the buck for as long as you have the patience to do so. Guess which one may have finally worked with Meg?

Wheatley is outweighed by a couple pounds by Meg, and she has a tendancy to beat up bucks that annoy her, so all visitations were closely supervised. Unlike Wheatley’s encounters with my other does, there were no discernable successful fall offs, just a lot of exhausted panting and chasing his new big lady around, who refused to lift for him. However, a lack of lift and a lack of visible fall offs doesn’t necesarily mean that impregnantion wasn’t unattained. There have been many breeders who have had suprise litters after a “failed” mating.

So poor Wheatley literally wore the hair off his hind hocks over the course of five days last month. I didn’t realize he had sore and bleeding hocks til I put him back in his cage and realized I had blood on me. That’s why you’ll see his cage currently has loads of straw in it, to take the pressure off his feet while the protective foot hair grows back in. I applied Blu-Kote to his feet for about a week while the flesh healed clean. I’d say in another week or so, his feet will be back to normal.

Megan didn’t try to build a nest two weeks after her meet-ups with Wheatley, which for her is a sure sign of a false pregnancy. However, today she was hay-stashing and looking to build a nest!! This is great news since I’ve been trying to get her pregnant for almost a year. I had to switch some of the rabbit housing around to find a cage that fit her nest box through the door. As soon as she was settled into the new cage with the nest box, she went to work building a lovely tunnel and baby chamber. Now she has the pleased look of a rabbit with all her ducks in a row!

I am terrible at palpitating, and her “due” date is spread between April 10 – 15. With having to paint Wheatley’s feet with Blu-Kote, I’m tempted to give this litter (if there is one) a Pict naming theme.

Gartnach, anyone??

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Easter Rabbits–Impulse Buys 

The story of Easter Rabbits is short and pagan, having it’s origins in the religions of ancient Middle East. Look it up in Wikipedia if you don’t believe me.

Today’s blog is about the poor rabbits who are bought at Easter time specifically to cater to the belief that the family’s 3-year old is ready for a cute (and ultimately temporary) pet to celebrate Easter. Would you entrust a puppy to a 3 year old?

Rabbits live as long as 10+ years. Most rabbits are purchased in the baby stage (8 weeks) and new owners are unprepared when their cuddly Bun-bun turns into a teenager a month later. Bun-bun’s personality starts to change, may start to be sulky and throw temper-trantrums, much like a human teenager.

Rabbits, probably the ultimate prey of the animal world, come equipped for defense too. Sharp claws that can leave long scar marks (making you look like a cutter) and teeth that can inflict major damage should they choose to (deep bites and potentially removing a finger). DEPENDING ON THE ANIMAL’S TEMPERMENT AND HOW IT IS TREATED BY IT’S OWNERS, THESE WEAPONS MAY COME INTO PLAY DURING TEENAGER-HOOD.

This does not make your rabbit a bad rabbit–truly aggressive animals will be aggressive even as babies (and should have never been sold to the public in the first place) and IMO should be put down. “There are too many nice rabbits in the world to put up with mean ones,” says two rabbit breeder friends of mine. So be prepared that your Easter Bun-bun will undergo hormones and some personality change starting at 3 months old and ending typically at 6 months old.

By the time Bun-bun is six months old and done with his teenagerness, most people are tired of their impulse Easter purchase. Three months of dealing with a teenager rabbit has soured them to the nice adult rabbit that Bun-bun has become and slowly Bun-bun is ignored by the family. Nail trimming is left off for months (now Bun-bun has sore feet). The cage isn’t cleaned out often enough (Bun-bun is now starting to change colors as feces and urine stain his fur and the stench makes his eyes water and run). Food comes at irregular intervals (Bun-bun is so hungry that he lunges at whomever is putting food in his cage, scaring the person into thinking “bad bunny”). Water is neglected to be filled or the bowl/water is scummy or fouled (Bun-bun is desperately thirsty, he can’t digest his food without water). People avoid hungry, thirsty, dirty, foot-pained desperate Bun-bun because they’re too busy with family vacation plans or Fourth of July parties. The Easter bunny of the house is looked on with pity and then posted to Kiji, Hoobly, or Craigslist with all the other unwanted Easter impulse bunnies because NOBODY THOUGHT ABOUT THE LONG TERM WELFARE  OF BUN-BUN. Nobody thought that their Easter rabbit would suffer because of their own ignorant, heartless hands. And then they wonder why rabbits die at a year or two old, never thinking that the person in the mirror is likely the reason.

So if you’re thinking of getting a rabbit this month, I hope that you’ve been thinking about it for awhile. Educate yourself first — http://www.rabbittalk.com is a great resource!

Easter purchases are usually a deadly idea for the rabbit and merely an inconvenience to the impulse-purchase family.

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