Rabbits Aren’t Easy

Rabbits are delicate creatures. They can break their own back while running around, binkying.

Recently, I’ve had to put my Charlie buck (Valentino) on probiotics since he is prone to bloat. In my opinion, that was my fault, since I started him on green plants too fast, despite knowing that charlies can have intestinal issues. Like some dog breeds, there’s a such thing as being “too white” which has it’s origins in DNA coding. My Cocker Spaniel suffers from White Dog Syndrome, where he involuntarily shakes, like little mini seizures. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since he’s had an episode–it seemed more common when he was 8 or 9 rather than his elderly 12. Also on the good news front, ‘Tino’s bloat has cleared up; whether he’s a candidate for probiotics the rest of his life and very limited greens, I guess we’ll have to wait til he’s 6 months old to find out.

In the last 24 hours something has occurred with my favorite broken doe, Rainey. She was a little “off” yesterday, but heat can do that to a rabbit. Today, oy!! Her eye is extremely bulged out and the ear above it doesn’t seem to want to cooperate either. I don’t know if she somehow scratched her eye but she’s now in a cage in the house where it’s darker and cooler. Which is great when you can’t close your eye. I’m gonna have to break out saline eye drops for her until the swelling goes down and feed her some willow, a natural painkiller. The husband will be less than thrilled at having a recuperating rabbit in the house, but I don’t toss him outside with a migraine headache and tell him to deal with it.

Poor girl, I’ll let you know how she does the next day or so.

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Rainey1
Swollen eye, what a pain!!!

AFTERWORD:

11:19pm: Rainey’s eye worsened considerably despite my best efforts today, and this evening she passed into the Happy Hopping Grounds. I already miss my Dragon Lady. Thank you, Rainey, for getting me started into showing and rabbits and thank you for all the lovely sons and daughters. Your daughters, Rosebud and Hollyberry, will carry your legacy on.

Rainy would have been a year old this Saturday.

Failure to Thrive

fail
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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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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Insectivore Lions? Nope. 

The Lion King was all about the Circle of Life, but other than a few bone scenes (and Pumba being stalked by Nala) it really didn’t address how the pride ate. If you think a lion is an insect eating carnivore, stop watching Disney and turn on old YouTube episodes of National Geographic or Wild America. The scenes where Simba and later his first cub are presented? That’s a whole lot of dinner bowing down.


(picture copyright by Walt Disney Productions)

Rabbits have lots of babies. I raise New Zealands, which is approved and shown as a commercial meat breed. For NZs, winning blue ribbons at ARBA shows means raising rabbits with the best body type in a minimal amount of time for commercial production. Think about that. Cows, chickens, fish, and pigs are all farmed for commercial production. They end up at your local store for your casseroles, BBQs, roasts, and your diet plan. Heck, raptor-type birds eat rabbit.
Rabbit is low in fat, high in protein, and is nearly indistinguishable in texture to chicken. Rabbit can be substituted for chicken in almost all recipes.

Factory farming pigs and cows creates near biohazards due to waste run-off. Rabbit–not at all. I know of a country boy farmer whom in the spring purchases young rabbits. He has weather appropriate housing for them and all spring and summer those rabbits feast on the weeds he pulls from his gardens. In turn he takes their poop berries and fertilizes his garden and lawn–he has an amazing lawn. Come fall when the crops are harvested and the weeds no longer grow on his property, he thanks the now-grown rabbits for their help that year, and then butchers them for his family that winter.

Rabbit breeders of all varieties have a saying: Keep the Best, Eat the Rest.

Bon appetite!  🎼(“….and the Circle…of Liiiiife!”)🎤🦁🐗

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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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Cleaning Up

Let’s face it, cleaning up is no fun. Cleaning up after kids, adults, dogs, and myself is really a chore at times. Then I’m like, “Ugh, the rabbits need tending to also! I don’t wanna!”

Unlike the kids and adults who can clean up after themselves, the rabbits cannot. They can’t help themselves to dinner or to a drink. After awhile their pee stinks and burns their eye membranes. If there’s a rabbit that needs continued medical care, they can’t medicate themselves.

So I go to the rabbitry in a grumpy mood to clean and leave a happier person, since they’ve all greeted me and the smell of hay is nice.

Sometimes I’d rather clean the tabbits than the house.

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