“If I have done anything, even a little, to help small children enjoy honest, simple pleasures, I have done a bit of good.”
― Beatrix Potter
Rabbits are probably my favorite animals to raise. They continue to be an honest, simple pleasure for myself and my small children alike. I adore cows, but there is something about being outweighed by a solid 700-1000 pounds that introduces a certain amount of reservation into the relationship. Rabbits on the other hand are fluffy. And smallish. And the most damage I’ll incur when handling them is a scratch. It’s just a flesh wound! [Ten points for naming that movie] Not to say that a rabbit scratch can’t be impressive…I once caught a hind kick to the face and I’m grateful her rear claw missed my eyeball. Oh well. It’s worth it.
I’m not sure what it is about them, but having a rabbitry just makes me happy. I’ll introduce you to our Rex breeding trio and current newborns (they were born three days ago…Squee!!!) I won’t really go into the struggles we’ve had learning about southern humid heat vs. dry desert heat and its effect on rabbits, or how clever foxes are when baby kits are on the menu. We’ve solved some major problems and are making progress towards having a regular and consistent production schedule.
Wellington is the king of the rabbitry. He has exactly one job and he takes that job very seriously. The coloring that he has is called tri-color harlequin. It’s nice because his offspring can have a very wide range of coloration, which makes for some very cool pelts down the line. Garyn has put in an order for slippers.
Welli is a Rex and they are known for their ridiculously short, soft, and luscious fur. Their size and growth rate also make them good meat rabbits so we were all too happy to try the breed out. I couldn’t be happier with the Rex’s and it makes me grin every time I pet them. Seriously, come visit just so you can feel their fur.
You get to see this picture twice because she is so pretty. Nairobi is Layna’s absolute favorite and she loves taking care of her “Robi.” Robi’s first litter was huge, 11 kits, but we lost them all to predators. After that she abandoned two litters and we are really hoping these 6 babies will make it to 4 weeks (point at which they are independent) and that she’ll get her mama groove back.
When a doe is about to kindle (give birth) she builds a nest and lines it with fur that she pulls from her belly and her dewlap (weird bulge on her chest). Usually our girls start pulling fur the day before babies come. Birth never loses its magic no matter how many newborns I see. Speaking of…
In this tiny pile of fluff there are actually 6 babies!
Jakarta’s kits tend to be bigger, but in the two litters that she’s had she only has three at a time. Robi has been really making sure their temperature is regulated and I think they are all eating. Unfortunately, our temperatures decided to act like winter and I’m a bit worried.
Boss Lady. Jakarta is definitely the dominant female around these parts. Her coloring is called “Castor” and was developed to mimic beaver fur back around the turn of the century when beaver was all the rage in Europe. Her castor mixed with Wellington’s tri-color created some very beautiful pelts that are in our freezer waiting for me or the husband guy to find time to tan them. Rabbit meat is one of my favorites, but with a growing puppy we had to share. We had one rabbit dinner and Tatanka had two. The intestines were her favorite part…more on her raw food diet in a later post.
After losing several litters to predators, we realized we needed a full blown bunny compound. It was built in phases and we still aren’t totally done. The first phase had our two does out in a 6’ x 6’ by 3’ tall run and our buck in a cage inside that.
Now we’ve expanded and I can actually stand up in the run, which makes cleaning up and mucking out much better. At first our buck was in one side and the does and their kits were in the other, but Jakarta started really tormenting Nairobi so we moved Robi in with Welli and then when she kindled we kicked him out to room with Jak. I wanted to make sure Robi would have no stress to ensure that she would take care of her kits. So far, so good. Regular little soap opera in there.
Ideally, we will be able to build a third pen and have each doe in her own space with her daughters and the males in the middle pen while the kits grow out to a good weight. No doubt I’ll chronicling the exploits of our rabbits quite a bit. I completely relate to Beatrix Potter’s fascination with the foibles of small woodland creatures.