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Motor City Homestead » Rabbits

Archive for the ‘Rabbits’ Category

The Circle of Life at the MCH

Friday, July 25th, 2008

So, big news at the Motor City Homestead.  We had another litter of bunnies on Sunday, but there were only 5, and one of them was stillborn.  I really think that Princess is just getting too old.  She was a couple years old when we got her, and we’ve had her for a year and a half . . . so that puts her at probably 5 or so, which is pretty much the limit for a rabbit to breed.  This will be her last litter, and we’ll save a female from the litter to start breeding in spring.  Not sure what to do with the mama.  That’s a conversation for another time.  For now, she has a couple of months to raise this litter, and then we’ll decide what to do.  Anyone looking for a gigantic, friendly rabbit for a pet?

 In other news, Runt, the flying chicken has passed on to the great chicken coop in the sky.  A few days ago I noticed her standing huddled in the corner of the run instead of running around scratching like a ’normal’ chicken.  She was still eating, just lethargic - so I figured I would just watch her for a day or two.  Well, on Tuesday I went out in the morning and noticed that her crop was GIGANTIC - like the size of a softball.  First thing in the morning, the crop should be empty.  A chicken’s crop is a sack where they store food.  From there, it moves to the gizzard, where it is ground up.

Crop

If the crop gets packed full of food, or obstructed in some way, the chicken’s food and water doesn’t get passed to their digestive system.  In addition, the food stuck in the crop starts to spoil, so that adds bacterial and viral complications as well.

When I squeezed Runt’s crop, it wasn’t hard like a compaction.  It felt like a water balloon.  And sure enough, when I squeezed a little bit more, she started to throw up copious amounts of foul smelling water with bits of food in it.  Not a good sign.  I squeezed everything out of the crop, and squirted vegetable oil down her throat, hoping that it was just simple obstruction and some lube would get everything moving again.  Honestly, I wasn’t too hopeful, because she was pretty weak at that point.  I also gave her water with a little bit of vinegar in it to counteract any bacterial build-up in her crop, and bread soaked in olive oil - again just hoping to get everything moving.

Yesterday morning showed now change.  Her crop was again full of food and water, meaning nothing had moved through in the night.  I repeated the above treatement, and called my dad for any additional ideas.  He said that if the crop wasn’t impacted, there’s the possibility that the obstruction was further down her digestive tract, which is big trouble.  And, big trouble it was.  When I got home from work yesterday, Runt was dead.  My only regret is that I didn’t catch it sooner.  The treatment might have worked if given another day or two - and if it didn’t work, I could have at least put her out of her misery sooner.  Bummer. 

Blacksmithing 101

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

So, if you’ve visited the homestead lately, you may have noticed several books on blacksmithing laying around.  I started off as just curious, but the more I read, the more I thought - that can’t be too hard.  Granted, it’s not like I’ll ever be a pro, in fact, I probably won’t even be very good.  But to have a working knowledge of it seems like a worthwhile pursuit.  So, I went to Home Depot, bought some metal rod, and set about fashioning something through the ancient art of smithing.  It’s not nearly as glamorous as I imagined it, but it was still fun, and it’s kind of a amazing to form something out of metal.  Pictures will follow, but here’s a basic diagram. 

Butchering Hooks

It’s a tool for skinning rabbits and small game.  Basically, you hang each back foot on one of the hooks for skinning / butchering.  I actually got the idea from one of the blacksmithing books.  I forged the hooks, the horizontal rod that keeps the hooks spread, and the ring at the top that holds the three lengths of chain.  Total cost, about $5.  Total time, 1 hour.  But using it I saved myself an hour butchering our litter of rabbits this weekend, so that seems like a pretty good trade off. 

 DISCLAIMER:  I’m a better artist than blacksmith.  The actual piece looks really crappy.  But it works, and that’s the important thing.

Moral Support

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

I butchered a litter of rabbits yesterday.  It went about as expected.  I get better and better at the physical aspect of butchering every time - but it is, psychologically, still very difficult.  Thankfully my brother Seth, and a friend of ours, Andre, were there to help.  Doing an unpleasant job is always easier when there is help.  And not just in the misery-loves-company way.  So . . . thanks, guys.

In other, not emotionally wrenching news, we decided to tan the hides this time around.  The rabbits are a bit young for tanning, but we’re going to try it anyways.  Right now the hides are soaking.  I’ll post updates over the next couple weeks at different steps in the process.  We also saved the livers and kidneys to add to pork sausage, and fed the heart and lungs to the chickens.  So we used just about every piece of the rabbit except the intestines, head, and feet.  That feels pretty good - and it makes for a lot less to clean up.

Rabbit hutch pictures

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

So, work on the rabbit hutch has gone much slower than I had hoped (big surprise there) - but things are finally far enough along for pictures.  Here is the lean-to we built on the back of our garage.

Hutch

I know what you are thinking . . . “How did you get those pickets so straight and even?”  I’ll post a diagram of the jig I used later.  No, I did not use a traditional dance that includes lots of kicking and flailing to help me space the pickets.  In the woodworking world, a jig is a tool of sorts that one uses specifically for repetitive cuts, spacing, etc.  Here’s a close up of the pickets.  Amy planted lots of rabbit treats and edible flowers in front.

Pickets close up

The last detail of note is that we decided to hang the cages from the ceiling.  Cleaning out under the cages is much, much easier, and the rabbits are slowly adjusting to life on a swing.  When they get hopping, the whole cage set-up rolls like a cruise ship in a storm.  Here is a close up of the hanging cages.

Hanging cages

And one final shot of the side of the hutch.  Eventually, I may close in the sides to give some additional protection from the wind.  But the coldest weather is behind us, so I’m not going to worry about for the next several months.

Side View

We have lots of painting left to do, and more gardens to put in around the picket fences, but for now the rabbits are dry and warm.  But there is an even greater benefit.  Amy and I have spent a lot of time thinking of how to make our yard feel bigger.  Unless we start buying the houses next to us, there is no way to make our lot any bigger than it already is.  But, by making each part of our yard appealing in a different way, kids and guests will naturally spread out in the space.  That makes the space feel bigger, and also makes the kids want to spend more time outside.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been at someone’s house with a huge yard.  My Grandma has an acre around her house, and it’s 95% lawn.  Guess where we spent all of our time as kids.  Either on a boulder in the corner of her yard, or in the tree next to her house.  People need something to focus on to enjoy a space.  And we’re planning on putting several focus pieces (patio, trees, outdoor fireplace, pond, etc) around our yard as time and finance permit.  Most of our yard areas are purely ideas right now.  The rabbit hutch is the first to actually come together, and it has worked phenomenally.  That section of the yard has gone from a patchy section of lawn that the kids avoided like the plague, to an area that they always visit numerous times during the day.  Gabe, our oldest, heads out there several times every day to pet the rabbits or feed them grass and dandelions.  Even when the kids are playing, their play inevitably circulates near the rabbit hutch at several points.  So they are using more of the yard, and that makes the space feel bigger, even though there is less lawn than before.  Playing mind tricks on little children.  Does it ever get old?  I don’t think so.

Boys will be boys, and dogs will be dogs

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Boys will be boys:  Last week we had dinner with a family we met through church.  I’d never met them before, but Amy had talked to them quite a bit - so we went over to their house one evening for dinner and fun.  After dinner, the kids (they have 4 as well) all trucked outside to play.  After chewing the fat for a couple of minutes, I stuck my head out the back door for a quick check.  In the far corner of the yard, I saw Levi (who is 2 and 1/2) with his pants around his ankles, PEEING ON A TREE IN THEIR YARD!  I yelled, “What are you doing, Levi?”  His shouted over his shoulder, “I had to pee on their tree.”  That explains nothing and everything in seven small words.  Apparently one of our friend’s kids asked several times if he should be peeing outside, and was informed by both Levi and Gabe that “he does it all the time.”  News to his mother and me.

Dogs will be dogs:  I’m working on an outside hutch for the rabbits - it’s essentially a lean-to on the back of our garage.  ‘Nother nifty diagram for your viewing pleasure

Hutch

Eventually, it will be enclosed by a cute picket fence with flowers and vegetables planted around it.  For now, it’s enclosed by a rough-shod wire fence that keeps Ruby from the all-she-can-eat rabbit poop buffet.  The gate is just leaning in place - I plan to attach it tomorrow.  Two days ago, I went out to check on the rabbits in their new home, and noticed that one of the youngsters was holding up a paw covered in blood.  Total bummer.  I washed it with peroxide and put antibiotic ointment on it.  I figured he/she cut it on something in the cage.

Yesterday I was in the garage feeding the chickens, and I heard Fraser, our house-mate’s Boston Terrier scrambling around in the rabbit hutch.  The gate had fallen down and he was in there causing a ruckus.  I chased him out and was about to head back to the chickens when I noticed that Mr Nibbles was bleeding profusely from his foot, and sitting on top his little sleeping cave - which I had never seen him do before.  Suddenly it all clicked in to place.  When the rabbits stand in their cages, their toes and toenails poke through the wire.  To Fraser, the probably look like furry doggy jelly beans - with the thrill of the chase mixed in for good measure.  He was just tall enough, when standing on his hind legs, to reach the underside of the cage.  Mr. Nibbles was now short a toenail - but let me clean it off without too much fuss.  The other rabbit looked a bit worse - and still won’t put weight  on the front paw.  But it is eating and drinking just fine - so we’ll give it a few days and see.  As I said, dogs will be dogs.  But I’m putting up the fence and gate ASAP.

More videos coming soon

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

We busted out the video camera this weekend and shot some updates of the MCH.  Seth (my brother) is working on them and hopefully we’ll have them posted soon.  In the meantime, here’s a great link on tanning rabbit hides with rock salt and battery acid.  We’re going to try it.

My wife is a saint

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

We had a second litter of bunnies on Thursday, and here at day three they are doing great.  That brings our total rabbit count up to 12, along with 6 hens, 2 dogs, and 4 kids.  See title.

Chickens and Rabbits

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Our Ameraucanas have started laying.  I’ll be honest, I gasped like a little girl when I saw the blue egg in the nest box on Sunday.  I may have even clasped my hands in front of my mouth.  Not my most macho moment.  But, you can see why.  They are stunning.

Blue eggs

In rabbit news, our first litter of spring is growing like gangbusters, and Mamacita is due next week.  I’m feeling pretty good about it this time around.  She has been desparate to make a nest for the past week or so.  Every time I put hay in her cage, she would carry it to the corner, and start scrabbling wildly in an attempt to make a nest.  I finally relented and put a nest box in, just so she would settle down.  And she has.

Egg a day, and rabbit news

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Not sure who it is, but one of our chickens is laying an egg a day so far.  For those interested, we have 2 Ameraucanas (they lay blue-green eggs) 2 Rhode Island Reds (classic brown farm hen) a Buff Orpington and a Black Star.  Normally a move to new digs will freeze them up for a week or two - plus with the cold and shorter days, I wasn’t really expecting any eggs at all.  Hopefully they hit their stride by the end of March.

In rabbit news, we had our first litter of the spring born 3 days ago.  It was a litter of 6, but two didn’t make it.  It was bitterly cold the first day, and two of the babies had scrambled out from under mama’s nest.  Still, 4 healthy babies for sure - there might be more, it’s hard to count them in the pile.  Hooray for spring.

MCH - Rabbits#6

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click to Play

This post is a little late in coming.  It’s video of our second litter just days after being born.  Since this video we’ve actually slaughtered and eaten four of the five from our first litter (shown at the end of the video), and these little guys are growing quickly.