Tag Archives: meat rabbits

Prelude to Winter and Hens that Refuse to Lay

Standard

Well, we didn’t get seven feet of snow here this week, but there are flakes on the forecast for Wednesday. For a place that’s usually sunny and seventy degrees on Thanksgiving Day, that’s pretty crazy. In fact, on the first of November, there were several inches of snow to the north and south of us, although my personal snow-free zone still seems to be fully functional.

I haven’t confessed to The Boy yet that it’s probably my fault he doesn’t get to go sledding when kids four miles away are building snowmen. For now, I’m just hoping that this snow-repelling power isn’t some sort of voodoo that I’ve passed down to him and his brother!

One thing I love about cold weather is how much more pleasant it makes the daily chores. I absolutely hate being out in the smothering humidity of our South Carolina summers, but on cold days, I can bundle up. My heavy Wall’s 12/8 jacket is big enough to zip over my growing baby belly, my Muck Boots keep my feet warm and dry, and with some work gloves, I get everyone fed and watered so much more comfortably than in the summer heat.

I’ve run into a strange problem this year. The pullets I hatched out on February 9 and the ones I bought the next day (in case I had hatched out nothing but roosters!) have never started to lay. They’re 41 weeks old, and I’ve never caught one of them in a nest or seen any evidence of eggs being laid and eaten. I’m really at a loss, but at this point, I’m seriously considering culling the whole bunch of them and starting fresh next spring. They’re eating laying pellets like there’s no tomorrow and we’re not seeing any return on all that feed. So we’re going to change brands and see if it makes a difference, and in a few weeks, we’ll make a decision. This is a first for me, so it’s hard to know what to do.

The rabbits continue to be wonderful. I just love them. I bred Anne, one of the California does, to the AmChin buck (George) last month in hopes of getting a better growout rate in the kits. She was due two days ago and hasn’t nested yet, but she’s made a little tunnel in the nestbox bedding and tends to put off pulling fur till the last minute. Based on her crankiness these past few weeks, I’m pretty confident she’s pregnant. Should be interesting to compare her litter (provided she has one) with whatever we get from the larger AmChin doe, Martha, who’s due on December 4. I’ll post photos as soon as I can.

Hope everyone has safe travels this week and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

Six Busy Months

Standard

Spring and summer have flown by this year. I’ve started a few posts without finishing any, and somehow half a year has passed since I posted anything at all.

The Baby is no longer a baby. Instead, he has morphed into an eighteen-month-old blur of energy, mischief, and fun requiring far more supervision than his brother ever has. Every obstacle must be climbed and every food must be tasted. Any cat sighting (window, television, pet store…) results in repeated and very realistic meowing. For whatever reason, his greatest ambition is to throw himself over the back of the sofa, something which I’ve managed to prevent so far. He loves to read books and wants to be just like his big brother.

image

The Boy, meanwhile, started kindergarten last week. I’m homeschooling him, and he’s absolutely eating it up. Most days he does twice as many pages as projected and would keep going if I didn’t stop him. His favorite thing is cutting and pasting, and he’s very careful and conscientious with his work. He still keeps us in stitches most of the time with the crazy things he says. He loves “inventing” things, and he can build just about anything with either Legos or PVC pipes. And he is a serious people person — not always the easiest thing for this introverted mama to deal with, but I’m glad he’s so outgoing.

image

And as busy as these two keep us, we’re expecting a third in March! The Boy says that it is “definitely” going to be a girl — while he adores his little brother, he also desperately wants a sister. This pregnancy is very different from my others, so maybe that means he’s right.

On the homesteading front, we built four raised beds and had a decent garden this year, but a serious lack of pollinators. The cold winter killed off a lot of honeybees around here. So our tomatoes, beans, crookneck squash, and butternut and acorn squash did pretty well, but the peppers and zucchini did nothing, and out of dozens of blossoms, my pumpkin vine only managed to set one fruit.

image

The chicks we hatched are thriving and fully grown now. We lost two within two days of hatching to mushy chick disease, where the navel fails to close properly after the yolk sac is absorbed. It’s usually caused by too much humidity during the hatch or bacteria encountered in the incubator. I didn’t have a hygrometer to measure the humidity, but as far as bacteria goes, by the end of the hatch that incubator was pretty manky. Not really sure how to avoid that.

Anyway, as soon as I realized why the first one died, I immediately started applying iodine to the navels of all the rest to dry them up. One was already too sick to pull through, but the others with iffy-looking abdomens all healed up cleanly. After that, we lost one to suffocation when all of its siblings decided to pile up on it, but the rest grew up beautifully.

The only downside to hatching our own chicks was that some of the prettiest ones turned out to be cockerels, including Trouble, my funny little owl-looking baby who used to jump into my hand as soon as I reached into the brooder. My little chocolate fluffball, Godiva, did end up being a pullet, but the one that looked like its Cuckoo Marans mama and that I had hoped might lay olive eggs ended up becoming a gorgeous roo. Most of the extra cockerels will probably end up in the freezer. It’s just another way of providing for our family, of course, but you know, I couldn’t help hoping we would have a miraculous, 100% pullet hatch. ☺

We added several new rabbits: a California buck and a trio of pedigreed American Chinchillas. The oldest AmChins won’t be old enough to breed until October, but I love these rabbits! They’re huge, beautiful, and so sweet. They’re a critically endangered heritage breed, so there aren’t many of them around here.

image

Add a few days in Charleston, a quick weekend trip for one of Ben’s younger brothers to get married on Pensacola Beach, several more home improvement projects, and a whole lot of laundry, and you’ve got a decent, if abbreviated, glimpse of our last six months. Hopefully it won’t be another six before I get a chance to write again!

Sleet, Sheep, and a Pet Bunny

Standard

Finally! At long last it’s COLD outside! I’ve been out there a couple of times today to thaw waterers and make sure everyone has enough bedding, and I’m glad to be settled in with my Boy for the rest of the day while we wait for his daddy to get home. We had sleet off and on all morning, and it’s not even gotten up to freezing. In spite of the fact that I have to do chores in the cold, you have no idea how happy this makes me. We need a lot more days like this before spring.

We’ve had so much warm weather lately, and every time I see someone else rejoicing about being able to wear t-shirts and flip-flops in January, all I can think about is our bizarre winter last year and how it threw off the rhythm of all the other seasons. I think a good, cold winter (and seriously, we’re talking about South Carolina here, not the Arctic, people) feels like hitting a “reset” button. It makes everything feel clean and helps me tolerate and even be grateful for the warmer seasons. So come on, y’all, let’s break out the warm layers and enjoy the cold!

Well, both of our rabbit does kindled within 24 hours of each other a couple of weeks ago. The younger girl has six little ones — three white, two grey/brown, and one black. The older one only has three, but they’re at least twice and possibly three times the size of the others! Chubby little things. The other day, I even caught one of them out of the nest box, hopping around the cage behind its mama. Usually they don’t venture out for at least three weeks or so!

The Boy is having a little trouble with the idea of eating the bunnies, though. He keeps insisting that we don’t eat animals (because they have faces and make noises), and we’re trying to explain to him that the bacon, steak, and chicken that he loves so much all come from animals. On Wednesday, though, we went and got him a pet rabbit — a six-week-old sandy Flemish Giant that should end up between fifteen and twenty pounds and will definitely not look like one of the meat rabbits.

We got her from a lady with a really cute little hobby farm. The Boy got to hang out with turkeys, feed sheep, and pet guinea pigs as well as visit with all the rabbits. Just before we left, he decided he wanted to hug the sheep goodbye, and he did manage to hug the lead ewe, but then he started chasing the rest of the flock, who weren’t used to seeing little people and ran away from him. This made the alpha ewe decide he was a threat to her family, and Ben and I both could see what was going to happen next, but we were too far away to reach him. Fortunately, she was only standing about two feet from The Boy, so when she lowered her head and butted him, she didn’t have a running start or much force behind it. She didn’t frighten him or knock him down, just pushed him off balance. Ben and I both were laughing, but I’m pretty sure the lady who owned the place was having visions of lawsuits, because she couldn’t apologize enough. Isn’t it sad that something as funny and harmless as a strong nudge from a sheep immediately conjures up issues of liability and blame?

Anyway, the sweet new bunny is named Charlotte. At first, The Boy said he wanted to call her Ice Cream, then Vanilla, and then Charlie. Ben suggested Charlotte as a more feminine option, and The Boy liked it. If I’d been naming her, I think I would have called her Truffles, because she’s two shades of brown: a dark chocolate color down near her skin with a lighter, cocoa-powder brown at the tip of each hair like she’s been rolled in it. But she belongs to my Boy, and her name is Charlotte.