The junior rabbits are now ten weeks old and are full of curiosity and energy. They like to raise up on their hind feet and reach their noses up to the roofs of their cages. It takes the full stretch of their bodies to do so. Yesterday we were playing with them, by putting a few pieces of straw hanging down from the top and watching them go up and get them.
We scrubbed out the hutches yesterday afternoon, dried the wire, and put down fresh bedding of straw. When we clean out the cages of the juniors we do them one at a time. You can only fit three of them in the holding bin together. Last time we did the major scrub down you could fit five of them in. We wouldn’t want to now as we don’t want the boys and the girls in the same cages. The boys are starting to display boy behaviors which is why we separated them in the first place. The girls are too young for even practice mating.
Since I replaced their feeders with cups that clamp onto the cage I have had no trouble with them knocking their food over or standing in it or pooping in it. They also aren’t knocking it into the catch tray underneath so it is not getting wasted.
Phoebe is now 16.5 weeks old. I’ve been watching her grow and I think that when the younger ones get to about 14 to 15 weeks they will definitely be at the right size for butchering. I consider her to be a little too large now. Come July 2nd she will be six months old. The New Zealand Whites mature faster than some other breeds, so she should be ready to mate at six months. That’s how old Piper was when she had her first set of kits. The ones we bought her with were her second litter. I should post a picture of her with one of the younger girls for comparison. They get along okay outside of a cage. Phoebe is territorial of her cage, but not in an area where they have space.
I finally got a tracking number on the cages we ordered and they are supposed to be here today. I hope so. The wabbitats I have the juniors in were fine when it was two per a cage, but with it being three per a cage it wouldn’t have made it another week. Since it was 3 girls and 3 boys, I couldn’t split them into 3 cages. But these new cages are wider and longer so three to a cage will be plenty spacious for the next few weeks as they get up to butcher weight. They still enjoy sleeping in a pile in close quarters.
Once I assemble those cages and get everyone moved into their new digs, I am going to go set up a couple of play yards so that they can go out on fresh grass. We have a couple of really nice patches and some dandelions outside the chicken range area that they’d love nibbling on and they’d get some sunshine and a chance to play outdoors in the sunshine in the month leading up to the end. I’d also like to take Phoebe and Leo out daily as well. I don’t want to be carrying Piper around while she is in the second half of her pregnancy, but she’s in a well-ventilated area and will be given some dandelion leaves and some blackberry and raspberry leaves to eat. Just three or four pieces to see if she likes it and it doesn’t give her the runs by adding greens too quickly.
Once we have all four cages set up, Piper will be the first to be moved so that she won’t have to be moved again except once more for cleaning before giving birth. Next will be Leo. We will move the kits to the remaining two cages. They are designed to stack so I will have Leo and the boy juniors on the bottom, as the bucks need to be kept in the cooler area for good sperm motility. Then I will have Piper and the girl juniors stacked on top of them. Phoebe will be moved into a Wabbitat cage until the juniors grow out and then she will go into one of the new cages. In the future I will use the hutches as grow out cages. They have more length than the Wabbitat ones so if I end up with 4 of one sex they would be fine in a hutch together. I eventually want to buy more cages if these ones are as nice as they are supposed to be, but I’ll have to save up for them.
The mid-range goal is to have eight to ten cages and take the hutches out of the shed altogether. DH and I have talked about selling them, but we have also talked about maybe getting quail to keep in one hutch, since quail thrive in confinement. We’d just need to attach a perch. They lay tons of eggs, though it takes about 15 quail eggs to equal two to three chicken eggs. They have a special egg cutter (sort of like a cigar tip cutter offer thingy, that’s a technical term) for quail eggs since they have super thick shells. So you just snip and pour.
And they are very efficient at converting feed to meat. One quail can feed one person and they are much less of a mess or hassle to process than chicken. They may even be something we’ll expand on and use one hutch for brooding eggs, one hutch for eating eggs, and one hutch to grow out quail for eating. I am always seeing people begging for quail and fertile quail eggs on craigslist and I know where to find them for sale one county over so they might be something I could sell enough of to cover feed costs. But that is a plan for next year. This year we will be raising meat chickens and I don’t want too much going on at once that anything is neglected. Unless plans fall through for the meat chickens. Then we’ll see.