Yesterday it was 86 degrees F and today was almost as hot. We couldn’t leave Lola and her babies inside in that kind of heat, so she and the nesting box went on their first trip to the tractors since she was 3 weeks pregnant. Her tractor was tucked up nicely under the shade of the trees. She was happy to be outside again and did a lot of jumping and leaping and dancing. The kits are 2 weeks old and I didn’t want to risk them dying of heat stroke.
2 weeks old is a little young to be coming out. I don’t normally like to do it until they are 3 weeks old, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do and they are big, not small like Phoebe’s were at that age. So I fixed up a bin with hay, put it on its side at one end of the tractor and put the nesting box in there. There is enough room in the bin for Lola to sit beside the nesting box. She likes to be on guard next to them sometimes.
Phoebe took a jump out of my son’s arms last night when she was being transferred back into her cage. She dropped about four feet, but landed on her feet in some hay. Hopefully she is okay. Since she’s pregnant I worry about a fall, but then I worry about everything when they are pregnant. I’d hate for her to be messed up, especially since she’s the only rabbit to have a litter with more than 6 to 7 kits. I’m hoping for another litter of 9. And she’s got a dream personality. She’s just the sweetest doe we have, though Piper is a close second. She seemed fine today, but I think I will likely still worry until around day 21 or 22, where if she sticks to the pattern of herself, her aunt, and her cousin she will start nesting even though it is way too early. Then I’ll know she’s still pregnant and nothing bad happened.
I am trying to determine the breeding schedule for the month. Piper’s kits are six weeks old (I’ll post the weights I got today tomorrow) so I can rebreed her in a week or I can wait and rebreed her in two weeks. I am leaning towards doing it at 8 weeks since we will grow the 10.5 week olds out until they are 13 weeks old so that means an extra week for them before Piper’s can be weaned. Serenity and Sweetie Belle will be old enough to be bred in 7 days. But I’m not sure I want 3 litters all coming at the same time. And the grow out cages would be harder to stagger. I am thinking about breeding Sweetie Belle when she is old enough, but giving Serenity some more time since she is still not very big. Although Lola is a small rabbit and she is a great mother and her kits are big.
I’ll probably go around and around about it for the next week or so. That tends to be my pattern.
I have definitely decided to raise quail in the spring for both eggs and meat. I’ll go with coturnix as they are fast maturing and lay eggs as soon as 50 days after hatching and are mature for slaughtering at 7 weeks old. The store where I get my feed has quail chicks available from local farmers for $4.99, but I have also seen them advertised for $3 on craigslist. Quail chicks are expensive because they have an incubation rate of about 50 to 60%. Hatching eggs are $3 a dozen if I want to go that route, which I will eventually, I think, but again, you have to hatch double what you want. What I would like to do is get set up with 6 mating trios, eventually.
So I will need to start saving up for all the paraphernalia that will go with it. I need to do some more reading and see what I want to do cage-wise. Stacking cages would probably be easiest, but I’d kind of like them to have some access to the ground. Maybe some quail tractors or mini-aviaries or something. I need to do some more reading and see if that is even viable. I’ve read the paltry supply of game bird books at our library so I’m probably going to have to spring for a couple books on Amazon or something. There is one that looks really good and has good reviews, but it’s $20 plus shipping. Maybe it can go on my Christmas list with the Tattler canning lids.
$20 may not seem like much, but I am trying to stick to a farm budget, save up for the move, build a good emergency fund, eat within a 50 mile food shed, save for college so the kids don’t have to take out loans, and also we have spent a lot already just getting the rabbitry up and running. Maybe I’ll break down and use some of my gift cards. We’ll see. I think I can still do a lot more research on the internet for free first, though.