When I went into the rabbit shed this morning, Sweetie Belle was trying to dig a hole in the left hand back corner of her cage, so I knew it was definitely time to put the nesting boxes in for her and Piper. I finished putting the straw in and then put hay in and popped them both into the cage. I just put Piper’s in, because I know that she will drag it to wherever she wants it to be with her teeth. And that place changes from day to day so no point specifically trying to locate it. For Sweetie Belle, though, I put it in the back right corner. She’s very busy checking it out in the photo.
I did this because I know she isn’t going to use the nesting box the first time unless she is a rare rabbit. And she has got her designs on building her nest in the left corner, so that is where she wants to give birth. So I am just going to let her build up a big hay nest and then transfer the kits to the nesting box once she’s had them. I’ve done this successfully with both Phoebe and Lola for their first litters. (Phoebe had her second litter in the nesting box since she understood that is where they go now). As long as I pet Sweetie Belle and get her scent on my hands she will be fine with my touching them. Well, she might be. SB was psychotic until she got pregnant so no telling what kind of mother she’ll be. She may be very defensive or she may not care at all if presented with a tasty treat to distract her.
If I put the nesting box in the left corner she’d just build her nest in the back right corner which my arm is not long enough to reach to retrieve the kits. So once they are born and she’s done with the kindling process we’ll count and move the kits to the box, clean things up, and put the box in the left back corner where she wanted them to be.
Six days to go on kindling watch. This is the first time I will have two litters due at the same time, but I thought it was best since Sweetie Belle is going to be a new mother, to have Piper as a back up wet nurse if necessary. I’ll be doing the same thing for Serenity, breeding her and Lola tomorrow so that if needed, Lola can be a wet nurse. Lola has turned out to be one of the best mothers. Actually, all of my does have been great mothers. Of course, Piper, Phoebe, and Lola are all related and have pretty good temperaments (well, Lola has her moments, but she doesn’t bite). Breeding settled SB down a lot so I hope the same will be true for her sister Serenity. If not, I will keep the best doe of her litter and then sell her as a proven doe and also bred.
I honestly think a lot of Serenity’s issue is hormones and she will settle down though. She actually lets me pet her on her own terms which she didn’t used to. And she’s starting to let the son pet her, too, when she used to hate him on sight. But with more litters coming up, I don’t have time to coddle a rabbit with an attitude. I mean, I will sweet talk her and be kind, but I don’t have a lot of time to spend to bring her around.
It really shows how much early handling matters in your breeding stock. Andromeda was handled from 3 weeks on and she is a dream. Lola’s kits, all the other kits we’ve raised from birth, have been very easy to handle, with the exception of one who liked to nibble everything, including your arm or fingers. But even she was calm and sweet. When we got Starbuck, Serenity, and Sweetie Belle, we were told the boys had been handled a lot more than the girls and it completely shows. Starbuck is a doll and the others not so much. Starting to handle them frequently at 8 weeks was too late. If the breeder had handled the does more I think a lot of this issue would not be here. Piper, Phoebe, and Leo were all handled a lot by the breeder I bought them from and they are also very easy. And Lola came as a kit with Piper and she had been handled some by the breeder and was handled by us, pretty early on at 4 weeks old.
I found a blackberry cane and a stinging nettle in what is supposed to be horse quality hay today. I was not happy, mostly because I got a thorn in the pad of my middle right finger and a welt on the back of my left hand. I thought stinging nettles lost their ability to sting 24 hours after being harvested. But that’s exactly what it feels and looks like. I’m not too happy about that being in the hay. It happened to be in the handful I was giving to SB to help with her nest building. Fortunately I have a product that is mostly witch hazel that I put on it and took a dye free antihistamine and that helped with the itching.
I think we’re going to find a different source for our hay. I think the place we buy our feed from sells hay, too. I’ll have to check. I know my rabbits would just eat the canes, but that could have hurt a newborn baby and it shouldn’t be in a hay field anyway. On the edges of one anyway, but not in one. Nettles, yes, but blackberry canes, no.
By the time I went out in the evening to take care of the rabbits again, Sweetie Belle had taken all the hay out of nesting box and dug a burrow in the straw. I put more hay in the nesting box and more hay where she was building her nest. It will probably all be out of the nesting box again, but that’s okay. Piper had dug out a burrow and pushed her nesting box into the corner she wanted it to be in and was playing dead buddah rabbit. Except she gives herself up by winking.
I didn’t make applesauce today. I’m fighting a cold. But I did get the rest of the apples picked. Hopefully I will have the energy to make applesauce tomorrow and start a batch of apple cider vinegar going, which will be another first for me.