We force nursed the bitty rabbit kit twice today. I’m not sure if I explained this properly yesterday or not, but force nursing is not forcing the kit to nurse, but forcing the mama doe to nurse by holding her immobile so she can’t run away like most does do when they are done nursing even when their kits might not be. The kit desperately wants to nurse. This morning went fairly well as Piper came right to the door and let me pick her up easily and she didn’t struggle at all. This evening on the other hand she didn’t want anything to do with it, pushing herself as far back into the corner farthest from the cage door as she could. I had to get her by the scruff to get her to come forward. She was none the worse for wear, but I dislike doing that to her. She did not want to be on her back though, so we came up with a way for her to lay partway on her side, partway on her belly, which gave the little kit access, but made her far more comfortable and less squirmy and kicky.
He is filling out, the changes are pretty remarkable, and he held his little ears all the way up at one point tonight. He is still so much smaller than the other kits, though. I think we will have to force nurse for at least a week to give him a fighting chance. I just hope Piper will put up with it. I may have to bribe her with some tasty treats to get her to come to the cage door. The little one is peeing and pooping. I know because he did both on me. In a way I am glad he did because at least I have confirmation that his system is working right.
I was tempted to give him a mid-day feeding with kitten milk replacer, but upon researching they don’t recommend feeding more than twice a day, which is what we are already doing with the force nursing, plus whatever the kit may be getting when she feeds the rest of the litter. If Piper decides she will not force nurse anymore than we will replace the force nursing with the kitten milk replacer. I am going to buy some just to have on hand, but will try not to use it. He seems to be starting to thrive now. And he was up on top of the heap of kits both this morning and this evening, so he is not getting totally buried at the bottom of the pile anymore.
This kit may never get to be very big or it may just have to be kept a few more weeks to grow out longer than all of the others. That is fine. He can always go into a Wabbitat by himself at that point. I’d say he’s at least three days, possibly four days, of growth behind the rest of his litter. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll make it up with the special nursing, but he will probably always be the runt.
Today we totally cleaned out the rabbit shed from top to bottom. We found the kit that went missing from Phoebe’s litter the day I saw the rat. It was quite a ways from its cage, like two cages over, so it definitely didn’t get there on its own. Poor little thing. It was partially decayed so we couldn’t tell for sure if a rat had been at it, but that’s the only explanation that really makes sense. I am just glad I got rid of the rat. We also put in the full set of urine guards in the cages of both newborn litters. They are almost a week old now and will be hopping out of the litter box in a few more days. The urine guards are about 3 inches high and keep the lower portion of the cage covered, which makes it impossible for tiny kits to be pulled out of the cage or to squirm out or get their heads caught in the wire. Hopefully Piper will leave hers in place. She took off two of them the last time
We also rearranged all of the cages, and put up some corrugated plastic over the lower half of the screen windows to keep the wind from blowing into the rabbit shed this fall and winter. It has made the shed noticeably warmer and will be easy to remove come spring when more ventilation is needed. It might even make enough of a difference to be warm enough in there for litters to be born in early January, just not in February, our coldest month. I’ll make that judgement call after the first hard frost hits. I’d like to get more of the older composting hay and rabbit manure moved to the new compost pile’s location. I may do some of that between bringing the husband rabbits to dispatch if I have the energy. I should be able to use a pitchfork on the top 2/3 of the pile. The bottom 1/3 already looks like it has turned into soil.
We had most of the rabbits out in the PVC rabbit tractors today, everyone but the mamas and their newborns. It was the first time that Phoebe’s kits have been outside. They had a lot of fun and immediately took to their new tunnel of Timothy hay. They had such a blast running through it and climbing on top of it. They are super adorable right now at the 5 week old stage. They were all happy to go outside. It’s been a while and they loved having more space and being able to run and jump and flip. The son accidentally dropped one of the 5 week olds when it flipped out of his hands and then it ran for the fence line. Fortunately, it is too big now to get through. It took about 5 minutes to catch it, but we did.
Tomorrow is slaughtering day for the elder of Piper’s litters. Six kits will be processed. Then I will be able to finish weaning Lola’s kits over the next couple of days since we will have the cage space again. Plus with the rearranged shed we will also have space to put an extra cage in there. Every time I think I can’t rearrange it more efficiently, I am wrong. But I really don’t think we can rearrange it more efficiently than this time!
We went to the ranch this morning and got $380 worth of free range, organic, humanely and sustainably raised and slaughtered beef and pork. 5 of the beef chuck roasts and 6 pounds of the hamburger are thawing in the fridge. I will be canning them once they are thawed which will probably be on Tuesday, and then the rabbits we slaughter tomorrow will be canned on Wednesday. If all goes well. I still am under the weather, but I do want to get this done. Also, nephew-in-law brought over some fish he caught today so the canner will likely be going tomorrow as well.
The chickens are missing my mother and her treats something fierce, but she is so sick right now she hasn’t been out to see them in a few days. I should probably bring them something, but I’m not sure what. They are sick of windfall apples. Maybe I can make some squash and give them the guts and seeds. That would likely make them happy. Maybe they’d even think it was cantaloupe or watermelon which they haven’t had since the season ended.
We are starting to get more eggs again since the light was added. It was getting down to 3 or 4 a day from 11 hens. I’d like to put a timer on it so it comes on at 5 in the morning and not leave it on all night. Just another thing to put on the to do list.
We heard from the realtor today that our house has been shown. It’s been on the market two weeks and before today has only had the open house where one couple showed up and they were just looky-lous. So I’m glad it has at least been shown. I am not expecting it to sell terribly fast, but I’ll certainly be happy if it does.