I Am Thankful for Balance

Colossus and the biggest kit of the litter.

Sometimes homesteading breaks my heart. More specifically, the raising animals side of it does. I know that automatically there is loss inherent in raising meat animals, because their final purpose is to feed us. But I know that and brace for it and in my heart I know we gave them a great life while they were with us. When they don’t even get to have a life or feed us, it hurts worse, because it is what feels like a senseless death. I brace myself for those first day losses. I am prepared for them.

What I am not prepared for is having eight healthy, well-fed, wiggling kits one night, and then the next finding one at the bottom of the heap that has been crushed to death. Not from the weight of the litter, because that is next to nothing, but because his mama stepped on him. He was warm to the touch still because his siblings had kept him warm, but he was almost flat. We took him and buried him deep in the enclosed compost bin with the two others who did not survive. The practical part of me says maybe it’s time to start freezing the dead kits to take to SARDIS for the injured hawks and eagles and owls in recovery. But my heart couldn’t bear it yet. So instead they form a tiny litter that will one day give back to the earth and the soil.

I was very thankful to have so many warm and happy rabbits still living. Their antics and their joy as they play makes it hard to stay too sad. One of the biggest lessons death teaches us is that life goes on and we can still take pleasure in the wonders of it, even with a saddened heart. I am most thankful that little Colossus has survived and is thriving. To see his progress day by day is wonderful. He is still so much smaller than the others, but we weigh him every day and he remains on track. 7.7 ounces today. One week ago he was 4.1. Not quite, but close to having doubled his weight in a week.

And Sweetie Belle, my crazy, mean-tempered rabbit, has transformed into such a loving bundle it is hard to believe she is the same rabbit. Today when I opened the cage, she stepped up on me and into my arms. She let me sit and snuggle with her for ten minutes. Did she know my heart was breaking? Has she finally learned to trust me, that only good comes from my hands, and never any harm? Is she sick of her kits and weary because we took her nesting box away yesterday?

And our second crazy, Serenity, stepped right out of her cage today and had no problems with us checking on her kits. She wanted to be pet, but not held. These mothering hormones do change them so much. Lola wasn’t affectionate, but neither was she mean. Lola isn’t, by nature. She’s skittish, but not mean and she’s protective, but she didn’t mind us taking out her nesting box either. I’m glad of it, because the dead one was in there and it wouldn’t have been good for it to stay in there. Even Andromeda who hates being taken out of her cage gave us an easier time of it. It did give me a glad heart for a while.

I can dwell on the loss of 3 kits in 3 days, or I can dwell on the lives of 51 healthy rabbits and hope that I will get a break with this death thing for a while now. I choose to do the latter. And snuggling the older kits helps me do that.

Now onto the living. I weighed Phoebe’s 4 Week olds yesterday and Piper’s today as they hit their respective ages. All are doing well. Only one still has weepy eye and it is much, much better.

Sweetie Belle’s First Litter at 4 Weeks:

Kit 1: 15.6 oz
Kit 2: 1 lb 0.7 oz
Kit 3: 1 lb 1.6 oz
Kit 4: 13.5 oz
Kit 5: 15.8 oz
Kit 6: 1 lb 1.7 oz
Kit 7: 13.8 oz
Kit 8: 1 lb 1.1 oz
Kit 9: 12.3 oz

Total Litter Weight: 8 lb 0.1 oz

Amount Gained This Week: 2 lb 6.5 oz

Piper’s Fifth Litter at 4 Weeks:

Kit 1: 7.7 oz (Colossus)
Kit 2: 1 lb 5 oz
Kit 3: 1 lb 5.1 oz
Kit 4: 1 lb 5.9 oz
Kit 5: 1 lb 8.2 oz
Kit 6: 1 lb 2.6 oz

Total Litter Weight: 7 lb 2.5 oz

Amount Gained This Week: 3 lb 1.8 oz

They are doing pretty good on the weight gain. As a reminder, Piper’s kits were born a day after Sweetie Belle’s. Piper’s kits are a good deal heavier for the most part. This is mostly because of the difference in litter size, but also, Piper has bigger kits even when matched to a similar or identical litter size of another doe. Part of this might be because of her age. She is the only doe that is over a year old at 1 and a half. Phoebe won’t be one until 1/2/14 and all the other does are younger still. And this is Sweetie Belle’s first litter so they will be a bit smaller because of that, too.

It does skew things a bit. Taking all that into account, I am happy with where they are at, especially little Colossus. When compared to previous data, he is about a week behind the weight of one of the other rabbit’s kits. In other words, smaller kits in various litters at 3 weeks old were around 7 or 8 ounces. So hopefully that means an extra week or two at the end will catch him up.

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4 thoughts on “I Am Thankful for Balance

  1. Grace Alice says:

    Finding dead kits is always hard. They have only lived for about… 32 days, 2 of those being outside of the womb. Which, like I said, is hard. I have found eaten remains before and it is gruesome. My hard always stings when that happens, no matter how many times it’s happened. With my first little, I think it mentally prepared me for things to come, because there were dead, scattered, deformed kits lying everywhere.

    Just out of curiosity, do you think you would have the strength to kill a sheep or goat? If the rabbits get to you that much, then maybe you should get a really aggravating sheep that will feed you and you family for a good part of the year. That way you aren’t butchering every 3 weeks, it’s not as hard. Pick a sheep, any sheep, they are all aggravating, LOL

    • LuckyRobin says:

      My husband does the killing part. I am fine once the animal is dead and the head and skin is off. So I tend to hide out around the corner until that part is over. I am within talking distance so he has my moral support. It is actually getting a bit easier to cope with. It’s just losing the tiny ones that really gets to me now.

      I think we (meaning the husband) could kill a sheep or a goat or a pig. He’d need help after the killing part and I think I can do that. But the first time we would have to do that we would get his dad to help. His dad grew up on a farm.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’m sure our sweet girl won’t be able to feed and care for all 15 of her kits. She’s a medium breed (harlequin) and they only usually have 5-7 (I’m wondering if it was somehow two litters). They were born Sunday so I’m expecting losses tomorrow-ish. For me the learning curve on what to do with new kits has been rough and I feel like the ones we lost were my fault. But I’m a quick study so it’s better in leaps and bounds (bad puns make me smile =) } Also we will be processing for the first time right after Christmas and that will be an adventure, but I appreciate our point that when there is a purpose death is easier to cope with. Anyways, I love your blog and it has been so helpful. Thanks for writing! and I’ll be re-reading old posts when it comes time for us to process and can =)

    • LuckyRobin says:

      I have read that if you separate a large litter into two nesting boxes and two cages, and put the doe in one for the morning feeding and in the other for the evening feeding, the kits will have a better chance of survival. Of course I’ve never personally done this myself and I’d be worried she might abandon one. Most of what I’ve read suggests that a rabbit can handle feeding up to 10, but after that you will have mortality.

      I try to breed two rabbits at the same time so if one has a ton of kits and the other has a smaller litter, the doe with the smaller litter can foster some of the big litter kits. There is a technique to that of getting the foster mother’s scent on the kits and then putting them in with her current litter while she is in another cage and then in a few hours, when all the kits smell the same she just accepts them as her own.

      There is always force nursing, too. Of course your rabbit will hate you for a while if you have to do that, but it may be a way of getting any undersized kits fed until they are big enough to fight for milk or are on pellets. That’s time intensive and won’t work if you don’t have the time to do it. And it takes 2 people.

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