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.