At Least My Husband Has Been Productive

So yesterday when I was watering the garden I tripped over a folded scaffolding my mother had left out. Of course, I didn’t see it, because I was watching the ducks being cute, plus it was tucked up against the hay bales with just a foot of it sticking out in the walkway. We’ve got it situated now so that it is out of the way, but boy did I hurt myself. Fortunately I did not fall down. I just sort of trip-skipped and staggered one foot after the other, so jarred both knees pretty bad and one ankle. I have to admit that I almost swore, which is not something I do. But my neighbor had a good chuckle at me yelling out “Fudge monkeys!” which is my version of swearing.

I’ve been down most of the week following doctor’s orders to elevate and ice and take meds that make me loopy. But I was finally feeling decent enough to at least get out and see how the garden was doing. It is not liking these water restrictions at all. We had water in the two wheel barrows from the rain storm that happened the day after the water restrictions were put on, so I bailed those out with a pitcher and watered the worst off plants before tripping. I’d also picked some yellow beans before it happened. Other than zucchini, nothing will need to be picked again for several days.

My husband has put the waterproof roofing on the turkey pen, new roofs on 3 of the rabbit tractors, set up a tarp awning to shade the rabbit shed windows and it works really well, and put up some small 2 x 4 shelves in the rabbit shed. The rabbit kit is on one in the photo above. He did put a lip on one which I will use to put all the medicines on like eye wash, blue kote spray, neosporin and hydrogen peroxide, and a small can with pens on it that I use for taking weights, and the labels for cages and water bottles. The other shelf has a bungie cord about six inches up and will have spare water bottles stored there. The bungie cord will keep them in place so they don’t fall off.

We did not get the butchering done this weekend. I wasn’t able to help and it has been so hot. I am just not an 85 degree girl. The husband is going to try to do it in the morning, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen without me there to retrieve and calm the buns. Although he is getting better with handling them since he’s had to do a lot this week.

Cinnabun’s kits are still alive and starting to do better. They are much more active. Persephone is feeding them now, because her kits are so big and fat we know she has a lot of milk. We take the nesting box out of Cinnabun’s cage, put Persephone on it, and as long as she is being pet, she stays right there and lets them nurse. We can see them doing it and the results of it. She’s a bit of a hussy for petting. Then after they nurse we put them back in with Cinnabun. Who then jumps in and nurses and they go to her, but she doesn’t nurse for long enough. And she won’t let us force nurse her. She gets very upset when we try.

She does bathe them, though. She is trying. I just don’t think she has enough milk. Hopefully her next litter will go more smoothly. The kits are a week old today, so hopefully we only have to do this for another week and then they’ll be chasing their Mama around and can get milk on demand. She does seem to want to mother them, which is why I don’t take them away and give them to Persephone. That and her kits are quite a bit bigger even though they are the same age. Not sure they’d be able to fight their way to the milk if I did.

We picked up organic feed for the turkeys and ducks today. I found some at a fairly reasonable cost so I’m going ahead and making the switch. The duck feed is also layer feed since Addy is old enough now to go onto that. It’s only 16% protein. I could have got 18% protein, but didn’t want it so high for the drakes. The turkey grower is only a little more expensive than the game bird chow and specifically formulated for turkeys. It is Scratch-and-Peck (which is very local). I wish they did one for waterfowl, too, not to mention rabbits, but at least they do one for turkeys. The Barnevelders are also old enough to eat the organic layer feed and I’m sure Mom’s chickens will mooch, too, but that’s fine. They did with the flock raiser anyway. It just will make the eggs healthier.

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Exhausted

I am so worn out right now. We have been pushing hard to get everything done before the husband goes back to work tomorrow night. The turkey pen is almost done. It won’t be fully done before he leaves, but it is done enough to be used. The attachment from the coop to the pen is almost done. Should take about another hour of work to complete, but we lost our light.

The door:

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The perches:

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The turkeys and chicks in the pen:

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The foundation for the attachment platform:

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Screen over opening that will lead from the pen to the coop:

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We also got the floor put onto the attachment foundation, the opening cut in the coop and the ramp made, but it was too dark to take proper photos then. The birds used it for the first time though to get into the coop with my husband, daughter, and myself standing guard to make sure they didn’t head off course, while my son shooed them through from the pen side.

And here is a shot of the ducks sunbathing:

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They really let me get close without freaking out at all.

We washed 9 cages today and 9 dropping pans and will wash out 7 tomorrow. We got the Mama side of the rabbit shed all mucked out and will do the Papa and unbred doe side of the shed tomorrow. And we will hopefully also get the turkey coop mucked out, but that may wait until Wednesday. We are going to try to butcher the one buck and Fiona tomorrow, but if we don’t have the time they will have to move outside to the outdoor hutches. I need the cages for kits to grow out in. Most of the rabbits were out in the tractors as you can see in the second half of the video above.

I bred Wildfire and Kalia today and Serena and Alex. I had planned to do it yesterday, but we got too busy. They had several successful matings, so around July 4th I should have kits. Oh, crud, I didn’t even think about the fireworks! Well, hopefully they will have them in the morning or maybe even on the 3rd which will be day 31. It’s illegal to let off fireworks in my city, unless you are the city, starting this summer, but that won’t stop some people. Hopefully it won’t be too bad. They are used to the freakishly loud helicopters going over way too low to land on the hospital helipad. The sound will carry from the bay for the city’s show, but it shouldn’t be too bad and it won’t start until 10:30 p.m., so they should have had their kits well before that.

I hope July isn’t stupid hot this year. 70’s would be great, 80’s not so much. I did want to get a long outdoor hutch in the trees built the next time the husband comes home, but I think he’s going on strike for building things for a while so that probably won’t happen. I’d like it to move the pregnant Mamas to if it gets nasty hot around kindling time. I do have fans to help them keep cool, but it would be nice to at least have an outdoor option. The outdoor hutches we have are not really big enough for a litter to be in with the mother, even if we did do it when we first got Piper and her litter. After about five weeks old there is just not enough space. I am scouring craigslist hoping to find something I could just bring home, but so far, no luck. Well, we’ll see what happens.

Using the Rabbit Tractors Again

Using the Rabbit Tractors Again

Yesterday we got the rabbits out on clover for the first time this season. It was finally big enough for them to start eating it. The rabbits had a lot of fun playing and eating. We didn’t keep the youngsters out long as we didn’t want them to eat too much clover and get diarrhea from the sudden change in diet. We will wait a few days before putting the rabbits out again. The weather is mild so I’m not worried about it, and we want to acclimate them to those greens.

I have weaned dropper bunny down to once a day now, just in the evenings. She is doing good and has gained weight steadily, so the sooner I get her off the raw goat’s milk, the better.

Fiona’s kit is touch and go. It is stubborn and wants to live. I am not sure if it will. It’s discolored back paw does not look very good. It is not growing like the other one. Too much loss of circulation that first day. I just hope it doesn’t rot or fall off or otherwise affect the health of the kit. The other discolored areas are growing fine, but the foot is shriveled. If it fails to thrive in the next few days, I think we will have to do a mercy culling. I hate that idea, but sometimes we have to make the hard choices. I will not breed Fiona again until she is 8 months old. This will give her a chance for her body to recover and for her to maybe reach adult weight.

We cleaned out cages yesterday. Not all of them, just the eight that are easy to move. The other 8 that are hard to take in and out will have to wait for when my husband gets home. I still need to clean the transport cage. It is not terribly dirty, but has been sitting out in the elements so it had some debris like blossom petals in it. I will be getting my new little red kit later this week and she is a beauty according to the photos. She is expensive, $55 with papers, but I paid $5 less for Wildfire (unless you count the gas and hotel to go to Portland to get him and his sisters). I won’t be buying any more breeding stock for some time.

I am excited to bring this little girl home. Here are some photos of the new kit that the breeder sent me:

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We did some moving of cages, too, putting Fiona and her baby in one of the cages with the doors that open out instead of up. Now all of the mothers with babies are on one side. We finally separated Cinnabun and Sienna, but put them in cages right next to each other. They were both very irritated with us at first, stomping and trying to get back to each other, but they settled down after about 15 minutes and then they both stretched out diagonally across their cages. They love being together, but they are just getting too big, almost full sized, and I need to think about breeding soon with Cinnabun.

With the cages moving around, Kalia is now next to Wildfire. First thing she did was turn her back on him and lift her tail, so I’d say she is more than ready to be bred. Good thing there is six inches between their cages. I will breed Kalia to Wildfire and Serena to Alexander this week. Then in a couple more weeks I will breed Serenity to Leo and Cinnabun to either Starbuck or to Wildfire. I am not sure. I want at least one litter of dark red kits, but if Starbuck doesn’t breed this go around with Cinnabun he will breed first go around with Sienna in July.

I decided not to take the summer off from breeding. After the loses of Piper and Lola, I won’t have enough meat if I do that. But we have the fan system set up to help keep the rabbits cool and none of the mothers are ever on the sunny side of the shed when they have kits. We are also going to build a special hutch in the trees right behind the rabbit shed that will be for emergencies if it gets too hot and we can put expectant mothers there. I am thinking of getting an evaporative cooler for the shed as well. The type made for keeping semi-truck cabs or campers cooled off. You fill it with ice and the fan system runs over the ice, blowing out cool air. And I will bring in nesting boxes if necessary during the day. I do need to purchase some more nesting boxes, though. At least one more. I should probably get 3 more, though.

On the duck front, I have noticed the front feathers on the chests of the four silver phase Welsh Harlequins. Two have a really light brown patterning and the other two are much darker, so I am leaning towards 2 boys and 2 girls on that score, with the gold phase being a definite girl. And I think we have a 3 to 1 ratio of females to male on the Pekins. I am not sure all of the Pekins will go for meat birds now. I want egg layers. Especially since another one of my mother’s chickens, died of a broken leg. I know Pekins aren’t as prolific as Welshies, but I’d like to keep at least 2 of the hens if the ratio on the Welshies turns out correct. That will give me five females for 2 males, which is decent. The Welshies seem bonded to the Pekins, too, so I’m not sure how they will react to losing flockmates. Maybe I can pick up some Blue Swedish duck hens from a local farmer and forget keeping the Pekins. I just don’t want to overwhelm the Welshies we do have with too many drakes. I could still raise more ducklings, but that is a major pain. Much more messy and smelly than raising chicks.

The turkeys and chicks have all learned how to get up to the tallest perch, so I guess DH will not have to install any lower perches after all. It is funny to see them looking out the windows at me,since the windows are all the way up at the top of the coop. First thing on the agenda when DH gets home after fetching my new kit and putting the last few panels of fencing around the straw bale garden so we can keep the chickens out and I can start planting, will be building the turkey yard so they can come outside. They will be close to seven weeks old at that point and we can dispense with the heat lamp. Then we need to build two more rabbit tractors and fix or replace the lids on the broken ones.

We roto-tilled the area by the turkey coop again yesterday and then I raked it. We also tilled the area where the big compost pile used to be. We will be putting dirt down over it today. That is the area where Mom wants us to move the duck coop, too. We need to move it to paint it anyway, and the ducks are big enough now to integrate with the other animals. I doubt they will like us moving their house, because ducks hate change, but they’ll have to learn to live with it. Hopefully it won’t be too hard to herd them into it when they aren’t confined to a smaller area. Also, hopefully the chickens will stay out of their coop. The more adventurous chickens are dead now, so other than Henrietta, I think they just might stay away.

PVC Rabbit Tractor Improvements

PVC Rabbit Tractor Improvements

We made some improvements earlier in the week on our PVC rabbit tractors. The wooden tops we made before were great in the summer, but by fall they’d started to deteriorate in the rain. Paint might have helped with that, but we never got around to it. Those that survived the fall mostly didn’t survive the wet, rainy winter. So we will be replacing them all with corrugated roofing panels. However, the panels are bendy and we needed some way to keep the roofs from collapsing inward, without making them so heavy that I couldn’t move them by myself.

The husband used some more PVC pipes to stiffen the panel. He attached them to the panel with Tek screws. Then he unziptied the wire along one side and added three T’s to the top pipe that were a 1/2 inch larger and used those to act as hinges for the roof and to connect those 3 pipes to the tractor. Then we ziptied the wire back to the top pipe.

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The front edge of the pipes rest on the top edge of the tractor pipe.

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It is a much sturdier roof. The panels will collect rain water, but the roof is strong enough with the pipes not to bend under that weight now. I am very happy with the improved result.

Today is day 3 for the ducklings on the Super B Vitamin Complex regimen and I still have not seen any seizures from Special Pekin. She still doesn’t go for the greens like the other ducks, but she eats the crumbles and drinks the water just fine. I wonder if she doesn’t see the greens or if the feeding frenzy is something she just wants to hold back from. Since seizures can cause brain damage I wonder if she might have lost some of her vision? I don’t know. She sure seems to run when a hand reaches for her, though.

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She looks healthy, though, and she protests when picked up. She’s smaller like one of the other Pekins.

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Here you can see the size differences and why I think they might not all be the same age after all. I wish I knew if drakes grew faster than hens. I can’t seem to find any information on that either way. I am definitely hearing some quacks starting up, so I know I have some females, I just don’t know which breed they are. Why is it so hard to be patient? I did see some 7 week old Welsh Harlequins on youtube and it was pretty obvious from their coloration which were males and which were females, so I may not have to wait the whole 2 months before I know.

They are starting to triple their poop output since starting the crumbles. I have to scoop the poop out twice a day now. They still don’t stink nearly as bad as the meat chickens though. I am filling their feed trough 3 times a day. I may need to add a second feed trough soon. I will pick one up when I get the feeder for the turkeys and the game bird starter.

All the rabbit kits are doing well. Everyone had nice fat tummies and both mothers are eating and drinking like there is no tomorrow.

I Love Having Rabbit Tractors

I spend a little bit more time than I probably should watching the rabbits enjoying their rabbit tractors. When it comes time to rest at the end of the day, I plop myself on the bench in the shade and let the bunnies entertain me. I know that I should go inside and do the few tasks that it is just too hot to do earlier, but I don’t. I allow myself some downtime and watch the social interactions and the running and jumping. I find their happiness to be outside fills me with happiness, too. I didn’t want to raise them with them never having their feet on the grass.

I know we won’t be able to use the tractors year round. Once the rainy season starts in earnest in October they’ll be lucky to go out once a week. And once the ground is frozen they’ll probably spend six to eight weeks without coming out at all. But I do have an answer for that. We bought a baby gate for the rabbit shed door. We can put that up and let some of them down on the floor to run around, shut the door and leave them out for an hour and then let the next batch out.

I have asked the husband to design something to help waterproof the shelters. I am thinking something like a small hoop house made with 1 inch PVC pipe and a tarp. It would cover the long sides but leave the short sides open for ventilation. It would have to be something light weight that I can move on my own or with the help of my son, but sturdy enough not to blow away in the wind storms we sometimes get. I could use tent pegs and twine to tie it down though. It would have to have a rounded top because we want the rain to run off and not collect on top.

I was teasing my husband about designing little awnings for the rabbit tractors to help shade them better when the weather is scorching. His first degree is in architecture and he got used to designing fiddly bits. Then I was teasing him about perhaps installing little air conditioners in each tractor with their own power units. His second degree is in electrical design. So he has the knowledge, but of course, not the time to do such silly things anyway. We make do with leaning plywood boards across the sunny ends of the tractors or using a ladder and a tarp to drape the sunny ends. It works and we could use stuff we already had around the house.

I didn’t get the rabbits out today as early as usual and the chickens were very funny about it. They’ve taken to watching the rabbits, too. I’ll come out and find them perched on the porch swing and the bench just watching them play. The chickens all started gibbering at me. Made me think they were wondering where the rabbits were. They even followed me to the rabbit shed and then cackled approvingly as my son and I transferred the rabbits from their cages to the tractors. Then when they were all out they strutted around making those little approving noises that chickens make when they are happy.

As for the rabbits, they like to make a run at any chicken that gets too close. It is amusing to watch because even though the rabbit can’t possibly get to a chicken, that hen scoots across the yard like she has her tail feathers on fire. And then of course it is back doing the same thing five minutes later. The chickens also like it every time I move the tractors. They like to scratch amongst the rabbit droppings and pick up any stray bits of the vegetables we feed the rabbits. The range yard is really starting to green up since we’ve been putting the rabbits out. Most of the brown patches are gone or have faded to yellow and you can see the green working its way inward.

On the kit front, 3 have opened their eyes and the other 5 look like squinty old men. A couple of the kits are already bigger than their littermates. This one is the biggest.

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Phoebe always checks on the kits when I put one back into the box.

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She is very protective, but quite calm about it. I have never seen her show aggression ever. I am hoping that when I breed her next time, with our new sweetheart of a buck Starbuck, that their offspring will be as friendly, calm, and gently tempered. Not that Leo shows temper, really. He’s just stand-offish. And I have no idea what this litter will be like when it grows up.

More PVC Rabbit Tractors

Here is the new design for our rabbit tractors. These ones are about 4’2″ long by 2’2″ wide by 2’2″ tall. They have what my husband calls a toy box lid. We made the shorter tractors for the rabbits that must be outside only one per cage so they won’t fight. Like Lola or Leo. The 6 foot long ones are for multiple rabbits, usually the kits, but also Serenity and Sweetie Belle, who for the moment are still sharing a cage.

Here is a shot of the smaller ones with the larger ones for comparison. We are going to modify the tops of the ones we made first so they can have the toy box lid design and that will also give the rabbits more shade.

I took a peak at Phoebe’s kits this morning.

They are very squirmy so it is hard to get a clear shot of them. But they have all got their fur coats in. Their noses, ears, and feet are still pink, but the rest of their bodies are white. It looks like they are all nursing fine, but there is already one that is bigger than the other ones. It seems like there is always one who manages to get the most milk. Phoebe was less worried today and more curious about what I was doing with the kits. I only pulled the nesting box to the doorway, I didn’t take it out, so she kept poking her head over the side to see what I was up to.

Tomorrow is weigh day for Piper’s litter. They will be 8 weeks old. I will sex them and mark the bucks with a bit of organic yellow food coloring. Then I will take the two biggest kits of the same sex out of the cage and remove them to a new cage to start the weaning process. I am hoping there is a fairly even mix of boys to girls. It would be great if the two fattest kits were the same sex, although I guess they have until 12 weeks old to worry about having them in separate cages based on sex. Then on Tuesday I will remove two more, leaving the three smallest with Piper a bit longer, then slowly removing them until she has no more kits with her so she can have at least the last two weeks of her pregnancy to herself. I’d just like the littlest kits to gain some ground against their bigger siblings.

I’ve been picking blueberries and blackberries this week. They are ridiculously early and so good. I’ve been feeding a few of the raspberries to the bunnies. They can have 3 a day. They really like them. I gave the rabbits some oregano yesterday and they really loved it. They preferred it over the lemon balm and the raspberry leaves. We have a lot of oregano growing so it is nice to have one more free, organic food we can give them.

All is Well on the Homestead

Thank goodness it cooled off some yesterday. Or at least there was a breeze so it felt better. It was still 84 degrees F. It was also easier to keep the rabbit shed cooler. I don’t know if it was running both fans all day or the breeze coming in, but the heavy feeling of the air from Sunday was not as big a presence on Monday. Today is supposed to be just 77 degrees F and so far it seems like it is not going to be as hot. I’m still running the fans, though, and will likely do frozen water bottles in the heat of the day.

Last night the kits weren’t moving at all. I was afraid the heat had gotten them, but as soon as I touched each one of them they moved, so I guess they were just sound asleep. I’ve got their cage completely blocked from the sun’s heat and Phoebe made a wall of hay that she piled up next to the nesting box that makes me think she was blocking the light from reaching them. She used all of the bedding and everything in the manger to do it. It amazes me how smart these animals are. I’ve said it over and over again with the chickens and the ducks and now the rabbits. The phrase “it’s just a dumb animal” will be refuted by me, that’s for sure.

At least this morning I was able to get a semi-focused photo of the kits this time. So far they all seem like they are eating. Their bellies are swollen with milk and they all felt warm, but not hot to the touch. It’s barely apparent in the photo, but they have just a hint of white, so their fur is already starting to come in.

We put Lola into a tractor with Serenity and Sweetie Belle yesterday to see if they would get along. For about 20 minutes they did and all seemed fine, but I wanted to watch for at least a half hour. And then Lola started trying to assert dominance over Sweetie Belle and she squealed like the devil was coming after her. I think Lola might have bit her, but I didn’t see any evidence of it when I examined her. Sweetie Belle makes more noises than any rabbit I’ve ever had, so it’s possible she was just being a drama queen. We broke them up and took Lola back to her cage. So that is not going to work.

The husband will be home Tuesday at midnight so that means we can start working on the new tractors on Thursday. He’s usually useless the day after he flies home, especially if he gets in at midnight instead of 8:30 p.m. and I imagine with the heat, it’ll be even worse than usual, so Wednesday will likely be a wash. Although he did get upgraded to first class, so he might be better than usual. Regardless, he will bounce back hard on Thursday so we can get some stuff done for the rabbits.

Piper and her kits were out in the second tractor. They had a really good time yesterday. I gave them lots of leaves, a few raspberries and a bit of hay to eat, but most of their food in the tractors comes from the fresh grass which they are nibbling down very well. I don’t think we’ll be using a lawn mower at all this summer. I don’t take them outside until around eleven, so that they have time to eat pellets between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. And then of course they start chowing down on their pellets when they get back into the cages at 8 p.m. Having them on pasture is cutting down the feed, I can already tell.

Today Piper and her kits will go out again and we will let Lola have a few hours in the other one and then switch her out with Starbuck. Leo can go out on Wednesday. He is pretty content with his cage anyway. Starbuck’s is smaller so he wants to come out of it more. When we get the new cages set up, we will move Phoebe and her newborns into one, then take her old cage and give it a major scrub down. Phoebe and her lot won’t go outside until they are about 4 weeks old. By then we should have enough tractors for everyone to be out at one time.

This morning I took the hose and soaked some of the dirt for the chickens to scratch in. They were delighted. Water always brings up worms and then they steal them from each other. I got the area under the apple tree wet, too, as that is where they have been seeking relief from the sun during the hottest part of the day.

There has been some pecking order challenging going on. Silver is pushing for head hen, but Patricia is not ready to give it up. When Silver took Patricia’s worm it sounded like the world was suddenly coming to an end as Patricia chased after her. They ran all around the range area before Silver got cornered and Patricia got the other end of the worm in her beak. But Silver wasn’t going to give up. It was not a good way for that poor worm to go, but they both got some of it. Then Patricia scolded Silver who nonchalantly strolled back to the apple tree pretending that there wasn’t a big old Plymouth Barred Rock screaming at her the whole way. Chickens.