Friday, January 6, 2017

New Year. New (Fluffy) Adventures

Happy 2017 everyone!  How was your Christmas and New Years?  We had a lovely trip up to Washington to visit family, but unfortunately my camera's cable was left behind, so that story will have to wait for now!

This past week we've been getting everything in place for our latest adventure, though: RABBITS!!!  This project has been in the works for quite some time after I finally worked up the guts to ask our landlord for permission to keep more critters (I had been feeling like just the moose of a dog and two cats were really pushing it) but he was totally fine with the idea!  Rabbits are such quiet, easy keepers that take up minimal space and make minimal mess, I think they're going to be a great addition here.
Setting up the new homes

After permission came a LOT of learning.  I'd never really considered rabbits in the past, but we've been looking to raise more of our own food as we can and rabbit it great for this.  I know some will have a hard time with the idea of this, and honestly I do, too.  But I think that's okay and even good.  It's good to understand where our food comes from, to not take it for granted, appreciate the work that goes into caring for meat animals and know that our creatures were raised and harvested without suffering.  This breed (Satin) is ideal for both meat and furs while still being rather docile.  These particular rabbits have been raised among kids, dogs, cats, chickens and even horses so they seem to be very calm overall!
Curiously contemplating his new cute critters!

So, what do rabbits actually NEED?  It is possible to go really crazy, and there are many differing opinions out there. Obviously, I'm no expert now that I'm officially one day in to rabbitry, but I found some of these articles to be helpful and hope this condensed version of my research might assist others getting started.

An Uplifting Experience
Rabbit Talk

Grooming a Rabbit
Rabbit Grooming Basics

Your Rabbit's Diet
Rabbit Approved Plant Guide
Raising Rabbits on the Homestead

Raising Rabbits (good overall care info)
Rabbit Hutch/Cage Size Guide
Raising Animals as Gardening Allies
Homestead Rabbits
Rabbit Tractor in Action

Also of great help was the lady we bought these from.  Angela at White Ranch and her kids show these Satin breed rabbits in 4-H and two of the four we bought have won various awards.  She taught us desirable qualities that generally are associated with better health (large back feet, symmetry, healthy teeth, soft over and undercoat) as well as how to hold them (they have STRONG back legs and sharp claws), what to feed them, how to house them, grooming, etc.  They suggest picking up but the scruff only if necessary and only briefly, then support the body and keep the rabbit close to your body.  Despite being so strong, rabbits are fairly fragile and can actually break their spine struggling against being held the wrong way or falling down.
They set up their camping chairs and just sat quietly "letting the rabbits get used to them" at 25 degrees and snow!

I also learned a lot about rabbit housing from her.  I started out buying a little tractor (like a little hutch on wheels that can be used like a rabbit lawn mower).  Now that I have a better concept of how much space a rabbit needs, I really couldn't put more than two rabbits in there.  And since we're not having these rabbits fixed so they can breed later on, that means only male or female at a time.  But then I found out that, while rabbits enjoy seeing other rabbits around them, they can actually be quite vicious when sharing space.  To the point that they will fight and cause open wounds.  So it's really best to keep them together, but separated.  Enter this craigslist score of cages on pallet stands made by my wonderful husband and father!  So we'll still use the tractor as a place for each rabbit to get out and stretch and explore, but it won't work well as a sole housing environment.  

So we finally brought home our four Satins as two breeding pairs, meaning we will keep them for their lifespan and they will be the ones that will likely become more like pets.  I'm pretty sure we're settled on names.  So without further ado, allow me to introduce...

Geode: proven male

Gem: proven female

Bobbin: young male

Calico: young female

Better photos to come, but I just couldn't wait to share with you our latest endeavor!  Have you ever cared for rabbits before?  Any advice you'd like to pass on?  I'd appreciate every word right now! =)

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