Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What My Bunnies Have Taught Me...So Far

We've had the bunnies here on the farm for a few weeks now.  I've definitely learned some things during this time, and thought I'd pass my knowledge onto you.

1.  Bunnies are sweet!

They are so cuddly, and we are working hard at getting these ones used to being handled.  The babies (once they arrive) will hopefully be easier since we'll be working with them from a much earlier age.

We go out several times a day to check on the bunnies and the kids get thrilled when they are able to pet them easily. 

2.  It can be hard to tell a girl bunny from a boy bunny.

I nearly had a panic attack one day thinking one of my girl bunnies was a boy.  You see the parts aren't too easy to distinguish.  Here's a guide that finally helped me to get it figured out (at least I think....) I'll feel better once I see which ones have babies! At least I'll know they are girls then!

3.  I don't like the hutches we have.

In theory, these work great.  They have an enclosed area and a wire portion.  The enclosure offers warmth.  Except...they all poop and pee in the enclosed area, which means my plan for having worms under them isn't panning out, yet.

And, with the poop building up on the wooden floors, you can imagine the extra work that cleanup takes.  I'm going with the deep litter method right now, which cuts down on some of that extra, but it's still--not falling down through the wire and getting converted to compost by hungry worms.  Instead I get to deal with it....Yuck!  

These are also really hard to actually get a hold of the bunnies in.  You see, the doors are on the short side, not the long side.  My arms aren't long enough to reach in all the way in the wire portion.  No wonder it's taking so long for the bunnies to get used to us handling them--they have lots and lots of space to run out of reach. 

I was planning on saving up and replacing the hutches with wire cages over time, and just dealing with the hutches until then.  And then an unexpected blessing happened. 

While dropping some movies off at my dad's the other day, I happened to be talking to the lady he lives with and told her we were heading to town to buy a wire cage to separate my final bunny (since we have four pens and five bunnies).  She asked about the rabbits a bit, and then said that she and her parents and grandparents used to raise meat rabbits.  And she still had all the metal cages up in the rafters of her barn.

And better still?  She offered to give them to me, excited that they'd be being used instead of just continuing to collect dust. 

How exciting, and such a great reminder that the Lord works in unexpected ways!  I'll be able to hang those up and then put my worm bins underneath, just like I was originally planning before the deal on the hutches/bunnies became available.  So that's great!  And I'll hang onto the hutches for using as birthing pens in the winter, since the warmth will be important then.

Now back to what I've learned...

4. Transitioning rabbits to more natural food sources takes time.

Hay is good food for cattle...and rabbits!

Three of my bunnies are very excited about the hay and grass we give them daily.  The other two aren't so sure yet.  But we'll keep offering it.

We now have them being fed pellets only once a day--a measured amount based on what my research says they need for their size.  Previously, they were allowed free access to pellets all the time, and put on too much weight.

Now, I try to have either alfalfa or grass hay for them all day long to munch on, along with fresh water.  They get a handful of grass once a day.  Then in the evening, they get their pellets.  Occasionally, we'll give them a treat like a piece of carrot or apple slice.  I've heard they really like chewing on apple branches, but haven't yet cut any off the tree to try.  That's next on my list. 


I'm sure as we go through the first batch of kits, raising them and processing them, I'll learn even more.  That's the great part of living on a farm--you have daily opportunities to continue learning!

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