Category Archives: rabbits

Early March Doings

My garden has its own little microclimate going on. While other folks in my area are still complaining about the cold (and sometimes, still snow) my garden is totally in Spring-mode. Its was so warm and gorgeous yesterday. The birds were singing, the sun was hot, bulbs and leaves are coming out of hibernation, and the soil is bursting with life. I got some cold-hardy seeds planted, with more to plant this weekend – but before I did, I released the dinosaurs for one last free-range mission of destruction.

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The chickens adore this time of year. The ground is not frozen, the bugs are out, and since the majority of the perennials are still not up, they can’t do anything too severe in my garden. Mostly, they just throw the mulch out of place and take dust baths in the empty beds.

Letting them out like this really helps with slug control later on. They find all the slug eggs before they hatch! A little mild soil disturbance is good, too, even in a no-till garden like mine. This was their last grand hurrah, however. After today, I’ll have seeds planted, and perennials coming up, and their excursions into the garden will be limited to one or two hens at a time, under very close supervision. Mainly, I just let Ellie in to garden with me. She’s old enough not to be such a vigorous digger, and she’s pretty good at understanding I don’t want her in the actual flower beds, digging things up.

After I worked in the garden, I brought the new angora rabbits outside to groom them.

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Cocoa is super good at laying still and letting me brush her. And look at these adorable feet!

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Angora feet are the absolute best. I also let Sorrell, my Rex buck have a playdate with Thistle, one of my Rex does. So hopefully she’s pregnant, and I’ll have little kits in about a month. I love Spring on the farm, and all the babies!

Speaking of babies, the pigeons have settled in nicely. Although they have a large outdoor flight pen, they really enjoy the window in their dovecote.

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I see one of them there frequently, watching everything that’s going on. Usually it’s the male, Emerson, but this time it was Peabody.

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They are such gorgeous birds. I just love having them here. And they have exciting news….a few days ago, they started building a nest, and yesterday look what I found?

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First egg!!!! The hen will lay one more, and then start sitting on both to hatch them. Emerson is very attentive. Besides bringing her bits of straw, he’s been sitting on the egg himself. It’s going to be such fun to watch these birds raise young.

While I was researching raising pigeons this video made me laugh. Apparently mother pigeons have very strong opinions!

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Angora Bunnies are in the House!

A blog post or two back, I think I mentioned that I was on the waitlist for an angora rabbit (due to be born this month). Well, that rabbit’s breeder was at the other end of WA state, and to get it here, I would have had to use an animal transporter, which 1) costs money, and 2) is always a little risky.

So imagine my pleasure when an ad popped up on Craigslist for a litter of satin angoras born in Bellingham, WA…just a short drive away. The owner was a lovely woman who had a few angoras for spinning fiber…and whose buck accidently got in with her does. Result? Two accidental pregnancies. I originally really wanted one buck (male rabbits seem to have sweeter personalities, in my experience) but she’d already sold all the bucks in the litter…leaving me with a choice between three does I could take today, and three more that would be ready in another week.

Meet Cinnamon. She’s a ten week old doe.

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Her wool has that gorgeous satin shine…what there is of it. She’s old enough to have had her first shearing, so her coat is clipped short and uneven. But in about 4 months, she’ll be absolutely perfect.

 

I really wanted Cinnamon for her beauty, but she was a little skittish, and the breeder called her ‘salty’. I think she’s just young, and she’ll settle down, but you can never be sure. Rabbits definitely have their distinct personalities.

Which leads us to Cocoa.

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She’s a week or two older, and her coat is less glossy…and in a color that I don’t find quite as appealing. However, she is the sweetest thing – such a calm, friendly personality. The breeder says she’s super easy to groom, and just a little darling.

 

So which one did I bring home?

Why, both of them, of course! What a silly question!

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The breeder really wanted me to buy two because she thinks rabbits do better with a friend – and I believe that as well. Her rabbits (all the does) were in a colony together, and it was so cute to see them snuggle together.

Sometimes rabbits bond for life, sometimes they decide they hate each other and start fighting. These two really like each other now, so we’ll see what happens. If they start fighting, or if Cinnamon turns out to be a difficult rabbit, I may end up only keeping one.

They seem to like their new home (a sectioned off corner of my sewing room with the option to roam the entire room once they are litterbox trained), and when I held Cocoa and did a little grooming, she obviously loved it. She relaxed, got sleepy, and started “purring” – which in rabbits means lightly grinding her teeth to make that sound. I can pick her up, carry her around, and even turn her over onto her back without her kicking or otherwise protesting. Cinnamon seemed to like being groomed too, but didn’t relax and seemed a little nervous still.

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In other news, my King Pigeons are settling right in. They seem very relaxed now…so relaxed in fact, that I caught them “billing” (a courtship ritual involving the male feeding the female regurgitated food – it looks like kissing!) and then actually mating. Pigeons tend to mate for life, so if these two weren’t already a couple when I got them, they obviously bonded during their voyage from Pennsylvania. This is excellent news. Hopefully, they’ll start thinking about starting a family soon. I’ll get some more pictures and a video of them soon, but until then, here’s another picture of Cinnamon!

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Of Pigs and Pigeons

The plans to get Muscovy ducks is moving along. I called the farm I want to buy them from, and confirmed that they can ship to me. Actually, they can’t ship to me, because my city is too small for one-day shipping, but they can ship to the larger city right next to me, and I can go pick them up at the post office there. I think I’ll have them sent in May. The weather will be nice by then, so I can move them asap out of my house (ducklings are incredibly messy) and out into the grow-out coop.

Brand new on the agenda for this year is pigeons! I have this wonderful pen that has never really lived up to its potential. I’ve had quail in it, rabbits, and most recently, guinea pigs.

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It’s wrapped in plastic right now because of the guinea pigs. None of these critters use the entire space, ground and upper flight areas, which is a shame. So I moved the pigs into a vacant quail coop that gives them ample floor room, freeing up this pen for pigeons. And I’m planning to wire over the rooftop garden, incorporating it into the cage as even more space for the birds.

I’ve long been interested in pigeons because I love pigeons, but I have a little hawk that lives in the field next door, and I’ve watched her take down the wild pigeons in my yard. While I definitely don’t begrudge her a dinner, I don’t want her dinner to be my animals, which has kept me from getting homing pigeons. The whole reason to have those is to let them fly free, which they couldn’t safely do in around my house. But recently, I stumbled across a website about utility pigeons – pigeons raised for eggs and meat. I had pigeon when I was in London, and really liked it, and I like the idea of having animals that are useful in several ways. Plus, pigeons helped many people make it through the Great Depression – and since we’re headed toward even worse times, another source of sustainable backyard protein is highly appealing to me.

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These are king pigeons, the variety I would most likely get. They are extremely domesticated, calm, and gentle. They are heavy enough that they don’t really fly well at all, so being kept in a pen is preferred for them.

And how are the guinea pigs doing? When I first got them, all the American websites said you absolutely cannot keep them outside. The British websites were full of people doing exactly that. So of course, I went with the British way of doing things…with the knowledge I may have to bring them inside during the coldest parts of winter.

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I haven’t had to do that. I wrapped their run in plastic both to warm it up slightly, and to protect from wind and rain, and they’ve been happy as two pigs can be. When I open the door, they come running for treats.

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So yeah. These are definitely outside pigs now.  I did, as I said above, moved them to a smaller pen, also winterized in plastic for the winter.

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You can just barely see Freddie in there.

We’ve been having some decent days lately, and the past couple of weeks I’ve been out working in the garden. Last year, I moved one of the quail coops out of the garden, and where it used to be, I built a small wall out of mason blocks, and added a new garden bed behind it.

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The wall both adds a bit of privacy and definition to the garden, and it also provides some protection for the mini fireplace in front.

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I also moved a couple of cold frames behind the greenhouse, and put in a larger raised bed where the cold frames used to sit. It’s a prime “hot” area, and will be terrific for tomatoes.

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All winter long, I’ve been dumping the rabbits litter boxes into the chicken’s compost area, and now I’ve started shoveling that out into my veggie gardens. It’s great stuff – even fresh, rabbit poo won’t burn plants, and this is partly composted and full of worms and other beneficial stuff.

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Just about a month left, and I’ll be able to start planting! The garden is ready for spring. The trees are budding out, the roses are sprouting leaves, and the bluebells are green.

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Now the race begins…which will happen first: spring or the rapture of the church? Hopefully the second, but at least if I’m stuck here on earth a little bit longer, I have ducklings to look forward to!

Frosty Garden/Planning for Next Spring

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I went for a walk through my garden before Christmas. This time of year is when I dream. It’s easy to make grandiose schemes when the ground is too frosty to actually do any work.

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The meat rabbits have worked out extremely well (they are definitely the easiest critters I’ve ever kept and from the last batch of fifteen grow-outs, I harvested enough meat to make 36 meals, plus I had three gallon bags of bones to make stock). Last year was all about building their housing and getting them settled, and figuring out how to manage them. Now, though, I’m ready to add some new critters.

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I think this is the year for Muscovy ducks. I’ve considered them before, but wasn’t quite sure how to wrangle them with the chickens. Some people keep a mixed flock quite happily, but I’ve also heard horror stories of the Muscovy drake killing chickens. I value my hens; I don’t want to risk their lives. But my hens have a much larger area than they actually need, so I’ve worked out a way of dividing the chicken runs, so that they will rotate through different areas with the ducks. We’ll see how it works. The ducks, being non-diggers, will also get access a lot of the time to the garden. I miss having a devoted slug patrol!

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The things that are awesome about Muscovy ducks is their extreme quietness (always valued in an urban farm) their fly and rodent catching abilities, their devotion to motherhood, and the fact that their meat is more like red meat than regular poultry. It’s said by top chefs that their breast meat in particular tastes like sirloin steak! Since there is zero chance I will ever be able to raise sirloin steak in my backyard, I’m all about this. The downside is that I have to order a minimum of 15 chicks from my hatchery of choice.

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So I’ll keep the trio of ducks I want (1 male, 2 females) and either butcher the rest, or possibly sell a few ducklings. Ducklings! I’m so excited to be getting ducklings again. They are seriously my favorite kind of babies.

I’m also making plans for the new trees and plants I’ll be ordering. Not so many trees this year, but there are at least a couple I want. It’s weird, though, making plans this far ahead, because I know I won’t be remaining on this world much longer. Literally any moment now, Christ is going to return and take his children away. It’s 100% going to happen, and happen soon. But just in case I have to wait a couple more years (rather than the weeks or months I think it will be) I have to keep doing what God wants me to do. The Bible says to garden, and provide for my family, and live a quiet life while working with my hands, and that’s exactly the life I desire…while I’m here on earth.

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But I cannot wait for the moment when I finally get to fly away and meet my Savior in the air!

Hungry, Hungry Hippos (or Bunnies)

I do feed my rabbits. I swear I do. They have free choice hay, plus nearly unlimited pellets while they are pregnant, nursing, or babies. Still, though, whenever I refill the bowl, it’s mayhem.

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Absolute mayhem! You’d think I gave them pellets once a month instead of refilling their bowls twice daily.

 

Most of the garden is preparing to sleep for the winter now. I’ve had a light frost on my car windows, but my backyard is a warmer microclimate, and even the tomatoes are still limping along…ripening those last few cherry tomatoes. The olive tree has small green olives on it, but I don’t know what’s going to happen with those. This is the first year it’s attempted to set actual fruit.

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We’ll see. The tree is tucked up against the house wall, in the warmest possible place. There are a few apples left on the apple trees, and we just ate the last of the pears. That was exciting – it was our first year to have pears! The mini pear “Seckel” produced about 15 pears, and they were very tasty! Just like full size pears, only half the size. One of my co-workers brought me couple of unusual fruits she’d been given by a friend of hers. They are a pear/ash cross, called a “Shipova”.  I’d never heard of them, but according to One Green World, they are “A unique hybrid of Mountain Ash and Pear, Shipova Mt. Ash Hybrid bears round, yellow-orange fruit, about the size of a large apricot. Quite delicious, the sweet, seedless fruit has a delicate, rose-like aroma. Shipova forms a pyramidal-shaped tree with attractive, grayish-green foliage.” They are pollinated by actual pears, so I think I might try getting a tree next year. The ones she brought me were slightly overripe, but still very good!

It’s weird, planning for the future, when you know the world as we know it is coming to an end. I’m pretty sure I won’t even be here on earth next Spring…but in case I’m wrong about the exact timing of the Rapture and start of the Great Tribulation, I still have to keep going, planting my garden and providing for my family, as the Bible commands. But it’s a strange, strange feeling.  I’m also in high gear planning for Christmas, and I hope I won’t even be here for that! I’d so much rather celebrate Christ’s birthday in Heaven with him.

I’m also crocheting like a fiend, getting tons of charity items and gifts finished…but I’m also making a few things for me, of course! One of those things is this Virus Shawl. Love, love, love the pattern – once you figure it out, it’s fun, because it’s the same four rows repeated, so you can do it without thinking. Perfect for watching YouTube videos and listening to audios!

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And I love MelodyyByWolltraum on Etsy for the yarn. She imports this gorgeous gradient Wolltraum yarn, which is “is hand-tied gradient yarn made with love in Switzerland. The gradients are created by tying little strands of colors together and the tiny knots (TK for short) are so small they are easily hidden within your project with no additional cutting/tying necessary.” It’s so much fun to work with, and unlike many of the other importers, her shipping is very reasonable. The above shawl was made with her Summerwine yarn, and it is just yummy! I have another order in with her for a cake of her Brown Sugar yarn, and I can’t wait to get it.

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Highly, highly recommend her.

 

Broken Beaks and Beauty

A broken beak can be a serious thing for a chicken. Beaks are their tools, their hands, their major way of interacting with the world.  Sometimes the bird needs to be euthanized, if the break is so bad that it can’t regrow. (I’ve seen some truly dreadful pictures of hens with their beaks broken entirely off. Shudder.)

Fortunately for Booty, her break, while serious, wasn’t quite that desperate.

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This picture was taken yesterday, after it had healed for almost a week. It is a lot less bloody and oozy. You can’t truly tell in the picture, but it looks like she snapped the entire top layer off, including the tip.  The below pic, for reference, is what a beak is supposed to look like.img_6826_zpsekzn5ajf

For a couple of days after it happened, poor Booty was clearly in a lot of pain, and although she clearly wanted to eat, she wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. The internet said that a snapped beak has nerves in it that makes the pain equivalent to a broken tooth. I kept dabbing some chicken-safe medicinal ointment on it, and kept offering her all her favorite soft foods. She wouldn’t eat. I seriously was considering putting her down, because I didn’t want her to starve to death, and I was afraid she must be in terrible pain. But then mom took her out some bread, and came back in with the wonderful news that she’d eaten some. It still took a few more days, but finally she is able to eat her regular food again, and is clearly going to be ok. Beaks can regrow if enough of the beak is left, and in her case I think it will. But that will be quite a few months down the road. Poor girl. I wish I knew how she did this to herself!

Except for Booty’s trauma, things have been great on the urban farm. The sunflowers are blooming.

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The skies are glorious.

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And I have a bunny barn FULL of bunnies. Two does, and their two litters, born one week apart. I think I have thirteen or fourteen baby rabbits in there. I’m not sure. I was busy, and put off getting an accurate count, and then…they were suddenly out of the nest and hopping everywhere…and getting an accurate count right now is impossible. I went out to the barn last night and watched them playing for awhile, and it is the cutest thing ever. At one point, they tired themselves out and just collapsed into this massive soft wiggly pile of sleepy bunnies! I did get a video of some of it – not the bunny pile, though, the light was too far gone at that point.

Colony rabbit raising is absolutely the best way to go. I feel so sorry for rabbits stuck in small wire cages, either all by themselves, or crowded in a bunch of babies, with no room to express their natural social behaviors. These two does are sisters, and have been together from birth. While they did get a little ornery and testy with each other (and me!) during their very first pregnancies, by this second litter, they have figured everything out, and are perfectly sweet with each other, and I can pet them without fearing a bite.

And the babies! They are so sweet with their babies – with all the babies. I am not sure if they nurse only their own, or if they just feed whichever babies are hungry. I know I have seen babies that belong to Thistle come up to Blackberry and attempt to nurse…but these does don’t believe in nursing when the human is watching, so I don’t know if they hop away because of me or because they are holding out for their own children. I suspect the former, though, by the way the babies are acting.

I should have gotten rabbits on the farm ten years ago!

 

Babies, More Babies, and Baking (not the babies!)

The critters around here think it’s Spring. I have eight (possibly more) bunnies born yesterday, with second doe due on Sunday. This, I will admit, is my doing, since I did enable the affair. They were certainly enthusiastic participants, however! I still have three from the previous litter – one of them I actually sold. This handsome little buck is going to be a pet – and possibly getting a girlfriend later on.

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The Snowflake Bobwhite quail have decided to try for a family too. I’m not overly optimistic about success, since Buckbeak (my male) suffered a leg injury as a chick and has never had perfect agility since. I’m not sure he’s able to properly balance on Bellatrix in order to fertilize those eggs. They are so sweet, though.

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Buckbeak has taken to sitting on the eggs with her, and when she leaves the nest to stretch and eat, he moves over to keep the eggs warm. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’d love to see them manage to hatch out at least a couple of chicks!

I’ve also had two different chickens decide to go broody on me, too – despite me explaining over and over again that we have already had our allotted chicks for the year, and we really can’t have any more.

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So they are taking turns in the broody prison. I just released the last one this morning…I hope she’s actually changed her mind about babies and isn’t just going to sneak back onto a nest when I’m not looking.

I FINALLY got the girls’ musical instrument mounted in their coop, right above the oyster shell and grit where I know they can’t miss it.

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They are pretending it isn’t there. Not a single hen will touch it. I guess my girls just don’t have dreams of going on America’s Got Talent or the Kimmy Kimmel Show.

The guinea pigs have moved out into the large outdoor coop, and are loving all the space.

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Of course, their favorite activity is still coming up the wire to beg for treats. Both are especially fond of cherry tomatoes.

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It’s been too smoky from all the wildfires to do much work outside, so I’ve been doing lots of cooking and baking. You know how you tend to pin things on Pinterest but never actually do them? Well, I’m making a point of making the recipes I’ve pinned, and most of them are turning out! A pretty good percentage are actually keepers, and I’ve transferred them over to a new board “Recipes I’ve Made and Liked”.  Just yesterday, I made the Bacon-Wrapped Cornish Hens, and they were fantastic…and super easy. Besides the Cornish hens, I also made two apple pies with apples from my backyard tree (these apples make the most extraordinary pies…but I didn’t plant the tree, and have no idea what variety it is). One pie to bake immediately,

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and one to freeze for later.

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As you see in the background, I saved all the cores and peels to make three gallons of apple scrap vinegar. It’s so easy, and tastes just like store-bought apple cider vinegar. I use it for everything but canning. (Canning requires at least 5% acidity for safety, and I haven’t tested the acidity of mine.) Some apple scrap vinegar recipes tell you to start with yeast, or add sugar, or do all sorts of extra things. I do nothing but throw my apple scraps in a jar and add filtered water. Put some 90 grade cheesecloth over the top to keep out the fruit flies, and stir it vigorously at least a couple of time per day. You’ll notice it starts to bubble, and smell like hooch. Once the bubbles stop, and the apple scraps sink to the bottom after a few weeks, strain the scraps out, replace the cheesecloth and store the jars in a cool, dim place for up to six months. You’ll know it’s done when it smells and tastes like vinegar, and then you can bottle it up and use it like you would apple cider vinegar. When you make future batches, add a little of the dregs from your previous batch to kick-start the process.

In the same day, I also made Lemon Poppyseed Yellow Summer Squash Bread – you’ll find the recipe in my pinterest recipe link above. It’s a super way to use up those overgrown yellow summer squash, and you’d never know it has squash in it! I recommend cutting down the sugar by at least half a cup, though. Most comments on the recipe say it’s too sweet as-is, and I’m glad I followed their suggestion.

Dexter was glued to my side during all this baking frenzy, and boy was he ever exhausted by the end of it!

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It is hard work cleaning up all the scraps that accidently (and on purpose) fall to the floor. He didn’t even wake up during his close up.

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Finally, Amazon sent Bundy another cat bed in the mail, and this one, sadly, was slightly undersized.

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He did his best to make it work, though!