Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I guess that is part of homesteading

We have three rabbits: Scotty, Peter and Cha Cha. Scotty is a White New Zealand. Although they are large rabbits bred for meat, he started as Delilah's pet and we have had him now for about five years, I think. He is still a pet.

When we moved here, the plan was to get Scotty a mate and use the offspring for meat. We needed another hutch to do this. In the fall I called on an ad for rabbits. We ended up with Peter, a black rabbit (not sure about the breed), and Cha Cha, a Lion Head. Neither of these fit the plan, but they had a nice hutch and quite a few supplies at a price we couldn't pass on.

We never did find Scotty a mate and decided to wait until spring. In the meantime, Scotty had the old hutch and Peter and Cha Cha were in the hutch they came in. This hutch was split separating the two. It has a metal roof which was screwed on. We took out the screws because it made it easier to clean out the hutch.

This was all working well, until about a month ago. There was a huge windstorm. It blew down our canopy, moved our chicken coop and . . . the roof off the double rabbit hutch. When we found them, Cha Cha had hopped on her box and over to Peter's side. We weren't sure how long the had been together, and were hoping that hadn't done what rabbits do best. She is a very small rabbit and though he is not large, he is quite a bit larger than she is. We weren't planning for them to breed.

The kids mainly take care of the rabbits. With the holidays, I had kind of forgotten about the incident of possible indiscretion. Yesterday, the kids needed some help with the rabbits. When I went out I noticed Cha Cha was missing fur on her haunches. Then I saw that she had been lining her box. Oh no! This is what they do before giving birth. I didn't look closely, but didn't see any babies.

This afternoon I went out to check on her, and when I opened the door, I could see one baby, out of the nest, dead. I went to the back of the hutch where the boxes are and saw another out of the nest. I carefully looked into the nest and found two more, also dead. Our first (although unplanned) litter and all were dead.

Even though we did not want these rabbits to breed, I am disappointed that none survived. I am not sure what I could have done different for them, but I feel like I failed because I forgot that they were even a possibility. I want to know what went wrong so it doesn't happen again. Maybe Cha Cha isn't a good mother? Maybe it was just the mix of the two rabbits that was the problem? It hasn't been that cold, so I don't think that was the problem. I know that losing animals comes with the territory, but I find this case frustrating!

The only thing I can do now, I guess, is prevent them from mating again. Today I switched Scotty and Cha Cha. So now Cha Cha is in the single cage and Scotty and Peter are in the double (separated.) There are logs on the roof to hold it down and Tim and I talked about securing the metal to a piece of board. Our other hutch is like this only using shingles instead of metal roofing. This allows access through the roof, but is heavy enough to not blow off.

Of course, today while I was switching and cleaning, I got called away by one of the kids. When I came back I saw that, apparently, I had not secured them well enough and Peter and Cha Cha were again cohabiting. I was only gone for a few minutes and I am hoping that she would not be able to breed again yet, but I will be watching more closely this time. I wrote it on the calendar.

Oh, the learning, the ups and the downs of raising animals. This is homesteading, I guess.


  1. That would be frustrating! We have beagles (for hunting). When we bred Noodles for the first time, she had them a week early and it was during a cold snap (10 below 0 at night 20 above on the warm days). We hadn't moved her into the shed yet and they all died. There were 11 total. It was really hard.
    Her second litter was also 11, but there was one that was really big and it must have gotten stuck, so it died. The other 10 lived. It's really tough to sell 10 puppies!!!

  2. Wow, that is really hard. Hopefully you won't have to go through that again - having all of them die that is..or having those two breed again either I guess!

  3. The first litter often seems to take does by surprise and they neglect the babies. Usually by the time they give birth again they've figured it out and can care for their young.

  4. I just happened upon your site today and just love it. We, too, homestead and homeschool (3 children). We've been raising rabbits for just over a year. Each time, without fail, the first litter doesn't make it. Since the mother pulled fur, she's definately trying. If they were scattered around the cage, not all in the nest box, she was probably just very afraid and didn't know what to do. There's nothing you could have done differently, really. If you had put them where they were supposed to be, she probably wouldn't have fed them. I'd give it another try. We started w/ 3 does and 1 buck, now have 10 does and 2 bucks, and we do not have to buy chicken because the rabbits fill our need. We butcher around 12 chickens/year, also raise meat goats, and the rabbits fill in the gaps. Keep trying! It sounds like you're doing a good job!