Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Day Before the Kits (Are Supposed To) Arrive

I put Snowball’s nesting box in on Saturday.  Like Charlotte said, Snowball removed all the hay and rearranged her nesting box to her satisfaction.  Sunday, we saw that she had pulled a little wool. Yesterday, Monday, she pulled a little more wool.  

Today, Charlotte saw her go inside her nesting box.  I noticed that she is panting really hard, even though it isn’t hot in there.  It’s barely warm, only 68 degrees.  She has been eating a LOT.  Of course, I can’t take her out to weigh her, as pregnant does shouldn’t be handled within a week of their due date.  

I wanted to get some pictures of Snowball, but she clearly is not in the mood.  Whenever I go to her cage, she just runs around, avoiding me.  Then she makes angry thumps, like she wants me to leave. So no pictures today. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nesting Boxes

For the first breeding in April 2014, Lydia and I just used some large Rubbermaid clear plastic boxes.  They worked well enough, but Tootsie and Snowball both got stressed and wanted a dark place, like a burrow, to have their kits.  

So we decided the commercial nesting box might be better.   So far, because it is not a Rubbermaid, they have not used them like a litter box, like they did last time.  I like that this one is all metal on the sides and top, and wood on the bottom.   Lydia bought her nesting box (10"x10"x20") for Snowball from KW Cages at the Stockton show earlier this month.  It is all metal, including on the bottom.  I think hers will be easier to sanitize.   And I also think it will be harder for the kits to escape from the nesting box, something they started doing way too early with the Rubbermaid box. The commercial nesting boxes are darker, which new mothers want  when they are going into labor.  Because it’s more enclosed it will hold heat in better, especially important in cooler temperatures.  

Tootsie's thus-far unimproved nesting box

We put shredded newspaper on the bottom of the nesting box to absorb urine.  We then stuffed the nesting boxes full of hay and put them in the does' cages.  This should be done 2-3 days before the kits are due.  (If you put it in too early, the doe will not know why it is there, and she will use it as a litter box.At this point the doe will arrange everything just the way she wants it.   

Snowball's improved nest

So far Snowball appears to like her nesting box and has already been working on her nest.  She pulled all the hay out and then put it back in her way.  She has pulled wool and placed it in the darkest corners of the box.  Based on her first experience, we expect that her nest will undergo a few remodels in the next two to three days.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Black Gold (AKA Rabbit Manure)

(This is Friday's post, because I know it won't happen tomorrow.)

In the back of the house we have eight raised boxed beds for growing fruits and vegetables.  As my son and husband built them last year, I filled them with compost, peat moss, and topsoil.  I put to good use the five years’ experience of growing a large garden in Missouri and applied liberal amounts of the complete organic fertilizer I made per Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts.  It is an extremely informative guide to gardening and helped me have great yields in Missouri.

Gardening in the High Sierra desert of northern Nevada is an entirely different matter.

I had already had several years’ experience attempting to grow tomatoes, squash, and carrots before we moved to Missouri.  Admittedly, I knew very little about gardening.  I was much more successful after reading Steve Solomon’s book, and after having some respectable soil, rain, and temperatures to work with.  Still, I had to try again in our new high altitude home.  

And I had great success last year, worlds better than any of my previous years in Nevada.

This year, however, the yields put last year’s harvest to shame.  The difference, I strongly believe, is rabbit manure.  I should have been weighing everything all along, but I didn’t think about that until now.  We’ve had more squash than we could keep up with.  We didn’t have enough strawberries, but I had 1/10 of an acre of berries in Missouri, and we never had enough then, either.  We should have planted more corn.  The kids always say there is too much lettuce.  We’re still eating the spring carrots.  I grew the biggest bell pepper I have ever seen.  The best measure, for me, though has been the tomatoes.  
Even with allowing 18" for the height of the bed, these tomato plants are over 6 feet tall.

Strawberry plants need some serious thinning

Corn has produced and died and the stalks are now supporting beans.

The plants are producing prolifically.  I’ve already made 32 pints of salsa.  Now the rest that aren’t eaten fresh will be turned into tomato sauce.  

So, now you are wondering how you can get some of this black gold, ummm, rabbit manure, for yourself.  It isn’t difficult.  Here are the steps:

1.       Buy rabbit, preferably French angora, from your neighborhood 4-H girls.  They make the best manure.  ;)
2.       Feed rabbit.
3.       Collect droppings.
4.       Put droppings in garden.
5.    Enjoy a bountiful harvest.
Yes, the droppings go straight into the garden.  Rabbit manure, unlike chicken manure, is not “hot.”  It does not have to age or compost.  However, like all manures, it does contain pathogens, so you may not want to put it directly in your lettuce or strawberry beds. 

Fattening Up Rabbits

This will be the first of a three-part weekly series.

Muddy Buddy needs to weigh more to meet the minimum senior weight standards for the next ARBA show because he will be over six months old.  In an effort to boost his weight, I will be feeding him a half-slice of whole wheat bread and strawberry leaves along with other little treats.  

I will be weighing him every day to make sure he is steadily gaining weight. 

Today’s weigh in results:   Muddy Buddy—5.14.5. 

His target weight is 7.8 pounds (that’s 7 lbs 8 ounces in rabbit lingo) by the October 11 Gridley show.

Muddy Buddy, apparently a little embarrassed to be such a lightweight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Weighing Rabbits

We weigh all of our rabbits because it is part of a health check and to keep good records.  A weight loss would suggest they either need more feed or they are sick.  Weight gain is good, but we don’t want them to gain too much.  We monitor them to make sure they meet minimum weights for their class.  If rabbits weigh too much or too little, the judge can disqualify them.  We saw that happen at the West Coast Classic in May. 

Maple at his weekly weighing

We weigh our rabbits every Wednesday.  We stop weighing pregnant does one week before they are due to kindle.  We weigh rabbit kits every day after they’re a week old.  We carefully carry our rabbits over to the scale.  Our scale is accurate to tenths of ounces.  This is an important advantage.  Something that many people don’t realize is that in the rabbit world when weight is recorded, the number after the pound number indicates the number of ounces, not the fraction of a pound.  For example, 9. 5. 5 is read nine pounds, five and one-half ounces, not nine pounds, eight and one-half ounces.  

We always on a solid surface like a table or hard floor, not on carpet or cages or the results may not be accurate.  I learned this by experience.  We all learn from our mistakes.  We record each rabbit’s weight each week so that we can compare their progress.