PAMPERING MAMA RABBIT: Postpartum Kindling Care

Have I ever told y’all how I’m going to be a rabbit farmer until I die?

Well it’s the truth. Plain and simple I love these little creatures. They’re sustainable and adorable. They make it possible for me to provide another white meat for my family for little to nothing. Case in point; the initial investment is small and they pay off quick!


Aside from the cost/benefit analysis points they are great mothers and do virtually all the work. Since these ladies are serving a divine purpose here on the farm I like to treat them as such.

If you read my post ‘How I Feed our Meat Rabbits for Free’ then you’d know I only keep pellet feed around for emergencies and pregnancies. Once the girls are confirmed pregnant I’ll mark it on the calendar and about a week before kindling (birthing) I’ll start to give some pellet feed. Working up until she gets free choice after kindling. Throughout the nursing process she will be grain fed in order to maintain weight (rabbits can get freakishly skinny during the nursing weeks) as well be given many many treats and still receive her daily fresh greens (usually assorted weeds and grass).

Pictured above is a kit at one week of age.

Mama Marilyn getting a snack.

Here’s my girl Char (charcoal), she’s ready to kit anyway now!

So heres the scoop.
Once the babies have arrived a whole new set of tasks is before me. This where I start:

1: Once my rabbits kindles I always make sure to check the nest box. Some folks say to wait 24 hours before removing the nest box to count kits. I don’t… I do this right away the first time I see them, after running to wash hands of course, for my own piece of mind. I count the babies, remove the dead ones, and always rebed them with fresh hay/straw.


2: I like to feed my girls all the tops to our strawberries, apple cores, radish/turnip tops, carrots and any leafy greens that are still fresh. They love the change, and being spoiled. Plus any extra calories are welcomed by the mamas.

3. It’s also a good idea to give the babes and mama a little extra help. To jump start their immune systems I employ a tonic that seems to work well. Simply add a tablespoon apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of honey to the rabbits water bottle. This will help boost her immune system and pass it along to her babies when nursing. Whatever you do, DO NOT add garlic to your tonic, like you wold with chickens. It may seem like a swell idea but garlic acts as an immune suppressant for rabbits, and not an immune booster like in most other mammals and egg-layers.

4: Water checks. I do this about 2-3 times a day generally. This is one thing that does not change. Rabbits drink A LOT of water. And twice as much when pregnant or nursing. They need fresh water at all times to be happy successful mothers, especially since they only nurse kits once a day.

5: Bedding always available; make sure she has a bedded area to sleep that is NOT inside the nest box. Because, well every mama needs a break.

Between 2-4 weeks the nest box will be removed as the babies will no longer need it since they will spend most of their time outside the nest anyway. Then around 4-6 weeks the kits will be weaned from mama and set into their own pasture pen. I give these ranges in weeks for one simple reason, every litter is different.

We’re building this homestead based on natural life processes, so why would we wean them early if they have a great mama to care for them?

Ok I guess that’s two reasons.

 

I want these babies to get as much of mamas care as possible, which makes it easier on this lady farmer mama, no doubt! Setting them up for the healthiest life possible is our ultimate goal while they produce bounties of food for our family. So here on the homestead, the babes stick with the mamas as long as possible.

From weaning on out we’ve only got about 4-5 weeks before the kits are due for culling. That’s 9-10 weeks from birth to slaughter weight folks! Talk about sustainability. And a little bit of cuteness in between.

Peace and Love.

Quincy

BUILDING A PALLET GARDEN

If you know me, then you know I love Pinterest. Well here I go again, experimenting. I thought giving a pallet garden a try would be fun this garden season. Heck what do I have to lose? 

I also decided early on that I wanted to develop a kitchen garden close by the house. Luckily there’s a piece of dirt directly outside our kitchen window that is perfect. 

More so, this ground is begging to be worked. You can tell that the lawn used to wrap around the house in this area but there hasn’t been a lawn in some many many years, at least way before we moved in, that’s what we’ve heard from neighbors and our landlord. 

Ok I’m rambling. Ahem. 

So here lies the plot for our kitchen garden and two pallets which will house our leaf and small root veggies. Maybe some herbs. 


The process was simple. Find a pallet, find a plot, and basically just throw some dirt in it. Making sure it’s evenly packed inside. I even used some garden fabric stapled along the bottom of one to prevent weed/grass growth up inside the pallet. And also to prevent soil from flowing out in case of a heavy rain. Mulch packed in around the pallet also works perfectly great. 

So there you have it. A simple thrown together raised garden bed. And it was free. You like?

  

There is another in the most shaded corner of our large garden, the future plot for more shady varieties. 


 

The ease at which I have grown small root veggies in these pallets is fantastic. The parallel slats provide a form of mulch over the soil and I rarely have to water them, covering them with more straw helps even more so. I love that the rows are evenly spaced already all you need do is simply sow seeds or transplant starts. 


I absolutely love trying new ways to garden and finding what works for us out here on our little homestead. This is a permaculture win-win right here folks. Simple and low maintenance. 

Getting dirt under my nails. 

Peace and Love

Quincy

HOW I FEED OUR MEAT RABBITS FOR FREE

When I set out to raise meat rabbits last year I wasn’t worried about how I would afford to feed them. I simply thought, eh how expensive can they be? Granted they are quite small, but if you plan to pellet feed it will add up, and quick. 

Rabbits will fatten on grass or just about anything green they can get their mouths on so feeding them cheaply is easily done. 

I keep alfalfa pellets around for emergencies and winter months. But from February-March and on through September-October I can feed our rabbitry for free. 

Be patient folks I can be long winded and tend to side track… Like right now…

  
If you’re a returning reader then you know that my family and I rent 5 acres. Fortunately a little more than 75% of the property is irrigated with hand lines, unfortunately as of now we don’t possess the proper attachments for our tractor to mow and re-seed the field. 

What does this all mean you may ask? It means we have a real weed problem. Gallons of water covering the field whilst grass and weeds duke it out for dominance of the pasture… You see if a pasture isn’t maintained properly then weeds will encroach and fight the grass out for ground space and sun exposure.  

 

^^^ See how the grass is barely making a play for space under the dandelion and other weeds?

In many a folks eye this would be seen as a huge problem. Unjustly weed killer would be coating our property, that would be the end of weeds for good, and that’s ok for them. 

But me? I wanted to put my new found permaculture knowledge to the test. And I certainly don’t want weed killer all over the soil that feeds my family and my animals. Isn’t there anyway I can turn this problem into a solution?

And yes there was. There always is.

End side track…

Hey Q wanna feed your rabbits for free and supplement the flocks diet with some fresh greens? Heck yes I do! 

So I just simply note where large patches of weeds are growing in the pasture and around the house or gardens. Usually twice a day  the farm kids and I head outside to ‘pick weeds for the rabbits’ as miss Ireland refers to it. In about 5-10 minutes the rabbits have all they’ll need for day and I’ll even gather enough to please the homestead flock. I’ll do this again in the evening when I check water bottles and bedding.  
I make a point to grab variety for the rabbits so they have a little bit more of a natural choice. After all, they deserve it.  


Of course I always have hay on hand for their bedding and general munching needs. 

It may seem a little crazy to be out in the field twice a day pulling weeds for bunnies eh? But this time of year Im already outside filling water bottles for them twice a day as it is. So for me it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of extra work.

I simply give them enough weeds based on my personal observations of the rabbits individually.(if there’s no greens left the rabbit could still be hungry, if its wilting and going to waste then I could be feeding the rabbit too much) I also determine their rations  according to size and whethe or not the doe is pregnant and/or nursing.

When I do have a doe in one of these stages I will provide her with pellet food once a day while pregnant then free choice once nursing and weaning. The babies are fed both with mom from the time they can jump from the nestbox at will. This way they can be placed into rabbit tractors to fatten on the thicker parts of the pasture until butchering time. 

   

And since I’m weeding a little everyday it doesn’t feel like annoying labor. I enjoy getting something out of these “useless plants” and so do the farm animals. 

I’ve now exhausted all the weeds around the house and have moved to more distant zones. I love how much more aware of the ground we live on I am becoming. I’m getting to know it better everyday. Walking, looking for more weeds to feed the cavies, noticing the grass regrowth, the wildflowers, even the holes dug by the puppies, ahem. 

I don’t hate the weeds like I used to. I’m finding purpose in them now. The animal are getting nourished by them. Little by little the grass is retaking the pasture and backyard. We’re saving more money with the animals then ever before. 

Sunday lazy dayin’ around these parts. Peace and love y’all 

Quincy

GETTING STARTED WITH MEAT RABBITS

When it comes to homesteading it seems most of my friends and family think you must have property. That is the biggest misconception out there about us modern day homesteaders.

Not all of us own or even live on a piece of property.

And yes, I say this as I sip coffee on my back porch watching 5 horses graze the 5 acres we rent. Key word, RENT. Let me just preface this by saying that homesteading is about a sustainable mindset and lifestyle choices… not about your physical location.

Property is helpful, yes, but it is also lots of back breaking work. And folks you don’t even need 1 acre to be a homesteader.

So, in the spirit of spring and micro-homesteading possibilites, I thought I would provide some info on one friendly creature who can produce meat for your family, fertilizer for your gardens, gorgeous furs and practically eat for free! Give them a shot and I’m sure they will help you down the road to self sufficiency all within a relatively small space like a garage or shed.   

Yes I’m talking meat rabbits. As far as homesteading goes rabbits go hand in hand with sustainable permaculture ideas. They produce a lot of babies very quickly and the meat is fantastic. They eat weeds or grass (Wanna see how in spring/summer I feed my rabbits for FREE?) and can live either in or outdoors. If you’re a lover of small cuddly things and can’t bear the thought of eating them….. then maybe raising rabbits is not for you.


(How can you resist this face ^^^)

But if you’re someone who needs a small scale meat project, this is right up your ally. You’ll learn something new and be able to stock up on another white meat. The best part is that startup and infrastructure for a rabbitry is minimal. You won’t need big corrals or an extensive pasture. Well, and they’re cute as heck.


Here’s a few tips to get you started on your own homestead rabbitry.

1. Water bottles- You’ll need to chose how you want to distribute water to your rabbits, especially does pregnant or nursing. They drink a lot during this day so this is very important. We currently use these water bottles until we can implement nipple watering system. I purchased mine on Amazon here (affiliate link). With these water bottles I summits have to fill them twice a day, in summer, and they more than likely almost always freeze in winter months. This is just something good to keep in mind, no calling in sick for farmers ya know?


2. Feeders (optional)- I keep these galvanized slow feeders on our cages at all times in case I need to supplement with pellet feeds. But if you’re choosing not to feed by pellet these may not be necessary. I bought mine from a local feed store, but there are also available at a competitive price on Amazon. I have two sizes small and large (affiliate links).
3. Foot rest mat- If you have a cage like mine or many other breeders then your rabbits have a wire floor, and will have the need for a foot rest. If you chose not to go with a foot rest it is imperative that you give proper bedding for your rabbits to rest on. The reason being that rabbits can develop a condition called ‘sore hocks’ in which large nodule like sores appear all over the back feet from continual resting on their back haunches. No bueno. It can be treated but the more fluffies shouldn’t have to suffer. Ours were like $4 a piece on Amazon (affiliate link) so spend the little extra for quality of life for your bunnies.


4. Shade- rabbits don’t do very well in high heat nor direct sunlight. If they have adequate water they have a better chance but rabbits can succumb to heat stroke faster than most animals. Providing them ample shade and hydration in the heat of summer is huge. It’s definitely a time commitment, at times in summer I’ll have to fill the water bottles 2-3 times a day, hence my yearning for an ever flow/nipple water system.


5. Nest boxes- if you plan to breed you’ll need a nest box or two. Each kindling(expectant) doe will need a box from about a week before she kindles to about 4 weeks postpartum so make sure you enough. They also come in a couple different sizes for various sized breeds. There are even some great DIY patterns for them on Pinterest.

Rabbits don’t need the Four Seasons to produce happily raised and healthy fully grazed meat for you, just know that. Aside from the fact that these little guys are an amazing sustainable meat source they can also make great pets. My breeding stock are calm and one of my girls even LIKES to be held, so it doesn’t have to be sad when butchering day comes. These beauties serve a divine purpose here on our homestead, and our gratitude for their sacrifice is a happy, healthy, and cozy life free of stress.

Were currently monitoring a doe for labor so I’ll keep y’all updated, gotta get back out there!

Peace and Love

Quincy