Monday, January 22, 2007

Rabbits in the Snow

So, what do rabbits do when it's snowing , besides pee orange pee and freak out their caregivers? I'd always read that cold doesn't bother rabbits (but heat does). Well our rabbits stayed outside in the snow and enjoyed it. One rabbit rolled around in it while it was fresh, making little snow angels. The one pictured above is meditating and thinking rabbity thoughts.

Here you can see them at one of their favorite hangouts. They've melted the snow there with their body heat. The rabbit on the right is grooming. They spend a lot of time grooming.

Here is one of the kits from the main burrow, about 3 or 4 weeks old. Two of them have come out of the burrow so far. Well, I've seen two at once. I could be seeing a hundred rabbits one at a time. This little guy has been all over the colony. He doesn't mind the snow a bit. This morning he was in the feeder hutch sitting in the J-feeder munching away beside the big rabbits. He's a little smaller than their heads.

Speaking of kits, I checked on the nest under the dog crate (the one on the ground rather than in a burrow) and it moved a little bit. So far, so good!


Mystery in the Rabbit Colony

Yesterday morning when I went out to feed the rabbits I noticed some blood on the straw in several places and also up the ramp to the feeder hutch. The blood seemed diluted, not bright red and thick and sticky but kind of like blood in urine, only too colorful for that. It was also on the three senior does, in a stream, almost as if they'd been peed on. I picked them each up and gave them a good look but didn't see anything amiss. I also checked out the senior buck, and he looked fine. The kits are hard to catch without a treat to distract them, so I just observed them all for a while. Everyone seemed fine.

It snowed all day yesterday. This morning there was lots of color on the snow in the rabbit colony. It's orange, though, not red. Clearly not blood. We can't figure out what it is. We didn't notice it when we fed the rabbits yesterday evening, because the snow was still falling and covering everything up. It isn't seeping up from the earth, because we dug down a bit and the snow gets white underneath. It isn't dripping from trees because it's in places incongruent with that theory.

Strangest of all: although the orange pigment is located mostly inside the colony, it does cross the fence line in about three places. In one place it extends about six feet away from the fence line (going downhill). The *only* theory we can come up with that is even remotely plausible is that they've chewed up some root and then thrown up and their saliva or stomach acid is colored orange. They'd have to be able to spit a fairly long stream, though. We didn't find any root or bark bits in the orange, either. Whatever it is, it's awfully strange. The rabbits seem happy as little clams so we're just waiting and watching.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Rabbit Colony Update

I haven't talked about the rabbits in a while. That's their enclosure in the photo. On the left is their feeder hutch, then you can kind of see a piece of particle board propped against what used to be a straw bale but is now mostly disintegrated. Behind the gate you can see half a dog crate and maybe if your eyes are sharp you can see the other half a dog crate at the top of the hill just to the left of the gate. If you view large you can see all of this easily, plus the solar electric fence charger.

Right now we have fourteen rabbits that frolic in the enclosure. Four seniors (three does and a buck) plus ten kits that really need to be butchered before they start having babies of their own. We also have a litter (maybe two) underground and two of those teensy babies made their debut appearance yesterday. AND one of the does kindled (gave birth) yesterday but I'm not sure that litter will survive, because she built her nest under the lower dog crate but on top of the ground rather than in a burrow.

The rabbits hanging out around the feeder hutch. They have a little ramp to go up with boards across it for traction in case it's snowy or icy. They have a little "hay silo" inside made of 2x4 welded wire so they can pull the hay out but not climb in it and pee and poop all over it. The little bitty ones climb in there, though! The rabbits eat pellets from a couple of "J" feeders set back to back and fastened to some 2x6 board. That board beside the ramp serves no purpose. It was just propped there when I took the picture; I think it's left over from when I built the hutch.

There is a bag of wood shavings leaning against the feeder hutch. I scatter this on their poo piles beside their water dish. I'm not using the little bottle-with-a-metal-straw-and-ball waterers now, because it's too cold and those metal tubes freeze in a matter of minutes. They're drinking from a plastic casserole-sized dish (about 9x13x3) because it's what we had on hand when freezing temps first hit us. I swear, they just sit there and drink and poo, poo and drink. In the spring I'll shovel up the poo/wood shaving mixture and put it in the garden.

In the foreground you can see the particle board propped against the old straw bale. They have made a burrow under here. It's real muddy in this photo because we'd had a solid week of nothing but rain. Shortly after I took these pictures I took a straw bale to their enclosure and distributed about half of it around the colony and left half of it intact near the top of the hill. They like munching on it and climbing on it. I figure it will work its way down the hill as they scatter it.

Here are a couple of the senior does in the upper dog crate, and the buck on a straw bale grooming himself. This upper crate is where the original burrow is; it's the largest burrow and it's the one I caved in a while back when putting welded wire along the bottom of their fence. This is where the seniors prefer to hang out. They've done repairs to the burrow and this is where the two babies popped out of yesterday. I'm not sure if there are one or two litters down there right now. Time will tell.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Frost Heave

It was about 20F when I woke up this morning. It dropped to around 17F before the temperatures started to rise for the day. We usually get a little dip just before dawn.

We have had TONS of rain recently, so the ground is saturated. It's nice walking on it now that it's frozen, because I don't slip and slide everywhere I try to walk.

The chickens don't seem to mind, either. They walk around on the ice crystals barefoot and even wade in the little creek that's running strong now due to all the rains.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The great rodent war of '07

We saw some mouse droppings in the house when we moved in. We vacuumed well, scrubbed out the kitchen drawers and cabinets, tossed mothballs in the attic, and that was that. This winter, they came back. More mothballs in the attic has pretty much taken care of them though we occasionally hear one in the wall.

But we also have A RAT. YUCK. At first I wasn't going to blog about the rat. They're nasty and it's embarrassing to have one. After some reflection, I decided that country life has many aspects and if I only blogged poetic and idyllic it wouldn't be nearly as interesting. Heck, half the fun in suffering is being able to complain loudly about it to others.

The rat left a couple of droppings in the mud room where we keep the rabbit and chicken feed (in plastic garbage cans with snap-on lids, now). We set out a glue trap and it got dragged around behind the tool box and abandoned. We set a plastic snap trap and it's been licked clean and flipped over but no rat. We set a metal spring trap and it hasn't been sprung (except that one time I stepped on it in my sock feet while vacuuming but that's not part of this story).

We made a trap with an empty soda can strung on a length of coat hanger (so it would spin) and suspended over a bucket with some water in the bottom. The idea is that the mouse/rat steps on the can to reach the peanut butter and then falls in the bucket and drowns. I didn't like the notion of drowning things, but we were getting desperate. Our engineering marvel was ignored.

We got a fancy electric mouse/rat trap and baited it with special guaranteed irresistible bait. NOTHING. Apparently the rat didn't get the memo about how irresistible the bait is.

Then one day we heard a loud scritching digging noise in the pantry. We looked and looked, but the sound was in the walls. The next day, we saw a newly dug rat-hole in the wall and saw that the bag of dog food had been chewed into. Once we get him we'll patch that hole but for now we figure patching it may only encourage to eat through the wall somewhere else. We figured we'd use the hole to our advantage.

We put a metal mouse trap right in front of the hole and went to bed, chuckling smugly to ourselves. Ah, yes. We had him now. We knew exactly where he'd be walking and we were prepared. Life was good.

The next morning we saw the metal spring trap had been moved maybe 1/4" and the dog food bag had again been visited. How the rat got past that metal trap is beyond me. It was right in front of his hole! Even after he'd slid it over a bit, it was still right there. How could he not spring it?

So the next day we put a glue trap right in front of the hole, and held it in place with two jars of cooking oil.

It sat like that for several days with (we thought) no activity. However after having photographed the scene of the crime, I do think there's a little smudge of gray fur on the glue in front of the hole.

I went and double-checked. Yes, a smudge of fur. I'm absolutely beside myself. I refuse to be outsmarted by a rodent.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tiny Egg

Come on, Sesame Street fans, sing with me!

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things doesn't belong
Can you guess which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

One of the hens laid a teeny tiny egg the other day. I cracked it open and there was the tiniest bit of egg yolk inside. Not a completely formed yolk, but a bit. It was surrounded by egg white and everything. I cracked it into a small bowl that we usually use for an individual serving of fruit, applesauce, or peas at dinner time.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Road Trip

Over the holidays, I went "home" to Atlanta and spent some extended time with my extended family. As with all long road trips, some of it was boring and some of it was entertaining. I'll share a little of the entertaining bits.

This is the infamous peach in Gaffney, South Carolina. I think it's a water tower. Sure looks like one. Didn't we have glorious weather for driving?

There was a building I wish I'd photographed. It was a metal warehouse type building with large lettering on it, easily legible from the interstate. It said "Richard Simmons Drilling". Please, someone pass the brain bleach. It really does exist, you can Google it if you don't believe me.

One of the more amusing place names we saw was at Fancy Gap, Virginia. We enjoyed fantastic views from the interstate along this portion of the trip.

We also went past Bland, Virginia but in attempting to photograph that exit sign we didn't time things well and ended up with a snapshot of grass alongside the interstate. Bummer.


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