It has been a horrible day. They kind where a major, unexpected event happens and throws the whole day into unplanned chaos. We were terribly wrong about the rabbits not being pregnant and lost (almost and may yet) an entire litter. All I can say is it wasn't a happy morning. My worst nightmares happened. Our wicked witch doe... now named "Emma Frost" had her litter some time last night or in the early morning. No nest box. No baby safe sides... I couldn't even figure out who had the babies. And the babies were everywhere. Ultimately, seven lost souls with one hanging on for dear life. The one surviving soul had taken refuge in the cage of our sweet doe, "Queen Elizabeth", who was frantically trying to make a nest.
Gary came home from work on a week that was supposed to be bookoo overtime to frantically help me sort out the mess and decide what should be done. The sides of both female cages were blocked with hasty cut and hammered boards. The babies had to be made safe from "The Duke" our buck and the ground all the while I cried about how everything I touch tends to fail. It has been one hard hitting season...
I had already determined that Queen Elizabeth was still pregnant and had started to labor. In a last ditch effort, I lined her metal nest box with card board and wood shavings and pilled high the hay. I salvaged some of the fur she had already pulled out from the ground and threw it in the box. Gary had returned to work, the baby was napping and I had an hour of garden watering to do. We just had to hope she would have her babies in there. Emma Frost had her last surviving babies in her cage with her but it looked bleak. She clearly didn't have a maternal instinct yet and was just peeing and pooping in her nest box.
After Gary got home from work he announced that Queen E had her babies. She managed to have three in the box and two on the wire floor. We moved the two into the box with the others and kept hoping for the best. However, Queen E was doing her job. She had snugly tucked them in with about a pound more of her fur and was resting quietly as the pink little ones shook the hay and fur with their baby movements. Nothing like trial by fire and no amount of reading prepares you for baby bunnies gone wrong. We also hope that Queen E will adopt the lone survivor from Emma Frost's litter. It isn't looking good for that little one.
At the end of the day here is what we learned. Emma Frost is a bit immature. Next time around (we will breed her again with Queen E) she will be older and wiser and so will we. Baby bunnies at the most need to be fed twice a day so bottle feeding is an option if we are prepared. Domestic rabbits don't freak out like wild rabbits about human scent so handling the babies is OK just not too much. No need really if all is going well. Supposedly male rabbits and rabbits in general don't cannibalize their young... I am not so sure about that but I am going with it. Rabbits feed their babies for about 5 minutes a day (usually between midnight to 5 a.m.). We will have to let you know about that for sure in the morning. If they are pink and have round bellies you are doing good. Even with my own baby feeding at first makes me nervous. The little ones can't tell you with words you are doing it right. The infant stage makes me way tense. Hopefully baby rabbits will get me over that.
The disaster is hopefully passed and we will soon have cute rabbit babies to show you. The loss is extremely sad and disappointing but has to be dealt with on a farm. Even if the purpose of that life is ultimately death at least it isn't traumatic, which is the point of raising your own livestock. Life doesn't always work out as planned. As I asked myself why oh why do we do this and not live a normal life? I am reminded that our health depends on it. We may not be growing cheaper food but we certainly are growing healthier for us food. As my heart struggled with why we try to do this over and over as it beats us back. Gary stumbled across this quote:
"Discontent is the want of self-reliance." Emerson
Surely we would be discontent if we weren't slowly, clawing our way towards self-reliance. Don't think though that as we take three steps forward and two steps back I don't need something to remind myself of why we are doing it to get us past the bumps in the road.