I must say, this New Zealand doe has her faults, but she is nothing if not prompt. We placed the nest box on Wednesday, Day 28 from her breeding. By Friday there was evidence that she had been inside and explored it. Yesterday afternoon she built a beautiful nest and this morning, under a truly astonishing amount of soft, fluffy fur, we found our very first litter of kits. There were 9 live kits, and only one dead one. In retrospect, we think she may have had them sometime between 2:30 and 5:30 yesterday afternoon, but we were worried about checking the nest too early and interrupting her, so we let it go until this morning.
Since this is my first litter, I don’t have much to compare with, but they seemed to have nice round bellies and lots of energy for how helpless and fragile they seem. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult to pull out the nest box and take a look inside, as Mama was busy trying to draw us off to the other side of the cage rather than attacking us (which is her usual M.O., and why I don’t plan to keep her). We removed the dead kit and the bedding from the front of the box that was soiled with blood, added plenty of fresh hay, and put the kits back where we found them under their blanket of fur. Then we cleared out pretty quick after making sure Mama had plenty of food, hay, and fresh water. As the book suggests, we’re supplementing her with plenty of black oil sunflower seeds in addition to unlimited pellets and hay.
We will give everyone plenty of time to settle back down, and do another check later this evening. I only hope the stress of this necessary check wasn’t enough to push Mama into eating the kits. At this point that is my biggest worry, since she is such a spastic personality to begin with. Time will tell. In the meantime, it seems fitting to welcome the return of the light this Solstice with new life on the farm.
Today is the day we place the nest box in the New Zealand’s cage! We will give her plenty of soft hay and a cozy spot to make a nest. If she is bred, the litter should arrive this weekend! Keep your fingers crossed!
Today was my day off from my regular job, and I used it to relax and get some things done! First I started a fire when I got up. We have a fireplace with an insert, and while we don’t heat exclusively with wood, we do try to at least offset our oil usage somewhat. Then, after the house pets were fed, I went out to the barn to feed and water the poultry and rabbits. I have started the NZ doe on free choice pellets, and I picked up some alfalfa/timothy mix hay for her. I’m still not positive that she’s pregnant, but I want to make sure she has plenty of calories and protein available just in case. The resident gentleman gave me a very serious face over breakfast:
I also spent the morning stripping all the rabbit cages and giving them a thorough cleaning. I’m sure they were a bit confused as I was listening to (and singing along with!) some Christmas carols the whole time! After the barn chores were done, I made a run to the feed store for a few things, and took care of some other errands. Instead of getting clearer and warmer, the weather stayed dreary, so I did some various boring (but necessary) household chores inside. After it got dark and I closed up the chicken door and did a final check of everyone’s food and water, I made myself some dinner, then snuggled up with a blanket, my knitting, and a Christmas movie (Arthur Christmas, which I had never seen but recorded on a whim. It was a fun little film, with an absolutely all-star cast). My current project is a long-overdue baby blanket. It’s in the “black hole” phase, where I knit and knit but it just doesn’t get any bigger! That’s about all I’ve really had going on today. I’m just quietly holding down the fort this weekend while Avery is away, but it’s really nice to get a day to just sit back and take care of myself and the farm for a change.
The days are getting shorter and colder, and we’re in a bit of a holding pattern here on the farm. The harvest is in, and we’re getting used to most meals including at least some element that we grew ourselves, which is an absolutely fantastic feeling. The birds all seem perfectly content, and the rabbits as well. They adapted seamlessly to their new heated water bottles, which work a little differently from their oversized summer ones. The main order of business right now is getting ready for the holidays and making sure our plans are all well-laid for springtime.
No news yet on whether our rabbit breeding was successful; palpating a rabbit is a delicate skill that requires practice, and I don’t think a novice farmer attempting her first palpation on a cranky doe is a recipe for success. Some books will recommend a “test breeding” to determine whether the doe is pregnant, but I’ve decided against that for several reasons. In a test breeding, you would put the female back in the cage with the male, the reasoning being that if she is pregnant she will refuse to mate with him. The problem is, it’s not foolproof. She could accept his advances even if she is pregnant. In rabbits, it is actually then possible for her to become pregnant with two litters at the same time, with different dates of conception. In this event, it’s unlikely for either litter to survive, and it can be dangerous for the doe. So with palpation and test breeding both off the table, we are electing to simply wait and see if she kindles on schedule, with presumptive prenatal care in the meantime.