Saturday, May 31, 2008

Matchmaker, Matchmaker...

We've had our first experience with young born right here on the farm. Well, except for the kittens. So, I guess I should say our first intended birth. Man, if there was only a market for farm cats. We could make a killing. Have I mentioned that Chief has been out prowling a lot recently?

Anyway, about a month ago, I bred the rabbits. I really was not sure at all if they were ready. I had been "checking" them daily for weeks with no discernible changes. Finally, I gave up and decided to try to breed them and see if it would work.

The rule of rabbitry is to take the doe to the buck. The does are very territorial and so it is better to avoid introducing the poor male into their territory. They are likely to defend it. So, I took each doe, in turn, and put them in with Riley. And then I sat back and watched.

I must admit that I felt a little like I was intruding. I felt like they might enjoy a little privacy, but then, I really needed to see what was going on. And, well, the 'ole boy didn't let me down.

If you've never seen a rabbit mate, it really is quite hilarious. I guess that's all I will say about that.

Anyway, Riley was up to the challenge and performed wonderfully. Both does seemed to accept his advances, which is a sign of readiness. Still unsure if it was actually successful, though, I marked the calendar for 28 days later and then we waited.

Several days ago, Erica started to pull out her hair. Does do this to make their nest, so signs were good. She literally covered the entire cage floor with fur. I gathered up most of it and put it in her nest box to encourage her to nest there. And we waited some more.

Yesterday, Annalise tore her fur out. She did manage to keep it in her nest box, though. Things were definitely looking good.

And this morning, I went out to feed and check them. When I popped up the door on Annalise's cage, I noticed a little movement in the midst of the fur. I pulled it back just a little and discovered the little hairless babies, all snuggled in there. I didn't count them, as I didn't want to disturb them, but I know there were at least 5 or 6. Annalise is Meagan's rabbit, so she was thrilled, of course. In fact, when I told her what I had seen, her mouth gaped open and she sat down!

Later today, I went back out to check again and found Erica had made her little nest and it was also moving a little. She had put her nest on the floor of the cage, though. I'm still a little concerned about it. I've heard that rabbits will reject babies that aren't born in a box. We'll see. I did carefully construct a little nest in the box and lined it with fur. We moved the babies (she had 8) into the new nest and covered them up with more fur. We didn't want to leave them on the ground as they would then be exposed to rain and dampness. I hope that Erica will take good care of them. I'd hate to lose the kits.

And so, all in all, we're thrilled with the results. Of course, I still don't know what to look for when deciding what the right time for breeding is, but apparently, I can wing it pretty well. Riley is ready to try again soon, of course. He's appreciated my matchmaking skills.

I'll post pictures in a few days. At this point, I still don't want to disturb the new families too much. They start to grow hair in just 3 days, though, so unfortunately, I won't get pictures of them right now in their hairless state. They are adorable,'ll just have to take my word for it.

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