In Spring, storms bring babies and this one was no different. A 35 mile an hour driven blizzard closed the roads, put a drift that nearly topped the 4 ft. cow panel corral and sent 16 newly born babies to sleep in my bedroom for the night.
Anna had her kits in the morning, all 7 of them in the early morn.
Then later in the day, Jaydon got into the act even though she was bred a day earlier than Anna topping her with 8 little ones.
If you are counting, that makes only 15 so where did the 16th one come from? We slipped out in the driving snow, just before the roads closed behind us, picked up Caroline, a just born Dorper ewe lamb. A friend called and said a yearling ewe had given up trying to get her to rise from the frozen ground where she lay shivering. There was no colostrum for her since my friend could not catch the ewe so she called us. We always keep some in the freezer. We then picked up the grandkids from their mom’s since she was not doing well with her latest chemo treatment and our house was once again full.
Old Man Winter just refuses to give up and we’ve another 5-8 inches of snow forecast for tomorrow into Friday along with cold temperatures, a typical spring in Wyoming.
A. So why is this crazy lady even thinking of having kittens this time of year?
To answer the question you first have to look at our weather. Our average last frost is June 6th for our area and our first in the fall is about September 7th. Include the heat in July and August which means we are struggling to keep our rabbits cool, then you see just how short our window of great weather is – just days.
So really there is no other recourse but to push into inclement seasons.
B. So how do we do that and keep the kittens alive and thriving?
The answer we have been working on. Last year we found out the kittens do fine when the weather dips into the mid to upper 20’s Fahrenheit if they are well protected. We have plans to work more on the protected part and will update you as it unfolds as the wood poles for the new rabbit shed were cemented in the ground just before the winter hit.
But still, 7 degrees like it was the nighttime after they were born is a bit much in a drafty large open enclosure barn even if they have some wood protection around their wire cage and they are in a nesting box with lots of bedding. I plan on just continuing to bring the nesting boxes into my room at night if the forecast is for the mid 20’s or colder. That should be only a few more days this week. I’m not taking a chance since the weather man is rarely accurate and 11 became 7 the other night so 28 could become teens. My room is in the 50’s if I keep my door closed so that is perfect. Rabbits prefer the cool air, even babies. You would be surprised how much heat 7 or 8 of them put off when swaddled in rabbit fur.
Stealing babies at night requires does with an excellent temperament. You might recall the post I did on temperament and how critical it was to success. https://easylivingthehardway.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/livestocks-temperament-determines-economic-success/ This is just another proof in point. Our doe’s genetically have great, laid back personalities and though they aren’t happy with my removing their young at night, they so far have except it and when I bring them back, they feed them promptly. With warmer weather in the forecast for the weekend, they will be fine and can remain with mom.
My goal is eventually 3 births per year for each doe if that is possible and we will probably just keep two does and one buck. If we can get down to two does and 36 to 48 a year offspring then that is a lot of meat. Right now we have three does and two bucks.
The problem is the number of cages needed for such large litters. Any rabbit breeders with advice on how to rotate breeding and butchering to use the least amount of cages and keep production high?