We Have Kits

ImageDay 32 and Esther has kindled nine kits. Unfortunately one of the nine was found half-eaten in the nestbox, so we are left with eight. An excellent number. As you can see, Esther is a fur-pulling fiend. Someone should tell her that it’s summer.

Alas, still nothing from Io. I wonder if she too will end up being infertile like her brother, Orion was. They were Esther’s first kits and they had a very hard start, being the only two out of the litter that survived. They were very chilled initially due to being born on the wire. I’ll give her a few more days and if she doesn’t kindle, she’ll be culled as this was my fifth attempt at breeding her.

In the Coop: Nest Box Pile Up


“Oh no please, allow me!”

The first livestock I ever got upon purchasing my first house a year and half ago were four little Muscovy ducklings. I was planning to raise them to eventually hatch their own eggs. Unfortunately one morning, as they were nearing laying age, they were all massacred by two roaming neighborhood pitbulls. It was grisly and heartbreaking.

Fast forward to today, I now have the most secure coop on the block and a new pair of Muscovies living safely inside. About a week or so ago I noticed a somewhat larger, waxy, off-white egg in the nest box. Hmm, did I have a chicken with a health issue? I brought the egg inside and was about to research it when I realized… Of course, it’s a duck egg.

YES! I had my first duck egg. Every day there was another one and I dutifully removed any chicken eggs that appeared in the nest, hoping she would sit on the clutch. Well, it turns out that I now have another first, my first broody hen. Obviously it was the Buff Orpington who went broody first, can she tell these eggs have been fertilized or what?

Unfortunately the duck wants to brood her eggs too. So what does that leave us? A duck and a chicken stuffed into the same nest – a fluffed up and hissing pile of poultry.

Nest Box Day – Hybrid Silver Marten x Creme d’Argent Litters


Esther usually kindles on day 32 or 33 when bred to Saturn

It’s day 28 for Esther and her daughter, Io. They were both bred at the same time to Saturn, my lovely Silver Marten buck. Esther is definitely pregnant, we’ve been through a few litters together already and I can tell. Her belly is very rounded when she lies down and she’s started to pull a little bit of fur.

Eleven month old Io on the other hand will be delivering her first litter, if she is indeed pregnant. Hard to tell with her, she looks very much the same as usual. I’ve learned that looks can be deceiving though, especially with a new mother. She gets really snippy when the dog comes too near her cage lately so maybe that’s an indication. I wonder if she’ll be a late kindler like her mom?


Io in her nest box

Update on Rex & Silver Marten Litters


Blue Otter Rex kit, 4 weeks old

The 18 kits are all four weeks old now and still all living. One Silver Marten kit is fairly skeletal and I’m not sure he’ll make it. Other kits are smaller than they should be at this age, but that’s to be expected with the issues we had.

The Blue Otters that popped up in the Rex litter are beautiful. I hope the one I have my eye on turns out to be a doe, as I’d like to keep her. It’s interesting to see the differences in fur density and marking quality. All the Rex kits are just so friendly and the Silver Martens are taking a cue from them. I’m not used to babies seeking petting and attention and being so curious. Giving you happy/sleepy eyes when you rub their ears. Usually they all freak out and pile into a corner until the Hand of Doom retreats.

I decided once they all came out of the nestboxes that I was just going to load them up on fresh greens. They were malnourished and the mothers had been used to eating these same greens, so I took the chance. Every day they get huge bunches of grass, dandelions, chickweed, blackberry brambles and plantain. They all love it, and seem to be doing very nicely on it.


Silver Marten kit, 4 weeks old


Tuna’s mixed litter

Flip Them Before You Equip Them

It took around seven failed matings before I decided to cull my Creme d’Argent buck, Orion. You’d think during all that time I’d have flipped him over at least once?ImageDSC_0002

What a mess. Rabbit testicles aren’t supposed to look like that. Oh well, at least now I know to check out the equipment first before putting rabbits together. He looked fine when he was younger. On the upside I now have a baggie in my freezer marked “Orion’s Pelt”.

The Importance of Nutrition: Coturnix Quail


Feeding time

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of days, ever since I heard from someone who bought quail chicks from me a few weeks ago. They weren’t having much luck keeping the chicks alive and the ones they had left looked weirdly stunted, with abnormal feather growth, weak legs that couldn’t support their bodies and inconsistent body mass. They looked terrible. Especially compared to their very healthy, well-developed siblings who were still living here.

It turns out they were being fed budgie seeds.

I know there’s a tendency nowadays to go more ‘natural’ when it comes to raising livestock. I too would much rather feed a more natural ration and do to my livestock that do well on it. However when it comes to quail, I have not found an alternative solution that’s economical.

Quail are technically wild gamebirds that would normally live on mainly insects. They have a short life cycle and a fast metabolism, and therefore nutrition is extremely important, especially when young and developing. They require a high protein diet. I supply 26% protein gamebird crumbles that I buy at the feed store. Sometimes the feed store sells it for a reason.

No matter what else I try, the quail don’t care. They won’t eat anything but the crumbles. They will ignore even the choicest greens and will peck at fancy seeds with mild disinterest. All they care about is crumbles, water, dust-bath, sex, making adorable noises. That’s it. My attempts to enrich their environment are blatantly ignored.

So I gave up. I house them in bare wire cages with lots of food, water and a perpetually-filled dust bath. They are blissfully happy birds. Today I was able to stroke one of the chicks as he flopped around like a fish in his fresh scoop of dirt. All the other chicks were intent on dinner but he didn’t care. He was in quail heaven.

These are not hand-raised birds. Well, they sort of are but they don’t get handled regularly. Although each generation I hatch out seems to get friendlier. Their feathers are glossy and healthy. Their legs are strong. I have an almost zero percent death rate.

So now I know just how important those crumbles are.


The Quail Escaped… And Didn’t Go Anywhere


Where’s dinner?

I had an interesting thing happen to me today.

I had finished dealing with a visitor bringing me a Silkie chicken, gone back inside for an hour or so, and then went back outside for a reason I can no longer recall. Probably because the very first thing I noticed were the quail. Very casually walking around outside their cage. NO!

My Coturnix quail chicks are off heat now and I’ve been placing their cage in the garden during the day so they can get some fresh air and sunlight. The door to the cage is on the top and opens like a flap, I usually keep it locked with a carabiner.

Well apparently today I didn’t do such an awesome job of locking it. The top was flipped open and there were about ten of the twenty-five quail wandering around near their cage, very pleased with themselves. I panicked, ran out into the garden in my socks and started grabbing quail. How many had wandered off?

Quail are not chickens, they don’t put themselves away at night. Or do they? I’ve heard of free-range quail who come back at night for dinner but I don’t really buy it. They didn’t escape on purpose, the cage top must have flipped up accidentally when one of them popped up into it.

So how many quail did I lose? Not a single one. They all stayed within feet of the cage and their cage-mates and were easily scooped up. I still don’t think I’ll be free-ranging them any time soon, they’ll only be predated right away. But it is nice to know they have the good sense to stay put.

Out of the Nestbox… Really?


Woke up to this

Despite all the problems we’ve been having with these two litters, I still have yet to lose a single kit after the one runt passed a couple of days after kindling. The kits are now just about two weeks old, and although smaller than usual, they all seem to be doing fine. Eyes are opening without issues and today, Rosalind’s kits decided it was time to leave the nest. Most of them anyway.

I don’t normally see such small kits out of the nest on their own, unless by accident. But today more than half the kits were snuggled together out on the wire. I made the decision to remove the box and line the cage with hay. I’m sure it will be easier for Ros to nurse this way anyway, and it’s very warm out so I’m not too concerned. These kits are real troopers!

All the info I’ve read says to remove kits when a doe has mastitis. I could have done that, but I’m pretty sure I would have lost them all since they’re not really even eating solid foods yet. She only has one infected teat, and although it doesn’t look any better today, she seems to be active and comfortable. I doubt the kits are able to even access this nipple and she seems to be feeding them decently otherwise. Time will tell I guess. I continue to add apple cider vinegar to her water, provide plenty of hay and see how it goes. I may not continue the camphor rub treatments as I noticed she immediately went to work licking it off and I don’t think it’s meant to be taken internally.

Ironically, the more-developed kits in Tuna’s cage (which are actually a mix of her and Ros’ kits) are still snugly in their nest. She’s feeding them very well and I think the hand-feeding they received when very small has made them much friendlier. They don’t freak out when I put my hand in the nest like most young kits, these ones like to snuggle into my hand and enjoy tiny ear rubs. Ok, so just the Rex kits are acting this friendly. Are Rex bunnies more affectionate in general? More research is needed but so far the difference has been quite noticeable.


And Then… Mastitis.


Rosalind has mastitis.

I should have paid more attention to what appeared to be a period of caked breast with this and her last litter. The first incidence resolved itself, but now she definitely has mastitis. I don’t think she’s feeding the kits at all and that’s the only reason I haven’t removed them yet. She’s really a very smart rabbit.

I wonder if this was partly my fault for free-feeding her so soon after kindling and piling on rich additives like oats. I wanted her producing well because at first, Tuna didn’t lactate so I needed a backup. Learning a lot with these two litters. I was told by a professional rabbit breeder not to free-feed until 12 days after kindling… Usually I adhere to this command but didn’t understand why.

The first thing to do was remove all concentrates, which includes pellets, leaving her alone with hay and water. I noticed her eating the occasional piece of straw, which is unusual for her. The very first day she didn’t drink a drop of water. One reason I will probably never move to a larger-scale watering system. The early diagnosis value is too important.

I added apple cider vinegar to her water bottle and an additional crock so she could drink more easily. She appreciated this and drank quite a bit. It seems painful for her to move around her cage too much, poor thing.

I also gave her fresh blackberry leaves and cane, rosemary and comfrey leaves. I figure I don’t know all that much about rabbit medicinals, but at least I could offer her some choices to self-medicate. By morning she had consumed everything (I hadn’t removed her pellets at this point yet so she wasn’t starving).

I’m now on a regimen of hot compresses and camphorated menthol rub on the affected area. She seems to get a lot of relief from these treatments. If I deem it to be getting too bad I am prepared to lance and purge, but this is a future scenario for now. Only one teat seems to be affected.

She’s a fighter, and she still seems very alert and active. All kits are still fine and their eyes are even starting to open. They do look a lot skinnier than I’m used to at this age though.