This has been a hard week for us here on the little urban farm. I have never had an animal die due to the heat of summer before. We have deep shade, put ice bottles in our cages or pens and run the sprinkler over them in the heat of the day. So how did this happen?
I bred my rabbits too late into the Summer. In hindsight, I remember my farm friend telling me that she ONLY raised animals ideally in the Fall or VERY early Spring. The rabbits that died, sadly were my mamas. Getting through the Summer is one thing, it seems. Getting through the Summer heat, while nursing babies, is quiet another. If you are tuning into us from abroad, we are in Dallas Texas. Temps here will rise over 100 this week(mid August) and only creep down into the 80’s at night. Our air conditioner is on the blink today so we are ALL feeling the heat!If I can just get everyone through today the heat wave is suppose to break for a week of rain! I think we will all run out and play in it together! This is definitely a post for Southern gardeners.
I have separated mom and babies. Moving them to ground pens and running the sprinkler over the area, during the hottest part of the day, should help get them through this heat wave.
My new rule for breeding will be; NO BREEDING ANIMALS AFTER THE MONTH OF MAY!
After my buck had been killed by a Bobcat, I had found another one rather late in the season. I bred my rabbits on June 10th. You wouldn’t think 10 days would make that much of a difference but apparently it does.
The second fatal mistake I made;
Leaving the babies in with the mom too long, taking the heat into consideration. It is so hard when we try to duplicate nature! In the wild the mom(had she bred this late) would have been able to leave her nest of babies at 4 weeks totally on their own. Because I saw that the babies were still nursing, I left them in the pen together with their mom thinking that I was doing a good thing.Turns out, NO! Those babies were literally sucking the life out of her! Even though they are in a 8′ x 4′ spacious pen on the ground, she probably couldn’t get away from these little ones like she desperately needed to do!
Someone asked me once; What was my biggest failure and how I learned from it? O.K. folks this is it. Whenever you do something or don’t do something for an animal in your care, that causes it’s death, that to me, is failure. Hard to shake off this loss.
Good bye Lucky Silver Dollar. Good bye Cookie:
The rest of this post is for those of you that are interested in survival/sustainability of raising rabbits in a Southern local. With a story thrown in about My Father and His love for us, because what would a post be without a story?
Just a quick note for those that are newbies to rabbit raising; in temps over 80 degrees the male buck is temporarily rendered sterile. That is nature’s way of protecting them from just this sort of thing. I probably just got on the edge of fertility with this breeding.
When rabbits are kept on the ground they automatically dig in to keep cool.Here on the homestead we are working on an underground rabbit den experiment to help with breeding in the hot months. Some questions we hope to answer with this experiment are;
Can a buck remain fertile longer in the season with an underground den?
Can a doe successfully raise a litter, late in the season, with an underground den?
My son wants to be a missionary in Africa, so he is the main scientist here. He wants to provide a family, in a third world country, a way to sustain themselves with rabbit meat throughout the seasons. He read a story about a man that became a Christ follower and because of this, was denied work in the local community. If this underground experiment works, it could be a way for that Christian man to provide for his family in a situation like this.
God in His infinite wisdom has given us, as a family, a glimpse of lack. When I come up against times like this, first I think; I need to get a job! I frenetically scramble around for a while doing resumes and perusing want ads, preparing to place the kids in public school; Then I remember my son, who wants to be a missionary and I think; Maybe this is all for him. He has to feel it, doesn’t he?; hunger, I mean. He has to know what it means to ask His Father in Heaven for sustenance and receive it. I had not planned on telling this story, but now seems a good time.
One day, we, 5 kids, me the mom, and a hard working, brilliant man came to this point of lack. Lack of food. Lack of money to buy food. My husband was at work that day, as always, working hard. These days they approach the employees and say; “Forget about a raise! We know the price of food is going up, along with the price of insurance, gas and housing. Just be lucky you still have a job!” It feels like the politicians in Washington sit and debate in a whole different world than we do. So we do consider ourselves lucky to have a job. After this blog post we are hoping we still have one! Yes we could qualify for government help. We decline, because government help means my sweet retired neighbor down the street. It means the VERY hard working executive that has given up everything to travel the country. Government help is people’s taxes. I will eat beans and rice, I will grow food in my garden, but I will NOT take it from people who earned it. That is socialism, which has never worked out well for anyone! We made the choice to home school our kids. We made the choice for me to stay home and tenderly nurture each one. Why should that choice, we made, take away the tax money from another hard working American that did not make the same choices. Just my stubborn Ozark mountain attitude toward welfare.
Back to that day when the cupboards were bare. After lamenting to my Father tearfully, I decided to include the kids in prayer. After all, they were a big hungry part of this. It wasn’t like they weren’t going to notice their tummies were empty. So I took a big breath and a big chance. I gathered the kids, we bowed heads and prayed for food. We prayed for that Friday morning meal and for the meals after that until Monday when we got paid. At that moment when I held a chubby hand in mine, I doubted my Father. I thought, “What will happen if He doesn’t show up for these kids?” I thought; “This is a crazy kind of faith.”
No sooner than we had risen from our whispered prayer, then the door bell rang. It was the sweet widow from down the street. She had in her hands, a bag of food. This wasn’t just any food, this was day old food from, wait for it…… Starbucks. Yes , it was muffins, biscuits, scones. It was yogurt parfaits, cake Popsicle’s and lemon bread. It was REALLY yummy stuff. The kids jumped around loudly proclaiming, ” You are the answer to our prayer!” Our sweet friend didn’t really know what to make of all this frenetic activity. However, she left our house forever changed. We were all, forever changed!
Our Father continued to provide; The next day we happened to be going to a friends house, who had her own flock of chickens, out in the country. During our stay she proclaimed that she had way too many eggs. Could she send us home with some? I started crying. As she folded me into her arms I told her all about the story of our whispered prayer. Unbeknownst to us, she had her husband pack the trunk of our car with frozen food, which we found when we got home. We ate dinner that night knowing that it was straight from our Father. It tasted amazing. We ate the eggs for breakfast. We were well provided for until we got paid. Wow, Oh how he LOVES us!
Since that time, we have had times of plenty and times of lack. In these times of lack I always remember my son. The Lord says to me, “Do you really want the first time he depends fully on me to be out in the missionary field in Africa?” I answer back, “No, I want him to know of your faithfulness all the days of his life.” So we do our experiments with underground dens and we pretend we are scientists, but somewhere there is someone feeling the same gut wrenching lack, because they have made the decision to follow Christ. Perhaps we are not so different from this person than we think we are?
After the summer months start to fade into Fall, it takes about 3 weeks of cooler weather for the buck to regain his fertility. This is problematic as, by the time the buck is ready to produce babies, which is mid October in Dallas Texas. Fast forward 28 days to birth. Now we are in mid November. Starting to get pretty cold. Time for our first freeze. Now you have to worry about keeping those babies warm enough. So, with our underground den, we would like to see if we can regain fertility sooner in the season to get those babies born during the beautiful mild cool days of Fall. Also we ask ourselves; Could an underground den keep those babies warm during that first freeze?
Sadly we have not been able to answer this question because the underground den we dug/constructed filled with water, as is the way with every hole you are able to chisel out of this clay soil. If we wanted a small stock pond, I think we would be good to go! However we are NOT easily discouraged! We will be building a new above ground den this Summer. We will let you know how it goes. You can see our try at an underground den here.
I know! We wonder; How do rabbits around here produce so easily in the wild? They produce so well! In fact, they produce so well that I had to go to a lot of trouble to build a fence to keep them out of my front yard garden. THEY WERE EATING EVERYTHING! I know! How can this be that hard?
If this is a season of lack for you, involve your children. Join hands with them and ask for help from your Father in Heaven. He is faithful to provide. Who knows, you might just have a missionary in your midst.
I hear thunder! I am going to go play out in the rain!