Friday, June 15, 2012

Rabbit and Garden Update

I've been putting this post off for a couple of days,
but it's time to bite the bunny bullet and share some sad news.

There are no baby bunnies.

I was thrilled to announce the arrival of baby New Zealand rabbits at our community garden, earlier this month. It was the first litter, and we were all pretty geeked. The buck and doe are fine, but those poor little baby rabbits died soon after birth.We were shocked, and felt awful. It's been over a week, but I have been avoiding this blog post.

There are numerous possible contributing factors to the kit loss, each as likely as the next. There is no official cause of death, but here are some possibilities:

1. We were not prepared for the litter. It's possible that the nest box was the wrong size. It's possible that we didn't provide enough of the right kind of bedding, which may have resulted in the kits getting too cold at night. The hutches we have are great for housing mature rabbits, but not litters. The doe gave birth two weeks earlier than we expected, which left us scrambling a bit. New cage construction is already under way!

2. The mother rabbit was not prepared for the litter.  Very young mothers, especially those under six months of age, may not "understand" what has happened. Our doe is just about 6 months old, and this was her first litter. Nervous and young mothers sometimes abandon their young, and there's not much that can be done through human intervention. Apparently, it is common for a young mother to lose her first litter.

 The majority of this information was provided by Sean, who is becoming a rabbit master. He's being guided by a friend who just happens to be a veterinary medicine student who specializes in rabbits. He tells us that we're doing things correctly, so that's comforting. He also inspected the doe and gave us the go-ahead to rebreed her.

Death can be a terribly sad thing, especially when it arrives as the shadow of so much life and optimism. Of course we were unhappy and angry that we lost our first litter.  Still, we are a rational bunch of folks who understand that life isn't a Disney movie, and that nature works in mysterious ways. I'd be lying if I told you that a cloud of gloomth has hovered over Poppin' Fresh. We've all dealt with it, and are looking ahead to a rabbit-filled future.  

We've learned from this experience, and we've moved on.  Rabbit death is going to happen, one way or another. Many breeding resources recommend that if you loose a litter, to rebreed immediately, and in 31 more days you'll have more bunnies! We decided to give our momma rabbit a bit of a break, and won't be rebreeding her until later this month.
By then we will all be better prepared!

So, there you have it.

When one thing dies, many more flourish.

 Last week Sean and I participated in some garden outreach, during which we walked around and met most of the neighbors. We invited everyone we met to come over and check out the garden, and promised many tomatoes to friendly folks.

The garden is looking SO GOOD. Now that we've been working the same plot for over a year we feel more confident in our own skills, and we're much more "settled in" in the neighborhood. I've been focusing on beautification, as silly as it sounds, and we have flowers coming up all over the garden. Soon we'll be extending our fence to surround the new lot we acquired, and then Sean will build a few much-needed gates.

Our young fruit trees are doing well, the Jerusalem Artichokes are getting HUGE, and tomatoes, corn and potatoes were planted  our new lot this week. We've been eating fresh snap peas, spinach and lettuce. Squash and pumpkin seedlings will go into the ground soon, and maybe a small crop of hops. We're feeling proud and optimistic with so much tasty food ripe for the taking.

It has been horribly dry in the Lansing area, but we're ready and waiting for a good rainstorm. We've added to our daisy-chain of rain barrels, tripling our water-storage capacity. We have many more barrels set aside, so once we add taps to them we'll be in good shape. Rain barrels are so simple to make, and are absolutely invaluable. Soon I will post an easy how-to rain-barrel demo, so you can make some for your own garden. If  you don't want to wait, do a quick internet search and get started this weekend!

If you want to join us for a work party, keep an eye on the Learning Leaves Community Gardens Facebook Page, where we post schedules for all three of our gardens, on the east side of Lansing.

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