Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shak Rabbits

Welcome to The Shak.

This episode will give you the background to the pictures in the last episode. This entry may seem a little odd in that it often speaks of the past in the present tense. I thought you may like the choice of seeing it all together in one place as it originally appeared. I may or may not have done some editing of the descriptions. For the most part I simply copied and pasted them from my facebook posts.
Here you see the rabbit cages. They each measure 30"x36"x16". I bought them at Fleet Farm. They are made by Litttle Giant. Much assembly required. The first one took much longer to build. The second and third took about an hour each. I also used the rack system to stack them and got the slide out dropping pans.
The galvanized boxes attached to the cages in the foreground are 5" feeders also made by Little Giant. They work very well. There is a hinged lid on each one which makes feeding easy, because everything can be done from outside the cage. The blue bottles are 32oz heated water bottles. They are Farm Innovators model #HRB-20. Consumer reviews were very good. I got a great price on them through Shipping was free. So far they are working wonderfully. Beyond the waterers you'll see the hay racks. I built these using 1"x2" gavanized wire fencing I found while cleaning the barn, a wire cutter and some bending. They are fixed to the cage using the same wire clamps used in building the cages.
This is the buck. He resides in the cage. It took a while to obtain the right rabbits. All my research indicated that New Zealand White rabbits where what I needed. After spending hours on the internet looking for a breeder, I found a very nice farmer in Pulaski by the name of Ken, who was willing to sell me the trio. Thanks Ken
This is the first of two does. She lives in the middle cage. The photo is a bit is the rabbit. So, that's okay. The reason the cages are stacked and not side-by-side is good to know. Does spray. If they cannot see each other and have no angle, chances are they wont spray. And if they do, they can't spray each other. Part of the attraction of these rabbits is their pelts. So, I don't want them stained or ruined. Plus its just unhealthy. A clean rabbit is a happy rabbit.
This is the second doe. She hangs out in the bottom cage. As you can see, she is chilling in the photo. Probably just got done gorging herself on pellets and hay. Though the photo doesn't betray it, she is by far the largest of the rabbits. Eat and poop. Eat and poop. She also drinks far more water than the others. That is all good though. She and the buck are going to have a fur-flying good time on New Years Day. She'll need her strength to grow those kits(baby rabbits). If all goes according to plan, she'll have her kits the first week of February. Easter Bunnies anyone?
It has been a while; but, with nothing to report, not reporting seemed appropriate. Here you see the smaller doe. She is significantly larger than her previouse picture. Still the small one though. In her cage is the nesting box I built her. The big doe has one too. They will be needing these soon. The buck likes to...well, ... buck and my, up to just recently, coy does have seemingly lost their will to resist. Bunnies for Easter anyone?
This is the aforementioned nesting box. I built it out of 16ga 1/2" x 1" wire and j-clamps. It measures 18'L x 10"H x 10"D. I lined it with cardboard (rabbit hutch boxes), and covered the edges with plastic molding. I was a bit concerned about using the plastic, but they have not once chewed it. I cannot say the same for the cardboard. One doe chewed it up. The other hasn't. Since replacing the original cardboard, no more chewing. While it may be hard to see in the picture, there is a lot of fur mixed with the straw. Does pull their hair out to provide the kits (baby bunnies) with warmth. This is a promising sign.
This morning this is what I saw. While wondering aloud to the small doe..."how can u have any fur left?", I noticed movement in the fur pile. Whadaya know! Babies! How exciting! (My apologies for my overuse of exclamation marks)
Welcome to the world my little bunny rabbits. The small doe gave birth, sometime between 6pm lastnight and 8am today, to 9 babies. This was a welcome surprise after the sad death of one of my chicks lastnight. If farmers are bi-polar, I can understand why. Lastnight's sadness becomes today's joy. All appear to be alive, healthy and of uniform size.
I took this picture around 11am today. Incredible how they've grown in just 5 days. See how pudgy they are? And their fur is coming in. I've never once seen the mother in the nest box with them; however, this is good evidence that she is quite a mom. All 9 bunnies are thriving even though mom only has 8 nipples. It's a mystery. Their eyes should be opening Tuesday.
They all made it through a week.
You may recognize this as the picture from the last episode. It is that picture. They are nine days old in that picture. That picture is two days old. Between this and the previous episode, you are up to date. I will post again when the little buggers open their eyes. I thought that might have been today. Can't rush these things.

Chicken Shak

Welcome back to The Shak.

In the last episode, you were witness to a past which ended twelve days ago. Today's episode features the present as it drifts into the past. Let me begin by saying... chicks grow quickly. It all begins innocently enough. First, one does it, then they all start doing it. They roost atop the Ball jar feeders. Which in itself is amusing; however, another hop would land them outside the brooder. And since I assume being cut off from all food, water, heat and companionship through dumb curiosity, with not so much as a predator to set me free, would suck, I began to think about it.
The coop has been ready since November or December. When I set up the brooder, I did so in the best shielded corner of the coop. The coop is sealed. Nothing larger than a chicken wire hexagon enters or leaves without my consent. So, my main concern with a chick getting out was not predators. Nor was it food and water. It wouldn't starve or dehydrate before I had found it. The one real concern is heat. Both that of the heat lamp and that of other chickens.
I was in the barn Thursday morning investigating the nest of the doe who had delivered 13 kits overnight, when I saw one of the Buff Orpington chicks bound like Bruce Lee off the dome of the heat lamp and land on the cardboard brooder cover. She seemed all too happy to see me; jumping into my hand only seconds after landing. Otherwise she had not moved. She chirped a few times.
After a trip to Fleet Farm for bedding, feed, fence boards and gate building materials, I spread the bedding throughout the coop. After removing the cardboard brooder from the coop completely, I used paving stones as platforms upon which to place feeders and waterers. Waterers stay much cleaner now that they are not on the bedding. Much less work for me. The heat lamp hangs in its original place.
Three days and two nights in their new digs, they all seem very happy.

Chicken Shak

The following was pulled from facebook posts. I put it all together for you here. I see it as an archive, a prequel to what has come since. The pictures of mature hens are for illustration only. Though the chicks are of the varieties pictured, results may vary. They are growing quickly. Due to that, their living arrangements have changed for the bigger since these pictures were taken. This blog ends with them at twelve days. They are twenty days old at this writing. Enjoy the pictures. Come back soon. Plenty more to catch you up on.
The brooder
This is the brooder I built for the soon to arrive chicks (ship 02/27/12). After spending the better part of the day looking for cardboard on a roll and not finding it, I settled for this much superior design. I repurposed the rabbit cage shipping boxes. I rounderd off the corners with flooring boxes someone left straddling a too narrow surface in the garage. This left them, to my great satisfaction, the perfect arc for my needs. This is very important as chicks will pile one upon the other in corners; thereby, increasing their mortality rate. That is no way to treat chicks.
The brooder from the outside

Here you see the brooder from the outside. To the left are the remnants of the bag of pine shavings I used as litter. I put the brooder in the chicken coop. That way the chicks wont have too great an adjustment when hardy enough to roam. The next five pictures are of the five breeds of chickens I ordered. I ordered 6 chicks of each breed. All pullets. No cocks. I can take care of that when the time comes.

Friday, March 16, 2012


This shot was taken 03/12/2012.
 Exactly the way we left it on the 11th.
Again, the way we left it.

I've been busy. Over the past 5 days I dug a trench, removed/replaced rotten wood, buried chicken wire and refilled the trench. Thus I have begun to reserve the courtyard for the garden. The hardest part is over. The two longest sections of the fence are repaired and varmint proofed.


This is how I left it today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shak Rabbits

I knew they would be there in the morning. The doe formed a fluffy white cloud upon the strraw in her nest box with the hair she pulled from wherever teeth reach. This kept her occupied throughout the afternoon and evening. Then she threw herself like a bag of rabbit pellets to the floor of her cage. She was breathing heavily and quickly. I put my finger through the wire in the customary fashion. She, just beyond reach, shifted her head so I could rub her nose. She was warm. I turned off the lights, leaving her in peace.

And yes, this morning! I saw the white cloud slowly moving. With trusty carrot in hand, I easily distracted the doe to the opposite corner of her cage. I removed the nest box nice and easy. I peeled back the soft, warm, white fur cloud layer by layer. There they are! How many?

I began to count. I got to six before like a water balloon they shifted positions yet took up the same space. This new formation tipped me off to the fact that I had a lot more of that cloud to explore. I started counting by twos. It's twice as fast.

You see, lastnight I was thinkn about how many babies she would have. Since the other doe had nine, I thought eleven would make a nice round 20. I greeted this thought with a chuckle and settled on "we'll see".  Imagine my surprise when I counted by twos six times and had one to spare. That's 13! 8 nipples and 13 mouths. Good luck with that,... momma!
13 New Zealand White Rabbit kits. Born 03/15/2012

Monday, March 12, 2012


A mid-December morning

The Ides of March...more or less.
It has been an easy winter and short. The Winter that never was. On the 11th of March, I went out to feed the rabbits and chickens. Like I do everyday. Was I to go inside upon discovering a beautiful summer morning?

You may notice a few slight differences in the two pictures above. While I cannot lay claim to the lack of snow in the second picture, I am proud to say that my being outside motivated mom to come out and see what I was up to. Soon she joined in. Together, we cleaned away years of accumulation. Yep, just accumulation. That about covers it. Like dirt will soon be covering it at the county landfill.

     I'm just getting started. I hope to add to this daily. I've got a lot to catch you up on and new things going on everyday. I made a deal with myself that I would get something, anything posted today. I made a good deal. More to come.