Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dealing with the not so pretty side of raising animals

Almost everything we raise is for food, the goats, peacocks & horse being the exceptions.

We are raising rabbits, turkeys, guineas, chickens, cattle, hogs and ducks to feed our family throughout the year. We've bought most of our animals as babies, so we have control over how they are raised and fed. Our one mistake being the first set of hogs.

We're raising California & New Zealand rabbits. We picked those because they have a great feed to meat conversion rate and they're big, up to 14 lbs! We currently have 8 bucks and 15 does at breeding ages. We also have 8 kits (baby rabbits) under 2 months old, from 3 different litters. For me, one of the hardest things to separate is the excitement and sweetness of new babies. I keep detailed records of breedings and births, so I know when its time and I watch to make sure the does are ok during and after.

This morning during feeding I noticed that one of our does was pulling lots of hair really fast. It was time! This will be her 2nd litter, her 1st litter didn't survive. I gave her some straw and moved a heat lamp over her cage, ready to be plugged in after she'd given birth. We don't like to interfer, other than offering extra nesting materials. This evening when I checked on her, she'd had the babies and I could see lots of movement under all the fur! I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

On November 6th, one of our New Zealand does had her first litter. She made an awesome thick nest and everything was looking great, lots of movement under the fur and straw everyday. Until this morning. I shine a light into each of the nesting boxes to watch for movement. I saw a little bit of black fur, looked like a tiny ear, poking out of the nest. I didn't disturb anything and watched for movement. There was a little, but not like it'd been the days before. I checked mama, she was good. This evening when I checked again, she'd uncovered the babies and they were dead. There weren't any marks on them, everything was were it should be. Its so hard when you don't know what causes them to die.

I took them out and put them in a small box. It brought tears to my eyes. One of them had its mouth open and I could see the tiny teeth. I wanted to hold it, to somehow breathe life back into it. Writing about it is making me tear up again. I know that they are raised for food, they don't have names and aren't pets, but it doesn't make dealing with the deaths any easier. I write everything down in the rabbit binder and brush my tears away, hoping that her next litter will be stronger.


  1. I can completely sympathize with this...I've seen more new babies not survive this year than I ever expected happens on a farm, but it does, and I've cried my eyes out over every single one. Yes, we raise for food, they are not pets, but we wouldn't be the kind of farmers we are if we didn't care. Hoping with you that the next litter is stronger.

  2. Hello i raise rabbits as well mine r fur rabbits. Its horrible losing the babies. Sooo sorry

  3. I too raise Californias, and have one New Zealand buck. Two weeks ago I lost a doe during delivery (the kit was HUGE) and tried to foster the kits already in the nesting box; the fostering did not take.
    Even though they are food, it is still tough to loose 'em. *hugs*