We have 3 new family members.  Check out these adorable little faces!

Meet "Smokey," "Clara," and "Stew"

If you have been following our blog for any length of time, you know our ultimate self-sufficiency goals.  Well, after the whole house-buying thing didn’t work out for CO, we wanted to at least do what we could in base housing.  I figured I could at least have a garden, learn to compost, and have a few rabbits to learn about rabbits and meat.  Well, as it turned out, the base housing regs do not allow you to grow anything edible, or compost outdoors due to the risk of attracting the large, wild animals in the area.  I can’t even grow a flower garden without a ton of paperwork!  So, in great dismay, we looked at our last option…meat rabbits.  By this point, the kids were all excited about having some kind of animal, so we figured it was safe to promise them rabbits.  Unfortunately, the breed I have my heart set on, the American Chinchilla, is essentially impossible to find within a full day’s drive.   I finally found someone willing to sell me two, but he won’t have a litter ready for public sale until late fall. 

So, S and I talked and decided that we would go with something local and smaller than a standard meat rabbit as a first step.  I found some mini-lop babies that had just been weaned, and for a reasonable price.  We decided the smaller rabbits would be less intimidating and easier for the kids to handle and learn with.  At 6 pounds mature weight, they will still pose enough of a challenge though.  We also decided to forego the breeding and get 2 does, and focus more on teaching rabbit care and handling to the children.  Thus, it was determined that we would actually invest in simple pets.  A bonus to me would be easier care, and we could house them together.  Since these animals will be indoors, I also don’t want a house smelling like bunny, so 2 little girls should be much easier to deal with and clean up after. 

So, we are creating a bunny condo.  To save money, instead of buying  a new cage, we decided to use our large, unused dog crate.  It is not yet in its final form, as I am having to experiment a bit.  It will eventually have several levels the bunnies can play in, but already has a litter box (which I am really hoping they will figure out soon to make clean-up easier!) They seem to be in absolute heaven already, though, with all the free-choice hay.  It’s so much better than the bare rabbitry cage they came from.

So, how did we go from 2 to 3? Well, I went to pick up the bunnies, and the lady only had 3 left.  One was obviously very healthy and lively.  JR got first pick since he was buying with his own money.  He chose this one, a smokey colored with the broken pattern.  Despite the fact it was a doe (girl), he wanted to name it “Smokey.”  Next in line, and the one M wanted was a broken orange color.  Although it seemed healthy in every aspect, it was very thin, and about half the weight of sister, Smokey.  Due to her small size, neither the breeder nor I was able to figure out for sure what sex it was, though I suspect it is a buck.  I was concerned it may not make it, as it was so thin.  The only other option was a little dk. brown bunny that appeared to have only one eye.  The breeder explained that it had “next box eye,” and the infection had already caused the eye to be completely lost.  It still had to be cleaned daily though.  So my choice was between a thin, possibly dying one, and a cycloptic one.  This one was also hard to tell, but I suspect it’s a doe. Not good options, but they were the only small rabbits within an hour and a half’s drive.  The breeder sensed my hesitancy and offered me both for the price of one.  If the little orange one did die, the black one would replace it for M.  If it survived, I could do what I wanted with the black one.  So, I agreed.  M aptly named her bunny “Clara,” and we contemplated a name for the darker one. 

Look at that adorable face!

After getting them settled into their new home, and giving them a lengthy rest, I watched and inspected them more closely.  When tiny “Clara” came out and started eating, she wouldn’t stop!  She was obviously famished!  My theory now is that the other weanling kits in the cage with her were bullying her out of food.  There is no such competition now, so I expect she will do just fine.  We’ll see in a few more days. 

“Smokey” is no doubt the adventurer.  With a bit of a rambunctious streak, she is already a handful for JR. 

When I used my past vet-tech experience to further inspect the eye of the brown one, I discovered that it likely did not have nest box eye, rather, it seems to have an inverted eye-lid.  This essentially means that the eye-lid turns it slightly, allowing the eye lashes to rub the eye ball and cause irritation and inflamation. After I cleaned it and gently turned it back out, within an hour, the bunny actually opened her eye about half way!  There is definitely an eye-ball in there still, though it is very inflamed and I have no way of knowing if she is blind in it or not. Of course, with all the inflamation, the eyelid continually flips back in, but with me periodically correcting it, the eye has shown vast improvement and all signs of infection seem to be gone already. 

When S saw 3 bunnies, he was a bit surprised.  I suppose in typical “homesteader” fashion, though, he immediately began looking at an opportunity to learn.  He started researching dressing out rabbits.  As it turns out, apparently mini-lops, though on the smaller side, dress out very effeciently as roasters.  Thus, he named the black one “Stew.”  Yeah. 

So I don’t know yet if  Clara will actually survive.  However, I do know that if all three bunnies survive and begin outgrowing their cozy quarters, one of these cuties is destined for the dinner table.  Which one will be determined by temperament and gender.  We will know more in a few months.  All in the name of experience I guess.