Today began like any other day, I made breakfast and got my husband ready to go to work. It was cold this morning and lightly snowing. I asked him to bring in a load of wood and to check on our expecting momma rabbit, Aurora. He returned from the yard with 4 ice cold baby bunnies. In the past I would have just said that they were dead and put them in the trash. However, since the last time we had cold babies, I have been told over and over again a baby is not dead until it is warm and dead. So I did what any normal person would have done and stuffed the bunnies in my bra until I could get the heating pad warmed up.
I folding the heating pad in half and put them inside like a taco. I rubbed the outside of the heating pad trying to stimulate them. About 5 minutes passed and I noticed that one of the babies was starting to wiggle. My heart skipped a beat. I had no idea when these babies were born or how long they had been outside of the nesting box. I never expected them to be alive! It took about 20 minutes, but three out of the four babies came to after being rubbed and warmed up.
My husband brought a large tote with pine shavings, hay, the nesting box, food, water bowl and Aurora into the house. We are getting a winter storm today and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on these precious babies. Aurora is one of my proven does. She does great in the summer, she is the rabbit that lives in my garden. She is slightly spoiled rotten, she lives in the two story hutch with a nesting area that does not require a nesting box. During the summer, she never drags any babies out of the nesting area and she is a wonderful momma. In the winter, we move her out of the garden and into the Bunny Barn. She does not like this idea. In the Bunny Barn she struggles with babies. I think that the nesting boxes are just not the right size for these large breed rabbits. She pulls fur and makes a great nest, but always ends up with babies outside the box. Last winter she did not have any successful winter litters. We will keep her inside the house just long enough to make sure the babies are doing OK and then I will take her back outside, hopefully by then the storm will have passed.
Bringing Aurora in the house was a shock to her so I helped her feed the babies the first time. I am hoping that she will calm down and be able to feed them herself, but right now I know those babies are very hungry and can use some cuddle time with Mom. I flipped Aurora on her back and she let the babies lay on her stomach and nurse. It was very cute. I am thankful for the three babies that we were able to save. I think this litter will always have a special place in my heart.
Most of the United States is experiencing colder than normal temps. For most people that just means dressing warmer and adding an extra blanket to the bed at night. For farmers or homesteaders, it means getting creative to keep our animals comfortable. I unfortunately live on a small plot of land and I do not have a big barn to put everyone in. My animals are outside in smaller houses and pens because that is all we have room for.
Bunny its cold outside! We have a shed that we use for a Bunny Barn. It is a small 12 x 12 shed that holds 8 rabbit cages. In the past we have tried to heat the shed with an electric heater, but it cost a small fortune. Over the summer we have spent some time and money insulating the shed. My husband used rolls of insulation and linoleum, so the rabbits could not eat the fiberglass insulation. We also moved the cages a little bit away from the wall to extra make sure that the insulation was not in the bunnies reach. In the picture below you can see the back wall of the shed, just pretend it is nice and neat and there is not stuff piled on top of my food storage cabinet.
We also put ridged insulation on the door to try and keep in as much heat as possible.
Water is always the biggest challenge. We remove all water bottles when the temperatures drop below freezing and put in water bowls. We have to transport our water from the house and we use empty milk jugs. A great discovery we have this year is that if we place the gallons of water in the compost, they do not freeze. I know there are some of you thinking this is just gross, don’t worry, the water stays clean and it allows us to give the rabbits non frozen water. We are going to be building a larger scale compost water heater now that we know it works on a small scale.
Normally, all of our rabbits fit in the shed and we do not need to use outside hutches. We had a great Fall, so we needed to use outside pens as grow out pens for some of our bunnies. I put 7 young does in a large hutch and we also have a buck, that we just got back from another farm we sold him to. The decided to get out of rabbits. He is from great breeding stock and we would like to add him back into our herd. He was kept outside at the other farm so we hoped this would not be a shock for him. My other bucks are spoiled rotten and would be very upset outside. I have added a lot more hay and straw to the outside hutches. We give them areas where they can completely get out of the wind and did I mention we had A LOT more hay. The rabbits move the hay around and make a very nice warm nest with it. I also covered the hutches with large tarp dumpster bags. This is to help keep any snow out of the hutch and to cut down on the wind.
We go out 2 -3 times per day and change out the water. They seem to be doing Ok. They are eating well and enjoying the extra hay.
These are the things that we are doing to protect our buns from the cold. What do you do?