Breed and raise a handful of kits in time for an Easter weaning.
Off-grid living in western NY, with no power or heat source currently in the rabbitry.
An Initial Failure:
Two full and beautiful litters dead within a couple of hours of birthing due to hypothermia.
A Stopgap Solution:
8 birthing cages cozily wedged inside our little red, 700 sq. ft. yurt.
A Long-tern Solution: The installation of a ventless propane heater and portable 100-gallon propane tank in the rabbitry.
I’m not sure if I’ve yet fully expressed the exactness of our nascency here at The Menagerie Farm. It’s been a year and a half since transplanting ourselves from the rich and easy culture of suburban western Massachusetts to the stark and pastoral peacefulness of western New York. It’s winter here (February specifically), the ins-and-outs of daily life are a tad harder than in the fair-weather months — water … heat … light … animal care. Day by day we’re figuring out our way in living a bit more self-sufficiently and a bit less awkwardly.
Our first attempt at breeding and kindling winter-time rabbit kittens was both awkward and tragic. Two out of four pregnancies “took” and the does gave birth to lovely litters while I was running a few errands in town. By the time I returned, nearly all kits in the birthing cages in the barn were lost (and the several my partner Laura painstakingly attempted to save soon thereafter failed as well.) Perhaps not enough hay and not enough insulation to compensate for dropping temperatures and cruel winds. Perhaps just too bloody cold for tiny hairless, blind, thumb-sized creatures to survive. I ranted, then cried, then took responsibility for my naïveté, and gradually moved all pregnant does and future pregnant does inside the yurt with us, the two dogs and the two cats.
Rabbits are most active at night and early in the morning. So are our cats. Us humans (and the pups), not so much. As we’ve been sleeping on the pullout couch in the living room to position closer to the wood stove (given our current sub-zero temps), we are in the midst of a repeating nightly slumber depriving rumpus. The pups accommodate by napping the better part of the day. Laura and I soporifically look forward to the benevolence of spring. Not an ideal set-up, but we now have three successful litters (21 baby rabbits) and potentially four more litters on the way. Invaluably, we will have had several months of “living” with our rabbits, observing them, listening to them, and better understanding their rhythms and ways; inadvertently and humbly becoming their percipient guardians.