Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Moment I Asked Myself If I Could Handle This Hobby

I had the moment that I think comes with everything you try to do and do well, when something happens that shocks you and rocks you so profoundly that you actually question whether this is something I am truly cut out for.

I will warn you that I am discussing meat rabbits and processing and if that bothers you then read no further.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed out to the rabbit workshop to check on everyone and to gather a couple of the mix breed meat rabbits we were growing out to feed our family.  This particular rabbit was one that I had purchased from another breeder and she had mentioned that their was a slight chance that she could be pregnant.  So when she came home a month ago I palpated, felt no kits, but started the 31 day gestation count down just to be on the safe side.

Each week during this time we checked weights, trimmed nails and palpated for any evidence of kits that she might be carrying.  Each time with nothing to report.  Well yesterday came and I am tight on cage space.  And I thought to myself.  This isn't a problem I have a doe, that I am only keeping around because she might be pregnant, she is only 5.5 lbs and I will check her one more time before processing her to free up cage space.  Well, I weighed and palpated and couldn't feel anything.  Surely I would have felt something at this point she due date that I had given her as a best guess if she had been bred the day she came home with me was the 9th of February.  One single week, and I couldn't feel a thing.

So I took her out and used our wonderful Hopper Popper System to dispatch her and start the cleaning process.  My thirteen year old daughter was with me and had agreed to help me out this time around because she wanted to learn.  How fat she was, was the first thing we noticed.  Then we opened her up and my daughter comments on how large her stomach is compared to other rabbits.  I took one look at what she was talking about and I could see little feet through the membranes and I just about lost it.

I told my daughter in a very shaky voice that it wasn't her stomach, and she needed to drop everything she was holding and run in the house for a very warm wash cloth.  The next couple of seconds or minutes I have to admit are a blur because through tears of self recrimination and sorrow I very quickly did an emergency delivery of those four kits, hoping beyond hope that it wasn't too late and that I was fast enough.  I opened the uterus, opened each sack the baby was in and then cut the cord and watched as each and everyone took their first gasping breath of life as I handed them into my daughter's waiting hands and a warm soft towel.

They were all breathing.  I sent her into the house and I finished processing the doe through blurred eyes and many tears.  Once that was taken care of I washed and returned to the house to find 4 kits on a heating pad, struggling to breath and not warming up fast enough.

So we moved them onto my chest with the heating pad on top of them so they would have 2 sources of heat to help warm them up.  And I laid on the floor by the outlet praying they would make it while listening to them breath and feeling them move around.  One of them didn't survive that first hour.  The other 3 warmed up and were squirmy around quite nicely when I headed out to the barn with them.

I honestly think that the Lord knew that I would make a very human mistake Saturday afternoon, because just that morning one of my New Zealand does Baccara Rose kindled.  But she also kindled only four kits instead of the 6 she had the previous litter.  So I had a nesting box with kits that were only a few hours older than the ones that I had delivered and warmed up.

My daughter helped me get Rose out of her hutch and we flipped her onto her back in my lap and let these new little miracles try to nurse for the first time.  Then we put a drop on vanilla on one of my fingers and rubbed it on her nose so mask any smell for the first hour or so and carefully put these three little guys into her nest with the others.  They are half the size of Rose's kits, and I worry about whether they will be able to keep up with her babies and get enough to eat so I will be watching them very closely over the next couple of days.

But I am ever so pleased to report that feeding time that evening went well with Rose accepting all the kits in her box, and when they were all checked on this morning, everyone had nice round full bellies.

This entire event stopped me in my tracks and really made me consider whether raising rabbits is something that I am cut out for.  As I pondered what had happened I came to some strong opinions and conclusions.

  1. No new rabbit that I purchase or that comes into my rabbitry for whatever reason, will be thought of as not pregnant just because I failed to feel kits.
  2. All new does will be given a 45 day grace period, because I never want to ever have this happen again.  This is a firm number of days that I will never shorten for any reason.
  3. I did everything that I could do in order to help give those kits the best chance and start at life that they could have under such difficult circumstances.
  4. No rabbit of mine will ever be sold or leave my rabbitry if there is even a remote chance that she could be pregnant, because I would never want another person to have to deal with this type of situation when it could easily have been prevented.
  5. The two other does that I recently purchased as meat rabbits, earned an extension Saturday and some nesting boxes for the next few weeks until they pass the 45 day mark.
Finally even after everything that happened I am certain that while I learned some difficult life lessons, rabbits are still something I want to raise and breed and show and I am determined to learn from this experience and make the most of it.  I really debated whether or not to even share this story on the blog, but I thought that part of the whole point in blogging to share my experiences good or bad and to help educate others about rabbits.  So if someone reading this post somewhere learns from my mistake and can prevent this from happening to them then it was worth it to put it into words.

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