This has been a week for mistakes – or the realisation of previous mistakes/miscalculations. With farming the mistakes are too often deadly. The first mistake, in a long chain of mistakes was that my female French Lop, Pumpkin, was bred a month ago.
She had started nesting over the weekend. Now, she is a smart bunny and had built herself a remarkable nest some weeks back. I had wondered then if she was nesting for babies but she was not. She was just smart and knew February was going to be a cold month. So this time around I wasn’t 100% sure what the nesting was about. Nesting for a French Lop means lots of fur mixed in with hay. Not just regular hay. I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching her. Pumpkin would pick up a mouthful of hay, chew on it, drop it, take out the big coarse pieces, chew on the remaining finer pieces, somehow make those pieces into little bales which she would then deposit into the nesting box. Over time she’d knead the fur and hay together making an incredibly soft, lush bed. It’s almost as nice to touch as touching a rabbit. I had contemplated bringing her into the house in the event this bout of nesting building was the real thing. Temperatures are warming and with her incredible coat I was concerned about her coming into a too warm space so I decided to have her stay outside and simply threw a sleeping bag over her pen for extra draft protection. She has a very nice, entirely sheltered pen. She had the babies Monday. Come Monday evening the temperature began to drop and I decided I had best add a heating lamp. I decided that heat from under the pen would be most effective. I put the lamp in a metal bucket and secured it under her pen, the lamp was a good distance from the pens bottom with plenty of air circulation. The main thing in my mind was warming the bunnies. It was not fire.
A couple of hours after I set up the lamp my two youngest children went down to the barn and promptly came running in yelling, “Fire!”
There was smoke but no fire. In a few more minutes there would have been a fire. I shudder to think of it, Pumpkin’s pen is about ten inches from the outside barn wall, a shingled wall, I could have lost the whole barn, I could have lost other animals. The hay and fur in the nesting was smouldering. The heat of the lamp hadn’t ignited anything so I quickly removed all the nesting materials and the babies. Two were still alive. Pumpkin was unharmed and amazingly calm.
Moving a nesting rabbit is a risky business. The chances of her keeping the two living bunnies alive were slim to none. In fact both of those babies have now died.
I’ve used heating lamps many times, though of late have switched almost entirely to using regular watt light bulbs for most heating needs as they are cooler but still effective and use much less energy.
What an idiot. I just feel so, so stupid. I know better than to let bunnies mate in the winter, and I know the risks of heating lamps. My mind was entirely on the keeping the babies warm, if not entirely at least 75%. Keeping them safe and warm, 50/50 would have been a better mindset. I know better.
I know some other things too.
I know the gestation period of bovines.
We’ve now had five calves born here. And now I will confess the next mistake. I used to have a chart in the barn with a column for breed date and a column next to it with due date. Now I just throw a date into any old chart I find online and up pops the due date. Handy. No need for my reading glasses, no need for even thinking.
Except this time around I guess I did need either my glasses or my thinking cap. Fern was in with the bull at the end of July. I wasn’t sure what day she was bred so used the date of July 28th. And for some reason came up with the date of March 25th as her due date. A little bit of thinking (anytime in the last six months!) would have told me May 5th is more like it. I am missing out on an extra two months of milk and cream because of this mistake! Just realised this this morning! Grrrrr…
The upside is that my whiplash from getting rear-ended in January hasn’t fully healed, a lot of motions or too much of one motion sets it off into either spasms or general discomfort. Milking would surely be a trigger, but I would have been milking sore neck or no if I had thought I could be! The other upside is that the melt off this spring is going to be slow and muddy, it will be much better to have this extra time before the new arrival.
Speaking of melt off – gotta go see what I can do about that ice dam that is melting into one of my bathrooms. It is wreaking my fall paint job in there……
*since I am in a confessing mood I may as well tell the whole truth. French Lops hate to be penned. The males can’t stand it at all so I let them roam all the time now. The females are okay in a pen for a while but need a lot of TLC and some days of freedom. Raising rabbits is something I have been contemplating not doing for this reason. On the other hand the meat and the fur are wonderful commodities…. so Pumpkin’s free day was not accidental, I did think I had contained the boys so she wouldn’t get bred but evidently not.