I know very little of rabbit taxonomy, despite owning 12 of the critters. As with the soil in our yard and the greens we grow from weedy deposits and fresh compost, I am learning details and biology very slowly. Despite speaking their scientific vernacular, I was born in the year of the Rabbit (Hare, technically) and can relate to the rabbits – restless, jumpy, willing to be loved on but easily distracted and startled.
Marjoram’s 7 tiny kits are doing well and are a week old as of yesterday. Most of them are on top of the mass of warm furry nest now, earlier than Rosemary’s kit was, likely due to the high heat of mid May in Florida. We learned the hard way about something that we missed in our initial rabbitry education: you are supposed to remove the nesting box from the cage in about 2 (hot weather) to 3 weeks (colder weather). Our rabbits live in much warmer temperatures than rabbits would prefer in the wild, and we can’t diagnose exactly what killed Badger – but it could have been an infection, she could have been weaned and we didn’t realize it was so soon and she had no access to her own water – it’s difficult to say, but it’s not a mistake we are willing to make again.
One of the kits (see left) is otter-furred. An otter-furred rabbit can have different colors, but this one is black which means that the fur looks orange where the black fur meets in different areas and it looks almost wet in places – sleek like an otter. The kits are still so small and cute that it’s difficult (no different from before) to think of them as being food or clothes (or other things) at some point, but that pelt will be beautiful.
For Nate’s first adventure in rabbit slaughtering, I got him a gift, Buckskin: The Ancient Art of Braintanning by Steve Edholm and Tamara Wilder, a book that goes into detail about how to tan animal hides using the very same animals brains. Tamara Wilder came recommended from Novella Carpenter’s blog on her little city farm, Ghost Town Farm. It still strikes me as almost humorous that people spend money on expensive chemicals to tan hides when they have, most of the time, at their disposal, the head of the very same animal with the materials to naturally tan that hide.
I would like to learn my own share of leather skills since we will have the materials to work with. Homemade moccasins would be amazing and if we ever think to venture somewhere colder and spend some nights outside, I though the idea of a rabbit fur-lined sleeping back would be phenomenally warm, though a bit suffocatingly so in Tampa almost any night of the year.
Nate constructed a 4-compartment long cage for the rabbits that will be more practical for cleaning purposes and more sanitary for the rabbits since my larger hutch was not the easiest to clean. Our official bun count is up to 1 buck, 3 mature does, 1 immature doe (Inara, see right, is only 1 month and too young to breed), and 7 kits. According to the breeding/kindling log, we can expect Rosemary (barring any further complications with kindling) to give birth close to the 3rd of June and Brook Lee (the newest – and currently largest – addition to our does) around June 10th, give or take a few days. Assuming these babies, or at least most of them, stay healthy, we’ll be dressing our first rabbit sometime between 6 and 11 weeks from now. Stay tuned!