Livestock, Urban Homesteading and Self-Reliance

Weaning Day

Sour Patch and Skittles’ litters are four weeks old now.  They are vigorous and fat.  All of them seem to take great delight in torturing their mothers while pestering her for more milk.  Sour Patch now spends half her time in the nestbox as  protection from hungry kits.  Skittles hops about trying to avoid her demanding babies.  The only time they get a respite is when the Fodder is served.  The kits have all been eating Fodder (sprouted wheat and black oil sunflower seeds) for two weeks and have been eating hay for at least a week.  It is time for weaning day.

I wean at 4 weeks.  This is earlier than some rabbitries choose to do so.   There are both benefits and risks to this.  Early weaning allows the doe to be bred back more quickly.  I give each doe a week to 10 days off before she is rebred.  The doe is only rebred if she’s in good condition, but feeding Fodder and fresh greens as well as free choice hay keep the does healthy during nursing so they are ready for breeding after that little rest.  The danger is that the kits can become ill because they aren’t capable of processing solid food well enough to maintain bodyweight and growth.  Rabbits are not ruminants like cattle or goats, but rather are hind-gut digesters.  This means that they do not regurgitate and chew a cud, but actually eat specialized fecal pellets called a cecotrope.  The bacteria and yeasts in the digestive tract are vital for proper digestion and the kits receive these from their mother.  I assure their health by feeding wheat Fodder which is very easy to digest and contains living enzymes and probiotics as well.

The actual weaning of rabbits is much easier and quieter than with other farm animals.  Goats, both mother and kids, are generally very vocal in their objection to this new stage of life.  Rabbits take it in stride and don’t really even seem to notice.  After weighing each kit, I simply move the litter to their “grow out” cage.  All cages are set up exactly the same way, so they have the hay feeder and the same size pen as they have been used to.  The bunnies stay fat, happy, and grow well, if not at the rapid rate of their first few weeks.

Skittles and Sour Patch seem very happy to relax:

 

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