Friday, November 10, 2017

The Virtues of Ducks

Ducks may of done me wrong but I have an idea they might be back in the future. There are some great benefits to raising ducks according to research. My timing for raising duck was poor so I'll wait a while, think things over more, and I would not be surprised if they don't return in a few years from now when the rabbit and chicken self-sustaining set up is running more smoothly. Until then, I'm going to do some more research and some serious thinking. 

  These are the points so far that have me thinking duck:

 (a.) Duck lay better than chickens in winter. Just learned that ducks often begin to lay in February so maybe I was a bit hasty in getting rid of them except I desperately needed their coop and realistically, I'm not ready for them.  Since that is after the winter solstice and light is increasing, I'd guess that is why the timing.  So I'm going to think and watch my chickens to see if I need duck eggs to fill in a gap. 

(b.) Ducks have a larger egg yolk than chickens but when I measured Sasha's egg yolk and one of my Rainbow hen's they were equal in size but they lay extra large eggs. Keep in mind that the bulk of the nutrition in an egg is in the yolk. That is why a chick or duck forms in the egg white and the yolk is they food source.

 (c.) Duck eggs are alkaline and chickens are acidic. That is a biggy. It is one of the reasons why we have goat milk because it too is alkaline so adding duck eggs would be a really good combination.  

(d.) Duck eggs have 6 times the Vitamin D and 2 times the Vitamin A than a chicken egg, more protein too. Other than that pretty much the same as a chicken's egg in nutrition. With having to take 5000 units of vitamin D a day to stay at the lower end of normal and my husband 1000 units that could mean we could go off of supplements part of the year or at least reduce the amount.

(e.) Duck eggs have twice the cholesterol that chicken eggs do but have more Omega 3 fatty acids so don't be turned away. The whole cholesterol and its bad side affects is on debate right now. Cholesterol is far more complex than they first thought and cholesterol does play an essential role in the body. It is the basis of all hormones. Anyway you look at it more Omega 3's is a good thing.

(f.) Duck eggs are richer in Albumen which makes cakes and pastries fluffier and richer. 

(g.) Duck eggs are typically larger than chicken's.

(h.) They handle the cold better and forage better than chickens. I can testify to those two things.

(i) Duck egg shells are much thicker and I mean much thicker. It takes a pretty good wack to open them. This gives them a longer shelf life of six weeks in the refrigerator. They will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator. As a side note of interest, the shell is much smoother than a chicken's. If you have ducks and chickens in the same pen, this is a way to tell the eggs apart if both lay the same size of egg like ours do.

As for flavor, we prefer chicken eggs slightly over duck eggs but there is not a huge difference in them. So taste is not what pulls me back to considering ducks again in the future. What keeps pulling me back to raising ducks is that their eggs leave a more alkaline atmosphere in the body. Cancer feeds on a acid environment and with it so prevalent in our society, that is a big deal. We definitely need to start changing our diet more in the alkaline direction. The other important factor is that we did not loose a single duck to predators last summer and fall. We did loose quite a few chickens. We have the last two years. I read in one site that raccoons are a duck's main problem. We definitely have those, just look at the claw marks by the latch on our chicken coop. Then there is the down. Something interesting I discovered when processing nine ducks of several breeds so stay tuned. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Comparison of WWII and Today.

Instead of just telling you how to do something. I'm going to begin explaining more of our motivations for what we do. I prefer to think of our journey as trying to become more enlightened. We try to be realistic and see things for what they are. The past prepare us for the future and gleaning things from what once was make us more whole. Some would call some of our thoughts - doomsday but I prefer to think we are realistic. We may prepare for disaster but we pray it never comes.Yet, we know that history repeats itself and that patterns tell us that rocky roads are ahead.

What will happen when WWIII arrives? Will life at home be the same as the last world war? These two questions have been roaming around in my brain for a long time. I’ve done some research over the years about WWII and how the home front fared in England and in the USA. Most of you probably have heard of Food Stamps and Ration Cards that were in effect with price controls placed on goods in WWII. But did you know that twenty million Americans were on the verge of starvation despite a greater number of jobs and higher wages? One has to wonder why especially when we were having bumper crops despite a 17% reduction in numbers of people on farms? One reason was that the food we produced was spread between US civilians, the military, and our Allies, the military taking priority. Another is many of the ships laden with food were lost to opposing forces whether sank or stolen. And 5 million widows were left alone to care for their families and that took its toll.

 A total of 12,209,238 Americans were in military service by September 2, 1945 which is 9 percent of the 131,028,000 population.  Interestingly, Germany had a grand total of 22,000,000 serving in some capacity out of 69,850,000 and that was 31 percent. I'd say the difference being war was abroad and not on the home front despite the battle in Hawaii. 

Today our population in the USA is 324,910,953. So doing the math if things were the same, there would be 8,610,140 million near starvation. But things aren’t the same. Today, gardens are simply a summer treat or a money making project. People want served. Even mechanics have their oil changed by someone else. In my childhood days, dad’s changed their own oil and fixed things around the house. My dad did and I can remember how that made me feel – secure. Later like everyone else, he hired everything done. It is the fashion.

No doubt WWIII  won’t be the same as WWII in a vast number of ways. IN part because Wars are not fought in the same manner as before. How will this change things? I don't know. I do know that the mindset of the people during WWII was different. They had done without during The Great Depression and knew how to sacrifice. They were humble, appreciative, and they were from the do-it-yourself era. These people had confidence. “I have done hard things and I’ll figure out how to make it through this too.”, was an attitude that I see now only in older farmers and ranchers. Replaced is a sense of fear. Ask someone what they would do if they had to be responsible for any or all of their own water, food, warmth, clothing, road repair, transportation, sewer, protection etc. if war came to America? See the panic flash across their face especially if you ask in detail. I pray it never reaches our shores but realistically know, it could come.

In WWII Washington Carver, in an agricultural tract promoting home food production, encouraged citizens to grow a garden. He called it a Victory Garden in an effort to boost morale. Twenty million gardens were planted creating 40% of the vegetables eaten by families. Many ate healthier than before the war. Lawns were tilled up, flower boxes converted to vegetables. Today, how many would grow a garden especially of the magnitude to produce 40% of their vegetables?  My observance is that people are happy to eat poor quality food as long as they don’t have to produce it themselves. 

In WWII 95 percent of the clothing we wore was being manufactured in the United States - now, none.  Even of the 2 percent some claim is made here, parts like fabric, button, etc. are still purchased elsewhere. Even if something is totally American made, the parts are manufactured from all over America and shipped to one spot to be assembled. Great now but if like in WWII gas and tires are rationed, then those goods all of a sudden become expensive and scares. Today, “Made in the U.S.A.” is most often stamped on heavy equipment or the circuits that go inside other products than on televisions, toys, clothes, and other common items found on a store's shelves. Companies have moved toward high-end manufacturing. Less costly goods have moved overseas where the labor costs are far less. This is the items we use most. It (seems like) China makes most of what we buy. China is even finding their way into our food market. We know of their low standards especially in food and yet we buy. What if in WWIII we went to war with China- a scary thought? As this thought passed through my mind, I was curious so I looked at various country's military and how they were ranked and why –interesting and unsettling. Some of the most unstable countries are the most prepared for war.

No, things won't be much like WWII. Far fewer of our needs are manufactured in America and even fewer created in our homes. Americans do not have the same mind set. What exactly will come to pass and when, I don't honestly know. I do know that the more we prepare, the more secure we feel. Peace of mind is worth a lot. It matters not whether it is a loss of job, health, natural disasters, or war, we can "ride the river" as John Wayne says and stay afloat if we are better prepared financially, skills wise, and have stores laid up for a rainy day. So I don't think it hurts to think, 'What if?' if it motivates us to create a more personally secure future.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ducks Done Me Wrong

Things aren't working out so great with the duck project. What I read and what has happened, doesn’t jive. Only one hen laid any eggs. She did so for two months and then quit. I did get the one egg a day and on occasion two like promised. But two months of eggs is hardly enough to keep me excited about their egg laying abilities especially when my pullets are laying very well. Neither is the fact that Eva (the Swedish duck) is just two weeks younger than Sasha (who is a black Swedish duck) and she showed no signs of starting to lay. What's up? 

Ducks supposedly lay well in low light conditions and during the cold of winter, much better than chickens. But, do they lay in the winter when they don't lay in the fall? I doubt it. If they aren't going to lay eggs then I've no use for them except the table. If I feed them fall, winter, and most of spring, then they are simply a drain on the budget. 

In the summer they were great bug killers and weeded the garden some but that time has come to an end. I've been impressed with their foraging abilities but nothing else economically. That means soon they will become a money pit. They may be fun to watch but fun doesn't cover the expenses and money is getting tighter and tighter.

The young chicken's thin tin house won't do for long with temperatures dipping regularly into the 20F at night and I desperately need the insulated duck coop to put them in. We have housing plans for the chickens but the work won't likely happen until after Christmas. That leaves us really short on space. Once again I put 'the cart before the horse'. I should have researched more thoroughly but what has surprised me is that experience and research is not matching up. What has gone wrong?

These ducks came from the feed store and a gal who had too many on her ranch. Don't know if it is just Swedish ducks or ducks in general that the articles and catalogues exaggerate their virtues on. As far as articles on the internet it is pretty much pet owners who write. Though there is much to learn from them, economically they aren't concerned so that part is left out. Our ancestors had them so there has to be virtues I've yet to discover. 

I've hit the internet again and pondered, what do I want from ducks. There a many breeds to choose from. They aren't all alike. Some fly well, others don't, some lay well or so they say, some forage well, and I will attest some are winter hardy. My ducklings loved the snow last spring. 

As I read once more my poultry order catalogue, I found a statement that said that certain breeds of their ducks do not lay as the optimists elude to. I like honesty. They did state that for pure breeds, the Khaki Campbell is the best for egg laying. The hybrid Golden 300 does even better. I had to ponder, 'Is having pure bred important to me?' That led me to the question, 'Are hybrid ducks like hybrid vegetables in that they do not have offspring that are true to the likeness of their parents.?' Ducks having ducks is important for us.

1. That led me off on a marry chase to find out the answers. What I found out is purebred is not what I'm after. What I want is performance. The Golden 300 supposedly lay around 300 eggs a year, better than chickens. They are like the Black or Red Stars Sex-Linked hybrid chickens. They lay well but aren't broody or great mothers. So having offspring in not in their realm unless you use an incubator or have a hen or different breed of duck set on the eggs. Then you could get offspring. What they will be like is another question. I do know that by carefully selecting the offspring that are most true to the parents you can change the hybrid to a more pure line. You can in vegetables anyway. 

2. What does hybrid mean? I found that it is breeding outside a species for instance my Swedish /Pekin duck crosses I picked up. If you cross Aylesbury, Cayuga, and Rouen Clair then it is not a hybrid since they are all in the same species - Mallard. That cleared up that question.

What all this hard thinking has done for me is leave me with more questions than answers. I have realized I need to end the duck project for now. I emphasize now because as I read about the health benefits of the eggs and think more on their other virtues, I have a feeling they will be back. For now, I will continue thinking and researching. Our rabbit and chicken set up needs a great deal of work for it to run smoothly. The greatest lesson I've learned these past few years is that a self-sufficient set up is far different than simply raising chickens for a few eggs or for meat. The same goes for meat rabbits. We have a great deal of building to do and a need to invest money in equipment. 

When they are up and running like we'd like, I'm coming back to ducks. My time with them has not been wasted. I truly believe that, "In all labor there is profit." I've learned quite a bit what to do and what will not work for us. I am realizing what I want from a duck project. I'm formulating goals. As I figure out just what we want, I'll share my ideas with you. Meanwhile, I've have to figure out some great duck recipes. I've nine awaiting in the freezer. The processing did not go as smoothly as it could have. Learned a bit there too. Yes indeed, "In all labor there is profit."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What Does Self-Sufficiency Mean?

I assume besides entertainment over what is this crazy lady is doing now, you have some yearning for self-sufficiency or you would not be reading this blog. My question to you is can someone be truly self-sufficient? The answer I feel relies on what you define as self-sufficient. Television programs, like the one on Netflix about the trappers in Alaska, define it as living with a finite amount of products manufactured by others for a period of time in isolation. Others in magazines and on the news define it as growing a garden, and raising some livestock. Still others think emergency preparedness makes them self-sufficient.

But what does self-sufficient truly mean – “able to provide for or support oneself without the help of others”. That is what the dictionary’s defines. Note the part where it says supports oneself without the help of others. So is it really possible to support oneself completely? Does anyone really provide their own food, clothing, transportation, housing, warmth, and tools all on their own? Some say no… others yes. I say yes, and no. Yes, if one is in the perfect location, with the perfect amount of skills and talents, and exceptional cooperation from Mother Nature to provide your needs when you need them. 

Does that ever really happen? For short periods of time but definitely not going to happen for long periods of time or where we live. Mother Nature is rarely predictable. The weatherman sometimes changes his mind three times in one day. It is going to snow. It’s not. No, I think it is. 10 out of 10 of the most destructive hurricanes on record occurred in the last 10 years and weather is predicted to become more and more unstable. I've heard everything under the sun from we are getting hotter to we are on the edge of a mini ice age. They all look at limited data. Climate Change many experts say is blown out of the water by present data. I believe it is political and financially based. The mini ice age is a debate over what will become the most influential on our weather, sun flares or pollution? Me, I say Mother Nature has always changed and cycled and the Lord  has said that she will become more unpredictable in these last days. Let's see... scientist or the guy who created the universe? For me the answer is easy. And on every website I looked at for threats to our power grid, weather came up number one.

This places emergency preparedness way up on the list of self-sufficient needs. A disaster could leave an area in need for a short period of time or for months  with financial devastation lasting for years after.  Hurricane Sandy left some without power for months afterwards. Numerous disasters all during a short period of time, like this fall with the fires out West and the hurricanes down south, have left resources and money spread thin. The government who was in part responsible for the fires out west, because of poor management, has decided to ignore the devastation all together in favor of the hurricanes which they had no part in creating. It is political as other than California, those hit hardest have little political clout.  We learn from this that help is fickle and unreliable. FEMA came to the small town we used to live in when a tornado hit only because nothing else was going on. From them I learned that help is available beyond shelters to those who are best prepared financially through insurance and being out of debt etc.  I interviewed the director at the sight and he told me they were not there to bale out those who had not prepared. They were there to provide immediate shelter and low interest loans to qualifying applicants much like those applying for any bank loan. For a short period of time, usually a year, they would provide some with low cost trailers as temporary housing.  Shocker, yeah, many thought they would help them replace their home and belongings out of the goodness of their hearts. Government has no heart, it is a bureaucracy.

Lesson learned - take care of yourself and prepare. When I look at our own situation, I see much need for improvement. We are precarious in a number of areas. We are no longer out of debt since we moved to a place that over time would provide us with far greater opportunity for independence. We have far more individuals that rely on us financially and physically. We have no backup as a power source beyond electricity. If we had propane and a propane kitchen cooking stove with a battery lighter for the oven then cooking and the wood stoves would take care of us pretty nicely for we have a source of light with candles and lamps.  The water well is a big issue as it is run electrically. It needs a backup power source. If we don't travel and have supplies on hand, we could sit pretty good. Paying the bills on the other hand is a problem. I'm working on that.  We need far more of a financial reserve. Ours has been exhausted.  

Big risks for us is a wild fire, we  sit at the foot of a mountain range; and a heavy snow that lasts for weeks on end.  Tornadoes don't plague us like the area we were in but their is a slight chance of an earthquake. Riots are  hardly a problem since we have so few living near us and they tend to be the older generation, along with ranchers.  Our threats are not necessarily the same as yours and so you need to evaluate where you sit. 

We live where Red Cloud once roamed and so I’ve questioned how did the Native American tribes in America before the Nina, the Pinta, and the Sana Maria exist? We think of them as being very nomadic and simply living off the land. They became those two things but originally most were farmers. They stayed in one place year round. Most lived near the coasts. A few in the more interior areas were more nomadic due to Mother Nature. You know, summer pastures and winter sheltered area. When the Native American societies were in their decline due to outside pressure from pioneers, they became more nomadic, war-like, and raiding parties were more common thing where they stole what they desired. Trading of course was common. In the truest sense of the definition, they were not self-reliant. 
Is this the course of civilizations? Our daughter and I looked into groups of people during WWII who were displaced and groups earlier in history which lived in small societies. What we found is that groups with fewer skills, like those during WWII who by this time relied more and more on others, created part of their needs, traded for some, and then stole the rest. See a pattern? Those who had a broader work ethic and a greater number of skills, create as much as they could themselves and then traded for the rest. Preparedness gave them the ability to live a higher moral standard. The key being they were capable of fulfilling a large portion of their own needs. The reason for each group remaining in close proximity to one another was safety in numbers - a larger defense group. The day to day survival was up to the individual families. If you think it will go back to a butcher, a baker, and a candle stick maker, look again. We basically already have that. Of course others will help those in need. First they have to have something to give. Personal survival will more often than not trump serving others. Look at what has happened recently in Puerto Rico. Many of the skilled such as rescue workers, physicians, etc. stayed with their families. Part I'm sure was due to safety issues. When their own survival needs and those of their families is met, then many will reach out.  In dire circumstances it has always been the nuclear family group that determined the level of their existence or their extinction. 

Look at yourself and think what you have and need to survive in a wide spread disaster or war. Evaluate your skills, supplies, financial situation? How vulnerable are you? Look around you. What shape are your neighbors in? I think most of you know how they will react. Will they be looting and committing crimes or banning together to solve problems? In an EMP outage they figure 9 out of 10 will die. No electricity was what our great grandparents knew and yet, most of us will not survive. It seems kind of crazy. They don't expect an EMP anytime soon but it is a good example of how different we are from our ancestors. To me we look pretty helpless as a nation. Sad isn't it?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rabbitry and Lessons Five Through Eleven

 Research taught me that in a commercial operation they loose about 40 percent of the offspring, mainly due to intestinal issues. That seems really high. There has to be a way around that and I began researching the causes of death in kittens. I'm still researching the subject but my efforts so far have resulted in an awesome success rate on the last two batches. Tweaking a day or two here and there on the plan is needed but I feel the formula is sound.

But let me back track to my story from the last post. I wrote down the day I bred Betty Boo but then couldn't find out where that was. The result was she gave birth to ten kittens on the bare wires. Oops!, caught her shortly after though and saved nine. Those went into the nesting box. (Keep in mind this is during the time we are dealing with four grandkids and trying to help a daughter struggling to work full time and fly to Tulsa to do chemotherapy which resulted in severe neuropothy challenges.

Lesson number five - Keep a record book just for rabbits with lessons learned and things tried along with dates. Also order those nifty metal cardholders that attach to the cages where you can keep how much to feed each rabbit in each cage and information like breeding dates and expected kindling dates. 

Lesson number six -- Make sure and gentle your mother rabbit to the point that you can cuddle her long before she kindles. That way she won't be upset if you handle her kittens. 

Lesson number seven -- Mother rabbits may not feed their young for the first day and even two until their milk comes in. 

Lesson number eight -- Put water in a bowl instead of the hanging waterers as the doe will drink far more aiding to bring in her milk.  They seem to prefer nice soft grass hay instead of pellets. The doe's tummy is tender and how can it not having given birth to so many?

Lesson number nine -- Rabbits nurse their young early morning and evening or night time. Betty Boo's favorite hour is seven a.m. and seven p.m.

Lesson number ten -- Handle the babies and check tummies morning and night. Especially on a first time mom. Move kittens with slimmer tummies to the middle of the pile. They get cold easier and this helps to ensure they receive adequate amount of milk the next feeding. In this fashion even the runt did well though he was not always the one who was the skinniest after he was in the middle position. He was just the least aggressive and therefore smaller. I even got to where I knew when Betty Boo was going to feed and I'd get in there just before so I could shift the little ones about.

The second time Betty Boo kindled nine. She is an awesome mamma. On the other hand she majorly questions my mothering skills. In early September, I'd cover the babies, afraid they might get cold, and she'd give me a disgusted look and run over and uncover them declaring them too hot. She of course knew best but I had to do it on occasion because it was just too funny!! No need the second time to shift babies around. She did the job of making sure each was fed just fine. I still check tummies. One can not be too careful and I want them use to being handled from the very beginning.

Lesson number eleven -- Comb fur on the other bunnies so you will have enough to give to the kittens if mom does not pull much of her own fur. This tidbit off the internet makes sense since Betty Boo barely pulled any hair with her first kindling since the weather was warm but in September that can change in a hurry. I set to work on the shedding bucks to cushion the nest and add warmth.

Lesson number twelve -- Soft grass hay or wood shavings makes great bedding. Just be aware that the doe may eat up part of the grass hay. I've bedded with both and done well. I just have to remember to add more hay if she gets the munchies.

 Now the nine bundles of fur from the second batch are twenty-seven days old and the first thing the kiddos run to after school. Yes, they have all made it so far. My kitten feeding plan is working and both batches of Betty Boo's have done extremely well but I see it needs tweaking by a day or two here and there. The record book has proven critical to my success. My kitten feeding program deserves a blog of its own but I need just a little more time to perfect it.  
They recommend for New Zealand or California Whites to be bred at five months for good fertility performance and Betty Boo's, Anna gave birth on October 3. She has five and I'm pleased since I only left her in with the buck for half a day. The babies are very active  but I'm still waiting for Anna's milk to fully come in. I can tell when it does because the amount of water she drinks goes way up. As long as the little ones are popping up like popcorn when touched I know they are getting some milk. As I thought about the five months of age breeding age it made sense to me since kidding a dairy goat for the first time is best when done as a yearling since  it increases the estrogen levels developing her physically and helps milk capacity in the future. Of course both the rabbit doe and the dairy goat doe need to be fed properly to reach their full size. I've never had a problem. Anna is no different as she is quite large like her mama.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Rabbitry Lessons Learned

 Rabbits have been a very difficult area for me to master. Three years later and I'm still in the beginning level of the rabbit self-sufficiency class. The teacher has been the Internet and the academy, the school of hard knocks.The longer I am in this project, the more I realize I don't have a clue what I'm doing. It doesn't help that the teacher has differing opinions and sometimes refuses to tell me the intimate details I need. But just as our ancestors saw great benefit in this area of husbandry, we see it also. Why not when a male and three females can produce the meat equivalent of a beef in one year if you have the right set up, which we don't. But I do know that a rabbit in just a few months is ready for the dinner table and that means a steady supply. A beef needs eighteen months to two years before it is ready to process. That is a long wait and then a glutton amount of meat all at once. Not that we plan on not having a beef now and then but I'm wanting to lower the number of freezers we have and change what's in them.

We are finally realizing some success with our rabbits and we have learned a number of lessons. I'd like to pass them along. Maybe you won't have to spend so much time in the school of hard knocks like we have. Since our first rabbits, Oreo and Whitey had been inherited and they had produced kittens before we figured it would be smooth sailing. She had not been bred for quite some time but I was not in the market for pets so I figured they might as well earn their keep. The first mating wasn't bad, she had eight and six survived. I wasn't pleased with the mortality rate but read that wasn't bad. Then the next kindling she had a single and it died. Then she refused to drink water for days on the next batch and refused to feed them so we tried bottle feeding. They slowly died as they do if not at least two weeks old when orphaned. The following batch died with no interest in them from mom.

Lesson number one  - Obey the professionals when they say don't give a doe more than two chances to get it right.

We should have quit two batches ago. The question became just how old should a rabbit be to kindle and how old before a doe is retired or becomes table fare? That is a debatable answer I found.  Part of the answer I found lies in rabbits longevity. Rabbits in the wild live from a year to three years depending on the number of predators so it stands to reason that a commercial operation would not keep their rabbits very long. In fact many don't keep them past eighteen months old as after two the production rate drops. They of course are kindled frequently. Not what I have in mind but I'm thinking three batches of bunnies a year would probably be the limit to our possibilities because of housing and cage availability. That is when we get everything all built. What we will need when everything gets up and rolling full time is an answer not yet solidified. Then you include our weather and that we don't want a heated or air conditioned building just too much money.

The longevity story changes when the rabbit is for pet use. Then with proper feeding - mostly high quality grass hay - then they can live seven to twelves years of age. The larger rabbits living a shorter lifespan. 
Lesson number two -- Age is a factor in fertility, live births, and birth to adult size success rates. With age it goes down just like in chickens. We plan on removing does from the operation when they turn three.

With Oreo gone, we were looking for does. Our neighbor, who had just gotten back into rabbits, offered us two rabbits he claimed were does. That was handy. I bred them to Whitey,--- and I bred them to Whitey--- and I bred them again to him --- no babies. First I thought something must be wrong with Whitey but low and behold, they were bucks too. Wasted 3/4's of a year on that one. But I learned a great lesson, you need to sex your own animals. Cockily I thought this was a no-brainer task. I used the kitten formula of one hole, one slit is a girl and one hole a boy. Found out the hard way that that doesn't work. Off to the internet I went. The best source of information I found is on this site -  . I learned that they both have a hole and a slit but the males slit is smaller and it has a tube that will protrude if pinched correctly. This tube has a hole also. You could say the female has two holes and the male three.
  Lesson number three - learn to sex your own rabbits.

The neighbor gave me more babies as he lacked enough cages for  all of his and I sexed them keeping two girls and processed the boys which included the boys he gave me the last time that were suppose to be girls. One of the two young does, Sheila, I kindled last spring about a week before our daughter and I left to go to the cancer center in Tulsa for her first time. We were gone a week when I received a phone call from my distraught daughter who was home taking care of the grandlittles and animals to tell me she had done her best but the kittens were all dead. She could not figure out why. In part I realized we needed nesting boxes.

Lesson number four - Build a nesting box.

I built two and things have gone far better.

Sheila was bred again and they were all stillborn. Immediately after the nest batch was born she began eating the legs off them. Yup, she joined Oreo in the freezer. Too bad I did not listen to lesson number one sooner. 

Betty Boo, Sheila's sister, seems to like the box and stays to nurse longer. It keeps the babies warm as you can pile up a deep layer of bedding for them to snuggle under. I've only had one baby be dragged out of the box into the open area because it was still hanging on nursing. That was with Betty Boo's first batch. I caught it in time and put it back. I fluff the bedding twice a day at least and this helps it to keep from getting packed down as my two does love to check on babies hopping into the nesting box and compacting it.

Before Betty Boo kindled, my husband begged me to give up and quit spending money and time on raising rabbits. You can't blame him as no success in two years is a bit much. I hadn't put a lot of effort into it and I knew it. That changed and I began researching in earnest. I spent a lot of time in thought. Then when Betty Boo had ten kittens and only one died at birth being left on the wire section of the cage and died from cold, I was armed with information and a plan. What a good mama she is. With this second batch she is even more of an amazing mom. She is sticking around and Ive kept two of her offspring.

Lessons five through eleven will be in the next blog coming soon.