Silver Foxes and Americans Galore!

We have so many rabbit kits right now, I feel like I’m swimming in them. The first round of Silver Fox and American kits are of age now that I can start sexing, tattooing, and calling their future owners.

Because of the wonderful Silver Fox stock we got (when we bought Whitmore Farm’s rabbitry), we have a waiting list. For the Silver Foxes from those lines, we’ll be weighing, evaluating and tattooing the rabbits. Any that aren’t up to par will be scheduled for butcher in mid-June. With any luck, the worthy kits (and the American Chinchillas) will be sold before then.

The Americans, although rare, have absolutely no waiting list! That’s six kits hopping around, all for me. I’m not too worried about this, as I want to give them the full 12 weeks to grow out. Any at 12 that look good I will keep for myself, grow out a little longer, or sell at that time. The rest… Well, butcher day is mid-June. While from two weeks ago, below is an adorable picture of the rabbits out in the tractor with mama. We had cages to clean. And you know what? This litter has gotten so darn friendly since I started bringing them bunches of dandelions every day.

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We have another litter of Silver Foxes from our “original” line (Penny and Weatherby). They’re right on track with the others, and huge. A 10-kit litter, and at 6 weeks all of them were at 2 to 2 1/2 pounds. That is great growth. The problem? The dam and sire do not have great type. They both surprised me by carrying blue, and the dam has surprised me by being an absolutely fantastic mother on her first round. The kits are all healthy with not a single loss even in the cold. If there are any solid kits in this litter (a few look promising), we might retain them as breeders for ourselves or sell them. Otherwise, we just have a great line of wonderful meat producers.

Beyond that, we have another kit of rabbits from Whitmore Farm lines growing–two or three weeks behind the rest. And the surprise for today?–

BABY BUNNIES!

Bonbon, our chocolate French Angora doe, was bred about a month ago because she was begging for it. I didn’t leave her and Halo together long, and I was a little dubious of whether the deed was done. When she started digging food out of her feeder a week or so ago, I was a bit more sure. Below are her 8 kits. In the fashion of all of the rabbits here at Morgan Farms, she picked a less-than-ideal day to have them. High of 90, but she wanted to be early and couldn’t wait until nightfall.

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I am a bit worried. Maybe because she’s a first-time mamma and maybe because the Angora learning curve is even higher than the others, but I’m worried about the heat. She had them on the wire in a huge pile of hay. She pulled fur and scattered it about her nest, but seems to be trying. So fingers crossed and, if it gets too worrisome, these little buggers will come inside. 8 adorable kits. I think I may have one lynx, and the rest are either cream, fawn or possibly even REW. They’re too young and I have too much to learn to say for sure. I’ll keep you posted as they grow, though.

And last, but not least, our new doe Sweety had a litter of 10 Americans. Sweety came to us a week ago as a bred doe from Florida. She is a breeder we got to replace Leah (the American doe killed in the dog attack). She has a beautiful deep blue coat and was bred to a black buck–thus the black kits in this litter. Of course, black isn’t a showable color, but it has been used in breeding programs to try and deepen the blue in the American’s coat. Unless the blacks have stellar type, they will be gone from our homestead–but I can’t wait to see what these blues grow into.

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Well, it’s time to shovel poop, and try to convince people they want to buy it. Nothing makes me happier than a phone call from someone asking to buy rabbit poop!

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When Predators Attack

A post coming tonight or tomorrow on the duck brooder–I want to get a good before and after picture of those messy ducklings!

Part of why I didn’t post is because on Friday morning, we had a dog attack our rabbits.

With quarantine and the herd we have right now, our rabbits are set up in a few main areas–our original run-in, the garden run-in, and a tent in the backyard. The original run-in is the best hid, underneath our magnolia tree and behind the chicken coop. The problem?

There was nothing blocking anyone or anything from coming in. Continue reading

The Ducklings are Here!

Did you know? Or did you guess?

We got ducklings!

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Back in December we put in an order for 10 Welsh Harlequin ducklings from Holderread Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center. If you don’t know who they are, they are a well-respected breeder of geese and ducklings located in Oregon. They primarily focus on heritage stock, and have some beautiful birds that come from beautiful lines. Of course, not every bird is going to be show quality or perfect, but they start with the best.

By getting our ducklings from them, I could be certain they were purebred and not a hatchery spin-off. Not that there is anything wrong with that! But we really want to focus on some of the heritage breeds around here, and I wanted to be certain in what I was getting.

Welsh Harlequins are listed as Critical on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s list. The Welsh Harlequins originated from two mutant (or sport) Khaki Campbells. They are are not a particularly old breed, but they’re particularly beautiful and are said to have maintained their ancestor’s impeccable laying ability. Both of these reasons are why we chose them, as well as because they are a smaller duck suitable for our little homestead. If you want to read more about the breed, please do so here: American Livestock Conservancy. Continue reading

Morgan Farms’ Most Wanted

Name: Shell Stomper
Variety: Ancona
Weight: Approx. 4.5 pounds
Charges: Unknown counts of egg eating; conspiring to ruin breakfast
Cellblock: 7-Day Chicken Coop
Sentence: Chicken Dinner

Name: Mrs. Flighty
Variety: Maran
Weight: Approx. 6 pounds
Charges: At least 2 counts of egg eating
Cellblock: 7-Day Chicken Coop
Sentence: Chicken Dinner

Continue reading

Eat My Eggs, I’ll Eat You

After dealing with work stress (ongoing!) and some health things that needed taken care of , I’ve been away for too long. Add nearly two feet of snow, constant cold and, well, me, the girl who gets cold at 70 degrees–

Let’s just say I’ve been hibernating.

A few things have been going on, as we plan for this next year and some improvements to our property and our gardens, but we are mostly in hiatus. I have some new arrivals to show you, and there is a list of more to come, but I’ll save that for later.

I’m not here to talk about just me. Or just you, and a problem you may have had or may start having or may have nightmares of having. It’s about the hens.

Those egg-eating hens.

I started suspecting it sometime in January, as we’d get a stray egg here or there and then nothing. The Delawares laid for a week solid, and the Welsummers were the only ones to give us a handful of eggs a week as winter dragged on. We ate all the eggs that were put up in the freezer, and I have been guarding our now half-dozen eggs carefully. They’re valuables. When, like us, you can easily go through 2-3 dozen eggs in a week (breakfast, baked goods, pasta)–eggs are key sustenance.

But the eggs would disappear here and there. Sometimes I’d see a piece of a shell, but I would also find an egg for me. It wasn’t so common I was worried. Just common enough to be a thought–maybe it wasn’t an accident, so to speak.

Then I would find shells on the ramp up to the coop. A stray shell in a corner, if I looked hard enough.

I think one of my chickens is eating my eggs. And I think it’s one of my hens.

And I think, if I find her, I’m going to eat her.

We have been thinking of how to get those pesky Welsummers to lay in the boxes, and not on the ground. And how to get the egg eating to stop, and to hope against all hope it’s just one hen and she hasn’t taught the others. So on Saturday we laid the pine shavings on real thick. We picked out the spots where it looked like some old egg damage had been done. We bought more packs of golf balls and laid them 2-3 in each nest box.

We cut up old jeans and stapled them to the nesting boxes, a long overdue move.

Don’t judge the poop. We keep a clean coop, but I can’t spend every cleaning day repainting the walls to keep up with these messy birds.

It felt right. And soon after we did this, we got an egg. Left the house, came home–one more egg. It didn’t seem right. An Ameraucana egg and an Ancona egg, but my Welsummers should be laying. My Delawares should be laying. My Marans are much slower.

Then I looked closely and in the fresh pine shavings, egg yolks. No shell, but surely some egg yolk from some nasty hen ruining my breakfast.

So, I’m sorry to say that, unless she stops herself, as soon as I figure out which hen (please say it’s just one!) is eating my eggs, she’s going to be dinner shortly thereafter.

How can I be expected to hatch chicks if I can’t even eat breakfast?

Note: If you, like me, weren’t proactive and haven’t covered your nesting boxes, I highly recommend it. We dragged our feet until we finally had a pile of jeans. Even aside from the egg eating, it was a smart move that we should have done a long time ago. Jeans are sturdy enough that they should hold up to the environment, and this way we are reusing something that would otherwise go to trash (too many holes to be worth donating or saving).

Chilling Cold

No pics this time; I don’t think you will want to see them.

As many of you may be experiencing, we’re getting a lot of blasts of arctic cold, and a lot of unseasonably cold weather. It was 3 degrees when I woke up this morning, which is usually unheard of in this area–at least not multiple times a year. Our highs rarely get above 30. A 40 degree day is downright toasty. In a normal year, 40 would be a healthy daytime average.

But, well, this wasn’t a normal year!

And, of course, rather than kindling on those warm 30-degree nights last week, my new American doe (Cissy), kindled on the coldest night this week. So when I got up this morning and rushed down to water the rabbits before anyone else, this first time rabbit momma’s heart sunk as she looked into her first time momma’s cage.

Even if it had been a 20-degree night last night, or possibly even a 40-degree night last night, it wouldn’t have saved these kits. This first time, she kindled straight on the wire. No fur in her nest, no fur on the wire, no nothing–even though she’d tamped down her nest.

I have heard of many people who have had successful litters in cold that’s colder than this. What happened was a risk for many or most first-time rabbit moms. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I am waiting on my Silver Fox doe to see what she does. If she kindles and they survive, it will add a little light to this day.

Critter Update

Originally, I was going to post about my pumpkins or a full post on our new rabbit hutch system in all its glory.

Then, something crazy happened today. It turns out, you’re never too old for surprises.

So, instead, I’ve decided to give you an update on the animals you haven’t seen since they were chicks–or even since they were eggs. Plus, some details on our newest additions, and at the very end… our surprise. It’s both embarrassing and exciting all in one. Continue reading

Update with Pictures

It’s over 90 degrees here. The bees are so hot they’re bearding across the front and sides of their hive, and reaching to the back. One hive is strong–the other I don’t think will make it to winter, let alone through winter.

I was proud of how well our garden was growing until I saw a picture of a friend’s garden. A few months ago I gave them some pepper plants that are now heavy with peppers; our own are wilting and the leaves falling from the bottoms. I’m not sure why, but some 6 of the bell pepper plants are dying, the rest struggling.

Still, life goes on and things grow. Continue reading

Incubating Eggs – Round 1

Warning: Behind the cut are pictures of cracked open eggs–some simply scrambled, some with development. If that bothers you, please don’t click, or find a way to hide the pictures. There is a picture of cute baby chicks at the very end of this post.

If you remember, back in June I got some hatching eggs and an incubator at the Maryland Poultry Swap. And so started my new adventure and new addiction.

The problem is, those 9 eggs I picked up at the swap were anywhere from 10 to 17 days old when I set them. If you know anything about hatching eggs, that is incredibly bad for fertility. I got an additional 15 eggs from another local breeder that were roughly 4-5 days old at setting, so while not ideal, they improved my hatching odds. Continue reading

20th Post: New Additions!

I have a few posts pending, one especially on hatching eggs, but what’s more appropriate for a 20th “benchmark” post than some pictures of the newest additions?

These are my 9 wheaten/blue wheaten ameraucana chicks. I had 9 out of the 24 eggs I bought hatch, but more on that in my hatching post (later today??). One had pretty severe splayed leg, but after two short stints in a bandaid, he seems to have recovered splendidly and I can just barely pick him out. This was when they were new-new, only just barely fluffed out. These are my July 4 babies. I will only be keeping hens from this batch–so if you’re local to Maryland and will need wheaten/blue wheaten ameraucanas, contact me in a few weeks!

Meet Evie (Evelyn), a Silver Fox doe we picked up on Saturday from Skyview Acres. I will be getting another doe and a buck from them come October, but didn’t want to try and have 3 rabbits (and kits) for someone to take care of after and during the wedding. Picking up one was probably excess, but I love her already. She’s very timid (as rabbits tend to be), but she was the only one I was able to pick up. I tried about 5 other does, some so high-strung I didn’t want to get near them. She’s sweet, calm, but just very afraid. I’ll be getting her pedigree soon, but she is 8-12 weeks old. She will be ready to breed just in time for the wedding to be over when I get the next two rabbits–so it will be perfect timing.

She’s currently being housed in a dog crate elevated in our carport until we put the finishing touches on her permanent home. She was pastured her whole life, and so I’ve been giving her plenty of greens and hay to supplement the feed, and we are starting barley fodder for her and the chickens. We were in a bind Saturday night and put her in with some pine shavings used in the chicken coops, and on Sunday when I raked up some straw/hay to throw in instead, she immediately calmed down–she knows what her element is.

More on Evie and the chicks later!