Frost decides to make a nest for baby rabbits

Marshmallow has been tending her babies and Frost has spent the last day just being odd. Still eating the hay, chewing on the nest box and showing absolutely no sign of giving birth.

She didn’t feel pregnant, not that I really know what pregnant feels like. But Marshmallow had a really big belly and Frost doesn’t. So, today, after giving Frost an additional day and a half to show me something, I decided to remove the nest boxes.

I pulled Frost’s nesting box and placed it on top of her cage. I walked across the rabbitry and pulled Doe Whites and placed hers on top of her cage. She seemed happy to get the room back in her cage.

rabbit with mouthfull of strawI turn around and Frost grabs a full mouth of hay and stares me down. It was a fierce stare. I don’t really feel like I’ve gotten in sync with what the rabbits want all of the time, but there was no doubt in her eyes, she wanted the nest box back.

Sighing, I grabbed her nest box and put it back into the cage for her. “Are you kidding me? This is not an enrichment activity. You’ve got 2 more days and then it goes” She looked approvingly at me. I refilled her cage with some straw that I had in a nearby pail and she set about playing with the hay again.

Rabbit batch 2I returned one hour later. One hour. Frost has managed to get her nest built and in the middle of the day, she’s giving birth. I found the babies right after they were born. Within minutes. Frost was still cleaning her fur from the mess that comes with birthing baby rabbits.

Frost almost missed her chance. 2 days late. Playing silly games in the cage.

From now on Frost, I’ll listen to you. Everything in perfect time, and your timing was perfect. Welcome to motherhood!

Baby Bunnies are here!

The due date is today. Only one of the three rabbits, Marshmallow, has “nested”. Doe White is doing nothing and Frost is acting like a wild child.

Frost will take the nesting material (hay) and eat it. Or shred it and send it through the floor into a pile under the cage. Perhaps she thinks this is an enrichment activity? But she’s not showing signs of motherhood like our mama Marshmallow has been.

This morning, knowing TODAY was the day – and watching Marshmallow build her nest, I woke early. I ran out in the dark, turned on the light in the rabbitry and low and behold…there were BABIES!! I’m not sure how many yet…maybe four or five? She’s pulled so much fur to keep them warm on this chilly day. We’re in the mid-20’s, so we’ve been on bottle watch, making sure their bottles don’t freeze.

Marshmallow was cleaning herself, I carefully moved the nest open and there they were. Perfect pink little bodies, wriggled together to hold their body temperatures of 107 steady. Nestled deep within a nest build of hay, straw and soft rabbit fur. Fat little bellies full of their first meal from mama rabbit.

The miracle of life is exciting. Whether a rabbit, a human or a chick hatching it’s way through an eggshell. I will never get tired of watching new life come into the world.

Pierce Farm – a farm no more

Are we becoming more and more disassociated with where our food comes from? I say yes.
We’re currently in Los Angeles County – and I wanted to see something remotely agriculture related. We started with the Hermosa Farmers Market, where we found 3 produce vendors who traveled from Central Cali to get to the market. THEN…we went north to Woodland Hills. On the internet, I had found a “farm” that had kids areas, events, etc. and was somehow tied into a college.
When we got there, it looked abandoned. I quickly checked their Facebook page, and it looked like, as of April 2015, they’ve been closed down. One more instance of our food getting just a little more distant.
According to their website, they had a 6 acre area dedicated to kids, farmers market and events   Their Facebook page offered the condolences of their patrons when they no longer were open for business
What we found was an eerily empty farm.  With a chicken house, with chickens inside, obviously fed once per day, but no one around.   We walked through their “cement garden” holding cement figurines offering a 1960’s display of the wild west, complete with a gunfight panorama and a graveyard.  The cement figurines chipped, with worn paint, surrounded by barren dirt, which once held a lively garden.
We went through a fallen gate and headed up to a fantastic horse barn.  There was a lone llama and pig in the huge facility  Again, with no one around, we walked through the barn and looked at the stalls, now used as storage for the “old farm activities”.
And most telling of all.   Signs touting the colleges “Agriculture Programs”, leading to an empty building, surrounded by cyclone fencing, waiting to be demolished to bring another building in for training IT students.
How disconnected are we from our food?  And how disconnected will the next generation be?  Who will show the kids of Los Angeles where “eggs come from” or what “pork chops are made of”.
America, wake up.  Without the local farm to table connection, we’re going to lose ourselves to the mega-corporations who are producing chemically enriched foods in a highly profitable manner.
Today we saw one more loss for the earth and one more win for Monsanto.

Mama Serama and Bingo

Today we became “chicken farmers”.

Oh, I had done the dollar costs of raising meat chickens…and organic eggs. How to raise, butcher and market chickens. We had planned our breeds, based on this research Wyandotte and Cream Legbars Then, my daughter announced she was moving to Ohio and needed to rehome some “hens”.

“What kind are they?” I asked.

“I dunno. Chickens, mom.” was the answer.

She said she’d start by bringing the rooster to us. Rooster? I thought we were getting hens.

Today she brought our “rooster”…which turned out to be her bringing us a hen and a baby A Serama chicken and her chick. So I immediately did the research.

These are cool birds! They are “miniature chickens” from Malaysia. About 1/2 the size of a regular chicken. Smaller than a banty breed. They are “social birds” who LIKE people. They actually LIKE sitting on their humans lap, will follow their human around the garden and are super gentle and easy for children to handle.

When they showed up, I fell in love. Such a tiny chick. Imagine a baby chick…now half the size. Absolutely adorable!

12644935_10153155855536511_478043360588528204_nMama Serama and Bingo.

What a good mom Mama Serama is. She is super attentive and protective of little Bingo. And Bingo is constantly with Mama.  Mama teaches little Bingo how to peck for food.  Mama pecks….Bingo pecks.   She teaches him to scratch, and occasionally, Bingo flies across the cage when he gets underfoot in a mid-scratch moment.

He rides on her back and if it gets a bit chilly, she raises up her wing and he runs underneath for warmth.   As with all chicks, when they are chilly, they get loud.  As Bingo’s chirps increase, Mama gathers him up and plops down on top of him.

Because they are from Malaysia, these are NOT cold hardy birds. While your larger breed birds can run outside in the snow, these little ones don’t survive if it’s below 40 degrees. But, they do great in heat. Which is fine, as it’s easier to add a heat lamp to a coop than an air conditioner.

12565568_10153155858341511_7943176068618567260_nThe size of these birds also allow for smaller cages. So with our Seramas, we remade our elaborate rabbit hutches, after rehoming the rabbits into their new cages, and converted each into a side-by-side Serama duplex. These are the perfect sized enclosures, and eventually, we’ll add plexiglass windows on the front.  This will allow for full time viewing of the birds, at a lower level for kids, and still allow them to stay warm and out of the drafts.

During the summer, a small chicken run will be perfect for them to get out more As far as being “pasture raised”, that’s not possible, due to the overhead predators in our woodsy environment.  But allowing for these little ones to roam and explore, that’s really what will make our farm a different space.

Welcome Mama Serama and Bingo – you’re home now!