A lot has happened since my last critter update. I'm not even sure where to start so I'll start with the chickens (aka the bad news) first.
My hens, sadly, have all but completely stopped laying. In the past, they laid through the winter at a respectable rate. They have just finished their second season so I should not be surprised if some of them stop laying all together, though I am hoping they pick up a little once the days start getting longer. All of the hens, save for Dumpling (pictured above), are molting...a very "soft" molt, so it's taking forever. During this time, the hens lose smaller amounts of feathers over a longer course of time. It's better for them because they don't have to contend with the blustery cold with most of their feathers gone, like if they had gone into a hard, quick molt. It's bad for us though, because we have to go longer without eggs, which they completely stop laying while they grow new feathers. If we were depending on the eggs for food, I probably would have culled them this spring and had some new egg layers ready to put in their place. I like these biddies too much for that, so here they are taking advantage of my weakness...for now.
As far as the rabbits are concerned, things are going as well as can be hoped for...
Salad's litter is bright-eyed, friendly, and growing quickly. I expect to sell a couple for breeding to a friend who is also interested in raising rabbits for meat. I will pull a couple from Sal's bunch and a couple from Hazel's. With rabbits, it's ok if parents share partial genetics, like from the same father....it is not ok for them to breed with their sister, brother, father or mother. So, one of Hazel's does will be paired with one of Sal's bucks. Different mothers, same father.
Sal is having trouble with some nasty crusting inside of her ear. I have been swabbing the inside with propolis extract which she absolutely hates, but I think I will have to do a more extensive cleaning this weekend when I have an extra set of hands to help out with. I can't emphasize how important it is to do regular health checks. I should have caught this early on so it would have been less stressful for her.
Hazel's litter is nice and fat. We lost the only runt in the litter last week. It never really stood a chance. It was easily half the size of the rest of the kits and very weak. I tried supplementing it's feeding but it was too far gone. It died in the night. I removed it's limp little body from the nest box and buried it in the garden where it would supply nutrition to the soil life. Nothing is ever a waste when you observe from the perspective of nature. That little kit might not have grown to feed me, but it will feed something else. If I have it my way, my body will go back to the soil to pay back my debt to it as well.
I've had a few visitors this week, coming by to pick up chicken feed for their backyard flocks. Both times children accompanied them. I took them to see the rabbits and let them hold the irresistibly fuzzy kits. They loved them. I had to carefully navigate around the topic of rabbits being a food source. I don't want to be responsible for traumatizing youngsters. I'll leave that to their folks. One parent, surprisingly, was quite adamant that I be forthcoming with his sons about my intentions. "We eat meat...they need to know where it comes from." That's my kind of dad! I told them that some of them would become food for me and my neighbors to eat. They didn't seem shocked by it, but I wonder if they were old enough to understand what it meant without observing the bloody truth of it. Hell, I'm 31 years old and I feel like I've only begun to graze the surface.
Anyway, that's where things are around here right about now. I made a short video update of the rabbits too, so feel free to give it a watch if you'd like: