Spring Cleaning for Rabbits
Alternate title: Mud season in Maine!
Warning: Spring in Maine means mud
Animals mean poop.
If you are new to homesteading, we discourage reading this post while eating.
There will be some icky pictures...
One of the common questions I get about colony raising rabbits involves cleaning up the pens. Normally, this is a pretty easy task. When it starts to look nasty, bring a wheelbarrow and a shovel in - all five pens are done in 15 minutes.
The first cleaning of spring is a different story. First, it's difficult to clean up in the winter so there's quite a mess that needs to be moved. Secondly, the combination of ice, mud and poo is a nightmare.
Before we get started, I want to make it clear for anyone considering colony raising that this spring has been a worst case scenario for cleaning - which was why I felt it worthy of a write up. The combination of little snowfall this winter, combined with very extreme variations in temperature... well... let's just say it isn't what we had in mind when we designed the colony area.
Hay is what has been keeping bunny feet from being constantly wet and muddy. However, the hay is also an excellent insulator, and is keeping the ice underneath from thawing.
Decisions need to be made:
What is the weather report looking like?
Right now we are looking at continued warm weather and no rain, so mud will likely have time to dry out some in the next few days. This means I can pull back some of the hay to let things that out without worrying about rain and everything being soaked. I'll save some hay-areas though, so the rabbits have options
What is the age of the bunny babies?
All my current babies are old enough to handle a little water and mud, or still in boxes for at least another 2 weeks. If I had any that were in the "very small" and "out and about" overlap period I would be far more careful about the water/mud levels.
Can all the rabbits (especially the bred ones) access a breeding box?
The varying temperatures this time of year - helped by a little rabbit excavation - have resulted in several of our boxes becoming inaccessible. Due to water getting in the entryway and then freezing. The husband recently spend quite a bit of time creating tunnels for drainage!
Without this bit of hard work on his part, we have several soon-to-be mothers that might have struggled to find space, which can result in fights among does. To say nothing of the losing mother giving birth in the mud!
This will definitely be a multi-day event. Part of it is the weather and the frozen areas in the pen. I pulled back hay in several areas yesterday and uncovered ice. As of this afternoon, those patches have already melted and exposed more animal offal. Due to the odd weather we had this winter - freezing and warm, freezing and warm - I expect there will be a number of layers here to be dug through.
In addition, it is not only cleaning season, but breeding season! Gomez is currently in with his "lady of the spring" and she is a bit stressed about the changes. Not only is she getting deflowered, the space is smaller that she is used to. For the time being we will be leaving that area alone. Ditto with Maverick and his current girlfriend.
In addition, Charlie (doe) has been bred and started pulling hair yesterday, so she also gets a pass on disruptions for now!
Both of the major doe pens have now been given their first "once over" however and we now are just waiting to see if they dry out a bit, or if we did too good a job exposing the ice to the run which will mean more water and more mud.
In the meantime, all that lovely fertilizer will be going into the new garden plot and getting tilled in for happier plants!