Bunnies love greens, everyone knows that! They especially need greens during the dark, cold days of winter. Munching greens gives rabbits vitamins they need in a natural way. Plus, they are delicious for bunnies. Affording greens to feed hungry mouths in winter is another matter.
In the past my grocery store carried dandelion greens and they were right on the edge of what I could pay to keep the livestock satisfied. This year they have no dandelions. I’ve been substituting parsley, but that gets expensive. The idea of growing my own greens became very attractive. So I started an experiment.
The tops of carrots are generally cut off and tossed when preparing supper. These are not wasted at our house, they go to the horses. Sometimes the carrot tops will actually start growing in storage in the fridge. I thought, why not try sprouting them for the bunnies?
So I cut off the top inch of a dozen carrots. Roots grow from the eyes on the side of the tap root that is a carrot, so at least an inch is needed to provide enough eyes to support the sprouts. I stuck the roots in a large pot of soil, put it in the south window and kept watered. In a few days green began appearing at the tops. It is slow going at first as the carrots develop roots. Soon there will be a good feathery growth of sprouts.
The tap root will not regrow. The pot provides plenty of room for this experiment. If left to develop, these tops will eventually flower and produce seeds.
I’ll wait until there are lots of stems before cutting a few at a time for my angoras. Now that I see how easy it is to grow carrots tops, I’m going to start a second pot as well. These should get the rabbits through until spring arrives with its abundance of green treats.
Three days ago I brought this handsome boy home to Phoenix Farm. His name is Garnet and he is a 7-month-old chestnut agouti angora. I particularly love his big eyes. Garnet was raised in Blue Hill, ME, about 1.5 hour drive east from us. Yet, surprise, surprise! His background has some of the same rabbitry as my current does. I believe his father is from the same breeder as my senior doe, a place down in southwestern ME, a two hour drive for us in a different direction! Oh well. They are not closely related. He should make a fine buck for my rabbitry.
Garnet is a real snuggle bunny. Males tend to like being held and fussed over more than females. Since he was a favorite of the lady who raised him, Garnet likely received lots of attention. He is also very interested in his girlfriends. I think they will make some lovely babies in the spring.
The agouti color is the wild pattern. Each hair has bands of color, just like a whitetail deer’s hair. Garnet is banded with cream, gray, and a bright chestnut red. In the photo below you can see the banding of the long hairs and also the red tips of the new coat coming in under the first fiber the rabbit grew. He is starting to shed his first coat and I will be harvesting him soon. The color of an angora rabbit is told by the face. The wild type pattern is quite visible on Garnet’s face.
When agouti fiber is spun, the yarn has a pretty variegated appearance that many people like to use. I’m hoping Garnet will produce some adorable agouti babies.
Meet the newest member of the Phoenix Farm rabbitry, Ruby, a chocolate angora doe. She was born here on the farm at the end of April. Although she is not yet six months old, she is the same size as her mother and her fiber coat is lush and long. The hairs are up to seven inches long! When this baby is full grown she could well produce hairs to eight or nine inches in length! Below is Ruby with some of her siblings in June.
Ruby was named by my granddaughters. I think the name fits perfectly. She is a gem of a bunny! Her parentage is mostly French angora with English, German and Giant mixed in. The ears and face show her ancestry as French angoras tend to have very little long fiber in those areas. The German and Giant in her contribute to her large size. Bigger rabbits produce more and longer fiber.
I have just started harvesting her first shedding of fiber. Our rabbits are hand pulled, a process that does not cause the rabbit any discomfort since only the mature, loose hairs are removed. When she is done harvesting, her coat will be about two inches long instead of the current six to seven inches. She feels like a big fluff ball, all fur covering a much smaller bunny body underneath. The fiber is excellent quality with a superior length, lovely cream color shading to brown and grayish-brown at the tips, with a good crimp. I know it will spin up into gorgeous yarn!
Ruby shares an over-sized, comfortable cage with her mom, Moonstone. Frequently they come out to hop around the barn. Moonstone loves to dig holes! Mother and child really enjoy being together and I will try to house them in this manner for companionship. It is harder to keep angoras in groups because the constant rubbing together of their coats creates mats. They will require more frequent grooming. It is the least I can do for bunnies who are so generous with their fiber.
The baby angora rabbits are four weeks old today and they have achieved maximum cuteness. All six are healthy and rambunctious. Last night they came out of the pen and ran all over the barn for the first time. Bunny paradise! These friendly fawns enjoy cuddling. It’s my onerous task to snuggle the little ones, accustoming them to being handled. Sometimes raising rabbits is a tough job!
There are three white albinos with red eyes, and one each of chocolate, sable and color point. I have not checked them yet for sex, but am hoping at least a couple of the colored ones are female so I can keep them. I might even keep a white one since I’m down to just one adult rabbit with the loss of my buck. He sure gave me some pretty babies.
The color point is such a lovely shade. It’s creamy with brownish-gray point. Even the little tail and feet are pointed, so adorable. The chocolate and sable are beautiful, deep shades. And who can resist a red-eyed white fawn that loves to sit in your hand?
The babies eat like little piggies, taking in the nutrition they need for rapid growth. Fresh dandelions, clover, wild carrot and grass are a daily treat they rush over to nibble. Mama Moonstone is doing an excellent job raising her babies. A really great mother bunny.
Since I have so few rabbits, it will be hard to let any of them go. At least there is another month to enjoy their antics. The ones going to new homes will be ready to leave at eight weeks of age. I hope to also locate a young, unrelated buck for my rabbitry so there will be baby bunnies next year.
My beautiful angora buck Marble passed away quietly this morning. He was eight years old, a venerable age for a rabbit. I will miss his silly brand of bunny humor, his friendly ways and his thick, lustrous coat of fiber. I held him in my hand the day he was born, a tiny, warm, pink bundle.
He had been slowing down for the past few weeks and I suspected the end was nearing. Over a year ago I felt some tumorous nodules on him and it is likely cancer got him in the end, as it does many rabbits. Nature designed rabbits as prey animals who survive in the wild for just one to three years. They were not intended to last long enough for cancer to grow. As they age they are prone to tumors.
Marble spent yesterday outside enjoying a fine May day, eating grass and dozing in the sun. That is the sort of day he deserved. He was a wonderful rabbit and an excellent buck, producing several superb litters of fawns. His last litter is just a month old now, the nicest little bunnies anyone could want. I plan to keep several of his babies. His legacy will live on.
Joyful Yule to all! This shortest day of the year finds the farm tucked into an 8″ blanket of snow. The temperatures struggle to the 20sF during the day and dip toward zero at night. This morning the sun favors us with a watery, weak glow, halfway to its zenith at 8:30 am. The light has a yellowish cast due to the angle.
We modern humans understand how the tilt of the Earth determines the seasons, unlike our poor ancestors who huddled in fear through the dark and cold. What if the sun just kept fading and didn’t return? No wonder sacrificial rites were performed during the depths of night and celebration ensued when the daylight lengthened. Today we know spring will return and our fear is more of how warm the world is becoming.
The last couple weeks haven’t felt too warm! Chickens snuggle on the roosts, sharing body heat, and don’t lay eggs when it is so chilly. The horses are wrapped in thick winter coats. They stand in patient reverie awaiting the next feeding as icicles form on their long whiskers. Angora rabbits are made for cold weather. Six inches of angora fiber is just the thing to keep a bunny toasty. The dogs delight in snow. They would spend hours romping in it if we let them. The cats pine for their outdoor cage, which must come down in the winter or be destroyed by snow. They content themselves sitting in the windows and chattering at the multitude of wild birds flocking to the feeders.
The feral pheasant may still be around. Last week he came into the barn twice to eat scratch grain I left out for him. Then we got a brutal storm with snow, wind and cruel freezing rain overnight. The pheasant has not been seen since. The scratch grain was still disappearing so I figured the bird was coming in to eat. Then I surprised four bold mourning doves who flew right into the barn to take the offerings. I moved the scratch into the lower barn where I know the pheasant will look, but the doves won’t dare to venture. Yesterday the pile of grain was depleted and I thought there were some larger bird footprints in the dust. So, perhaps the pheasant still holds his own. I’m rooting for him.
Now there is little for us to do but turn our heads from the wind as we trudge through winter chores, sit by the woodstove and let the heat work into the bones, finally read that book we’ve wanted to get to, catch up on inside work, nap. And wait for spring.
Moonstone’s three babies are achieving maximum cuteness at one month of age. The angora rabbit fawns are little bundles of fluff that fit neatly in your hand. Two are white albinos with red eyes and one is a chocolate point with blue eyes. I believe the chocolate point and one white are female and there is one boy. They are still so young that I can be fooled when sexing babies. I’ll check again in a month. At that age their sex will be fairly obvious.
By copying what mother does, the little ones have learned to eat pelleted feed, drink from a waterer and bowl and nibble grass, hay, fruit wood twigs and apples. Young rabbits have big appetites. We go through a lot of pellets when there is a litter of rabbits to raise. Happily, there are only three this time so the feed bill won’t be as big as when there are six or eight to grow.
I talk to the babies and handle them frequently so they will be gentle and accustomed to humans. As they enter four to five weeks of age, the fawns develop a natural curiosity and are moving away from the protection of their mom. This is a great time to socialize them with humans.
Mom still nurses her fawns and allows them milk once per day. Whenever anyone tries to get a little extra drink, she hops smartly away. At two months she will wean them and the little ones will be ready to go to new homes. If the chocolate point turns out to be a doe, I may keep her for my rabbitry. She is adorable!