Death Farm

If there was ever a time I felt I should bash my head in or give up– or both, it would be today.

Trevor and I do a full farm sweep every few days just to give everyone a thorough wellness check, other than our regular check-ins during feeding and closing times. Yesterday it was the bee’s turn. Usually during the cold and windy months, we give the hive a little knock and listen for the quick buzz of the inhabitants assuring us that they are, in fact, home. This time we had no such luck. After opening up the hive, it was evident that they swarmed due to the same wax moth invasion that Hive #2 suffered from just a month or so ago.

Our rabbits have recently decided to breed again since moving here in March. Last month, Philly give birth to some great looking kits… on the wire and they did not survive. She is usually a fantastic mother so I decided to give her another shot and immediately rebred Philly and one of our other does, Indigo. Tonight, Indigo had her first litter… on the wire. But more so, they were under-developed and stillborn. Not terribly uncommon for a first-time rabbit mother, but certainly disappointing. To prevent another “oops” litter with Philly (who is due in a few days), I have put her in a solid-bottom cage with lots and lots of straw bedding. It is on the small side, but I cannot lose another litter because of these empty headed rabbits.

When I asked the universe for a chance to start fresh in the new year, I didn’t really mean like this. I am frustrated to the point of seriously considering selling off all the rabbits and chickens to start over with new stock. Right now I only have Fruhlingskabine rabbit BUCKS, no Fruhlingskabine rabbit DOES, and I think that these does from other rabbitries just aren’t cutting the mustard because they haven’t been bred for this area and climate and weather and smell. Same with the bees and the chickens.

My new goal in 2015 is to buy and breed for sturdier stock. Wimpy stock is getting me nowhere. I need sturdy, Viking stock or something. I need animals that can lay eggs in the snow, birth their young with rabid predators scratching at the door without so much as batting an eye. I need animals with gnarly scars and battle axes and survivor’s spirit. Animals with strength and resilience.

I am tired of this death farm I’ve been running. It is pretty sad when a bunch of turkeys out in a tarp-covered hoop house are more resilient than the rabbits living in a lush, insulated shed. The rabbits don’t even have bobcats circling them like the turkeys do. Those turkeys are hardcore.

I am now looking for any and all recommendations for animal breeds who are: super resilient, hearty, sturdy, happy, and can withstand extreme temperatures (both heat and cold). First-hand experience only. Wimps need not apply.

25 thoughts on “Death Farm

  1. Sarah,

    So sorry to hear of your loses. It appears, “tis the season”. My favorite French Angora gave birth (her first litter) to 12 on the wire, all of which died. She then died a few days later. Our New Zealand doe gave birth a day after the French Angora, and she too gave birth on the wire, all 6 dead. Thankfully she survived and is doing well. My husband replaced my prized dead angora with 3 more angoras, a French doe, a French buck, and an English doe. The English doe is not doing well at all. The breeder says it is stress, but I have been attempting to keep her alive by hand feeding and loving on her most all the day long. She is drinking now, but still not eating and she still requires to be force fed. I am concerned she may not survive.

    We have also had 6 ducks taken by predators and numerous chickens also taken by predators.

    I hope things turn around for you. I have the same feelings of wanting to give up as well.


    Sent from Windows Mail

    • Oh man! It does seem like just about everyone has had above-average-losses this year. I refuse to raise English Angoras because from my experience, they are more sensitive and finicky. Hopefully we ALL have more successes next year!

  2. Sara, I feel your despair. Animals often do seem to be a lot more than we bargained for – but you have identified the issues for the most part and have a battle plan, which is more than many folks do. We have had a bad fall with our meat bunnies kits as well, so don’t think you are alone. It takes a bit to acclimate all the animals to a different environment- ours was only a 50 mile move but changed microclimates and threw off our chickens for 3 months…keep faith with Mother Earth and her ways.

    • Hear, hear! We also moved a teeny bit over 50 miles. But the climate and geography and weather patterns are drastically different. Trevor thinks we should just have a big barbecue and eat everyone… start all over. Hahahaa! I can’t say I am too opposed to the idea!

  3. Sarah… I will only have Jersey Giants from now on. They are total beast mode hens. Any hen that can be picked up then dropped by a hawk, have three talon gashes and a pneumothorax and survives clearly is a beast of a bird. Then survive our -20 degree to -40 with windchill winter last year… I’m telling you, they may not lay every single day but instead every other….to receive HUGE beautiful eggs. Well worth it. And they forage wonderfully. And are sweet docile birds. I will only have jerseys…. 🙂 🙂 good luck!! Sent from my iPhone


  4. Hey, Sarah. I am really not fond of winter breeding in rabbits. Beyond that, have you tested for coccidia? I know you wanted to have very little medical intervention, but I would be in very bad shape without my routine safegaurd and ivermectrin. But, really, I would take a break until at least the days ate getting longer instead of shorter. Much love.

    • I actually just also am having trouble with kits. My problem is they go floppy and die at a month old. I gave probiotics (benebac), and timothy, and it seems to be helping. I will see tomorrow if there are more deaths.

      • You know, Sarah, I keep thinking about this. Most of your stock comes from sea level, doesn’t it? I wonder if anyone breeds Angoras at a higher elevation that could help you out? I know that CC is in the valley, assuming low elevation, and MRR is at sea level, as well as many of the Oregon breeders. Wonder if there is something to that? Of course, I am not sure how much the elevation change is from your old place to your new place.

  5. Sarah,

    The last two sentences of the paragraph above your pictures on the right side mention learning and adventure. While it is a little less painful to learn from the experiences of others, we learn best from the things we experience ourselves. Sad, but true.

    The girls and I have learned so much about angora rabbits this year; however, the girls have learned much more than I, because they are the ones working with them, observing them, all the time. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. And as I tell the girls frequently, there is a reason rabbits have huge litters so often. It’s because a lot of those cute little bunnies (or their mamas) will die. I tell it to the girls before each doe kindles. I tell it to them when some of those kits die at birth (like happened with Snowball’s kits last month–4 of 11 died at birth). I tell it to them when one dies at four weeks and looked perfectly healthy and happy the previous day. And I tell it to them when the doe dies, and the vet had checked her out the day before for the usual problems (Charlotte’s self-chocolate doe–her absolute favorite–a very sassy chatterer), and leaves her month-old kits motherless.

    Can you bring Snowball indoors until she kindles? That would buy you a few more minutes if the kits are born outside the nest box again. And because she would be closer it would be so much easier for you to check frequently. Becky’s does kindled this afternoon. One had three, two stillborn. The stillborn ones were perfectly cleaned and still quite warm, but nothing I did would bring them back to life. The other doe had four, all outside the nest box. If Charlotte and Lydia hadn’t been checking every ten minutes, I’m sure they would not have made it.

    And you know Indigo just needs another chance.

    I can’t comment on the bees. I am a frustrated beekeeper myself.

    You don’t have a death farm. Just a series of Terrible Misfortunes (reference to the card game “Killer Bunnies”–check it out).

    (And thanks for the referral for the lady in Gardnerville. The girls really appreciate it.)


  6. Sarah,
    You don’t have a death farm just a working one.With life comes death. It’s a fact. Your stock has suffered trauma (moving). At least they like and feel secure in the new place to breed.

    Buck up, girl. It’s a new year. Maybe with a new breeding stock.

  7. Sarah, I sorry to hear that your having a bad time. Mother nature has a funny way of doing things. There is not anyway to understand why those things happen. But your still blessed with a family to love and a home to have your dreams come true. We too have had a set back. Sara-lu didn’t take so no calf. Lost 2 of my best chicken’s to raccoons, and our bees to the wax moth too. Our fall garden wasn’t as big this year either. Christmas is almost here and the New Year is right behind it. But when I wake up and go out to our yard. I still see the greatest things and I’m blessed with life itself. I take care of what I have left and in time I will rebuild. Sometime less is more. Have a Wonderful Christmas and A Happy New Year!!!!!!!! Mare

  8. I live in Northern Wisconsin, we get as low as -30 below temps in the winter and as high as over 100 degrees in the summer! I raise brevern/french lop cross rabbits for meat and have had great results with them! Great mothers that have between 8 and 12 kits! I only breed 4 times a year, usually in the spring and summer. I had 2 late batches this winter and the temps reached as low as -10 and all 18 kits made it through the cold temps great! They were 1 and 3 days old when the cold snap hit. I did put a kindle mat under them and never lost one! They seem to tollerate the heat well and also the cold. They are raised in a coloney, in an unheated, uninsulated shed. They reach 10 to 12 pounds in about 16 to 18 weeks. I feed only barley/wheat fodder and hay with free choice kelp. As soon as the temps drop below 40 degrees day and night, I do give them an additional small ration of pellets mixed with boss and shell corn, 1/2 cup for each adult rabbit per day. That helps to keep some fat on them and keeps them warm. I discontinue the ration as soon as the temps are above 30, day and night in the spring.

  9. I can’t comment on rabbits, but we’ve had chickens for about 4 years now. We’ve lost many over the years, including the time a raccoon wiped out the entire flock in one night. Anyway, getting hens to lay in winter can be done, but some think it’s not a good idea. I do know that if you put a light in the coop during the winter months, the hens lay more. We did that one year, and egg production didn’t let off even as the weather got really cold. You also have to try to fend off chicken boredom, too, which can hinder egg laying. I bake some chicken treat bricks to throw in the coop when it’s very snowy, or some whole apples to give them something new to peck at. Good luck!

  10. Chin up and look to the new year with hope and joy. It takes times of depsair and sadness to greater appreciate our joys. may your next littler be perfect, your Christmas be filled with joy and the new year full of hope and happiness and many roaring successes.
    We’ve 4 chicks doing well but the 9 eggs I shoved under another hen are due to hatch on Saturday. The small pen they were in collapsed and Mum deserted them. I found them warm and shoved them under another hen. Since then it’s been chicken roulette with many sets of feathered butts sitting on them. The ducks sit on anything that ends up under their butts but change nests on occasion and desert the old ones. The ducks are going in the new year. Wish me luck with some of the remaining 6 eggs hatching and I will send much luck and good thoughts for the arrival of kits on fur and in warmth and safety. May your vikings be born right on your farm. 🙂

  11. Oh, man! So sorry. I think you’re doing it the right way, but that doesn’t lessen the frustration. Don’t have any suggestions, pretty new to the game myself, but I believe you’ll get there!

  12. Poor Chickens always live the horror movie life, don’t go out after dark, don’t go see what that strange sound is… We’ve found that your favorite chickens are ALWAYS the ones that get killed, poisoned, or die. We have had 20+ breeds of chickens over the last 12 years. We try to use heritage breeds and really like the Buckeye and Delaware – dual purpose breeds, they are hardy, friendly and productive. The black & copper black Marans did really well for us too (the gray’s or cuckoo’s may work better in southern (hot, hot, hot) CA), with the bonus of beautiful chocolate brown eggs. We also really like the Welsummers and their speckled eggs. All were hardy in the freezing and baking of the midwest. Our boring Barred Rocks and Americaunas always outlive & out produce the others hands down – a few living to 7 & 8 years old.
    We recently moved to southern California and are trying to find fun breeds that tolerate the heat here – not so much cold.
    Good luck, hang in there!

  13. You might try ducks. Snow doesn’t faze them. They have that nice layer of down to keep them warm. And if you get one of the good production breeds like Khaki Campbells or Welsh Harlequins or Golden 300s, you’ll have eggs laid even when it snows.

  14. Hi Sarah,
    Been raising Brahma chickens here at the ranch for over ten years. They are a great dual purpose bird, good meat and great eggs. We are at 6200 feet in the N.Nevada mountains…. very cold in the winter, and pretty hot in the summer (it’s safe to say much more extreme weather swings than your area…I’m very familiar with the Calaveras County area). We also started raising Buckeye chickens recently and are very excited about their potential. Check them both out. As you know we also raise the Dwarf Nigerian Dairy goat. Great goat in weather extremes.
    Don’t give up, death is just as normal on the farm and ranch as is life. Disappointing yes, the end…no. This life is the test… enjoy it.

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