In The Rabbitry: Heat Wave

The kits are nearly a month old and their coats are nearly all on. Their colors fascinate me: the genetics behind them, the way they change as they get older. It’s such fun to watch and interesting to see which kits grow the best and have the most personality. Once i begin my own ‘real’ breeding program, reserving junior bucks and does to become my replacement herd, i will be basing my choices on health, vigor, personality and maybe a little on coat color. I recently found out that my ‘red’ doe actually has a bit of a “smutty” coat and my ‘red’ buck’s belly is too white. Well, harumph, i say! They still make pretty babies. The kits my blue doe threw are really interesting to watch progress in color: i THINK they’re blue, opal and one black, but the jury is still out on the opals.

I absolutely love the color combo of my black japanese Harlequin rabbit with the red buck. Two of the kits are reddish plus spots and 2 are the light creamy color of Sake’s lightest stripes. I must admit, they are my favorite. I hope they’re all does so i can sell them to some interested parties (new page with animals and other things on the farm that are for sale coming super soon!)

So, my barn is full of cute lately and Blackberry is due in about a week. I’m guessing there will be some chestnuts in that litter but it really is a surprise. There’s something else in the rabbitry of late, and in the house, and outside: HEAT. There’s a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest right now, and although our creek and position at the base of hte coastal mountains keeps our evenings cool, the days have been in the 90s. Rabbits would love it if it could be 60 degrees all the time, so 90 is definitely stressful. I’ve been employing some short term coping methods, but am looking for something more long term for the future, as i do believe in climate change and doubt this weather will get much better anytime soon. Here are some of the methods i’ve been using with success:

  • Fans on! i have one big box fan blowing into the rabbitry from the center of the barn. My future barn plans include a large, industrial fan installed in the exterior wall of the barn
  • Misting: i don’t have “misters” per say, but i can squirt a bottle into the air on occasion
  • Ice: frozen water bottles work well but don’t stay frozen long, plus the rabbits chew them apart. The best solution i’ve found so far is to freeze those extra large yogurt tubs and place that in the cage. They can lay against it, lick it and once it thaws some the ice cube can be popped out to become a tiny iceburg that the kits enjoy standing on.
  • Wetting ears: get their ears wet to cool them down.
  • Frozen ceramic tiles: i freeze some big ceramic floor tiles in my chest freezer overnight and put them into the cages at the hottest part of the day. They really love these!

Those short term strategies are great, if you’re home. I’ll be vending the farmer’s market tomorrow so i won’t be here to place ice at the hottest part of the day. Some longer term strategies would include:

  • installing a misting system: there are issues there as we have such a low producing well i’d be afraid it could dry up with all that water pumping out. I’ll have to check on the gallons per minute. I’ve seen some that are portable and really inexpensive for the important impact they’d make, so i may invest in that and still be able to move it when i change the rabbitry location in the barn.
  • Insulation: I doubt i’ll be piling up a large berm of soil against the barn anytime soon, but adding a shedrow would help to shade the wall and i could perhaps add concrete blocks in the rabbit area to further insulate against the heat. I wonder if i could just insulate using old fleeces from friends’ sheep and adding a secondary wall…..

Clearly i have more brainstorming to do. Rabbits are hardy little creatures, but i hate to see them suffer. I have few enough that i can utilize these labor intensive coping strategies, but i have too many to just ‘bring them inside.’ If you’ve kept rabbits in the heat, please comment with some of the strategies you’ve utilized to cope with the heat.

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