The City Girl Farmer


The Down Side of the Circle of Life
April 7, 2009, 7:24 am
Filed under: Chickens, Rabbits | Tags: , , ,

I was warned by a guy who was an IT consultant-turned-cattle-rancher that there would be train wrecks as part of the learning curve.  One aspect of having lots of animals is that some of them die.  About a week and a half ago, we lost two of our new chicks.  One minute they were up and the next they were gone.  Thomas was the first to notice.  So we pulled the first one out and about a half hour later another one was gone.  I was scrambling on the computer and in our chicken book to figure out what the cause could possibly be and then Thomas noticed a third one and remarked that she was panting.  I told him to turn off the light and pull her out.  It was cold outside so I took her to the mud room (unheated) and stood out there for a few minutes with her.  We brought her in and gave her water with some sugar and some salt in it and we managed to save her.  So we guessed that the other two died from heat exhaustion since no one else has died since we moved the heat lamp further away.  My chicken mentor consoled me and told me she always loses some chicks whenever she gets a batch.  She said they might have been the ones who were too stupid  to move away from the heat or to get a drink of water.   But still…

And then yesterday morning I was out feeding the horses and I noticed that Othello (Thomas’ Angorra rabbit) wasn’t

Othello when he was a baby

Othello when he was a baby

doing the happy dance he normally does when I rustle around in the cupboard getting rabbit pellets.  When I looked in his cage there were leftover pellets from yesterday and that NEVER happens.  Rabbits eat them like candy.  He hadn’t touched his hay and normally he devours anything you give him.  So I brought him in so we could watch him.  His turds were much smaller than normal and he didn’t want to eat and only drank water reluctantly.  We suspected wool block which is common in woolly rabbits and started treating him with papaya and pineapple to see if we could break it up.  I was hopeful as we had caught it early and he was drinking and excreting.  By the evening, though, his breathing was very labored.  That is not a sign of wool block.   Sometimes rabbits get the “snuffles” and they sneeze and develop a thick mucous that comes out of their nose and shows up on their front paws sometimes from when they clean themselves.  Othello had what looked like salt crystals around his nose but no thick mucous on his nose or anywhere else.  Around 10:00 last night his breathing became so labored he was gasping and he was dead within about 10 minutes.  It was very hard to watch and it all happened so quickly that we couldn’t decide what we needed to do.  In retrospect, if we had sought veterinary care first thing in the morning he might have had a chance.   Even then, it might have been too late.  I have learned that since rabbits are prey animals they hide their sickness as part of a survival instinct, so it sounds like you not only have to watch them very carefully but also be willing to take them to the vet at the drop of a hat.  Anyway, I have a sad little boy today who is learning to deal with the fact that the animals we love die and that there will be more animals with our new life now, which is really good and lots of fun, but they will die, too someday, which is not so much fun.

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