Monday, January 28, 2008

A couple of things concerning our animals that happened today made me really smile. I was working at Paul’s and Christiane’s (industrial-scale pig farming neighbours) renovation project and nipped home at lunchtime to speak to Gabrielle and make a couple of phone calls. As I walked past, I bid “good day” to our next door neighbour, an elderly peasant lady called Solange, and then walked up to our two rabbit hutches on wheels to move them onto fresh grass. Solange, an expert in rabbit raising, walked over and complimented me on the size and quality of mummy rabbit (who’s about the size of a Labrador dog) and her eight offspring, then warned me against giving them wet grass to eat. I remembered that when we were at her house on a previous occasion, I had picked some weeds and given them to her caged rabbits who looked hungry and she said the same then: anything you give rabbits must be dry. The consequences were as follows: wet weeds or grass will give them the “gros vent” causing them to “crèvent. In English, as far as I understand what she said, after eating wet green-stuff, our rabbits will let out a huge bunny-fart and then dramatically die, rolling over on their backs with their four paws in the air, surrounded by the pervasive and fatal air of a bunny bottom burp.

We have been feeding our rabbits huge amounts of very wet green food for all their lives and never yet heard the dreaded fatal cuniculine trouser cough. Once I’d retuned from my quick visit home, I put this theory to the assembled masses around the dinner table and they all agreed. I really don’t know what to make of this, as everyone seems so sure that this is the case but that’s just not our experience. If you have any advice to pass on, please post a comment.

After the obligatorily comprehensive French lunch, Paul and I accompanied Philippe to Kysinia’s house to discuss some wood that was useful for carpentry / joinery and could be “bought” in exchange for some for some firewood. As we passed back through our property, we came across our free range flock of chickens and I tried to coax a little bantam into flying up onto my arm, as she is inclined to do. She performed to order, to everyone’s amusement, which provoked Paul into a little party trick of his own. He pickled up one of our new ladies, the New Hampshire / Leghorn crosses we recently acquired for free, and firmly tucked it’s head down, while simultaneously pulling it’s wing up to cover it. He then held it “trapped” like this for a short while rocking it back and forward, much as you might imagine rocking a baby to sleep. He got lower with each swing until he carefully laid the sleeping, or perhaps rather hypnotised, bird on the ground, where it remained, motionless for quite a few moments before coming around: weird, amazing and true! (… if a shame that I didn’t video it to show you.)


Val Grainger said...

Yes I know why she said no wet greens!! I used to keep rabbits when I was a child and my mother said the same...its to do with the wet vegetation giving them bloat and then the runs!! which can be fatal.
All green food should be dry not sopping wet...have never tried it in practice but as they say the same for housed goats I think it must be true! I personally reckon that so long as the bunny has a good mixed diet with lots of hay and pellets green food will do no harm at all, its just letting them gorge on the stuff occaisionally that would be fatal!

mandarine said...

If fresh grass killed rabbits, how come there are rabbits at all? Apart from mouldy grass, I cannot find (in my head nor over the internet) a reason why grass might be lethal.

This seems to be one example of the innumerable dumb prejudices and superstitions that are consubstantial to traditional French peasantry. In my region, they used to put a lot of effort (and wood) into cooking potatoes and chestnuts for hogs, because, you know, hogs die when they eat raw stuff.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks Val and Mandarine for your comments. I think that Val's reply answers part of Mandarine's question and as for feeding pigs cooked or raw potatoes, see these two book extracts, published 149 years apart: The Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens (1852) and Swine Nutrition by Autin J Lewis (2001)
And the answer is that it is advantageous to feed cooked potatoes.

mandarine said...

In fact, I do understand that raw potatoes may not be the perfect diet, but then lore has transformed this one requirement into a general obligation to cook everything that went to pigs.

Dancingfarmer said...

O.k here's my theory. As with all animals (humans included) if you eat too much at first of something not ever eaten or not eaten often it can upset your stomach. Using my sheep as an example---they can eat many things but they need to be added in a bit slowly at first if they haven't ever had them or haven't had them in a long time or they will get upset stomach, bloat and die because they are unable to "fart" (excuse me for being so rude!) Adding them slightly wilted at first helps since something about the high moisture increases the likely hood of bloat before they are accustomed to the new food.
So---back to the rabbits. Most people keep their bunnies in hutches and only feed them the occasional fresh green and feed them mostly pellets and hay. When we kept creme d'argents---we raised ours always on a open bottom cage. No bunny farts--no deaths. Why? Because they ALWAYS ate fresh grass and clovers and weeds. Naturally of course.
The only thing I could think of that blows up my theory is if you have a disease or parasite in your area (that I don't) that might live on or in the grass and cause this problem.
Sorry this was so long--hope it helps.

Anonymous said...

Hello Stuart and Gabrielle,

here is Julie, the french human mother of your female rabbit !!! I heard the same about wet grass, but i still give it to my rabbits since more than one year and nobody die... I always give other dry wood, like wheat and barley seeds. During winter, i don't give wet grass every day because there is not so much to collect. Also because if i was a rabbit, i would prefer to eat carotts, apples and hay. I really think that is good to give different kind of food. And last thing : i leave the baby rabbit during long time (3 months at least) with their mummy because she also feeds them...
Here is my way of living with rabbits.
See you soon