Sunday, September 25, 2011

The definitive guide to how to sex a rabbit.

One learns a skill, doesn’t use it for 12 months and ends up having to learn it all over again (at least if you possess an age-deteriorated memory like mine).  After our recent medical emergency (see my last post) I was very aware that today was marked down as VHD vaccination day, sexing and separating; we were also childminding.

We look after our 9-year-old neighbour Camille on a Wednesday—her day off from school—as her mother has just started up a new business in a nearby town.

Rabbits quite like being stroked but they don’t like being picked up, so they make rather bad pets (and frequently suffer because of this).  Our vacant chicken tractor was converted into suitable rabbit accommodation by the addition of a mesh bottom (to prevent foxes digging in and them digging out) and we had a large dog box available too.  The idea was to take them out one at a time, vaccinate them and then sex them, males to the ‘chicken’ tractor and the females to the dog box temporarily.  Once they would have been all sorted, a quick clean of the rabbit tractor and all the females go back in.

I lift a rabbit up by the scruff of its neck , supporting its bottom, place it on the top of the dog box, then Gabrielle takes over, encircling the rabbit with her hands and forearms.  I pull a tent of skin up behind the neck and then aim backwards, inline with the rabbit, so to speak—piercing the skin to administer a subcutaneous injection of 0.5ml of Lapinject.  I learnt this technique by watching the vet treating a poorly cat of ours.  If one goes across the rabbit, there's a possibility of going into the skin and then out the other side again (as I've done, a couple of times!)

I then tuck its head between my knees and open the back legs, lightly pressing either side of its genitals to see it we have an ‘inny’ or an ‘outy’, with Camille watching on intently, eager to give her opinion.

I finished this exercise with several scratches to hands and forearms ... and some doubts: as I said in the beginning, it’s been a year since we last did this.   I popped inside for a healing and contemplative cup of tea to accompany a search around the Internet for some more clues on determining the sex of a rabbit.

This is the best and clearest advice I found.  We checked them all again and found we had made one mistake, a girl in with the boys.  The problem is that if one presses too hard, one can make an ‘inny’ appear like an ‘outy’, if you see what I mean.  What we’ve never noticed before, and this website helped us to identify, is a pair of leporine testicles (rabbity bollocks), which is really useful.

To be blogged about very soon: more eco-building stuff; French jazz in a narrow boat and how to make the best picnic sandwich using woodworking tools.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bunny Back from the Brink.

what's up doc ?

Last week, we lost one of our litter of eight young rabbits.  She went downhill suddenly and so we isolated her in the empty chicken tractor.  Another one was also off her food and hunched up, so we took her away too.  They were only ten weeks old and the recently bought vaccines were still in the fridge.  We were scared: was this myxomatosis or viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD)? 

The info from our two books and the Web seem to be exclusively directed at pets, rather than rabbits kept for meat with frequent advice to rush your bunny to the vet, not economically viable for us.

There was nothing we could do for the first one and, having read up on the symptoms of these two horrible diseases, I thought it would be a good idea to conduct a DIY autopsy (not so strange as I’m used to gutting and skinning them under different circumstances).  The liver was in good condition but the small intestine was blown up like a balloon: back to the Internet. (Click here for pictures of a healthy and an VHD infected liver)

bunny tummy massage
Happily, it didn’t seem to be VHD but perhaps gastrointestinal stasis or bloat.  We followed instructions to massage the patient’s belly, monitoring her temperature, keeping her warm and hydrated and trying Simethicone for flatulence, we even gave her an enema.  (If you’re interested, the Simethicone was bought at a pharmacy, in capsules.  We cut the end off a capsule and sucked the contents into a syringe, to administer by mouth to the rabbit).
As I said, we can’t possible call a vet every time one of our animals is in less than top form and part of being a smallholder is learning how to recognise signs of bad health and treat them ourselves and, of course, how to keep them healthy by good husbandry.  By happy coincidence, our lovely vet, Dr Hammadi Mouhli, called me to tell me that he was in our area and could he come by to burdizzo-ise (vasectomise) three male lambs (as previously requested) so we asked him to take a look at the remaining poorly rabbit as well.  Gros ventre’ (big belly) he pronounced and diagnosed a case of Coccidiosis infection, prescribing Metoxyl in their drinking water. 

By the time I’d passed by the surgery the following morning to collect the prescription, she was already looking a little better.  We took no chances and have administered the medicine but wonder whether our own efforts had already treated her and what, in fact, she was suffering from.   
happy bunnies

Monday, September 05, 2011

Tweet, tweet …

I’ve been tweeted and re-tweeted, tweeted twice in fact, twit-twoo.  I’m not a twitter, merely a blogger, so hardly cutting edge but one must move with the times.  So, although I enjoy writing articles for magazines, I write on a computer rather than with a fountain pen in a moleskin notebook, I’m no literary Luddite.

Permaculture Magazine have decided to put quite a lot of effort into publishing more articles on the Internet rather than increasing the size of individual magazines or the frequency of publication (still a frustrating wait for each quarterly magazine).  I continue to write articles for their magazines but have now started writing for their website too.
My first effort shows how to make a barbeque out of an old oil drum, aided by my diminutive assistant, 9-year-old neighbour Camille (here dressed up in her dad's work wear). 

My latest offering is how to press your own apple juice.  Either go to the magazine’s website and scroll down to ‘Readers’ Solutions’ or click here.

I sent the text and photos off and then my thoughts turned to the next project.  However, no sooner than it was published on the site than my step-daughter, Christina, emailed me (from her Blackberry) to tell me that she’d been alerted to Permaculture Magazine tweeting my nascent article and that she’d re-tweeted it to her Twitting followers.  I’m not sure I fully understand.

She signed off with, “Can't wait to try some of the juice!”  For all this electronic wizardry, she’ll actually have to come and see us, it’s not as if I can email the apple juice to her … or could I ?