Category Archives: Critters

Playing Chicken

Playing Chicken

The girls

The great chicken experiment came to an end in August.

The girls had a rough summer.  They were attacked by a fox in June and we lost two of them.  The other two I brought back to my place to recover.  Dora, the Buff Orpington, had a sprained hip and couldn’t walk, while Minnie, the Arucana, had a bunch of pulled feathers on her back.  Minnie was so protective of Dora.  Every time any of us would go near Dora, Minnie would run in between to stand guard.  It took about 2 weeks for Dora to get back on her feet.

We were getting ready to take them back to the farm when another disaster struck.  Minnie developed a prolapse.  I do not recommend Googling this, because it’s pretty disgusting looking.  Prolapse isn’t an uncommon condition in chickens.  Their egg plumbing shares real estate with their excretion plumbing, and sometimes pushing all that stuff out pushes some of the plumbing out, too.  The only thing to do for it is to keep pushing it in and set up conditions so they don’t lay as often.  This is why most large scale chicken farmers just cull them when that happens.  It’s a lot of intensive manual work.  Literally manual, as you have to shove your finger up the chicken’s butt.  But after almost a week of pushing it back in, it wasn’t staying and I, a new chicken keeper, panicked.  I took her to the local chicken vet, who said I’d been doing good, shoved everything back in, put in 2 stitches and charged me $250.  Ouch.  (Thanks, Mom!)

We kept them home another week to finish the recovery.  Minnie ripped her stitches out 3 days later laying another egg, but everything stayed where it should be, so we started making plans to relocate.

When Dora prolapsed.

There was no way I could spend another $250 on this, so I committed myself to more chicken fingering and started researching the best ways to put down a chicken.  This time I just kept on, and after 10 days, when I was just about to give up, she started getting better.  It stayed in longer every day, until finally it didn’t come out anymore.  So the key to prolapse is, apparently, endless patience.

But by this point, I’d had two chickens living in my kitchen for 6 weeks (remember, chickens are illegal in my town), and I was pretty done.  So I reached out to my friend Deb up north.  Deb has an actual farmette where she raises alpaca and has in the past had quite a flock of chickens.  She had gotten out of the egg business, but apparently had gotten into chicken rescue.  She had just taken in 4 from a friend whose landlord had decided chickens were a no-no, and so was willing to take on my two girls as well.  So with a heavy but hopeful heart we packed up the girls, their food and their goodies and drove them up to their new home where I hope they are still living a happy chicken life.

Do I regret having done this?  No, not at all.  I loved those girls, and I learned so much about chickens and about myself while raising them.  I can’t wait to have my own farm where I can see them every day and really be part of their lives instead of a once a week chicken farmer.  They have so much personality and are so engaging (even though yes, they are pretty smelly!) that I really need to have them as part of my life.

I saved a dozen of their eggs and blew them out.  Now I’m trying to decide on a good way to decorate them for ornaments so I can always have a reminder of them.



In the spring of 2010, we adopted two kittens from the SPCA.

kittens kittens2

Normally I prefer to adopt older cats, as it’s harder for them to find homes, but it had been almost 3 years since we’d had any cats, and the kids had never had a kitten, so this one time we made an exception.

We were lucky to find two littermates, who we promptly named Lewis and Clark.  They were so tiny and sweet, but incredibly independent.  As they grew, they developed their own personalities.  Clark was the hunter.  Our mouse problem disappeared as he got big enough to keep them intimidated, and we would occasionally find “gifts” on our back porch.  Lewis was the explorer, always wandering further and further afield.  They were indoor cats for the first year, but once they were old enough and knew where home was, we started to let them have outdoor time.  Lewis became more of an indoor/outdoor cat.  He would insist on going out every morning when we did, then would come home for a few hours before going back out to patrol the neighborhood again, only to come home for dinner and the night.

But time went on, and when they were about 3, the worst happened.  Clark was hit by a car.  I wasn’t home, so Morgan was the one who got the news.  He did a good job of collecting the body, but he was devastated. The kids all took it pretty hard.  We had our traditional pet burial, with everyone sharing a good memory of the pet and asking him to send us our next one.

Lewis took it hard, too.  He seemed….lost.  Like he couldn’t figure out where Clark had gone.  He moved in with Morgan and became pretty much exclusively his cat.  He spent more time outside, even during the winter, really only being in the house at night.

I could understand that, and I’m entirely about letting a cat be a cat.  I’m kind of a laissez faire pet owner.  For me, pets aren’t children.  They’re animals we share space with.  Cats are hunters and explorers, and I respect that.  We tried a couple of times to keep Lewis in, but he managed to escape every time, and it just became too frustrating for both sides, so we let him do what he wanted.

But I wanted a house cat.  Hence our trip this winter back to the SPCA and the adoption of Hudson.  Who has been a great addition to the house, except for one thing.

He and Lewis hate each other.

I’m used to cats not getting along when they first move in together.  In all my past experiences, after a couple of weeks they adjust and, maybe not become good friends, but at least learn to cohabitate.  Not these two.  Lewis would hiss and yowl every time he saw Hudson, and Hudson would sit and stare at him daring him to try anything, or else stalk him, never initiating contact, just always being in Lewis’ space in a “Mom, he’s touching me!” kind of way.

By the time spring came, Lewis had had enough.  He moved out.  Permanently.

For a while he would still come home, but would never come in the house, just camp out on the front porch.  Morgan and Eric set him up a shelter with food and water there, and would go out and give him attention whenever he’d come around.  By mid summer, though, even that had stopped.

We still see him around the neighborhood.  This is a relief in some ways, to know he hasn’t been hit by a car or anything.  He’s neutered, so he’s not adding to the neighborhood population.  But he won’t come near us.  This hurts Morgan the most, to have this cat who was HIS cat run away from him whenever he sees him, especially when Morgan has seen strangers able to approach him.  I also feel bad because we’re responsible for him, even if he won’t let us take care of him.  If we could, I’d like to catch him and try to re-integrate him into the house, but he won’t let us close enough to try.

It’s hard, mourning a cat who’s not dead.  He’s not yours any more, but you can’t mourn him and move on, either.  You just wait.  And think about how you let him down.


Animal Update

Animal Update

Current index of our menagerie:

3 rabbits
1.5 cats
1 guinea pig
4 black swallowtail butterfly chrysalises

The Rabbits

We lost Taffy over the summer.  We still aren’t sure how or why she died.  It wasn’t overly hot, and the rabbitry is well ventilated.  We suspect it may have been wool block.  Long haired rabbits chew on their own fur, which builds up in their digestive tract and can cause blockages.  But we weren’t seeing any signs of it, such as rabbit poo linked with fur.  She was fine when Hero fed her that night, but the next morning she was dead.  So that was really hard.  I respectfully collected some of her fur and have spun it into a special yarn for Hero.  Now we’re trying to decide what to do next.  We could buy a breeding pair, or we may breed Loki with another purebred French Angora to see if we get any long haired babies.  That will wait until January or so, though.  We don’t want to be dealing with bunny babies during the holidays.

Loki had an unexpected health crisis over the summer.  Three weeks before the 4H fair, she got an open sore on her side.  I took her to the vet (I’m a bad pet mom.  They only go if they are really sick.  This was pretty bad.), and it turned out she had a hot spot that went the whole length of her side.  Think a really bad blister.  The doctor had to cut back a lot of her fur and skin.  Brace yourself.

Then we had to put a poultice on it twice a day for two weeks.  Which she didn’t like much at all.  It healed quickly, though, although not quickly enough for her to be shown at the fair this year.  Hero was upset about that, since this was her last year in the club.

The boys did show, and did well.  Sam beat his dad out for Best of Breed this year.  Tux is so small next to his kids!

Sam made some friends at sleepaway camp

Sam made some friends at sleepaway camp

Now we’re settling into the fall schedule, making sure the rabbitry is snug for the winter.  Sam has decided to channel Houdini, so we’ve had a couple of rabbit chases through the neighborhood.  Brat.

The Guinea Pig

We found someone else at the 4H fair:

This is Wheatley.  One of Hero’s 4H buddies breeds cavies as well as rabbits, and was selling a couple at the fair.  We’ve been trying to convince Xander he wanted a pig for a while now, and he fell in love with this one.  I didn’t want to get him that day, as the next day we were leaving to go camping for a week.  So we arranged with the owner (and her grandmother) to buy him but then pick him up after we got back.  He and Xander are actually pretty well suited.  Wheatley doesn’t like to be handled much, and Xander doesn’t like holding him much because he moves weirdly.  The two are pretty content just to share space.  But he’s been a nice addition to the household.

The Cats

How does one have half a cat, you ask?  Well, Lewis, our grey tabby that we’ve had for about 6 years, has decided he doesn’t want to live with us anymore since the other one moved in.  He’s always been an outdoorish cat, but over the summer he just stopped coming home.  We know he’s still alive, as both Morgan and I have seen him in the neighborhood.  With the seasons turning, we are devising a plan to try to lure him home and get him back inside so we can re-acclimate him to being our cat.  Updates as we get on.

Hudson, meanwhile, has settled in nicely.  He tolerates the rabbits and can’t really be bothered with the guinea pig, although Morgan says he was kind of a dick to Lewis, leading to Lewis’ emigration.

He’s also decided he wants to be an outdoor cat, too.


He doesn’t go far.  Just enough to show me he can do what he likes.  Brat.  All my animals are brats.

The Caterpillars

I went out last month to harvest my carrots in preparation for planting a fall crop, and found them covered in these:


I did some quick research and identified them as Black Swallowtail caterpillars.  A bit more research, and I brought 4 of them into the house to hatch.  Kept stuffing them full of carrot tops, and 5 days later they were all tucked away in their chrysalises.


You can just see two of them hanging from the top of the habitat there.  Not as pretty as monarch chrysalises, but interesting nonetheless.  We used to hatch monarchs every summer when I was a kid, so this was a flashback for me.  But these guys were so late in the season, they’ll stay wrapped up now until spring.  We just have to keep the habitat a little humid so they don’t dry out this winter.  I look forward to seeing them in the spring!

So that’s the zoo.  For now.  I don’t forsee us getting anything more, but in this house, you never know…




I’ve been wanting another cat for a while.

We got Lewis and Clark over 6 years ago.  They were/are great cats, and a great introduction for the kids to owning kittens.  Unfortunately, Clark was also and introduction to pet loss, as he was hit by a car two years ago while I was at work and Morgan had to deal with it without me.  Since then, especially since the addition of three new rabbits, Lewis has become almost exclusively Morgan’s cat.  He eats in Morgan’s room, sleeps there, and really is only comfortable around Morgan.  If one of us opens the door for him to come in from outside, it’s a 50/50 chance whether he’ll come in or run off.

So for about a year, I’ve been wanting another cat for the rest of us.  I’ve always been a believer that cats happen to you rather than the other way around.  I’m sure it comes from my childhood when we always had LOTS of cats.  Usually at least for, but there was one point where we had 10-14 at once (Mom and I were debating the numbers last week.  Needless to say it was a lot.)  Most of our cats have come to us by someone asking if we wanted a cat/kitten/stray.  Lewis and Clark we got from the SPCA because we specifically wanted kittens.  Usually I prefer to adopt older cats because it’s harder to find them homes.  Older cats and black cats.  But nothing was coming our way.  About six months ago, I started occasionally checking out the SPCA website, just in case the perfect cat came along.  Last month, I wanted to go over in person to see what they had.  But that’s dangerous.  You can’t walk into a shelter and not walk out with an animal.  At least I can’t.  But I knew we were going away at Christmas, and it didn’t seem right to bring a new cat into the house and then not be there to a) bond with it and b) supervise the awkward introduction to the existing cat.  But for some reason, Monday I felt like it was time.  I was home for the day, and this week is a short week anyway with the New Year’s holiday.

First things first, though.  I had to get the menu and grocery shopping done, as we had no food in the house besides leftover Chinese.  And my room, where the new critter would have to live for a few days during the adjustment, was a pit.  So if I got both of those things done, I was allowed to go and look.  Look, mind you.

Yeah, right.

Well, apparently that was enough incentive and by 12:45, Hero and I were on our way out to the shelter in Perkiomenville, where the website said they had at least two cats that met one of our criteria.  See, we went into this with a plan.  The way to keep from taking just any old cat home was to have a list of things you wanted in a new pet.  We had 4.

  1. It had to get along with other animals
  2. It should be friendly.
  3. We would like a long hair.
  4. We would like a black cat.

Really, only the first two were required.  We couldn’t have an animal in the house that couldn’t adjust to Lewis and at least tolerate the rabbits.  We all wanted an affectionate pet.  We love Lewis, but he just won’t let us pet him much, and he certainly won’t sit or sleep with us.  The appearance points were just preferences.  I love long haired tuxedo cats.  But if we’d found a smooth calico that fit the first two requirements?  I’d be for that.  I’ve always wanted a calico.  And I honestly didn’t care if it was a kitten or an adult.  Kittens can be trained to tolerate other animals.  List in mind, we cleaned out the cat/rabbit carrier and hit the road.

I’d never been to this branch before.  We usually go to Conshohocken, as it’s nominally closer.  The Perkiomenville branch is out in the boonies, but it’s a nice facility that includes a farm for larger animals.  The small animal room was nice, with three walls of crates for the cats, a couple of smaller cages for rabbits and guinea pigs and the like, and a glass enclosure in the middle with a couple of cats hanging out in it.  One of them was a big fluff monster that I liked the look of right away.


He was in with a young tabby, but the fluffer, Teddy by his label, just laid there and ignored him until the youngster came over and took a swipe at him.  Then he got up quickly and took a “back off” swipe but didn’t actually go after the other cat.  I liked that.

We looked at the other cats for a bit.  There was a dark tabby 1yo with white paws who was very playful, and an all black 2yo polydactyl (extra toes!  They’re good luck!) who was friendly.  But I kept coming back to the fluffer.  The keeper opened the enclosure for to meet him better.  We weren’t allowed to pick him up, but he came right over to use and started demanding scritches.  That covered three of our criteria.  He got along well with other animals, at least other cats, he was friendly, and he was a long hair. AND he was already neutered and had all his vaccinations and a clean FLV test.  Perfect. The poor thing had been there almost 6 weeks, and I’m really not sure why, unless it was because he was supposed to be ours.  Which I know is superstitious, but he was such a sweet animal, it’s hard to think of another reason no one would have scooped him up by now.  But I didn’t want to leap without being sure.  There was one other long hair, this one a marmalade color, but when we asked about seeing him, the keeper said he didn’t play well with others.  So that was that.  We grabbed “Teddy”‘s card and went out to do the paperwork.

One problem.  They only take cash or credit.


See, I had plenty of money on my credit card, but I didn’t have much on my debit card.   Actually, at that moment I had no idea HOW much I had on the debit card.  I’d mailed in a deposit before we left, but with autopays and the like, I hadn’t checked my balance.  Heart in my shoes, we got in the car to run over to the local Wawa’s to see if we could get the cash.

I just about cheered like a slot machine paying off when the machine spit out the cash!

We hurried back, made the payment and gave them our carrier, then waited while they implanted a microchip in him (all part of the service!) and brought him out to us.

While I stood there waiting, a woman and her 10yo daughter came in and marched up to the counter, proud as could be, carrying a small carrier of their own.  I heard the mother say, “We were in yesterday, and we’re here to adopt Teddy.”

Double gulp.

When the clerk told them Teddy had just been adopted, the lobby went silent.  Then I heard a sniffle.  And a sob.  Oh god, I felt TERRIBLE.  Hero came out in the middle of this, so I pulled her aside to explain and then SHE felt terrible.  And the poor kennel worker who brought him out to us had no idea what he was walking into when he gave us the carried and said loudly, “Enjoy your new home, Teddy!”

Crap.  We got out of there fast.  I really hope she falls in love with one of the other cats.  (He never would have fit in her carrier, anyway.)

He needed a bath badly, and the vet had advised us that he was a few pounds overweight, so a stop at the pet store was in order for shampoo and food.  But first off, he needed a new name.  I’m too much of a snob to have a pet named “Teddy”.  Plus we’d had a dog named that when I was a kid.  So I wanted something interesting and at least marginally fannish.  What we’d seen of his personality didn’t suit anyone from The Force Awakens, so my immediate fallback was Sherlock.  But he was no Sherlock, and lord love him, he’s not quick or clever enough to be John.  I lingered on the Watson idea, though, and had kind of decided on Nigel after Nigel Bruce when Hero suggested Hudson.  Which was PERFECT.  It fit the recent trend of giving our cats explorer/historical names and fit the fannish requirement.  And he’s tabby-ish, in honor of the other cat I’ve known named Hudson, a stray my mom had had who she and my siblings named after Hudson Hawk.  So Hudson it is.


He was good the whole ride home and while I was in getting his goodies.  There are way too many choices in cat food, let me tell you.  We got him home and into my room, shut the door, set up his litter and food dish and let him out.  He wasted no time coming out and exploring the room.  He did hide under the bed for a bit, but then came out to demand attention.  Pretty much if there’s a person around, that’s where he wants to be.  Which was fine, because we were happy to give him the attention.


After dinner he got his bath.  Considering how big he is (fifteen pounds), I worried that I might have trouble with him, but he just stood in the water and complained while I soaped him up.  Unlike most fluffy cats, he didn’t get a lot smaller when he was wet!  Hero got the comb and we started working on his knots.  It wasn’t too bad, but bad enough that it took a while, especially his belly. Then he just leaned his damp body against me while he noisily groomed himself in revenge and then took a damp nap on my pajamas.  But he dried out a lot softer and floofier, so it was worth it.

He’s a bit of a bugger to sleep with.  If you even brush him with your hand, he thinks it’s scratching time, so I got head butted a couple of times in the night.  And he’s not great about covering his poo, so it was a little odiferous.  But I’m sure that’s from the change in diet and will level out.


I’m taking my time letting him out of the room.  First off, I want my room to be his comfortable place.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a cat willing to share a bed with me!  And second, since Lewis isn’t always indoors a lot, I want plenty of time for them to get to know each other with a door between them.  Mom gave me the tip of rubbing both cats with facecloths that we could then give to the other cat so they could get used to each other’s scent.  Lewis wasn’t wild about this idea, and Morgan has the scratches to prove it, but it seems to be working, as Hudson is very curious about the Lewis cloth and Lewis slept on the Hudson cloth (although maybe he was just marking it as his.)  Hudson was not pleased when I went to work Tuesday morning and left him on his own.  But by Thursday afternoon, I’ll start giving him free range of the house.  By that point, they should hopefully either resigned themselves to each other or they just need to get it out of their systems.

But I think our timing was perfect, and Hudson is going to be a good addition to our family.


Fair Share

Fair Share

That was a long weekend.


Our babies did good, though.  Both Tux and Taffy took First Place and Best in Breed, which meant they got to complete for Best in Show.  They didn’t win, but it was an honor just to be nominated! 😉

And I ended up on display on Saturday!  Hero wanted me there for the day on Saturday, so I took my travel wheel and camped out behind the cages out of everyone’s way and started working on a project for Nerdopolis.  Within 10 minutes one of the club parents asked me if I’d mind sitting out front where people could see me and answering questions.  Thank goodness I’d brought the yarn I’d made from Taffy’s fur!  Since I was spinning sheep, and Masham, which is not a very soft fiber, at that, I was able to show the difference between different fibers and let people fondle the yummy finished yarn.  I played Find the Rabbit That Made This with some of the kids, and they got a kick out of that!

And Peggy got a new forever home!  It was hard to let her go, but her new home is everything we could have hoped for her.  This boy who I think was about Xander’s age and who I think also had learning disabilities, camped out in front of her for about an hour, insisting to his parents that he wanted her.  I think they were hesitant, but the grandmother of one of Hero’s 4H friends talked to them for about half an hour, answering any questions they had and telling them about the club.  They convinced him to join, and while he was over at the petting table, they bought her for him as a surprise.  The absolute joy on his face when they gave her to him was worth everything!  And he’s going to be in the club, so Hero will still get to see her occasionally.  Peggy needed to be an only rabbit, and she is going to get spoiled rotten, I can just tell.  It really was the best result we could have hoped for.  It was hard letting her go, though.  We were all a little teary afterwards.  Even Hero’s friend with the grandmother said, “I’m getting teary and I’ve only known her for a DAY!”

Sam, however, didn’t sell, which I don’t mind too much.  Sam is my favorite, so I don’t mind keeping her around.  She may yet get a different home, though.  Just before the fair, one of Hero’s school friends was asking about adopting one of ours into their herd, as her dad’s rabbit is sick with cancer.  There just wasn’t enough time for everyone to meet the rabbits and see if any of them would fit well into their group, but I think Sam would be best suited for that environment anyway, as she plays better with others.  So Hero has reached out to her, and we’ll see if anything comes of it.

If not, we have space for 4 rabbits now.  While they were all gone, I had the boys clean out the shed as best they could, and we set up a formal rabbitry space there.


It still needs some work. We want better platforms to hold the crates, and I’m trying to score old carpet to cover the floor. But it’s a good start. Hero’s going to hang her bunny crossing sign in there.

It was a little traumatic the first night.  Hero didn’t like not having them in the house where she could spoil them easily, but there just wasn’t enough room indoors for all of them.  Even I was a little anxious.  Were they okay?  What if something happened?  Loki apparently didn’t like it, but that may just be because she’s never been anywhere but in the house.  And Taffy pulled out some of her fur, which made us all nervous, but in the end I think that was just because she was hot.  We tried grooming her, but nothing came off.  We did put a fan in the window to improve the circulation, and we’ve got a clamp light in there now so Hero can see at night when she feeds and waters them.  They all get time in the house every day, but now they’re confined to the kitchen and pantry, which are easier to clean up.  Which makes me happy in a selfish way.  I scrubbed the hell out of the dining room floor in all the spots they’d been using as toilets and mopped and waxed the whole thing, and we cleaned the living room and hall as well.  So the house is now relatively fit for company.  Which makes me feel a little more relaxed and in control.  And with the rabbitry set up, we’re in better shape for next year’s breeding program.  We’re looking for a French male to breed her with in the spring, and I may have him breed Loki and Sam, too, just to see what we get out of them.  Once we have working rabbits, then Tux may come back into the house, as he really is a pet.  That distinction between pet and animal is a fine one, but I think that’s one of the lessons we need to start learning now if we plan to be farmers.

So, thus ends another 4H year.  Next year’s project will be more practical, in that Hero gets to learn how to make a rabbit carrier instead of having to do a poster, and we know what her plans are for the rabbits, with the breeding plan. Which, it turns out, is actually a 4th year assignment!  So she’ll be ahead of the game.  But for now, we’re just going to take a deep breath and rest on our laurels for a little bit.

And I guess I need to develop a better rabbit-centric spinning demo…


All’s Fair

All’s Fair


This week is 4H Fair season for our county.  Always a challenge.  The fair takes a lot of time the week of, but it also has demands through the year.  The fair is the culmination of each member’s project for the year.  This isn’t a project like we think of.  Although there is a certain amount of goal setting regarding your animals (whether that’s breeding, showing, selling, whatever), that is just a small part of the year’s project.  At the beginning of the year in September, each member receives a packet specific to their year in the program.  The packet has a bunch of essay questions to be answered, a fair presentation assignment which might be creating a poster or making a piece of equipment, and an exploration piece.  In addition, they all need to do a presentation to the whole club on a given topic, they have to take a test on their knowledge, and they get tested on their showmanship skills.  So there’s a lot involved.

Hero…is not always good at this.

Last year she missed the fair because we couldn’t get her to finish her packet.  To be honest, we couldn’t get her to start her packet.  It was just too overwhelming for her.  Add to that the fact that the exploration piece required a visit to a rabbitry when we didn’t know anyone who had one, and she just got overwhelmed.  I figured that was the end of her time in 4H, but in the fall she decided to keep going.  Which, props to her, although it sucked for me as it meant another year of club meetings and nagging her.  And sure enough, by the end of the school year, she had done nothing on her packet.  However, I had made a contact with an alpaca farmer at the local farmers’ market who I’d met at a previous 4H fair (he runs the alpaca club), and HE knew an alpaca and angora farmer out near Reading we could visit.  I got in touch with her, and it took a while because she was in the process of having back surgery.  But finally week before last, we made it out there.

I think it was kind of revelatory for both of us.

This farm was AWESOME.  It was everything I hoped to have one day, only with more alpaca and fewer sheep than I want.  Considering it was a melting hot day, even at 7:00 p.m., we had a great time meeting Kathy and seeing her set-up.  She has 25 French and Satin angoras, 25 alpacas, 4 llamas and 3 sheep, plus her husband had at least 30 mini-Rex rabbits as well and they had half a dozen chickens.  It was awesome, if a little overwhelming.  We got to see her layout, and Hero had created a list of interview questions about how she cares for her rabbits, what she uses them for, et al.  Since Kathy was still hobbled from her surgery, we helped out with chores.  And we got to help water the alpacas, which was a hoot!


Pro tip: Alpacas lose heat through their bellies, so if you’re trying to cool them off, spray below but not on top.  Do it on top and they’ll just mold.

On the way home, we started breaking her work down into more manageable pieces for her.  Essays freak her out, as she hasn’t learned how to manage her ADD yet.  So we talked through bullet points, turning bullet points into sentences, and then making the sentences into paragraphs.  And we broke the packet down into daily work amounts to help her get it done.  She came in to work with me one day so she could work on it undistracted, spent a couple more days (with some prodding) getting the questions done, and I scribed her two big essay questions for her.  We came close to blows on her demo project, a poster demonstrating the answer to any one of the questions from the packet, so I just backed off and let her get it done.  And she did.  The whole thing was done this past Sunday.  Hurrah!

Tuesday night was set up.  I drove her out to the fairgrounds, which is about half an hour a way, thinking I’d get some knitting time.  But noooooo.  As she’s getting out of the car, she whips around to me in horror.  “Where’s my packet?”  *sigh*  Back home I went to get the packet and poster, which had to be turned in that day.  By the time I got back, they were pretty much done.

Thursday was the first day of the fair, when all the animals for show or sale had to be checked in.  As I was getting ready to go to work, it suddenly hit me:  This might be the last time I see Peggy or Sam.  The plan had always been to put them up for sale at the fair, but here was the reality and…. It was really hard.


Sam especially has become my favorite.  She’s just a little more affectionate than the others.  But we just don’t have the room for them, and they’ll make someone a great pet.  But still. *sniff*


Today is the judging.  I feel bad showing Taffy, as she’s still a bit mangy looking from pulling out all her fur for her nest box.  But we did learn how to groom her from Kathy, so we got her all fluffy, and she does have a bit of an advantage: She’s the only Angora in the show.  So yeah, she’ll get a ribbon.  Tux should, too, as he’s the only Satin.  And Hero’s happy with that.  Hero has her showmanship test tomorrow, so I have to make sure to iron her show coat tonight after we get home with the new freezer (which will be a story for another post).


And this won’t be the last year for 4H, either.  Until June it was.  Hero was done, it was too much of a time commitment when she was struggling with school, blah blah blah.  But then some of her friends from 4H who also go to her school talked her into doing it another year, as next year she’ll be able to sleep over at the fair without her parents.  Joy.  But hopefully she internalized some of the strategies we came up with for doing her packet, and next year she won’t wait until the last minute again.  Plus I suspect one of her school friends who adopted one of our babies already may end up joining as well.  Their family has really gotten the bunny bug.  So Hero will have more people tying her to the club.  But hopefully we’ll have someone to carpool with for meetings, too!

It Must Be Bunnies

It Must Be Bunnies

I was going to write a big, long, chewy post.  But I don’t have it in me.  Have some bunnies instead.


This is them at birth almost 3 weeks ago.  One all black one didn’t survive delivery, and the black and pink patch one didn’t make it past the second day.  But we ended up with four healthy kits.


This is Jarvis/Pepper. (Now we’re pretty sure she’s a she, so she’s been renamed.)


And Peggy.


Tasha, now Sam (again, we think he’s a boy).  He’s a wiggler.


And Loki.  We’re pretty sure she’s a she, but the name works either way (let’s hear it for the god of genderbending!)

They looked like naked mole rats at birth, but still kind of creepily cute.  It’s really interesting how their pattern shows on their skin even though they had no fur at all, not even fuzz.  We couldn’t figure out, though, what color Loki was going to be.  Peggy and Pepper were obviously going to look like their dad, and Sam was going to be black, but Loki’s skin tone was a completely different shade from P/P, so we weren’t sure what color she was going to be.

A week later:


All the kids are starting to fluff up.


Peggy and Pepper

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Sam and Loki.  Notice Loki’s getting this lovely buff color.  We got harassed for not naming the blond Thor.


A week later they filled that box.


Peggy takes after her namesake and likes to sleep in weird positions.

Just a few days later, they’ve already learned how to get in and out of the crate themselves.  They chase their poor mother all over the dining room looking for another meal.  For a while she would hide in her litter box, but they can get in there now, too.

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Now, at almost three weeks, they are already eating hay and trying Mom’s pellets, and Peggy has figured out how to drink from the water bottle.  It seems way too early, but we’ll actually be thinking about weaning them in just a couple more weeks.  Which I’m sure will make Mom happy.

We’re having way too much fun with them, and it’s going to be hard to adopt them out when the time comes.  I suspect we’re going to be keeping Sam and Loki, but we have a home lined up for one of the others already.  If we can’t re-home the other, we’ll put her up for sale at the 4H Fair in August.

Of course, we may not be done.  About a week after these guys were born, we caught Tux and Taffy together AGAIN.  Since she can be re-bred three days after giving birth, we are now on the countdown again.  If she is pregnant, they’ll be due by the 18th of June, just in time for us to go away for our first camping trip of the summer.  *sigh*  It’s definitely time to think about getting Tux snipped.  And possibly Sam, if he does turn out to be a he.  Even if we do get a second litter, though, they’ll be old enough to sell at the fair as well.  So timing wise, it’s not too bad.

I still want to get her properly bred to another Angora, though.  I’m already starting plans for our rabbitry out back. I just need $750 and a hammer…


Hippity Hop

Hippity Hop

Well, yesterday’s post was pretty timely.


I got home from work yesterday to find Hero really upset.  “Mom, she had a mouthful of fur!  I didn’t know rabbits ate their own fur!”

Here we go.

See, one of the signs that a rabbit is about to give birth (or kindle, but that has such a different connotation these days) is that they start building a nest, which they line with their own fur.  Taffy wasn’t eating it, she was collecting it.  So while Hero did her homework, Morgan and I got out the nursery crate.  This is a large wire crate that we used to use to take the rabbits back and forth to 4H meetings, but it seemed just the right size for a birthing suite.  Lined it with an old towel, put in her litter box, water, hay and food, and then put in the nesting box, which is just a dishpan that we put rags, hay and the bits of fur she’d collected in.  Then we put her in to get used to it.

She promptly trashed the place.

Thankfully she didn’t turn over the litter box as she is wont to do, but the food was tipped over in a flash, and by the time I went to bed, she had the nesting box upside down.  Okay, fine, she’ll figure it out.

Well, she must have.  Hero heard squeaking noises around 10:30 or 11, but couldn’t tell where they were coming from.  She was the first one downstairs this morning, but she came right back up.  “Mom, there’s a baby bunny!”  I got dressed quick and went down to see.  Taffy was contentedly hanging out next to the litter box, which was covered with the nesting box.  I opened the top of the crate to take out the nesting box and saw a pile of hay and fluff move on the floor beside it.  Basically she had used the floor of the crate as her nesting box, which, hey, worked out fine!  Carefully we started removing the rags to reveal the little kits.  Four live ones and one that didn’t make it, poor thing.  One of the live ones had fluff twisted around her neck, so we carefully cut that away.  She seemed to relax after that.  We buried the stillborn one, reset the nesting box for the rest, and gave Taffy a reward carrot.  Then Hero had to go to school, although I was able to work from home for the day.  So now I’m sitting at the dining room table, watching little mounds of fluff moving around in a dishpan.  It’s exciting!

As you can see from the picture above, the fluff isn’t theirs.  They are born nekkity nekkity naked, although their skin is patterned in what I assume will be their fur pattern.  One looks like mom, one like dad, one a mix of the two, and one might end up being albino.  If she does, she’s getting named Dynamite, as in “That rabbit’s…”  We think they’re all girls.  It looks like they all have two holes, which seems to indicate female.  At the moment, their names are Tasha, May, Peggy and Sif. I’m waiting until tonight to do record keeping so Hero can be part of that.  More learning experience for her!

Not sure at the moment if we’ll be keeping any of them.  I want to see how their fur comes in.  If any of them seem like they’d be good fiber bunnies, I might.  Otherwise, some of Hero’s friends are already laying claim, and any we don’t adopt out we can sell at the 4H fair in August.  If nothing else, this gives Hero a bigger kick in the butt to get her project book done!

It’s a zoo around here!

It’s a zoo around here!

Last Thursday, we were all running late and scrambling to get out the door on time.  Suddenly Morgan comes thundering down the stairs shouting, “There are vultures in the back yard!”  Now, bear in mind, we live in a neighborhood of tightly packed twins with small yards in the middle of friggin’ town.  Vultures, yeah, not something we see.  I go to look out the laundry room window, and sure enough, there are two big turkey vultures in our yard!


My first thought was a) where were the cat and rabbits? and 2) are the neighbor’s dogs out?  It didn’t seem like it, although there was a Frisbee in the neighbor’s yard that one of them was sitting by briefly, so maybe they got confused.  Or maybe they smelled the rabbit litter in our compost.  Although they didn’t seem too interested in the compost bins.  So who knows.  I tried not to take it as an omen for the day.  They are impressive birds in the air, but on the ground they are UGly, although still BIG.

And speaking of the rabbits, we’re on kindle watch at the moment.  Taffy started acting strangely a couple of weeks ago, digging up the litter boxes like she was trying to get to China.  She’d never done this before, so I looked it up.  Oh goodie, it’s a sign that she might be pregnant.  Not that we weren’t going to try to breed her this year, but I wanted to breed her with another angora.  We have had two incidences in the last month where she and Tux were both out of their crates at the same time, though, so…  Apparently the digging starts at about 2 weeks, so if she is pregnant, we should start seeing nesting behavior this week or next.  Part of me kind of wants her to be, just because we’ve never had newborn critters in our house, and I can vividly remember our cats having kittens when I was a kid (once under the couch I was watching TV on!) and still kind of love those memories.  Hero’s friends are already putting in adoption requests for if she does have any, and the rest will be old enough to go to new homes by the time of the 4H fair in August, so this is a good time for it to happen if it has.  But still, oy.