Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Season of waiting

We've spent the past two or three days waiting. At first, we were patient and hopeful, but now our tones are becoming more exasperated as we talk about the impending birth. Now, with each passing hour, we are starting to contemplate the simple fact that Zinnia, a gray Dutch rabbit, may not be pregnant. Rabbits are pregnant for about 30 days, and today is Day 31. Her nestbox remains untouched, and we haven't seen a single hair that should have been plucked from her body to make the nest warm and cozy for her babies.

Normally, our rabbits live in the smaller barn, but since it's cold outside, we brought Zinnia inside, so her babies wouldn't die from exposure. Even in a nest box filled with straw and rabbit fur, naked baby rabbits can freeze when it's too cold. But now we're starting to talk about the possibility that there won't be any babies. We look at Zinnia and ask her to tell us if she's pregnant, but she doesn't say anything. Whoever decided that rabbits should represent the gold standard for prolific breeding? When someone says "breeding like rabbits," they mean breeding like crazy, right? Well, why don't our rabbits "breed like rabbits?" If Zinnia isn't pregnant, it won't be the first time this has happened. The first time it happened, I wound up calling multiple vets around the county and ultimately the Univeristy of Illinois. At Day 35, the other mama rabbit made the most beautiful nest, but didn't have any babies. After contemplating a two-hour drive to U of I for a c-section, I finally decided to forego the several-hundred-dollar procedure to save the life of the $30 rabbit, which it turns out, was not even pregnant.

That's not nearly as bad as what happened to a friend of mine with goats. She did have the vet come out to her farm to check her two oberhasli does that were two weeks past their due date. She was absolutely certain they were pregnant, and she had spent several freezing nights in the barn with them around their due dates. She was not a happy woman when the vet informed her that neither goat was pregnant.

So, if Zinnia does not kindle in the next day or so, we'll start over again. Her last "date" with Rocky seemed so successful. When a rabbit mating is successful, the male falls over (almost flips over and sometimes squeals) as if he's been shot. Yes, it is as funny as it sounds. We were quite certain that there were three successful matings, so we are still hopeful that we'll see some bunnies in the next 24 hours. If so, they'll be our first babies of 2006. If not, our first babies will be goats, which are due around Valentine's Day, so we only have a week -- maybe less -- to wait.

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