Come on, Spring!

When many people think of Spring, chicks come to mind… Bunnies aren’t too far behind in that train of thought… So (even though it is currently snowing here in the beautiful hills of Polyface Farm) I’ve decided to move from chicks to the next logical thing in hopes that Spring will get the idea. 😛  That’s right, I’m going to be writing about rabbits over the next several weeks.

When I first came to Polyface as an intern in June 2013, rabbits were a mystery to me. I knew that we raised them mostly in the “Racken House”, but that the young rabbits were put out in our “hare-pens” so that they could freely eat as much grass as they wanted. (“Racken” is a word the Salatin’s made up combining the words ‘rabbit’ and ‘chicken’. So the ‘Racken’ is where rabbits and chickens work together in a symbiotic relationship and both are happy… More on that at a later date.) But I didn’t know much more than that. Over the past several months I’ve gotten to take an active part in the rabbit care here at Polyface and have grown to really enjoy working with these furry little animals.

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This is how the nest boxes look after the rabbits have kindled. The babies are under the fur in the nest the rabbit made.

So, I guess I should probably begin at the beginning: birth. When rabbits give birth we call it kindling. When a doe is almost ready to kindle we give her a kindling box filled with clean hay so that she can make a nest for her new babies. She will burrow down into the hay and make what looks a lot like a bird’s nest. Then she’ll pull hair from her chest and belly to line her new nest and make it soft. Rabbits usually kindle during the night with no help. The “perfect” litter is 8, but bunnies usually range from 5 – 10, though I’ve seen as many as 15!

Every morning, besides feeding and watering all the rabbits, their caretaker also needs to check on the does he/she knows are about to kindle. This is important for record purposes, and also to make sure that there’s not any afterbirth left in the nest and no bunnies that were stillborn. We take each bunny out of their little hole just long enough to count them and make sure they’re all healthy looking. Then back in they go and are re-covered by their mom’s very warm fur.

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These bunnies are less than 24 hours old.



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This little guy has 10 siblings!



Bunnies are born with no hair and their eyes closed, but they grow fast!



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There they are… The doe with her bunnies tucked away in their nesting box.




Check back in following weeks for more on rabbits!






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About Hannah Hale

Hannah hails from McComb, Mississippi, where she farmed with her parents and three sisters. Home-schooled all her life, she grew up helping her grandfather on his Black Angus farm and working with her family to raise dairy goats, laying hens, and bees. Her love for animals blossomed through her involvement in 4-H and cattle showing. Hannah discovered Polyface through a lecture by Joel, and while reading his book You Can Farm, she realized that her life-long dream of farming could become a reality. The summer of 2013 saw Hannah a Polyface intern, and she was subsequently chosen to become an apprentice. Now married, Hannah helps her husband as they work as Polyface rental-farm managers. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Polyface team and learn from the best. In the future, Hannah wants to farm full-time and keep Jesus central in her life.
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6 Responses to Come on, Spring!

  1. Nathan Walenga says:

    Is there a way for me to ask you guys questions? Like why don’t they put the rabbits and chickens together in the chicken tractors? This is my first year just farming. I am super excited and once in a while I have questions and would love some guidance.

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Hi Nathan,
      The chickens would probably tear the rabbits a part if you put them in the same shelter together. Chickens are omnivores, rabbits are herbivores. Not a good mix, I think. 🙂

  2. Rose says:

    GAH. So ridiculously cute.

  3. Christy says:

    Great idea to raise bunnies before Easter comes. Those little guys are too cute! You should put some chicks and bunnies in some baskets and take cute holiday pics to share with us!

  4. Kristin says:

    I guess these rabbits are for meat? I dont have a problem with the idea…but I dont think I could kill one. Just too cute!!

  5. Bobby says:

    Any particulare variety of twigs you put in there for them to chew on?