DSCN3120

DSCN3121

DSCN3122

DSCN3123

Morning walk in the snow
reveals
which neighbors
walk,
hop,
in the night.

 

DSCN1437

DSCN1444We set out
to grow rabbits
and harvest their droppings
to give to the Red Wiggler worms
that create nutritious soil
out of paper, alpaca manure,
kitchen scraps—they especially
like rabbit manure.
But then,
we didn’t like
keeping the rabbits
in small hutches,
so we let them out
into a larger area,
inside the barn.
Eventually,
they tunneled their way out of the pen
and into the barn
where guineas and chickens
roost at night
and hang out in the heat of the day.
Now, guineas, rabbits, chickens
all live together—
though only the four rabbits have access
to their system of burrows.
But only the chickens and guineas
get to go outside.
Chickens eat rabbit food
and rabbits eat chickens’ corn.
Everyone eats the fresh greens we bring.
They share water bowls.
And all the manure
is mixed together.

What has emerged
is not what we intended,
and beyond our control.
We can only
keep our eye out for everyone,
keep them as safe as possible.
Within the limits
we try to manage
(rabbits can’t get out of the barn;
they rely on us for food, water;
we shepherd in the guineas
and shut the barn doors at night
to keep out predators)
these three species
have created a way to live together.
Interesting—
promising—
to see what we all create
together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Teenaged chickens moved from nursery
to barn yesterday.
Two escapees—
from secure new pen—
found,
returned to safety
(before the cats found them!)
They’re living in a former “rabbit condo,”
once placed outside the barn
so the rabbits could have a little time
in the sun—
until they learned how to burrow out
into the goat pen.
The condo is now inside the barn,
where the rabbits have been coming and going
through an open door.
It was a nice get-away
(from the chickens and guineas)
for them.
Eventually, the chickens will mature
and rabbits can have their condo again.
Creativity,
flexibility,
sharing,
taking turns—
all necessary for the sustainable life.

 

20130122_094521Black Rabbit having its greens with the Chickens

Changes,
tweaks,
adaptations,
remodelings
never end
in the barn,
in the village
which rabbits,
chickens
and guineascohabit.
Because we don’t like to keep
rabbits
in small hutches,
we give them a big pen
on the outer edge
of the barn.
But because that pen
has a cement floor,
we also built them a pen
inside the barn,
where they can burrow.
And now,
again,
they have burrowed
their way out of the rabbit village
and into the rest of the barn,
where chickens and guineas
live.
Chickens and guineas
could always get into the rabbit pens,
so we would close the door to the outer pen
to feed rabbits
their greens.

The hens and rooster
are crazed to get to the greens
when we enter the barn.
A black hen jumps as high as our waist
to peck at the greens bag—
repeatedly.
Now that the rabbits hop freely
around the entire barn,
they and the chickens
eat their greens together—
though we still toss some greens
into the rabbit burrows,
to be sure they get some.

Ann has now built a foyer!
just inside the barn entrance—
at the gate from the alpaca pen—
so the chickens and guineas
will be able to get out
when spring comes
without the rabbits
getting out too
(she built it around a cement
doorstop.)
Life with animals
is a never-ending series
of occasions
to be creative.

20121221_101949

Houdi and Spot with their morning greens

20121221_101655

Rooster, unable to reach the rabbits’ morning greens

 

Things seemed to have calmed down
in the barn.
The chicken population
has dwindled,
but we think we’ve trapped
the culprits.
We now set a trap every night,
just to be sure,
and were surprised
one morning this week
to find we trapped
a large skunk.
Our preventive measure worked:
we caught a predator
before there was evidence
of predation.
The chicken fort
inside the barn
is a safe night-time retreat.
Last night,
a guinea fowl came down
from the barn rafters
and joined the chickens
on their roost inside the fort.

Morning and evening
we bring fresh greens
from the high tunnel
to feed the guineas, chickens and rabbits.
Because rabbits, chickens and guineas
can intermingle
in the two-room rabbit village,
the fowl finish their greens
and then steal greens
right out of the mouths
of rabbits as they nibble.
So now, while the chickens and guineas
are still focused on eating the greens
we give them,
we dash to the rabbit village
and shut the door
to the room where the rabbits
spend most of their time.
The rabbits can eat their greens
in peace.
Rooster has found us out.
This morning he appeared
in the window
that overlooks the rabbits,
safely nibbling their morning treats.
Rooster raised his head
and crowed loudly,
seemingly in protest.
I laughed out loud.
I wonder if he’ll try to beat us
to the rabbit room
next time.
Already, he’s chased Ann and me
a couple of times.
Life with animals
doesn’t stay calm
for long.


Houdi, in his free-ranging days

 

When we moved the male rabbits
into their own pen inside the barn,
they burrowed their way out
and into the barn,
then hopped out the barn door,
with free run of the farm,
returning to the barn
in the evening
before we shut the barn door.
When the chicken massacre took place,
we barricaded the barn door
to secure the remaining Guinea Fowl.
We left food and water outside
for Pappa Rabbit and Houdi,
the two surviving male rabbits.
We saw them all over the yard
and pens, the corral.
They’d come back to the food and water
and take water too
with cats and birds
under the big Hackberry Tree
in the farmhouse yard.
We loved seeing them have such
freedom,
harass the cats to play with them.
But every evening at twilight,
and into the night,
coyotes have been coming close
to the houses,
killing cats at the pond house.
We knew the rabbits were in jeopardy,
so we set a live trap.
Every night, Ann put fresh lettuce
in the trap
and every morning it would be gone,
the trap door still open.
This went on for days
and then we stopped seeing Pappa Rabbit.
His white fur made him the most vulnerable
to coyotes
during his run-abouts
at night.
Houdi,
whose fur is black,
was still free-ranging.
Every night
we put out fresh lettuce,
every morning
it was gone
and Houdi (short for Houdini)
had magically
escaped the trap.
Then one evening,
Ann put the lettuce in the trap
and kept an eye on it
while she was feeding the other animals.
She saw Houdi hop up to the trap
and from the outside,
nibble on the lettuce,
pulling it out of the trap.
Ann was delighted.
She reset lettuce in the trap
so that Houdi couldn’t get to it
without going in the trap
and next morning,
his days of hopping around the farm
were over.
He’s in the barn now
with the chickens and guineas.
He can see his mother and sisters
who don’t have free run of the barn
but live in the very large rabbit village,
from which he long-ago now
burrowed out.
He sleeps behind the chicken roosts
and hops around the barn,
evading rooster’s pecks
and sometimes we see him
nose-to-nose with his sisters
on either side of the wire pen.
We don’t know which he would prefer:
being in a somewhat smaller area
with his family,
or in the bigger barn
where he has more room to roam—
but not as much as he had
before.
He’s safe now,
relatively,
and we’re waiting
for some indication
from him,
about his preferred
living arrangement.

 

While we are still grieving
the loss of all the chickens at the farm house,
and trying to trap all the marauders,
the  two male rabbits have brought some levity.
Pappa and son
escaped from the barn
and now live freely,
running around the barnyard
and the area around the house.
We leave them food and water
near where we feed the cats.
The rabbits run with the cats,
rubbing up against them,
as cats rub against each other;
sniffing them when they stop moving,
as cats do to each other.
The cats let them be,
stare at them,
hiss and swat
when the rabbits engage
inappropriately.
The cats roam freely
amidst the alpaca and goats,
guineas, chickens,
(when we had chickens here.)
We’ve watched dogs and cats abide each other,
sometimes form friendships.
The dogs now ignore the guineas
and the chickens, who ranged freely.
Goats and Alpacas
hang out together.
Guineas and Alpacas
play together.
Now the rabbits and the cats…
Love diversity.
Love a peaceable kingdom.
And then
there’s the food chain:
skunks, raccoons
and chickens.
Not so peaceable.