Monday, January 24, 2011

Charm and Peridot Are Here!

We adopted Charm (on the left) and Peridot from the Humane Society the day before New Year's Eve. Seemed like it would be better to have more than one rabbit, and we were really lucky to find such a closely bonded pair. No need to see how they get along---they already love each other! Peridot is Charm's son, and he was just born on August 5th, thus his nickname, for the birthstone of August. That's also Steve's birthstone. The Humane Society staff weren't sure how old Charm is, since she was a stray, but she seems young. We had also met Opal and Gem, another son and daughter of Charm's (she had four babies, though, and we don't know what the other one's name was), but before we could make up our minds, Opal and Gem were adopted, which was actually great news! As an adolescent, Peridot is very active, more so than Charm, and more of a chewer than he hopefully will be as he gets older. The upholstered blue chair that was in the study had to be removed since he found it tasty (the upholstery itself, not the wood). They spend any hours that we are at work or asleep their very large cage, and are out the rest of the time. They snuggle quite alot and groom each other. Of course, they are both fixed, so there's no worrying about baby bunnies.

Can't tell yet if they are going to be more friendly as they get to know us better, never having had rabbits before. They are so different from cats! You can't just scoop them up and cuddle them, or expect them to come and lie on your lap, either. We haven't even tried to pick them up yet. They don't mind us petting them, but not for very long, and they seem scared sometimes, when we do pet them, so we don't push the issue. So far, they just want to hang out in their one room, the study, which is now half theirs. In our small house, this is quite a bit of space to give up, especially since Sara is still inside in our living room until spring, but eventually, they will come out into the rest of the house, and then we can use the study for other pursuits again. (I guess the blue chair will have to go, though!)

We have found that they both love apples, hay and pellets, but neither of them is that crazy about vegetables. One night, they will eat whatever I put down, and then the next, they ignore it. Kale is not acceptable, ever. Cilantro and red leaf lettuce, sometimes. Dandelion greens and carrot greens are acceptable half the time. Cannned pumpkin was nixed. Carrots are okay sometimes---so much for that stereotyp! Basil is a favorite, but after I gave them about half of Steve's frozen-fresh basil he grew this summer, he put the kibosh on that, and I haven't yet seen any at the co-op. We'll be able to grow them anything pretty soon, but spring is a long way away. Still, despite the fact that we're feeding them greens in the middle of winter that came from who-knows-where, in some cases, feeding them is still using fewer resources than feeding our cats meat, local or otherwise. Charm and Peridot are pretty good about using their litterbox, or at least just the cage.

Red-eyed rabbits are harder to adopt out, we've been told, because some people are freaked out by those eyes, and at first, we thought we might be, too. But we pretty quickly started to think that they are actually pretty interesting, just different. Both these little ones definitely have as much expression in their eyes as any other creature we've known. Their red eyes aren't exactly the same, either. Charm is so cute; she looks like a koala, with her dark brown nose and moustache. Peridot's father must have been a larger rabbit; his head is larger and even his face is shaped differently than his mother's. He loves his set of hard plastic baby keys, and tosses them around a bit. He's more of a chewer, and Charm is more of a digger, but they both love gnawing on the willow twigs Steve tromped out into the snow to cut for them, and they demolished a basket we gave them in a few days. Their tunnel is a big favorite, too. (I'll post photos of that, too, once I get some good ones.)

Natasha, unfortunately, is terrified of them, even after a month, but Sergei doesn't mind them at all. They haven't really realized Sara is in the next room yet; they can probably see and hear her, but don't seem curious yet, anyway. We're really hoping that Tasha will get over her fear of them, soon, because the study used to be her favorite room. Here's Sergei not minding Sara checking out the living room. He's such a sweet, mellow boy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Goodbye to our Sleepy-Eyed Rose (March 22, 2007 - January 21, 2011)

Losing June last November was difficult, but we certainly didn't expect that we'd be going through this again less than three months later. Our other little red hen, Rose passed away Friday morning. She would have been four years old in March. Rose died of the same infection that took her sister June. So-called "laying" hens are prone to uterine prolapse since they are bred for maximum egg production, but the vet told us these Fallopian tube infections are also pretty common among chickens, too. Last spring, Rose was showing symptoms, but antibiotic treatment was successful, so that she was strong and vital all summer and through the winter holidays. This time, though, the medicines that we gave her after bringing her and Sara inside our warm house weren't enough.

Rose was Sleepy-Eyed Rose sometimes because her right eye was often not quite open. Like all of our chickens, she quickly learned to recognize us and our voices and her own name, or names, I should say, because we called June "Moon in June," and Sara is sometimes Sara Sarasen (for no particular reason), but Rose had several names, responding to Rose-is-Rose, Rosalinda, and Rosie, as well as Sleepy-Eyed Rose, by cocking her head, chittering and twirping.

Rose's favorite treats, bar none, were bread and tomatoes; she would pick those out of a dozen other treats and race off to gobble them down. No piece of bread was too large for Rose, and two weeks before she died, she made her last little flight from the top of the ladder in the coop to get some bread that she saw in my hand. She also loved raspberries, sunflower seeds and kale. As the omega chicken, i.e., third in line out of three, Rose knew her place, and accepted it humbly. June was always her good buddy. Chickens maintain a social order in which every member of the flock has a place and finds a place. At night, Rose and June roosted together on a shelf up in the coop's heated bedroom, and Sara took the perch. These groupings were somewhat, but by no means, rigidly territorial, and they shared the yard the same way. The day's chosen dustbathing spot was first used by Sara, and then Rose and June would roll ecstatically together, sometimes on their backs, pecking at bugs in the dirt, and raking in particles of earth with their beaks. Having come from to us originally from a rather barren coop without hay, and with only a packed, bare dirt run to explore, it was maybe the first chance they had ever had to search for bugs and eat green plants. They would all bask in the sun, their eyes closed, and stretch out their legs, obviously relishing their freedom. Rose and June enjoyed being together, and they would sometimes preen each other.Rose was usually the first one to notice anything out of the ordinary in the yard, and was the first at the door of the coop to come outside, often jumping up several feet into the air and excitedly flapping her wings. Always shy, perhaps due to rough handling, perhaps just due to her own inherent personality, Rose was bolder with June at her side. I will never forget the sight of Rose and June running towards us through the muddy yard with boots of mud clinging to their feet so that they rocked from side to side and lifted their feet extra high.

Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns writes, "If there is one trait above all that leaps to my mind in thinking about chickens when they are enjoying their lives and pursuing their own interests, it is cheerfulness. Chickens are cheerful birds, quite vocally so, and when they are dispirited and oppressed, their entire being expresses this state of affairs as well. The fact that chickens become lethargic in continuously barren environments, instead of proving that they are stupid or impassive by nature, shows how sensitive these birds are to their surroundings, deprivations and prospects. Likewise, when chickens are happy, their sense of wellbeing resonates unmistakably."

Rest in peace, Rose, cheerful, shy, sensitive girl. We love you, and will always miss you.