Lots has been Hoppenin in the last few months…

First one of the good bits:

I have neglected posting because we have been even busier than usual. We have also had a few crises to deal with. For the moment things have settled down, the rabbits are enjoying this delightful spell of settled weather and the guinea pigs are becoming accustomed to the great outdoors in the wonderful new housing that accounts for some of our recent busyness. We put a lot of time and effort into their new homes and had a bad few days while it looked as if they were too scared to use their runs but they are now settling in nicely.

The hard work and expense has been worth it. I had felt for some time that they were playing second fiddle to the rabbits stuck in the barn and always meant to move them outside but as it meant taking space away from the rabbits was reluctant to actually do it. But during the heavy snow in December a great big chunk of tree fell onto the barn roof and punctured a hole in it making it leak even worse than it did previously. It was impossible to remove it with animals living in there as people walking on the roof are likely to cause further cracks and render it entirely non functional. So moving the piggies went to the top of our To Do list.

With that done we now have to decide what to do about the barn. As mentioned above walking on the roof to just remove the tree will cause further damage. Repairing the roof would be impossibly  expensive as it is an old asbestos roof and the last time we looked into it none of the people who looked at it even bothered to give us a quote as they didn’t want to do it or thought, no doubt correctly, that we couldn’t afford it. We could simply have ignored it but here the problem intersects with another of the crises we have been dealing with. My mother, who owns the property the sanctuary is located on, decided that she wanted the indoor space we were using back for her own use. We had an office, a treatment room, cage area for sick animals and other storage space in there. Moving it all was a big job but it is all now in the barn. The barn with the dodgy roof, no water supply, less than adequate lighting and general state of disrepair. We went from having a beautiful light airy treatment room equipped with everything we needed to using a grotty old shed for everything. Rather depressing! But watch this space – We will make it work!

The other crisis was potentially even more unpleasant. We had two rabbits die in a manner that strongly suggested that it was RHD (rabbit haemoragic disease) that killed them. We quarantined the remaining rabbit from the group and adopted protocols to minimise spread and set about obtaining vaccines for those of the others that we judged healthy enough to risk giving it to. I do not normally consider it a good idea to vaccinate rabbits as they respond badly to such challenges to their immune system. I have seen far too many rabbits die a month or so after having been vaccinated or go on to develop chronic poor health and don’t consider that the companies producing the vaccines test them well enough to have documented this properly. However in the face of a potential epidemic the risk balance shifts and it becomes the lesser risk. I vaccinated the healthiest fifty rabbits and was prepared to vaccinate another batch if we lost more rabbits. Happily we did not. It now looks as if the two rabbits died from shock from having been frightened by a fox, although it was very odd the way  it happened with the second one looking perfectly fine, acting and eating normally after the first one suddenly died and then rapidly dying herself. The third from the group, Blue, is now living happily in a group of six, perfectly fine. We have since added a barrier to stop the fox from getting at the window through which it must have frightened them. We had just taken off the perspex that was covering the bars of the window over the winter and can only suppose that the fox shoved its snout in to investigate, panicking the rabbits, who may have had weak hearts as they were terribly inbred. We know a fox prowls around the sanctuary at night but have never had anything similar happen. They are impossible to keep out as they jump like cats and even though our outer fences are really high they still get over them. So all our accommodation is good and secure with strong bolts, solid wood and proper weld mesh that won’t unravel.  There was no question of the fox actually getting at the rabbits, it was just looking.

I am now watching the rabbits that we vaccinated carefully to see what health problems emerge. Already the giant Kiki has developed breathing difficulties that she didn’t previously have and has lost quite a bit of weight. Isabel and Rio have both lost weight and are not eating well and yesterday I noticed that Violet is going that way too. Only Lev had a reaction at the time of the vaccination. He just went off his food for a day. But that isn’t what worries me. It is the delayed effects. None of the rabbits that I vaccinated had even the slightest health problem. I left any that even gave me a pause  until we would have no doubt whatsoever that the disease was present. And I know my rabbits. They are probably some of the best observed rabbits anywhere and I know how to spot problems in rabbits as well as anyone anywhere. Those fifty were all perfectly healthy. I am fairly certain that what happens to them now is a better study of the effects of the vaccines than anything conducted by the manufacturer. Watch this space… And believe me that I hope I am wrong. I was delighted to have been wrong about it being RHD and I will be delighted if those rabbits continue to be as healthy as they were previously. But the sad fact is that when we stopped routinely vaccinating the incidence of chronic health problems among our rabbits decreased to almost nothing confirming me in my belief that it should be only done in high risk situations such as where the rabbits come into contact with wild rabbits or where a rabbit nearby has died of the disease. I know this goes against standard advice but life is not as simple as we would like it to be. There is no easy answer to this. The decision to vaccinate needs to be based on a risk assessment including factors such as environment, age and health status.

On a more cheerful note just look at the garden. After the long winter it has burst out almost all at once:


And look at our group of six, it is a long time since we had that many rabbits all get along: