Thursday, May 19, 2016

So You Want to Get a Rabbit 2 

– The Rabbit Diet

A rabbit’s tummy is extremely delicate! In my experience the biggest cause of fatality is a diarrhea. And don’t think like it’s a person’s diarrhea that you can gut (pun intended) for days to weeks. A rabbit’s’ runny poop can kill it within hours. And so the reaction time must be really fast. To help aid you as a future rabbit owner, here are a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way.

• New food should be introduced in the course of weeks – Just because you see a list of vegetables that rabbits can eat doesn’t mean that you can feed all of those right away. For example, when I got my Lily from Avilon Zoo, one of the key things we asked for is the pellets she was eating. Even though those were not high quality pellets (don’t look and smell it), her tummy was used to those. I weaned her away for about 2 months before buying new pellets. However, I did risk giving her timothy hay right away. So her diet was unlimited timothy hay and the substandard pellets from Avilon Zoo. In practice, I even had multiple types of timothy hay and star grass hay, but I didn’t risk those at once. Along the way, I patiently introduced different types of vegetables, but never more than a leaf or so at a time (basil, kang kong, kamote leaves, dill).

• Hay and clean water are given in unlimited amounts - I could never understand the store practice of feeding rabbits on specific times only (both food and water). My bunnies are always surrounded in hay. That’s how much you need to prepare for. That typical 750 gram timothy hay that is most available in Manila will be finished in a week if it’s the only food you give to one bunny. Depending on who you get it from, that’s about P400 / week. I can’t tell you how precise that is because it’s been a while since I had only that. I always feed a variety of timothy and star grass hay (my personal preference). If I had to advice you, I would keep at least 3 bags in reserve. There are infinitely more dog and cat supplies out there than bunny ones. And knowing how critical food is to rabbits, a healthy dose of preparation goes a long way.

• Veggies and Pellets in restricted amounts – I can’t tell you the practices of breeders and pet shop owners. But as a rabbit owner that cares very much, I err on the side of caution. On a given day, I may give my full grown rabbit – 5 kang kong leaves, 1 very small slice of carrot, a handful of alfalfa hay and about a small scoop of pellets in the course of the day. I don’t give them all at one time. This is not a hard and fast rule of course. My guide is really the poop. If the poop looks a little small and dry, I would give a few more wet kang kong leaves. If the poop is on the wet side, I may restrict veggies and pellets and just keep to hay. This is a practice I have to do every few hours. Yes, you check poop that often. So on the side, you should be cleaning out poop as real time as possible so that you know which “samples” are recent.

• Some paranoia in order – Whenever I see deformed or slightly soft poop, I typically cancel whatever it is I have for the next few hours to observe my rabbit. Yep, rabbit above all else. When the poop is better, I can leave.

So future rabbit owner, please consider my experience. I’ve learned a lot of them the hard way. Taking care of a rabbit takes some money, a lot of time and a healthy dose of paranoia.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Bound by Principle

I'm not such a political junkie. For most part I keep to myself and my bunnies. You also won't accuse me of being very good at keeping in touch. However, it is an interesting fact for me that everyone I've met through the decades that I've truly admired were active in TSM.


It's comforting that principles connect us even when contact is not there. Like attracts like. In the same way that I try to hire employees that have the same moral fiber (not always successfully okay), I will attempt to select leaders that way (unfortunately I've never picked the most popular one). I think it's the same with these folks. And it's a long shot, but I bet these are the same folks that were pro-Salonga, pro-Gordon and as a folly of my youth, pro-Miriam before she aligned with the dark side (long, long time ago).

On to happier news. I just encountered someone in FB who also wants to put up a bunny foundation!  Yey! But since this is a quarter-political post, I wonder if there will be a rabbit party-list someday. If you guys form that, I will support you 100%.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

So You Want To Get a Rabbit

Over the past two years, there's been an absolute rabbit craze in our house. In that span, my priorities have dramatically changed.

I've always thought rabbits were low maintenance creatures.  They're not.  They are absolutely adorable, cute and lovable but they also require constant attention.  The point of this post (almost 4 years after my last one btw) is not to show off my bunnies (I hope to do that in succeeding ones  :-) );  it is to raise awareness in the Philippines that getting bunnies require major thought.

Rabbits require about 4 hours of playtime (or so I've read).  I actually max at 4 hours on weekends,  but at least an hour during work days.  You can't just ignore them.  Luckily for me, the entire household is involved so my bunnies get attention from different family members throughout the day.

Rabbits have sensitive tummies.  Sadly a lot of my bunnies over the past two years succumbed to soft stool.  It kills in a matter of hours.  What this means is that I actually check the poop several times a day to assess the diet strategy for the upcoming hours.  I don't feed veggies and pellets indiscriminately.  It depends on the poop.

Rabbits see my vet a lot.  I go to Vets in Practice every two months it seems (more frequent when something's wrong).  Between those fees, medication, vitamins and the upcoming spay cost (as soon as my heart is ready for it) it can get pretty pricey.  Speaking of...

Rabbit Hay cost is about P2,000-P3,000 per month for me.  I also have multiple suppliers since I need 100% redundancy.

Lastly, this has also shaped my lifestyle (no overnight trips for example) since I have to make sure my bunnies are not alone.  Even my family's mall habits are impacted (there's always someone left at home).

I say these things not because I feel bad. In fact, I am happily all in.  Rabbits sadly are very cheap to buy in shops. I just don't want people to buy them as gifts or on impulse. There's major commitment involved.   They're such wonderful creatures.  We owe them that.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Worm Inn

I purchased a Worm Inn recently.  I've started using it.  I'll let you all know if it's as good as it has been advertised to be.  Watch out for it!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Low Maintenance Vermicomposting

I haven't been able to give my worms their due attention in the past weeks since I've been rather busy.  That said, my vermicomposting habits have changed somewhat.  I no longer check on my bins several times a day.  It's more like once a week now.  But guess what?  My worms are alright.
So how do I take care of my worms now?   I collect our organic leftovers in a resealable bin.  I add paper as necessary (when there's moisture under the lid) to keep the contents as dry as possible.  At the end of the week, when the bin is full of nice, sour smelling contents, I dump the contents on several layers of whole newspaper sheets (about 3 to keep the dampness from getting through).  Afterwards, I wrap the contents nice and tight and then I dump the newspaper package into one of my flow through trays. 

I transfer about half of the contents of the tray to another tray since the tray contents go down by about half in a week so that my newspaper package has somewhere to go.   I rarely add moisture now since it's been raining.  The worms take care of migration on their own.  That's about it.  Zero organic waste with minimal effort.  

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hydrangea Pot Vermicomposting

As I mentioned in a prior post, my mophead hydrangea plants are situated in front of my house.  When I sweep the floor (filled with dust, hair, skin cells, dead insects), I promptly pour the contents as hydrangea mulch.  I would partially the dirty mulch credit for the hydrangea's continued health.  However, since I also throw some food scraps there (lemon, onion, other fruit peels), I've been seeing roaches much too frequently in the area, not to mention gnats.  So I changed strategies.  I covered the dirty mulch with lots of coffee grounds and paper scraps and put in a couple of African Nightcrawlers.   Well this isn't my first try at pot vermicomposting, so I know this could work.   I've also vermicomposted using what I call a reverse mulch technique with live plants on top (mango, cat's whiskers, habanero, etc).  Anyway, I continued caring for the plant, not really paying too much attention to the mulch.  I've thrown at least 20 roaches into that pot over the months so you'd understand why I don't want to touch it much.  That was until today.

For the past couple of days (after over a month since the mulch), I've been noticing that the soil on the pot (yes, I can see soil already) seemed grainy.  That's a good sign if you're used to seeing vermicompost.  So today, I got my trusty trowel and snooped around.  There were lots of worms and at least two inches of vermicompost on top.  Not bad huh?  The more you ignore them, the more they thrive.  I'm pretty sure most of them were African Nightcrawlers and not earthworms.  I can almost distinguish them physically now.  And besides, they were lolling around organic matter.  Earthworms tend to stay in soil, correct?   Since I was running low on ANC inventory anyway, I gathered an ice cream container full of worms and vermicompost so I can easily fill an order for a worm bin.  I also replaced the lost mass with about two handfulls of shredded paper along with a few scoops of used coffee grounds.

With my recent successes in pot vermicomposting, my thoughts have been wandering towrads my mom's absolutely large pots at the back.  I am thinking about the possibilities.    

Until next month! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Overfeeding Your Bin Tip: Vermicomposting Adventures in Quezon City

One of the most common tips you'll see when vermicomposting is to avoid overfeeding your worms.  Sounds familiar?  It's bad for your bin because too much materials decompose at the same time, causing your bin to smell bad.  At the same time, the decomposition will eat up the bin's oxygen, thereby depriving your worms.  I've experienced that first hand. 

Now, I never seem to have enough worms because people buy worm bins from me.  However, I have managed to vermicompost every organic waste in the house.  Here's one technique that has worked for me recently.

I put a week's worth of organic waste (with shredded paper of course) in my bin.  That's a lot!  I usually have to spread that out into several bins.  Instead of doing that though, I just put the contents inside a paper bag (thank you Starbucks) or a small cardboard box (Nesvita, light bulbs, etc), I close or seal it and then I put that inside the bin.  I don't bother to moisten the bag or box.  After all, when the organic matter decomposes, it will release moisture.  The worms eat from under the bag when the time is right.   It's great because the bin doesn't smell or attract insects. 

At one point, I had about 100 grams of worms left in a semi big bin (3x1x1.5 feet) because I scraped to provide a customer with his requirements.  About two weeks later, I put in an entire melon (rinds only of course) inside a starbucks bag.  They finished it and there was no smell at all.  Cool huh?  Just the other day, I also had a rotten melon (what a waste, right?).  This time around, I placed the entire melon (not just the rinds) in a big paper bag, wrapped the bag around a little to close the hole and dumped it into the bin.  I'm betting the worms will finish that in about two weeks.  Once again, no smell. 

Try it both ways.  Get identical small bins with minimal worms.  Put lots of food in both, but bag it in one.  See if the technique works for you too.  ;-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ideal Temperatures for African Nightcrawlers: Vermicomposting Adventures in Quezon City

I've observed something over the past couple of months.  In April and May, I had to scoop back worms from the floor at least twice a day and I had to keep the night light on to discourage escape.    Furthermore, I had to leave the lid off my bins even at night apart from not adding any sort of moisture at all.  And yet, I still lost a lot of brave worms in those months.  I salute them.

The past couple of weeks have been marvelous though.  I've been adding food whenever I want.  I pour glasses of water in my bins.  Some are even flooded.  I keep the lids on and I don't have to leave the lights on at night.  The best part is that my worms stay put!  And then there's the lack of fruit flies and gnats. 

What's the basic difference?  A couple of degrees in the temperature.  Summer was brutal.  We had days of 33-34 degrees.  These days though, we get as low as 27-28. 

What's the conclusion?  African Nightcrawlers like low temps in the Philippines.  They can tolerate higher, but the other conditions must be just right (excellent airflow and optimum moisture).  It would seem that worms are more forgiving about air and moisture when temperatures are lower. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vermicomposting in the Philippines: Multiple Tray Flow Through Worm Bin

My really small back porch has been getting really crowded and messy because of all my little worm bins.  And then I had an inspiration.  I decided to have a multi-level flow through bin made out of office trays.  Of course I've tried this before, but I only stacked two or three.  This time around, I stacked five fully filled trays.  That's lots of paper and stuff and very few worms (about 250 grams I would guess).  Will it work?  Perhaps.

Here are some "features" of this stacked contraption: I put four chopsticks through the holes of each tray.   This prevents the trays from being too compressed.  This way maximizes the air flow.  Also to that end, I removed all the packing tape on the sides of the trays since I'm not afraid that the worms will try to escape.  I'm also not afraid of the vermicompost spilling from the sides.  That's because I also have a slightly wider bin at the bottom that will hopefully catch vermicompost falling from the sides.  On top, I just cover the tray with a breathable eco-bag.  And that's it. 

It's just like an expensive worm factory, only much cheaper.   The downside though is that the contraption is accessible.  I've seen a cockroach and two lizards already.  Really?  Are those house lizards feasting on my worms?  Tsk.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Worm Bin With Mushrooms

Tell me this is not an amazing sight.  I just need Sigourney Weaver to complete the cast of Aliens.  So I've had mushrooms in my worm bin in the past, but I waa blown away by a picture sent by one of my past customers.  This sees like a full blown infestation.  And so he's wondering if the worms are still alive.  I am betting they are.  Mushrooms and worms like the same environment so if the mushrooms are growing like crazy, so too should the worms.  It also shows that there's plenty of nourishment for everybody.  Once the carbon supply declines (thank you for helping with the decomposition dear mushrooms), the mushrooms should disappear.  So there shouldn't be any competition for food with the worms.  If those are alien mushrooms, all bets are off. 

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