Free hot tub, another dead duck, upcoming rabbits?

This past weekend I found a free hot tub on Craigslist and happened to see it within a half hour of posting. I was the first caller, so on Monday after work I hooked up the trailer and went to get it. The guy helped me out, and with leverage, ramps, and a come-along we were able to get it up the 3′ onto my trailer. So tonight I filled it up (and quickly found the unions were disconnected on either side of the heater and pump). After I got those hooked back up I did see a small leak at one of the fittings, I couldn’t tell exactly why since it is covered in foam. Before I spent too much time and effort on it I wanted to fire it up, so I hooked it up to my PTO generator (my cord wasn’t long enough to plug it in my 50amp outlet in the garage). When I turned it on the panel fired up, but no jets turned on. More concerningly, some smoke started coming from the pump motor after only a couple seconds! Turns out the pump is locked up :( Between that and the leak, I am not sure if I am going to do anything with it. I may salvage the controller since it seems to work just fine. I don’t know about the heater since the jets never kicked on, but I’ll pull it as well just in case. I have to decide if I stash this somewhere and TRY to fix it later or not. It’d only be worthwhile if I got a pump for free or cheap. Even then, really only worth while if I can completely stop the leak. It wasn’t a drip-drip, drop, it was dripdripdrip to the point of almost a stream. That would rot everything out in no time flat. So the hot tub is a fail unfortunately, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a good deal on another.

On a sad note, last week my daughter’s duck (the very first one I got) was found dead in the pen before work. Of course she was absolutely heart broken (to the point of not being able to do school all day). I am not sure exactly why she died. She had two small spots of blood on her chest, but I didn’t see any real damage. Its possible she got sick, its possible the other ducks bullied her and she didn’t get enough food (and the blood could have been from her chest freezing to the ground?), I don’t really know unfortunately. That leaves me down to two ducks, one a male. I had spent about $10 each on ducks and have lost 4 pekin girls (to the fox), male rouen (to the fox), two muscovies (too dumb to go with the other ducks in the warm shelter and froze to death). That is $70 worth of ducks I’ve lost! I did get 15 or 20 dozen eggs, but with the feed on top it has hardly been worthwhile. I am debating whether I try to get some more (since the fox problem is taken care of) or get rid of (or eat) the two I have.

So, instead of ducks, I am considering getting rabbits. I wouldn’t get eggs, but I’d surely get more meat (since the ducks I’ve had don’t do a great job of mothering). Being that they’d be in cages I should have less problem with predators, and they are more prolific so I should get more meat. Now, can I get the family to eat rabbit meat? They have problems eating meat from cute animals, so I’m not so sure. I think my son will, my daughter I’m not so sure on (she LOVES meat, but only from ugly animals or from the store). My wife I’m pretty sure the answer is no. I bought a couple rolls of wire to make some cages, so if I find a good deal I’ll be ready to pick up a few. I am thinking I’ll start with 2 unrelated males (hopefully identical looking so if one dies I can claim it was not my daughter’s rabbit!) and a couple females. One buck would stay in reserve and so then I could use it for breeding the babies from the first batch if I so choose.

With rabbits being able to eat so much of their diet as forage, I am thinking they may be cheaper to feed than the ducks. The ducks would forage, but wouldn’t really eat any less. I don’t have much grass around, but I can hay the bit I do have. That, and hay bales are common and cheap and seem like they can be a pretty good portion of the rabbits diet. From what I can see a square bale should last close to a year per rabbit, at $3-5 that isn’t much money! If I put in a food plot for deer I could also be growing a good portion of my own feed as well. It seems like the best option, though I’ll need to figure out something for water in the winter. A single heated water dish won’t work so well if I keep all the rabbits separate (it may work for a grow-out pen though). I sure don’t want to have to heat a shelter, though if I could figure out a way to handle the waste I could probably figure out a way to keep them somewhere in the garage (which doesn’t get down to freezing). I have some ideas on that, I can work on those during the summer. The pee seems like the biggest deal, my idea is to use a gutter screen to separate the pee from the poo. Then in winter I could route a hose through the wall to outside and collect to poo in a bucket (which would let me then use it for a garden area to amend the sand/soil). In all, rabbits seem to be a good choice since the kids would have animals they can play with, we’d get meat, and maybe even be able to sell a few (not sure how much money is in them, but since they reproduce so well I could sell a few or harvest and freeze them if they don’t sell).

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