Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best Laid Plans.

I bred four of my does on September 6th as follows:
Mini Lops-
Hoppin's Twister (Chocolate Chinchilla) X Lunar Lapins' Sunflower (Chestnut)

McCasland's Spock (Black Japanese) X Hendricks' Athena (Black Japanese)
Hendricks' Apollo (Black Japanese) X McCasland's Hikari (Blue Japanese)

New Zealands
Scorch (New Zealand Red) X Pearl (New Zealand White)

On day 18 Pearl started nesting frantically and pulling fur. I am guessing she didn't take and is having a false pregnancy, but she isn't cooperative right now so I am sure. It would be a nice surprise if she does happen to kindle a litter, though. I would expect odd colors from a red X white pairing- maybe steels or agoutis, but I had hoped to keep the very best (regardless of color) for the next generation of improvement. I am always reminding myself: color is easy, type is hard!

On day 21, Kari started frantically nesting as well, though she didn't pull fur. She is still displaying nesting behaviors today though she isn't due until next week. I am really hoping that she took because her breeding is my most anticipated of all and I have waited almost a year for this opportunity. I would expect black and blue Japanese with the slim chance of chocolates and lilac Japanese, too. This pair has very complimentary type and are large, friendly, and beautiful. Needless to say, fingers are crossed!

Sunny and Athena are not showing any signs either way whether they took or not and I forgot to palpate at the appropriate time. Oh well! Due to my concern about stressing the does with the incredibly hot summer we had, there haven't been any kits since early Spring. I miss having them around as much as anything else, though it would be great to be able to move forward with the breeding program finally.

I am trying not to get my hopes up too high as I have learned over the years.. "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Scorch and Cinnamon

We finally had some somewhat cooperative weather and I took a break from studying this week to snap a few new pictures. I posted a posed picture of both of my New Zealands already on the Harlie page if you want to check them out, but here are others that I liked below.
This is Cinnamon, my junior New Zealand Red doe. She is very quiet and sweet. Loves to be petted, but isn't such a big fan of being posed just yet:

 This is Scorch, my intermediate New Zealand Red buck. He was not in love with posing either, actually.. but who can blame him? It is not exactly the most natural thing in the world.

 He is a mush and prefers to be carried around upside down in my arms:

 But how can I resist this face?

Truth is, I can't. So he just puts his heels up and enjoys the strolls. He's only been here a few weeks and is already in charge apparently.

 I have to say, it is hard to get any work done around here with my arms full of New Zealand Red all the time. :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

What are you breeding for?

I am sure most of us became involved with rabbits initially because we really enjoy them, plain and simple. However, beyond the initial aspect of interest, rabbit people seem to branch out into all different philosophies regarding why they breed and raise the rabbits that they do. Here are some individual reasons I have come across over the past few years:

1. For Show: They say they like the competition. Some also mentioned the travel, seeing old friends and making new ones, buying and selling breeding stock, and seeing all of the different breeds in one place.

2. For Pets: They tell me they like having cute, fuzzy, gentle creatures around to love on and to sell to others as family members. Some also feel that they can make a decent profit selling pets, too.

3. For Education: They say they rarely have litters and usually have an assortment of other species around. They may go to schools, parks, birthday parties, and more serious professional situations depending on what kind of involvement they have. They may also profit or may not depending on what their ultimate needs are.

4. For Meat: They tell me they are interested in growth, meat-to-bone ratios, overall health, and the ability for their stock to breed and be good mothers among other things. They may sell to other hobbyists in small groups or they may simply sell in bulk to a processor.

5. For Fiber: I am told they love their angoras and often enjoy spinning, knitting, and/or crochet among other similar fiber arts. Plenty of people that keep stock for fiber also show and sell their culls as pets or woolers.

I'm sure many reputable breeders fall into more than one of these groups above- I know I do. I have been thinking about it though and it seems like those that purposefully explore and educate themselves about the multiple and legitimate reasons for raising stock may have the advantage over those that just raise for one reason or another.

For example, if someone only breeds for show, then do temperaments fall to the wayside over winning type? How about growth rate? Health? Good mothering abilities? I have read time and time again about biting rabbits on the judging tables, mothers who don't take care of their young in every litter (which are fostered out to other does) and yet they are still being bred because they are grand champions, etc. Not to mention those that show despite illness in their herds because all that matters is the big win.

So what about someone that only breeds for meat? If they have no judges comments to give them an idea of what they need to work on and if they never go to shows to learn about the breed standards, then how do they determine good type on their stock before they breed? A pedigree is only a piece of paper describing lineage- it does not say anything about how nice the rabbit is unfortunately.

How about pets only? What happens when the babies are all grown up and families that are bored with them return them all. Can a pet breeder house a new group of unexpected adults and/or find homes for them as pets a second time around? How about a third or fourth in the case of a behavioral or health problem? Not to mention the stiff competition between pet breeders on all the ad sites.

And the list goes on. If knowledge is power, than a breeder that can recognize good type, that understands the aspects of sound and tolerant temperament, that has been monitoring for health issues, good mothering abilities, decent growth/size, and that has a variety of outlets to chose from for their culls.. well, how could that possibly compare to just focusing on one thing, regardless of whatever it is?

I don't know about everyone else, but for me it is a great reality check to ask myself whenever I am starting to plan a litter: Just exactly what am I breeding for? What do I hope to achieve by this pairing? How will it help the breed? And later on, what is the end result?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rainy Days and Photography

It is pouring outside as I type this. Over the summer it seemed like we couldn't hardly get a break from the intense sun baking everything down to drought levels. So, I am thankful for the water finally, but at the same time I have to admit that I have been itching to get new pictures of everyone and that is on hold until the weather lets up. I love natural lighting for pictures to the point that I pretty much refuse to take pictures without it these days. it just adds so much more. Here is a picture I took of one of my Don Juan climbing roses during a shower at dusk. See how artificial it looks even though it is a real life amazing bloom with dew drops all over?

To contrast here is one of my Darwin Tulips from Spring in natural sunlight:

 In my humble opinion, there is just no comparison to the natural color that comes through in the second picture. I love it so much that I pretty much limit myself to nice day photo shoots, which can occasionally be a pain when trying to work the weather around my school schedule. I almost always find that it is worth it in the end though because I am always so much happier with my pictures and feel like the time was well-spent.

Can you tell I like flowers? Flowers and bunnies make the world a better place. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Website is coming right along.

I didn't anticipate that I'd be able to get the website together completely this year with the busy school/clinical schedule, but I am very happy with how quickly it is coming along. Weebly is great! Now that I have figured out the basics it really is very user-friendly. For those if you that are looking at various hosts, I'd still recommend for professional/paid web hosting needs provided that you know at least html coding, but for free or low cost, it is really hard to go wrong with Weebly. Thanks to Christine for telling me about it. :o)

Regarding the links page, I have been working to get sites added. If for some reason I missed someone, please let me know by shooting me an e-mail or replying to this post. Thanks!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Zealand and Harlequin Issues

I am still busy working on the website, but in the meantime I'd thought I'd share a little about our new side project. As many people already know, I think Harlequins are pretty much a mess as a breed, at least from what I have seen since I have had them. They seem to be very susceptibe to problems, have type, size, and growth that is all over the place, and even different breeders across the US seem to have entirely different goals in their programs depending on their interest.

Some breed for markings first, some for health, some for temperament, etc. Some are primarily concerned with winning at shows and some people just want to have nice pet or meat rabbits (along with everything in between). I was even shocked to find out that some Harlequin breeders have said they have serious illness in their herds, but they medicate and continue to show their stock because they are winning or have a sentimental attachments. Even aside from the issues with the individual rabbits and breeders, by doing this they are exposing everyone else's rabbits to whatever their rabbits are suffering from.

From my way of thinking, all of these differences listed above are doing a diservice to Harlies. Breeding sick animals obviously does not improve health. Breeding for markings first is not really all that much better. If there is a terribly typed rabbit underneath the pretty markings, it seems somewhat counterproducive. I know not everyone will always have the same idea of what a Harlequin rabbit should be.. but I do hope that someday health might at least be one of the criteria everyone can agree upon.

On the bright side, there are still breeders out there that make health a #1 priority and they are actively working to better their stock. I am also fortunate that there is another breeder relatively close by that I am friends with (over at OlivYew Farm). She and I share similar philosophies about the breed and I am hoping we can trade back and forth later this year or next when we both have some litters in the nestbox.

For now I just have two purebred bucks and two does to work with. The good news is that (getting back to the title of this post) I have located some lovely New Zealand Reds. They are very healthy, have great type, and are very friendly. I am hoping to use them to improve my Harlequins over time with strong immune systems, a full hindquarter, depth of body, shorter shoulders, more rapid growth, and excellent rufus. I am hoping that a fresh infusion of new (and solid) genetics would help considerably and am excited about the project.

From what I have read and those I have spoken with, I can expect Harlequin marked kits in even the first generation. I have to say that I had lost hope for a while with this rare and difficult breed but I am glad to say that it is back again and I am looking forward to what the future will bring with the Harlies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trying to get some work done and other random thoughts.

I've been working on the new site several times a week, but I just didn't realize how much content there was to move over. I'm still not really thrilled with the layout and I am scared to mess with it too much. I've always done my own html coding prior to this, so it is a big change to say the least.

I keep thinking today how much easier everything would be if I just worked with one breed. With two, it automatically doubles the workload on the website content. It also doubles the workload that the individual has, trying to learn every nuance of the breed standards, trying to find quality stock, trying to have complimentary breedings, trying to make sure you can get 'em to the right coops even when they are all being called at the same time at the show. Making sure there is the health, diversity, temperaments, markings, etc., etc., etc.. X2 or 3 or 4 depending on how dedicated someone is. It gets tiring quite honestly.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Harlequins. I love Mini Lops, too. That' the problem. I also like several heritage breeds and commercial types. I never knew how neat New Zealands were until I owned a couple. But I am a busy student and reality checks are frequent by necessity. I simply don't have the time, money, or space for a large rabbitry. I know some people think of a large rabbitry as 150, but no I mean I don't have time for even 100, or even 50, or even 25.

In a perfect world, I'd like to have between 10-20 of one breed, but right now that is too much for me so I just do the best I can. I find that the longer I work with rabbits the more my goals seem to streamline with experience, so maybe there is still hope for the future after all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

10 Years Ago Today
8:46 a.m.

Flight 11 crashed into north tower of World Trade Center.

9:03 a.m.

Flight 175 crashed into the south tower.

9:37 a.m.

Flight 77 crashed into Pentagon.

9:59 a.m.

South tower of trade center collapses.

10:03 a.m.

Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania field.

10:29 a.m.

Second World Trade Center tower collapses.

11:15 a.m.

Mayor Guiliani says: "I have a sense it's a horrendous number of lives lost."

8:48 a.m.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at the site of the World Trade Center: "Ten years have passed since a perfect blue-sky morning turned into the blackest of nights."

8:52 a.m.

"Gordon M. Aamoth, Jr."

The reading of the names of the 9/11 victims — all 2,977 of them — has begun.

"We've lived in sunshine and shadow," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. This day was to acknowledge both.

9/11 remembered,


Friday, September 9, 2011

Cleaning Ideas

I know this sounds like a silly topic, but it can be a pain to keep rabbit cages clean from time to time. Here are some things I have found helpful over the past couple of years:

*Avoid hair accumulation on wire by using a handheld blow torch BEFORE it starts to build up. (Obviously) remove the bunny from the cage along with anything flammable or that can be damaged by heat. Then just run the flame over any area that hair is starting to stick and it should burn off immediately. Caution, don't leave the wire to heat up- it will destroy the galvanized finish if it cooks.

*Clean trays frequently to keep the work to a minimum, odors down, and bunnies happy. At least once or twice a week, but I will clean every day if I can.

*If you aren't cleaning daily, use an absorbent bedding in the trays to keep smells away. I like wood pellets (stove pellets or horse stall pellets) and you can just dump the whole tray in the compost heap as it is entirely biodegradable.

*I use a plastic spackle knife to scrap out trays when cleaning. There are different sizes available at the hardware store, so I just picked a cheap one that fit into the Dura Tray corners well. I wipe it off between trays with a Chlorox wipe to keep it clean.

*Gardens and flower beds love rabbit manure! If you are cleaning trays often and don't need the bedding for odor control/urine absorption, you don't have to use bedding at all. Just dump the tray in the garden, rinse, and viola. Happy garden, happy bunny.

*I run a Chlorox wipe around the edge of the trays when cleaning. This keeps any buildup away from the corners that you empty it with and keeps hair/debris/bacteria from where you put your hands.

*A vinegar rinse will clear off accumulated sediment on your plastic trays.

*If the cages are indoors, keep the area under them clean, too. Otherwise there can be accumulated debris and moisture leading to mold and other problems for good air quality and hygiene.

*Clean the walls regularly as they can also accumulate sediment from sprayers, caught hay, and fur. I use a cheap clear shower curtain behind the cages and then I just change them out when needed, throwing the old one in the trash. If you really want to reuse them you could clean/wash them though, I suppose.

*I use a dollar store barbeque brush to clean the floor wire. You can scrub it with the metal bristles and the scraper part on the top can help with the difficult spots. I know some people also have good luck with hoof picks. You can use the tray spackle knife to scrape the underside of the cage wire during molts when the manure clings to the wire instead of falling completely through.

*They say cleanliness is next to godliness! It is amazing what a difference a good cleaning can make to have happy, healthy rabbits with clean cages and good air quality. It also makes for a nice presentation should you wish to show off your rabbits to friends or family.

I hope some of these tips help people getting started with their clean up. :o)