Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Hoppin' Circle- March Wrap-Up

At Home Pets tackles the tough topic of spaying/neutering rabbits.

The Kelfla Project explains how she values a group effort in her goal of beating the standard.

Fuzzibutt's Rabbitry makes her wrap up debut with a post about how her rabbitry was in the news!

The Nature Trail plays 'Hide and Seek' with a pair of Polish babies.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Bad

Part II of a three part series.

I've already talked about what I feel are some of the best parts about raising rabbits. Now let's talk about some of the less-than-perfect things. I know this isn't really a happy topic, but it is an honest one and I think it is worth sharing, especially to potential new owners.

First, the more obvious stuff that most people already know. Rabbits are prey animals- they can get spooked very easily by the most innocuous of sounds, sights, or smells. Assuming they don't kick you in the face, they usually scratch or lash out when this happens. Sometimes they just bolt. Mean ones will bite (though they might also attack because they are evil). Temperaments are never guaranteed with rabbits, just like with any other rabbit. I had the sweetest New Zealand doe that turned into a psychopath when she matured.

Also because they are prey animals, they tend to be less hardy overall and less adaptable than predator pets like cats, for example. In fact, rabbits can get seriously ill from stress alone.. and yes, they can die from it. That is definitely a bad point to me and a big change from some more easy-going species. That is not to say that rabbits are dying of fright or stress-related disease left and right, but I am willing to bet that it is more prevalent than some would have you believe.

Some other things to think about. While rabbits may not need exact temperatures, humidity requirements, etc. like an amphibian, they still need some very specific housing. They can't be kept too hot or too cold and they need good air circulation as they can be prone to respiratory issues and heat stroke in particular. Unlike dogs that can free roam the house or yard and find somewhere comfortable, rabbits don't usually have this opportunity. This is primarily because things want to eat them, but also because they are really adept at getting themselves killed. Biting through electrical cords, eating things they can't digest, snapping their own backs like twigs, eating toxic plants, and having a heart attack from fear are just a few of the lovely things that rabbits have killed themselves with over the years. So, they really should only be kept in a bunny-proofed area and preferably with supervision when they are out of their enclosure.

Aside from the various ways that rabbits die, they can be a huge pain to breed. People talk about things "breeding like rabbits," but they must not have ever tried to be a rabbit breeder. As several of us can attest, some years are just not good years for producing kits. There are a variety of reasons that we try to come to terms with, but sometimes it just comes down to fortune. Same with trying to show and finding that all the rabbits are blowing their coats, or having a great mom suddenly kill her kits for no reason. It can be frustrating.

Rabbits have a very sediment-laden urine that can produce strong ammonia smells and can cake their trays and cage. Vinegar washes work pretty well to get rid of it, but these rinses also corrode the housing, so that is not a great thing. Some rabbits also spray- thankfully this hasn't happened to me (yet), but I have been told by several people that rabbits can become adept at spraying their owners directly in the face and even in their mouth. That is just awful to me- beyond words...ugh!

Rabbits shed like crazy seasonally- and I mean it will coat the building they are in with fur. You, too. I haven't found a good way to deal with this other than spot cleaning and when they are done going in and burning hair off cages with a torch or blowing out the whole building. Either way, it is very messy. Angoras are 10X worse if they aren't plucked- it starts to mat quickly and then you start finding streamers of 4" hair all over the place.

This post is so ridiculous that it is starting to make me laugh, but I think that is because in a large way.. rabbits are ridiculous, too. They are! I'm sure anyone that owns them for longer than a week can attest to sometimes how downright crazy things can get when you live with them.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Good

My next three posts will be about the good, the bad, and the ugly in raising rabbits. I know when I first became involved, it was really a lot of sunshine and rainbows. I didn't have any health issues in my herd, I was doing reasonably well in my first shows, and was harvesting angora for spinning left and right. Life was good. Then I started planning litters, kits were born, things started popping up that I had never dealt with before, and I ended up with some rough lessons in the truth of raising any animal, big or small.

Today we are going to focus on the good parts of breeding rabbits though. There are a lot of positives, there is no doubt about it. First and foremost, it can be very rewarding when everything goes right. Producing homebred stock of quality can generate feelings of accomplishment. Winning on the show tables can plaster a big grin on anyone's face. Having adorable baby bunny faces greet you in the morning first thing that you helped bring into the world is an amazing experience, too.

Other wonderful things about rabbits: they don't take up acres of space, they don't smell, they don't typically vocalize at all. They are relatively low-maintenance for a small set-up. They don't cost even half of what some larger animals do to take care of. Most of their equipment can be attained at the local feed store or online for fairly reasonable prices. They can be affectionate, playful, and fun. Their binkies are a joy to behold. They come in almost every color, size, and pattern that one could dream up. The main American club (ARBA) is very organized and helpful. There are also plenty of folks out there that love to help newbies get going.

Some other great things: rabbits can make fantastic pets. They can also produce meat for the family, be fun to show for kids and adults alike. Certain breeds produce wool for spinning/crafts, and other breeds can be harvested for their full coats. They are a very multi-purpose utilitarian animal. Their diets are relatively simple and low-cost. They produce manure that is gold to anyone's garden.

There are so many good things to say. Do you have any you would like to add?