Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Evening Visitor

Our garden bunny was hanging out off to the side of the driveway last night and I managed to snap a poor quality picture in the dark:

A little Eastern Cottontail. Here is the species description from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website (http://www.georgiawildlife.com/node/897):

"The eastern cottontail is the most common rabbit in Georgia occurring throughout the entire state.  It has dense brown to gray fur on its back with a white underside and white or cotton tail.  There is usually a white spot on its forehead, the nape of the neck is rusty in color, and the feet are whitish.  From head to tail adults measure 14-17 inches and weigh 2-4 pounds.

Cottontails breed from February to September, with 80% of the young born from April to July.  Males are polygamous (i.e., have more than one mate at a time).  Cottontails are very productive having 3-7 litters per year that range from 4-7 young per litter.  Their gestation period is 25-30 days.  Young can start eating vegetation after 8 days and are weaned from their mother after 14 days.

The eastern cottontail is active mostly from dusk till dawn.  Their annual home ranges cover 4-13 acres.  Research has shown that cottontails use a variety of habitat types ranging from crop fields, oldfields, and pastures to briar and shrub thickets.  Brush and briar thickets provide important cover from predators and mortality rates are greater when rabbits venture into open areas with sparse ground cover.  Annual mortality rates average about 80% per year.   Mammalian predators (coyotes, bobcats, foxes, etc.) account for the majority (55%) of cottontails mortality with avian predators (owls and hawks) next in line (25%) as a source of mortality.  Most mortality of cottontails occurs during the breeding season.

Cottontails use a variety of habitats, but prefer early succession habitats (i.e., a mix of grasses, briars, forbs, and shrubs).  Early succession habitat can be created or maintained by combinations of periodic ground disturbances that maintain ground vegetation in a 1-5 year old growth stage.   Cottontails, as well as most rabbits, feed on a great variety of vegetation.  However, rabbit management is targeted primarily at managing for quality cover and not food."

Thanks for looking!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Ugly

This is the third and final post in this series of three. So far we've talked before about the good stuff- how cute and fun raising rabbits can be. We've also talked about the bad stuff- how crazy and messy raising rabbits can be. Now let's talk about some of the horrid items that rabbit breeders have to deal with as a matter of course- aka the ugly side.

Let's start with a scenario: Someone contacts you to buy a rabbit. They send pictures of their set-up, they seem to have researched what they want/need, have housing and everything, and are ready to buy. Even though you hesitate to part with a rabbit you wanted to keep, you decide that it may help this person get started and go for it. Hey, if no one took a risk with you then how would you have been started, right?

Then when you go to meet them though, they are late.. not five minutes late, but an hour and a half late. They keep calling saying they are almost there while you sit around waiting.

Alright, they've arrived. They seem nice and you second guess your concerns about selling even though a few statements they make about the breed you need to correct. No problem. You go over your care sheet, provide food hay for the transition, answer questions, go over items like nail clipping. All is well and they leave.. but the very next day they contact you and are concerned because the rabbit isn't eating all of a sudden. You find out that they ignored all of your instructions, stressed the new rabbit out with tons of family, and then fed fruit/vegetables on the DO NOT FEED list you provided. You try to provide more information, emphasize that they should never offer that food item, and encourage them to contact a vet or even come back and meet you again.

They swear they will contact a vet and they say they already have one. But, they don't. Should I mention that instead of the vet they decide to call you at all hours of the night? You tell them the hours you are available, but find that even the questions asked are the same ones answered on the care sheet like what kind of hay to offer. A good start would be the hay that you already provided, right? The problems just keep coming. Now you have spent a good twelve hours talking to them off and on at all hours of the day and night, not to mention the time in e-mail... all for a $25 rabbit that you reduced the price to just $15 on to save the family a little bit of money. By the way, in the meantime the rabbit has been eating and doing fine when they finally started the rabbit on the right track.

Then you get the call a few months later (while the questions continue in the meantime) that they don't want the rabbit anymore because rabbits aren't what they expected after all. They don't want a shy prey animal- they want a puppy! Will you take the rabbit back and give them a refund? Oh and it has to be today and they are already on their way over to your town.

Yes, one ugly aspect of raising rabbits is that you will have buyers that you will swear exist for the sole purpose of driving you crazy! And then there are the actual crazy people that pose as buyers but are in fact PETA animal rights activists that are trying to find a way to access your rabbits to "free them." (One of the reasons I won't meet people at my house anymore.) Or the buyers that suddenly produce a dozen litters locally that look just like the pet rabbit you sold them even though they swore the pet rabbit they purchased was scheduled to be neutered.

You aren't safe from liars and cheaters if you don't sell to the public because breeders aren't exempt from this either and you have to get your starting stock from somewhere. To give you an example, I purchased a group of rabbits from a breeder that was supposed to be reputable. Because of this and because I still had the newbie mentality to trust a stranger in rabbits, I purchased them based on pictures and a friend transported them to my state after a show. Let me just say simply that they were grossly misrepresented. And I don't mean in just a case of poor type or something- I mean they were sick culls that I paid money for and ended up having to euthanize. Do you know what the seller did? Nothing. She didn't refund me a dime and continues to sell poor culls to newbies while enjoying a good reputation in the community as a successful exhibitor. Ugly? Yes, but it happens and more often than people think. 

Another ugly item that I already briefly mentioned is that there will be people that think you are the devil for raising rabbits and may try to sabotage you or your property. Some people are just against breeders of any species for any reason and make it their life's mission to stop you. Others think all rabbits should be free. Even ignoring for a second that domestic rabbits probably won't survive in the wild regardless, a third group are really just trouble-makers as sad as it is. They might live nearby and report you to AC because they are bored. Or be a disgruntled family member or friend. Or even a show competitor that is jealous of your win. Even if AC shows up and finds no problems at all in a perfect rabbitry, this can be a stressful event and occurs for no other reason than someone is being ugly.

If you are reading this post, then you probably have animals of some kind, likely rabbits. To me the most ugly part of having any animal, but especially smaller animals like rabbits is that they inevitably take a turn and sooner than you are ready for (are you ever really ready though?). If you are fortunate then they may pass away in their sleep, but much more likely than that is that you will have to make the decision to humanely euthanize them to prevent unwanted pain and suffering and/or a poor quality of life.

Now if you compound this with raising rabbits, then not only will you have to deal with death and sickness from a pet standpoint, but you will have to deal with several other items like protecting your herd from illness, preventing an inferior or malformed rabbit from passing along defective genes, and even something like population control if there is no other outlet for culls. In translation, it means that as a breeder while someone gets to enjoy the aspects of having life around like new kits in the nestbox, they also have to take responsibility for every rabbit born or purchased in the form of death dealing. Yes, the ugly fact is that rabbit breeders not only deal with life, but become very well acquainted with death as well. This is an uncomfortable and often distressing aspect of raising rabbits. Even meat breeders post all the time about how difficult it is when slaughter day arrives and how they struggle to rationalize feeding their families with wholesome home-grown meat even knowing that it comes from the babies they so carefully raised. Are you ready to be the hand that makes the appointment, the finger that pulls the trigger? This is a very serious consideration.

Death is ugly.

And so are several other items we've discussed. I really wish someone would have told me about all of the good, bad, and ugly parts of raising rabbits before I started, but unfortunately some of this literally comes with experience. Although many of these topics are not fun (though some are of course), I hope it has provided insight into raising rabbits for your consideration. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cute Little Furballs

Just wanted to post some cute pics I took today:

Thanks for looking!

APHIS Proposal

If you raise rabbits (or any animal, really), I encourage you to read the Rabbit Smarties blog posted by friend Ellyn that breaks it down superbly. It describes what the proposal is, how it affects people, what should be done about it, and even has a frequently asked questions section. Check it out!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Missing Spring

We have been in a drought for a pretty good bit now. Last night we had a little rain, but not enough to really make a dent in how dry everything is still. Some of my trees have been dropping leaves and the grass looks very brown and sad.

It wasn't so long ago when everything was lush and blooming. I'm posting some pics today of my hydrangea when it was producing tons of flowers in mid-May. I purchased it thinking it was going to produce bubblegum pink petals a few years back. It was almost dead on the clearance shelf at Home Depot for $5 when it normally sold for almost $30. I figured I'd give it a go and with some TLC, it came right back. Didn't bloom the first year, but ever since it has been like clockwork during Spring.

Interestingly, it never did end up blooming bubblegum pink, but research later on indicated that the advertising wasn't really accurate because the color of the flower depends on the pH of the soil.


 As you can see, the buds would try to open pink, but by the time they matured they were lavender blue with pink centers and were just so pretty!

Here is another lovely Spring discovery. A Toehee nest right outside my front window:

The little pair hatched less than 24 hours before this picture was taken. I had been discretely checking the nest when mama was out and the babies did great!

Thanks for reading. :o)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Staying Cool

Tacoma, resting on a hot summer day:

Though for some reason she lays on the opposite side of the cage as her frozen pop bottle and resting mat most of the time. Oh well.. to each his or her own, I guess!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Heat Wave

106! That's how hot it was here yesterday afternoon. This is an all-time record high for this time of year since recording began in 1878. We are expecting 104 today. :o(

Needless to say, I am taking numerous steps to keep the rabbits cool. I highly encourage anyone looking for ways to chill their barn out to check out some of posts of the blogs I follow regarding how to reduce temperatures in your rabbitry. Now that I don't have AC anymore out with the buns, I use frozen pop bottles, frozen tiles, box fans, damp their ears, and even set-up to rotate them inside the house in an exercise pen since I can't fit the stackers.

Stay cool if you can!