Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rabbit Forums

As most already know, I like talking rabbits with like-minded folks! Here are some links to rabbit forums you can join and make new friends (the top one is also a general homesteading forum with a rabbit section):

Homesteading Today

Rabbit Talk

Rabbit Addict

There used to be a bunch of Yahoo rabbit groups also, but I'm not sure if many are still active. The ones I used to be a member of were only showing new posts every few weeks or so. I wish some of the rare breeds had an active internet presence- I can barely find anything on Beverens still in 2014 just like in 2008. Anyway, I'm sure there are other rabbit forums out there that I don't know about, but a word of caution- several rabbit forums are managed by rabbit activist folks and are not welcoming to breeders/exhibitors. Join us if you haven't already and help spread the word!

And now a random internet picture that made me smile:

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good thing the rabbits know how to prepare for the big day!

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fall Rabbit Update

As I mentioned before, I've been aiming for December kits. I worry it has been too long since any planned litters though. For the most part, the does have not been receptive to the bucks regardless of the time of day, choice of buck, cage placement, lighting, etc. Valkyrie is the exception to the rule as she has been a gem and is apparently quite fond of Apollo. I normally do not leave does with bucks in case of problems when I am not supervising, but I did end up placing Kari and Sunshine both in with Spock and Apollo respectively in the hopes that something would happen when I wasn't around. For now I am just going to plan to put nestboxes in with all four does when the time comes and hope for the best.

In the meantime, I've been trying to come up with a contingency plan. Bob Bennett in Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits (which I recommend) gives his does a 3-strike rule. Here is a pic of the cover in case any folks are wanting to read it. The IBSN # is 1603424563:

With the 3-strike rule, Mr. Bennett gives his does three attempts to raise a litter and then they are out of the breeding program. I think that is the fair option here as well. I'd be thrilled with some surprise litters though- I really need some young replacements and would like to continue with these genetics. I honestly don't think I could do Harlequins again if I had to start all over from nothing. Needless to say, I am curious to see if old does can produce after this long. After talking to some folks and doing some reading, old bucks tend not to be the culprit if kits aren't produced- hence why 4-6+ year old bucks in some breeding programs still successfully sire litters.

Another thing I am planning to do differently from here forward is (assuming I have any litters) not to part with pet quality rabbits to the general public. I've had a very small number of exceptional homes contact me over the years. More commonly though, I am contacted by folks that haven't done any research and want something cheap. Part of that is the market here, but part of it is just a different way of thinking. To me rabbits are living creatures, but some folks may view them more like objects (such as toys to entertain their kids). I have gone the route where I spend a lot of time and effort trying to educate, but honestly many people are not receptive and I think that contributed to burnout I experienced a few years ago. I would rather have rabbit dinner knowing that life was good before humane dispatch rather than consign one of my own to a fate of neglect or even abuse in a questionable home. Another bonus is that I wouldn't have to worry about the retail aspect, which I am not good at and don't care for. I knew going into rabbits 5+ years ago that this is a wonderful hobby, but not one I was planning to make any money from anyway.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rabbit Cage Wire

Since I have been on a quest to update some of my cages, I thought I'd share what I learned in the process about housing rabbits over the years. First of all, let's talk about general housing. I know some folks have a lot of success with raising rabbits on the ground in a colony or warren set-up and I think it is a neat idea.. but I worry about internal and external parasites. Mites, worms, etc. live in the soil and come from droppings that other animals leave. This can result in rabbits that are weak, thin, in poor condition, and can even die if they have a significant infestation. Another important issue with parasites in livestock is that infected stock can be a potential vector to humans as well. Birds of prey, cats, dogs, snakes, fox, raccoons, rats can also kill your rabbits and/or their babies depending on how protected they are. Children may try to get into the enclosure to play with them and they may end up free if another human is so inclined to let them out. I also imagine they would be hard to catch at times, particularly when holed up.

I personally use wire cages. I've also used solid-bottom cages in the past with litter boxes. I don't like the litter box/solid bottom at all- some rabbits are clean and keep everything spotless, others pee and poop in their litter box, then dig it out all over the cage and take a nap in it, even when they have other clean boxes, toys, etc. Some are in-between, but I don't like that rabbits with this setup will have to step in their own waste unless you are planning to change the litter box contents several times a day. No thanks!

So, wire. Isn't it cruel to raise rabbits on metal? Well, it is for the most part self-cleaning (droppings and urine fall right through), though you still have to sanitize it from time to time and keep it free from fur that likes to stick during a molt. It also has great ventilation and rabbits have thick fur on the bottom of their feet that are perfectly suited to this kind of housing. A lot of people think rabbits develop sore hocks because of wire, but the truth is that some rabbits are lacking the thick fur (a fault) and get sore hocks even on solid flooring. Most folks also provide resting boards (myself included), but much of the time my rabbits still prefer the wire for most of their activities. Some of them are perpetually putting the resting mats up against the wall of their cage, out of the way of their toys, food, etc. :)

I've discovered through my search that there are about a zillion kinds of welded wire out there. The two most commonly used are galvanized before wire and galvanized after wire. Galvanized just means that a zinc or zinc and aluminum coating is applied to the steel to make it last longer and help keep it from rusting. Galvanized before wire is usually cheaper, but it rusts more easily because the heat from the welding damages the galvanized finish. Galvanized after usually feels thicker and stronger and the steel underneath may be of a higher quality as well. Most finishes I've seen just have zinc, but the zinc and aluminum combo is also reported to last longer than a standard galvanized finish. As a side note, you should never cut galvanized metal with power tools as breathing in the zinc fumes is dangerous (look up metal fume fever for more info).

I have both galvanized before and after wire here. I've found welded wire usually dulls in color over time and may even look powdery eventually. Galvanized before wire rusts much quicker in my experience and you should plan to replace it every few years when kept out of the elements and perhaps even more often if kept unprotected. If you order cages from vendors, check to make sure they use galvanized after wire. I was surprised that more expensive cage vendors don't specify which wire they use and unfortunately, these are the stackers I'm having to repair as the floor rusted out where the rabbits urinated most frequently.

As I am not very experienced doing cage repairs, I went with 25' of cheap galvanized before wire for $32 including shipping. That way if I screw up while cutting the wire or whatever, I am not out a significant amount of money. Galvanized after wire can be over $200 for 100' roll, to give you an idea of cost. I am going to use the extra wire after a repair to make a cage myself and see how it works over time. If all goes well with my new cage and my repairs, then next time I will go with the more expensive wire.

Another important factor in wire for rabbit cages is the size of the wire. Although it make sound backwards, a higher number gauge is a smaller/thinner wire. For example, a 14 gauge wire is thicker and stronger than a 19 gauge wire. I like 14 gauge wire for the walls and ceiling, though 16 gauge wire should work fine, too. I also like 14 gauge wire for the floor personally. I've found the 14 gauge lasts longer and helps keep bigger cages from sagging in the middle. I don't like 30" deep cages because it can be hard to clean the back and remove buns from that far back, so I tend to go for wider floorspace (such as 36" long and 24" deep). You can use 1" x 2" wire for the walls and ceiling of the cage (or you can use baby-saver wire with smaller gaps at the bottom if you are worried about kits falling out). I like 1/2" x 1" for the floor, but folks with smaller breeds may go for 1/2" x 1/2" for the floor, too. In my carriers, I noted that the droppings are too large for that size wire at times for the large breeds like English Lops, though it was fine for my Mini Lops and most of my Harlies. The best thing about do-it-yourself projects though is figuring out what works best for you. I hope this information is helpful and best of luck in your cage-building endeavors!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Random Winter Stuff

I started supplementing the herd with black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) today. Last year I stopped feeding Purina as it was over $20 per bag at the time and started with Southern States, which is local and less expensive. It looks and smells fine, though it isn't as green as what I was used to. I still feed random hay (whatever is available locally) as well. Everyone's been doing well except that I've noticed their fur/condition isn't as nice this year as compared to last. BOSS is notorious as a "hot feed" that can help with this issue and a lot of exhibitors feed it as a supplement. Think glossy coats. Word from the previous generations of rabbit breeders is that an excess of BOSS can make bucks and does fat and lazy, though. I just put a small handful (probably 6-12 seeds) per rabbit and we will see how it goes.

In other news, I'm trying to get some does bred today. This morning, Apollo was interested and Spock was not. After it warmed up some, both of the bucks were willing, but they were unsuccessful with Tacoma, Sunshine, and Valkyrie. I'm giving them a break under the assumption they are out of shape after two years off from this endeavor and will try again later today or tomorrow. I'm hoping to have them breed four does between them so I can see if I even get 1-2 litters. I'd be ecstatic with four though- think of how particular I could be when choosing the next generation!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vaccinated Harlies!

I didn't realize this at the time, but apparently there is a lot of controversy about BunnyVac, the Pasteurella multocida vaccine. I vaccinated all of my Harlequins today, for better or worse. I have been told that some breeders and owners will not buy from vaccinated herds and that there is pressure to question the effectiveness of the vaccine and whether there are any actual benefits to the rabbits vaccinated. There is a lot of concern that we, as breeders, would be doing harm to our beloved rabbits by vaccinating. This is what I wrote on a thread about treating snuffles on Homesteading Today, in case it helps anyone out:

I know there is usually a lot of emotion when this topic starts to get going, but I think we are in an era where we can make educated decisions that may not only benefit our herd, but may benefit other rabbit breeders. Please bear with my long post, but I think a lot of rabbit breeders believe (and I thought this myself for many years) that a strong immune system prevents or can fight off snuffles. Operating under this assumption, I think the unfortunate reality is that we are breeding generation after generation of carriers. When a snotty rabbit appears- we as breeders most often don't culture it. We kill it and when there is no more snot, we think the problem is resolved. The evidence for this not being the case is that after more than 30 years of cull the sick mentality, rabbit breeders are still dealing with snot and upper respiratory symptoms regularly. There are threads upon threads about it in rabbit forums as we all know.

P. multocidais just a gram-negative bacteria, like typhoid fever. You don't have to have a weakened immune system to get an infection. It doesn't help, but bacteria are opportunistic and if they happen to get into your sinus cavity, then you can get a sinus infection even if you were otherwise strong and healthy. How many of us have had to take antibiotics because we had an infection? I know I have. The thing is that breeders (myself included again) tend to rationalize why a rabbit was having respiratory symptoms such as dust, pollen, a weather change, etc. It seems certain, though, that many if not most rabbits are colonized with this bacteria. That is why a random rabbitry may suddenly have a problem with snuffles where one didn't exist before when no new rabbits were brought in and no shows were attended. All that happened is that colonized rabbit(s) experienced stress of some sort (keeping in mind they already have the infection) and became symptomatic (such as thick nasal discharge). Typhoid fever is a good example in humans for why culling those with symptoms just doesn't work. Typhoid Mary is a pretty famous lady- she was a carrier with no symptoms that is believed to have infected 53 people until she was isolated from the public. Fortunately for all of us, a vaccine was developed. Of course there have been refinements since, but the typhoid fever vaccine is still in use today in the United States for those going to countries where typhoid fever is still a problem.

Do I think there could be more clinical trials for the vaccine? Yes. However, the data from the study that was collected did support the vaccine in a significant way, which is far superior than breeders stating they cull the sick and the problem is resolved without any actual science to back the claim. Over the past 8 months or so, several breeders have come forward stating they have had good results with the vaccine in their herd, including a breeder who had unvaccinated rabbits become ill after the county fair and her vaccinated stock remained unchanged and outwardly healthy.

As for a vaccinated rabbit developing snuffles- there are several bacterium that have been associated with this disease. The vaccine is for P. multocida and not all of the rest such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Bordetella bronchiseptica to name a few that there is no protection for. In other words, just because a rabbit has BunnyVac does not mean it is protected from every form of upper respiratory infection just like how a dog can still get kennel cough even with the vaccine. I personally am going to try vaccinating my herd and any offspring produced- it is exceedingly inexpensive ($1-$2/rabbit) even by my standards and I want to support the research and development that contributes to scientific advances for rabbits.

As always, I encourage everyone to do their own homework. I don't have any affiliation with the vaccine developer. I have, however, dealt with snuffles in the past and have always culled the offender. I would love to see a day like we have with our other livestock when a shot can prevent the loss of our animals.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tentative Breeding Plans

Oh my goodness, I have so much to do! I finally was able to get my records from Evans rabbit software transferred over to my current computer. Now I am trying to look at pedigrees, past litters, and current rabbits to decide who I should attempt to breed for my first litter in more than two years. I've decided that my first priority is to preserve genetics, so I will probably plan for Hikari and Tacoma as they are my oldest does. Spock and Apollo are my oldest bucks, so I will probably plan for them to be herdsires again (which I am sure they will be thrilled about despite age). When the new year comes and goes, I will be posting a list of my 2015 breeding goals like I used to back in the day, but I can already say for sure that I will need to cull, cull, cull. I have a lot of issues that I need to address with my own personal Harlequins to get repeated good type and health. Temperament has never been a problem (Harlies are the SWEETEST rabbits!) and, as always, markings are at the bottom of my list. How am I still working with a marked breed after all of these years? Beats me!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cage Frustrations

So, I want to overhaul my set-up. I've wanted to for a while, but what I am finding is that technology that makes it easy to clean is still ridiculously expensive and it is still very difficult to find detailed plans for some innovative stacking cages. Unfortunately, I have concrete floors so I have to use trays or some sort of system to catch manure and urine. I also can't utilize a row of hanging cages due to lack of wall space in the area I keep the rabbits. This means that I must use cages stacking on top of one another and that I must have something underneath each one. In the past few years, I keep having to replace galvanized trays on my 36" cages as they can't survive the rabbit's urine pH and moisture. There is no local place to buy trays of that size and shipping is almost as much as the tray itself. Most of mine are Dura Trays now, but they are also pricey and expensive to ship. I've toyed with the idea of building a few hutches for outside, but honestly I worry about predators and humans, the ability to move it when needed, weather, and durability. At least I did find some plans for an outdoor option. Here is a link to one for a nice-looking and functional 2 hole hutch that protects the wood from chewing and waste:

So what to do in the meantime? I found Bass offers a "Flush-Kleen" tray that might be an option, but they aren't very deep and I am not sure how the more rigid plastic holds up over time. I am also not sure how much is involved in PVC connections or if you need a water supply to rinse the trays. They are also expensive at more than $40/tray. I also found some plans for folks that use tin or plastic roofing, puckboard, or other kinds of scrap to create a tilting dropping board underneath cages. Some folks let the manure run onto the ground and others catch it with gutters, pipes, or buckets. I'm thinking of trying something like this on my huge and currently empty KW Cages stacker and see how it performs with just one cage. That would give me a nice grow-out area for a litter and would let me test it at the same. I was thinking of connecting the dropping board to a plastic gutter and letting the gutter run right into an empty plastic bucket that I can take out to the garden directly. This may be a disaster, but I am just sick to death of trays after more than five years of using them. I want something easy to clean that ideally gives me a neat container to use for the garden. I am also thinking of trying a concrete mixing pan on the bottom cage and see if I can create compost as it is being used since it is so much deeper than a regular tray. Probably another crazy idea, but can't hurt to try.

In other similar news, it is so hard to find decent cage wire! I need to do some repairs on a few empty cages where the potty corner has rusted out, but I can't find 14 gauge 1/2" x 1" galvanized after wire anywhere locally. The only vendor I could find online was Klubertanz, and I understand from other rabbit folks that they are taking literally months to fill orders currently. I don't need 100 feet, just maybe 12-20 or so so I have extra for next time I need to make a repair. Any ideas? I don't want 16 gauge because I think the thicker wire is more comfortable for heavier breeds and lasts longer, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I just wanted to post some pictures of my old man Spock taken this year:

 He will be 5 years old on February 3rd. He is still the sweetest, most lovable bun ever. I am seriously thinking about breeding him to ensure his genetics continue..and maybe get another buck with his personality.. except, well, younger. In the past he has produced much nicer type than I would have thought, too. I will need to post some pictures of Apollo at some point in the near future.  :) 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Updating Blog List

Sadly, it looks like many (most?) of my bunny friends left the hobby over the past few years. I've been removing a bunch of links from the blog the past few days to update it. If your blog was removed and you become active again, PLEASE e-mail or post a comment so I can add you back. I just didn't want the sidebar filled with blogs that hadn't been touched in years. Also, I'm looking to make new bunny friends and add more links- I'd love to add active blogs for rabbit folks or homesteaders to the sidebar. If you know of any to share, let me know and I'll get them up.

In other news, the BunnyVacs ship tomorrow (great communication from Pan American Labs- they e-mailed me to ask if it was okay to ship after the holiday). I replied to ask if it is thick like PenG or thinner and the response is that it is like water and a 25 gauge needle should work fine, just in case anyone was wondering. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

ARBA Convention Pictures

Anyone know if someone that went posted a link to a gallery of convention pics? I used to look at them on the RH forum each year, but since it closed down I don't know where to find them anymore. I always love looking at all the different breeds and the new banners, too. Thanks!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


So one new thing to me in the rabbit hobby is the existence of a Pasteurella vaccine. Pasteurella infection (also known as Snuffles) can be responsible for a variety of issues including a runny, snotty nose, ear problems and other neurological symptoms like a tilted head/wry neck, pneumonia, weepy eyes, and abscesses. It can be a breeder's worst nightmare and can ultimately decimate their herd. It affects many pet owners around the world as well.

Unfortunately, Pasteurella has been a deep, dark secret in the rabbit world in year's past. People didn't like to talk about it and unfortunately this helped perpetuate the problem.You can treat the symptoms with antibiotics, but Snuffles is insidious and has been known to return after treatment the next time the animal is stressed. Rabbits can also be carriers and have no symptoms. Snuffles can be transmitted through aerosol. I have had rabbits show up with Pasteurella symptoms in the past and the only way I knew of to protect my crew was to humanely euthanize the sick rabbit. Now that people have started talking about it more, it is apparent that almost anyone with more than a few rabbits for any stretch of time has likely dealt with this illness in some way or another. 

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see the USDA had approved a vaccine for this horrible infection. I haven't brought home any new rabbits and I haven't been to any recent shows, but last night I purchased the vaccine for all of my rabbits. Why would I do that if my rabbits are as safe as they can ever be? I may at some point find a new Harlequin that want to bring home. I also regularly allow my rabbits to eat and play outdoors where we have several wild rabbits living (they have turned my garden into their personal playground). There is also no way of knowing if any of my rabbits are carriers with no symptoms. If they are, this will protect the rest of the herd should they ever become snotty infectious disasters. Additionally, I want to support the product and research that went into it. At only $2/rabbit for the first year and $1 each additional year, it hardly breaks the bank.

If you want to read about or purchase the vaccine, please see the link below:

BunnyVac- Pan American Veterinary Laboratories

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rabbit Tractor

I've been allowing my rabbits more grazing/play time slowly over the past couple of years. I have no place nor design for colony raising rabbits, but I used to think they were generally safer and healthier away from the ground where parasites, dangerous plants, and predators live. After watching rabbits binky around happily in the yard, nibble on all different green bits, and still live to face each bright new day I am much less protective of them outside. Although I have a large fenced in area, I still confine them to a smaller exercise pen or dog crate so they don't get into too much trouble and I supervise them.

With this change in philosophy, I've been looking into building my own rabbit tractors, which are similar to the pens that folks that raise poultry use. I didn't want to use wood this time around as my raised garden beds are not holding up like I had hoped (built with treated wood). Fortunately, I found a DIY guide for PVC rabbit tractors that looks perfect. Here is the link if it is helpful for anyone else like it is for me:

Building a PVC Pipe Rabbit Tractor

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

One of My Own

I found a picture I took in February of one of my cuddly adult homebred chocolate bucks. Isn't he adorable?

Is anyone still out there?

It has been a long time, but I still have my (now older) Harlequins and I'm still puttering around on the property. Is anyone still around? I tried to find some of my old rabbit and garden friends, but sadly it seems that many have left the hobby and some of the old forums are even gone. I hope maybe it is change of names in some cases though. I'd like to reconnect and maybe I'll even post some pictures of my grandpa and grandma buns. All the best!