Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Days Old

Eyes are opening on Sunshine's litter! I emptied the nestbox out today in preparation, but saved all the cozy fur. I have found that when I started to do this, there was a distinct reduction in "nestbox eye" with the kits as compared to when I waited longer. I place wood pellets at the bottom on the clean wood, then add grass hay (I shake it off before I build a "nest" with it in the box to reduce dust). Finally, I add the rest of the clean fur back in. Then I know it is sanitary like it was when it was first given to the doe.

Anyhow, here they are waiting to return to the nestbox:

My husband enjoyed visiting with them, too:

He said he thinks it will be harder to make our selections later on now that those that don't make the cut for breeding or show won't be going to pet homes. I would probably still place one in a special pet home because there have been a few over the years that were truly exceptional, but otherwise I think this is the best decision for them and for us. In the meantime, we will enjoy spoiling them rotten and loving them every chance we get. :)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Updated Breeding Plans

Just a quick rabbitry update in between chores. The kits are all doing great and should be opening their eyes soon. I'll probably plan to take new pictures of them on day 10 or so. They are so cute! I've also decided from here forward I'm going to try to weigh them every 2 weeks and see how they compare to each other and to other breeds. So I'll start at 14 days as a baseline, then 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks. Rabbit fryers are usually processed between 8-12 weeks of age (when they weigh 4-5.5lbs), though higher weights are usually for more typical commercial breeds like New Zealands or Californians. I am curious to see how Harlequins compare and whether I can improve on their growth through my selections. Hopefully I will have several keepers as replacements for older stock though.

Speaking of the older Harlies, Kari was bred to Spock today successfully at least 3 times. I also placed Valkyrie with Apollo, though I never saw completion with the pairing this time around. I'm giving them a break and will try again later tonight. I'm hoping to also breed Apollo to Kurayami, but I may end up breeding one of my chocolate bucks to her if Apollo is still preoccupied with Valkyrie. I think 2-3 litters at a time is a good number for now so the does can help each other if someone has too many kits, not enough milk, etc.

I can't believe it is almost 2015! I better start writing my goals list soon!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Kit Pix!

Here are Tacoma's chunky-monkeys on Christmas Day:

We have fur! Isn't it amazing how rabbit kits transform from pink little sqiggly things to colorful popples in such a short time?

Here are Sunshine's lovelies:

I'm pleased with markings on some of the kits in this litter, although the rufus is particularly strong with Tacoma's. My goal by producing these is to be able to select some replacement breeding stock for some of my old guys and gals. The nice thing about Harlies for show folks is that they can pick their show-marked kits from the nestbox, just like with Dutch. While it would be great if one of the nicely marked kits had it all and I could show him or her, with these litters I am looking at factors such as growth rate and body type first and foremost. I'm also hoping they aren't all bucks or all does- which has happened to me plenty of times before, lol. Happy Saturday!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Rabbit Lesson

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

In the meantime, I have been quite impatiently waiting on Valkyrie. I am really not too sure what she is up to as she stopped nesting days ago suddenly and has just been using her nestbox as a king size bed. I have been checking on her for days because it has been cold and humid and I worry with first time moms. She is somewhere between day 32-36 since she was with the Apollo for a few days in a row.

If you don't already know from my posts or from meeting me in person, I like to get things done and keep it moving. Rabbits have taught me that is not always possible, though. In the wise words of Yoda, I am reminded that:

Even though Valkyrie had all of the signs of being pregnant, she may not be. She may have miscarried or any other number of possibilities. She is reminding me that for all of my years of raising rabbits now, that I still know very little and that nature trumps all manner of planning. Valkyrie is essentially telling me me that I must listen to the lessons that rabbit has to teach me.

So instead of being an insane rabbit owner trying to check up on mama too frequently, I have backed off. Could she have kits on the wire? Yeah. And they will pass if that happens. But the other litters are doing fine. Valkyrie will either get it right or she won't.. or she may not even be with kits at all. So, I spent the day yesterday with my family and dogs and later today I will go check on her again only when it is time to feed. Other than that I will let nature take it's course and heed the lessons that rabbit, like Yoda, had to share. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season,
and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

May your Christmas be happy and bright- from our family to yours!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kit Updates

Today Tacoma suddenly started nesting frantically and kindled a big and beautiful singleton kit. I'm still not sure what Valkyrie is up to as she quit building a nest last night and has just been relaxing today. Sunshine's litter of 5 are looking fat and happy. Here is a pic of the group:

And Tacoma's chubster:

Proud mama:

Hopefully Valkyrie will let us know something one way or the other. I will need to move kits around so the singleton isn't alone in the nestbox, but I'd prefer to do it once I know the final head count. Either way I am thrilled to finally have some babies in the nestbox.. good job old gals!

Edit: I just found another kit in Tacoma's nestbox, so make that 2 chunks! :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hi From Valkyrie (Edit: And Kits!)

"Now get out of my way. I'm busy building a nest!" Okay, okay girl.. I'll give you some space. :)

I'm trying my best to let them be, but both does are first timers and it is chilly. I keep peeking in on them.. as discretely as I can, anyway. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

Edit: While I was posting this, Sunshine kindled 6! Unfortunately it looks like she struggled to deliver 1 (it had already passed), but the other 5 look big and healthy. Valkyrie has not pulled fur yet, but she has been arranging hay for quite some time now. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Haystache Picture

Finally was able to catch Sunshine with a face full o' hay:

She is such a cute doe. I hope everything works out well. Please ignore the torched resting mat. I may have been a little enthusiastic while cleaning, lol. A few minutes after I took this picture, Valkyrie started gathering a haystache of her own. She is my best doe and I would be thrilled beyond thrilled if she had a successful litter. Tacoma and Hikari are still not showing any signs of impending kits, but either way this has been an incredible learning experience so far with the older gals.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Hay + Mustache= Haystache. :)

Sunshine surprised me late last night when I checked on the gang by digging at the corners of her cage over and over. I threw some hay in again and sure enough, she immediately started gathering it up to nest with. It is a little early for a nestbox, but she was frantic and I don't care that it wasn't quite day 28 when she clearly wants a place to build. When I checked on her this morning she was still rearranging in her shiny new box and had pulled just a tiny tuft of fur that was sitting in the mountain of hay, lol.

So I am very surprised and pleased by this development! If she kindles, it defies pretty much everything I've ever read about breeding rabbits. First of all, she is almost 3 years old. Second, she has NEVER been bred before. She was born and raised here, but has been kept pretty much as a spoiled pet for all this time when I took a hiatus from breeding/exhibiting. She is a lilac Japanese, curious and sweet, with decent type all around. Her hindquarter is lacking and she could use a thicker coat with bolder markings, but Apollo (the sire of the litter) should complement her nicely. Valkyrie has also been grunty, which is unusual for her, but I haven't seen any signs of nest building in her or the other two does. Time will tell what happens as the week goes on and once things are more settled, I will plan to take some updated pics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

BunnyVac Booster Update

Today the whole herd received their BunnyVac booster (which is given 30 days after the initial vaccine is administered). To give a little background for anyone that hasn't heard of it before, this is the vaccine to prevent Pasteurella infections in rabbits. It does not treat an infection and can't cause an infection, but it would be invaluable to me if it prevented even one rabbit of mine from getting snuffles. This is always a risk when attending shows, bringing a new rabbit home, etc. Pasteurella can decimate an entire herd. It is difficult to treat and symptoms often return after long periods of expensive antibiotics. Many breeders (myself included) have a policy that as soon as a rabbit shows signs or symptoms such as sneezing, thick opaque snot, abcesses, etc., the rabbit is culled from the herd. I used to try to breed for resistance, but my research has indicated that this is not possible as Pasteurella is simply a bacterial infection similar to tuberculosis or typhoid fever that people can get.

I haven't seen any problems with the vaccinated rabbits so far and I'm hoping some of the does are pregnant. I didn't notice any extra sneezing or clear nasal drainage with the first few days and I specifically looked for sterile abscesses at the injection site. I never saw or felt any lumps or any other problems anywhere. Everyone has been eating/drinking normally and doing their own usual things. BunnyVac is approved for use on pregnant or nursing does and on kits 6 weeks or older. If any kits result from the planned breedings this month, I plan to vaccinate any keepers once they are old enough. I have been told some people are adamantly opposed to vaccinating their herds and don't want to buy any stock that has been vaccinated. All I can say is that I encourage everyone to do their own research and come to their own conclusions for what is best for them. I will continue to be very transparent about the whole process.

In hindsight now that I am thinking about it, I should have taken pictures of how to give a rabbit a subcutaneous injection. I will plan to take some photos of the vaccination process next time in case anyone is nervous about giving their rabbits a shot. The Harlies really couldn't care less. I gave them some willow and hay to much on before hand and they went back to eating/grooming/whatever right after the quick stick. Definitely not a traumatizing experience by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway, the decision to vaccinate is best for me and my herd and I'm going to continue with vaccinations on my breeding stock for the foreseeable future. My adults won't be due again until a year from now, but I will be sure to update again before then. Hope everyone is having a great December! :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rabbit on the Dinner Table Part I

It's long past time we talked about a topic that makes some people happy and hungry while others seize up in an animal rights rage: rabbits on American's dinner table! I admit, I am biased. I think rabbit meat is great and is very under appreciated in the United States today. This is in part to problems marketing. Do these sound familiar: Pork. The Other White Meat. Beef. It's What's For Dinner. Got Milk? All of these are advertising slogans and marketing campaigns funded by big guns in their respective industries. Did you know beef gets its own month now?

In another example, the pork slogan was created at the request of the National Pork Board and funded at least in part by a tax collected when pork is sold or even imported to the US. I'd just like to take a moment to point out that the United States Department of Agriculture does not consider pork a white meat. But the advertising worked great and pork can be found in every butcher or grocery store in my area. I can have it prepared at nearly every restaurant as well.

You know what I can't find locally in the store? Rabbit. Not anywhere. I seem to recall hearing that Whole Foods intended to sell rabbit this year in some cities. You know what happened on the internet? It exploded with posters stating that we would be eating our pets. Like someone would literally break down their door and take their rabbit so it could be sold for dinner at Whole Foods. Petitions sprang up to stop Whole Foods from selling rabbit. And (I am not making this up), protestors arrived in front of Whole Foods stores. Please bear in mind, this was not police brutality or government oppression- this was literally just a store trying to sell a product to their customers. People buy beef, pork, fish, chicken, and more without a second thought at this same grocery chain, but they aren't as cute as rabbits. A steer or a rooster also may not be the best choice in house pets. I'd doubt homeowners would like to share a bedroom with one. They may be raised in horrible feedlot conditions with disease and manure up to their hocks. They may be crammed into tiny cages pressed up against others of their kind, with their beaks cut off and their wings broken, but by god we aren't selling the American public humanely raised rabbit.

It seems to me like those are the two main issues with rabbit meat in the US. People think rabbits are cute and rabbit meat has no advertising plan that I am aware of. Most of the people I've asked have never had rabbit meat in their life. This is going to be part 1 of a several part series in which I will talk about the benefits of rabbit meat, of why we as breeders and exhibitors should promote it, and how to prepare and enjoy rabbit meat (with recipes!). I hope this is enlightening and maybe eventually we will be able to come up with a marketing campaign to help the rest of America to discover the deliciousness that is slow roasted rabbit on the dinner table. Cheers!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hutch Design

I want to move a couple of my rabbits outside into a hutch that I've built myself. As I've mentioned before, this upcoming year will have a few different experiments going on- trying a more natural diet, trying an outdoor hutch (and maybe an indoor trayless system also if I can figure it out), and solving rabbit breed dilemma if the Harlies are too old so I can get some kits in the nestbox again.

I have been trying to look at plans for a while now and I've linked a few in other posts. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people that can look at a thing and figure out how to put it together. As far from "handy" as you can imagine. I need detailed plans with the wood measurements, type of screws, etc. all spelled out or I guarantee I will screw it up.

One frame idea I found that could be promising is utilizing modular hutch brackets. I found them for sale here (with pictures):


Incidentally, the vendor above also has rabbit dispatch/processing equipment should anyone be looking. With the brackets, it looks like as long as I buy the right wood and have a drill that it would be easy to fit existing cages. I would need to place the frame on concrete blocks or something to get it off the ground outside and I would need to build a roof or place the cages inside a covered area. I'd probably also see if I can put some aluminum sheeting on the frame to protect the wood.

Another idea instead of building a roof- a friend of mine used a Walmart pop-up tent with sides for her rabbitry. She had it against the back of her house and the rabbit cages were inside. She used trays as I recall, but I think if it is a single row that I could probably place a large drilled tub under the cage to catch waste for the garden and move the tent from time to time. It actually looked really nice for an urban setup- it was tan and blended in well with her home and backyard landscaping. I doubt anyone even knew she had rabbits there. Here is an example picture for context:

I saw some other folks use carports, but I think that would be too much when I am just experimenting. What happens if I hate it and want to move everyone back in? I don't want to invest a ton of money or time in this unless I love it. I am also not certain how cold hardy the Harlies will be if move them outdoors when it is in the 20's or below at times. Seems like that might be another part of the experiment. I can easily provide them with shelter and hay to burrow into though. On an interesting note, I have found Harlequins to be surprisingly heat tolerant and have never lost one during the summer. They did better during the hottest days than even my NZ's back when I had them.

Anyone have a favorite hutch design or housing plans they'd like to share or have had good luck with?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

5 Breeds (Part II)

I can't remember all of the different polls on rabbit forums over the years, but I know another favorite question was which breeds would make your top 5 list?

I am also thinking about this list quite seriously as I need a backup plan if my Harlies are too old to produce. My husband thinks I should just start over now with younger stock of a commercial breed and save myself the headache, but I am sticking with the 3-strike rule. I should know something one way or the other in a couple of weeks for round 1 with the first 4 does. I am feeling some pressure to figure all of this out because we may be looking at a move to the midwest this time next year for my husband's career. Everything is still completely up in the air, but it does put a potential timeline on getting everything sorted with the rabbitry. I also feed my dog raw and really need to have a homegrown meat source again.

For my top 5 list, I tried to pick breeds that I like, but that are also able to contribute the most to my family. In the first years of raising rabbits, I had them for my own enjoyment (which hasn't changed), but I bred them primarily for show. While there is nothing wrong with that at all, these days my interests have shifted to raising rabbits more for homestead purposes. I still ultimately aim to meet the standard for my breed and may attend a show from time to time, but exhibition is no longer in the top priority list like good health, type, growth, mothering abilities, etc.

Anyway, (aside from Harlequins obviously) here are my current top 5 breeds in alphabetical order:

1. Beveren: I've wanted to work with this breed for years. Not sure if it will ever happen due to difficulty finding/purchasing. Reportedly good meat rabbits, good mothers, and would support a heritage breed. I like the blue-eyed white variety best. I am not convinced about dress-out without seeing/touching them though. They look pretty heavy on bone and hippy in almost all of the pictures I've seen. I have to wonder about their health and growth with such a small population across the US.

2. Californian: The 2nd most popular commercial rabbit. I also think pointed whites are lovely. This is a very practical breed and their pelts are considered white, which is more desirable than colored pelts as I understand the market at this time.

3. Dutch: I've worked with them before and I would again. Easily managed size, excellent dress-out, attractive, good mothers, lots of colors, etc. Plenty of culls since getting those perfect markings are.. well, like raising Harlequins. I don't think there would really be a market for pelts like with NZW and Californians, but would be fine for homestead use. According to Bob Bennet's book, Dutch are the way to go for small family use and I can see why he thinks so.

4. Satin: A commercial body type with a particularly fancy coat. I understand rex pelts are highly desirable right now, but I like Satins better. I've only seen a handful of these over the past 5 years at any show, so not likely to happen, just like with Bevs.

5. New Zealand: The quintessential commercial rabbit. I was able to see and put my hands on the broken variety at the Conyers show recently and they are SOLID. Like meat bricks with an attractive coat. Their temperaments made them easy to work with. They had great size and were overall very nice rabbits. The New Zealand Reds I had briefly years ago were subpar in almost every way (now that I have a basis for comparison).

Honorable mentions: French Angoras are the only angora breed I'd work with. I would also consider American Chinchilla, Blanc de Hotot, Silver Fox, American Sable, Argente rabbits as they meet all of my needs and could use the population boost (they are all or were on the ALBC heritage list at one point). Off topic, but I totally don't understand why ARBA has the d'Argent breeds accepted as separate and only partially (Brun, Creme, Champagne) when they are French rabbits and they are all the same breed with different varieties in Europe (Bleu, Brun, Creme, Champagne and Noir). Seems needlessly complicated, but what do I know?

My ideal rabbit weighs between 5-12 lbs, has good health/temperament, a nice pelt, quick growth, decent dress-out, attractive. I like and prefer the topline of compact or commercial type, but I'd make an exception for Bevs only (mandolin/semi-arch type). Rollback my favorite coat. For almost every breed I'd have to make concessions somewhere, but it isn't about having the perfect rabbit. Ultimately, it is still about enjoying what we do and having a rabbit that can contribute to our family. I think if we have those two things, then everything else will fall into place.

Do you have a breed, size, fur, or type preference? I'd love to hear from others about their favorites. :)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Daydreaming (An Ideal Rabbitry)

Over the weekend after Thanksgiving, I was looking at different rabbit vendors to see if there were any sales online. I found myself daydreaming about what my rabbitry would look like if money, time, and space were unlimited. Here are some of the things I would invest in:

1. Automatic water system- So, I am pretty sick of filling bottles after 5+ years now. I realize this isn't the most expensive or complicated thing ever, but I want to have my cages and barn set-up before I pursued auto-water so I had everything just right from the start.

2. A tray-less rabbitry- I would prefer to have a set-up with single rows of cages in a building dedicated to the rabbits. I saw one I really liked in a CL ad. It was basically a modified extra-large carport. It was completely covered on top and down part of the sides, but open underneath for tons of airflow and natural light. It looked like the seller had roll-down tarps for when it was extra cold/windy/rainy. I'd probably have worm/compost beds or something underneath so I can utilize the manure for other purposes still. If it was completely indoors, I'd like a set-up with waste going into a container outside with drainage holes so I can still use it, but it doesn't stay in the building. With my current set-up indoors, I would love to have angled boards like on the KW Rabbit Tech system instead of trays, but ultimately, I am not sure it would be clog-free and frustration-free for the enormous expense, which is why I would fall back to the old-fashioned (yet practical) rows of large wire cages like meat breeders still use today.

3. A rabbit building- I'd love to have a place like Bob Bennett has in his book that is dedicated to the rabbits with good ventilation, an attractive exterior, practical. He used the side of his to store firewood with the long/low roofline and also had an idea for a plant arbor that could go around it to provide privacy and more food. While I am daydreaming, I'd love to have a little office to store my rabbit-related paperwork/books/etc., a dedicated processing area, and grazing pastures outside. After reading about multiple rabbitries having coccidia problems, I don't think a full-blown colony set-up is practical for me though. I love heritage stuff, but there is a reason even backyard rabbitries started getting their stock up and off the ground. If I could protect the area and ensure it stayed parasite-free though, I would still love the rabbits to get regular time outside.

 Wouldn't something like this be lovely with some basic modifications for rabbits?

4. A reliable quality pellet and hay source. That should be easy in this day and age, but it isn't. I've probably gone through 5+ rabbit pellet brands and types over the years due to availability or problems with the pellets themselves. I've had to special order and use oats/alfalfa to stretch out what I had when suppliers came up short. Hay is also an issue at times- I have to go to various feed stores and sometimes just get bags from PetSmart or PetCo when the quality is poor locally. Sometimes I feel like hay bales are half dust/soil when it is a bad cutting and it isn't cheap either. A bale of alfalfa at my local feed store is almost $25 for one. I literally had a spider infestation of some sort of non-venomous web species after buying one apparently good bale of timothy that had a bunch of baby spiders or spider eggs or something I didn't see inside the flakes, too. I am still clearing random spider webs from the corners of the ceiling where the rabbits are kept. I've been thinking about using a non-essential Harlequin or three for a fodder/natural feeding experiment that I will post about soon. I also would love to have some hay pastures on my next property so I can harvest my own for the animals and a larger garden with an orchard to supplement a greater portion of their diet.

I'm sure there's more, but that's what I am thinking about today. What would you change if money/time/space were no object?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

5 Breeds (and Happy December!)

Can you believe how fast the time flies? It seems like yesterday when it was still summer and I was cursing the deer and squirrels that decimated my garden, lol. And now it is winter- the Christmas lights are up, the air is crisp, and the pies are abundant.

Anyway, I remember on one of my (now defunct) forums, there was a thread about what 5 breeds of rabbit you would NEVER raise. I thought it would be fun to bring it back, so here are mine:

1. American Fuzzy Lop

2. Jersey Wooly

3. Mini Rex

4. Mini Satin

5. Lionhead

Honorable mention: Himilayan, Polish, Netherland Dwarf 

Nothing personal for the folks that love those breeds! I just can't see myself working with tiny rabbits. If I wanted long fur, I'd go with larger angora breeds. If I wanted a satin coat or himi points, I'd go with the full-size breed. If i wanted lop ears, likewise. Everyone is different, but I just can do the tiny guys. And even 4lbs is pretty small to me. I thought Dutch were tiny and their max weight is 5.5lbs (I would raise them again if space/time/money was no option). Here is a link to the ARBA breed list:


I loved seeing the responses on the old forum- I'd be curious where folks stand these days since small rabbits are so popular across the US. Happy December!