Friday, July 31, 2015

How few.. too few?

I've been trying to figure this out because it is looking more and more likely that we will be moving across the country. This presents a number of challenges such as:

1. We have to move there. I know this seems obvious, but we only have so much money and time.. and there is only so much space on the biggest moving truck. It won't be feasible to make multiple trips for animals.

2.  We will probably have to rent at first until we get settled in and find a new place. This means we have to find a landlord that will be okay with our critters.

I know I need more than a pair or two. But do I need 15? 12? 8? What do you think would be a good minimum number to maintain your own line? I don't want to try to move too many, but I also don't want to shoot myself in the foot if I end up moving too few.

Also, TGIF. Big time. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In Memoriam

Rest in peace, sweet Spock. I will never forget your gentle nature, demand for headrubs, happy binkies all over the house, and insistence that you be allowed to have a sip of beer on lazy weekend afternoons. Thank you for the lovely sons and daughters you provided us with and for being a wonderful ambassador to the Harlequin breed.

I always said that raising animals wasn't for the faint of heart and it is times like this that I am reminded of that fact. Spock fought the good fight, but was unable to best what ultimately turned out to be a fast-growing abscess or tumor in his upper jaw that grew up behind his eye. We let him go this morning and he is now buried beside my heart dog on a hill overlooking the house.

Until one has loved an animal,
 a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. 
-Anatole France

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kind of Funny

Yesterday my Mom was asking me about the rabbits. She asked if I was planning to still raise them if we move, to which I answered yes. She then asked me if I still had the kind of rabbits I had before. This is how it went:

Me: "You mean Harlequins?"
Her: "I don't know. The ones you had for years."
Me: "If you mean Harlequins, then yes I still have them."
Her: "I'm not sure. They are the ugly patchy ones that no one wants?"
Me: *dies laughing*

Yup. I raise Harlequins, aka "The ugly patchy ones no one wants." Just thought I'd share, haha.

Happy Sunday everyone! :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Seasonal Breaks

I know a lot of different rabbit breeders have their own thoughts on a good breeding schedule for their barn. I've tried having litters year round, once a year, a few times a year, and only in the more temperate months.

Here's what I've found:

Does need to be bred more than once or twice a year or their litter sizes trend downward. This is not true of all does, but I've found it to be an accurate generality.

Older does, if healthy, can still be nice producers for you on a decent breeding schedule. Don't discount buying an older doe if she has exactly what you need to add to your herd. Many breeders will practically give an older doe away to make space for the younger generation. Don't assume the doe is wore out also- ask questions! Many hobby breeders never had their does on a rigorous schedule to begin with. You may be surprised at what an old gal like this can still do for your herd!

Does can hide their fat well! They may feel perfect across the ribs and hips, but be absolutely loaded with thick white fat on the inside. Gross, I know. But true! Does with huge dewlaps generally have a lot of internal fat, too. I know a lot of senior doe show rabbits have large dewlaps and some people consider it a sign of glowing health, but I've noticed a correlation in mine with reduced health. The evidence is apparent whenever butchering day rolls around and I haven't been vigilant.

It is better to feed more hay and encourage regular exercise than to rely on a complete pelleted diet and hope they move around enough. In thinning the ranks over the past two years, the lazy does that went berserk for pellets are the ones that either never got pregnant or it took multiple attempts before they would take. It is also less expensive to give your rabbits hay and cuttings from your property than to rely exclusively on pellets. Not to mention I wouldn't want to eat the same thing all day every day. Variety is the spice of life!

Breeding in the icy grip of winter or the humid heat of summer is a gamble for the doe and the kits. The heat and humidity is far more dangerous than the cold to the mother, but the reverse is generally true for the kits.

My preference is to breed more often and to limit the planned litters for the temperate times of the year, but I do plan litters through the heart of winter in some years as my rabbits are kept indoors. I don't mess with bad mothers and I do keep a 3-strike rule for all brood does.

Hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Everything's Coming Up Roses the Midwest, that is. I have never seen such a fantastic collection as I did in Omaha. I was just wowed beyond belief. As most of you know by now, I love everything rose, so I found a little slice of heaven on earth in this garden.

Part II to come sometime over the next few days. I was not exaggerating when I said I took a lot of pictures. Happy Sunday! :)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hi From Missouri! And Iowa! And Nebraska! Etc.

I've been traveling.. a lot! I hope to get some more updates coming along shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few of the critters I spotted on foot this week.

Wild turkeys:

Prairie dogs anyone?

And of course, rabbits. I saw them everywhere I went. Can you spot this one standing up?

How about the doe crossing the road at the botanical conservatory?

I enjoyed myself immensely. I love it out West. Maybe, just maybe.. if we are lucky and all our ducks line up nicely.. we might be able to live out there some day. But in the meantime, I have about 2,634 pictures to share with you. Thought I'd start with these. Hope everyone is having a great week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sweet Spock

Our original foundation herdsire Spock isn't doing too well. I found him this morning with what appeared to be a torn eyelid. I was shocked because he was in his usual 30 x 30 cage with no new additions, changes, new toys, etc. He made it through the 4th just fine despite all the loud noises and then this happened somehow. I washed his eye out this morning and applied antibiotic ointment and gave him some willow to chew on because he was grinding his teeth when I applied the ointment. I wish I could tell him that I'm trying to help, but at least he is always a gentleman, even when he doesn't feel well.

At lunch I went out to repeat the rinse, ointment, and willow and he seemed a little bit better. I was hopeful and saw him nibbling on his pellets. I just went out to treat him again though and saw that under his eye is now swollen and he started grinding his teeth again with the cleaning. I gave him an extra helping of willow, but now I am wondering if it was something like a tooth abcess under his eye that he was trying to itch as it was forming. Or if the swelling is just from the trauma on the eyelid? I can't see anything inside his mouth that would account for the problem and he is still eating, so I'm not really sure what we are even dealing with. The eyeball itself looks normal at least.

Of course, I'm not going to be around at the house much the rest of this week (Murphy's Law). So, I'm going to treat him first thing in the morning and then try to get some help to tend to him while I'm away, but it's worrying. It's always hard to deal with health issues in the herd, but particularly difficult when it is a buck I've had for something like 5 years and am totally attached to. Hoping he will pull through for us- he is such a great fellow and herdsire.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Heritage Breeds

I saw this on Facebook from a Dairy Farm (Foggy Bottom). Thought it was interesting and worth sharing:

"We used to be a heritage breed proponents but now we are not. Conceptually the idea of heritage breeds have always been enjoyed as we see value in their novelty, potential as commercial outcrosses and the preservation of traditional agricultural practices. Unfortunately the term heritage seems to have become a marketing ploy to place value on low quality animals by claiming they conform to an "old standard". True livestock breeders seek to improve and progress their breed. To raise them to new heights and greater achievements and never do they seek stagnation. To turn back to these old types and scorn what the breed has become is to scorn generations of farmers life's work and the art in genetics they brought to life. Certainly each should breed what they like. With thousands of livestock breeds there is something for everyone and regional differences will exist even within a breed but that doesn't mean taking gigantic steps backward in type and production under the banner of "heritage". Preserving a rare breed is a noble task, proliferating animals with type faults and low economic value under the label of heritage is not!"

What do you think? I used to be 100% in with heritage breeds, but these days after all of my personal experiences, not so much. If you look at CL on any given day, heritage breeds listed for a high price tag do not usually look like animals with quality type, and some look downright unhealthy. I just saw iffy Silver Fox listed for $75/rabbit that appeared to have a mandolin body type like an English Lop. People can and should do what makes them happy, but a mandolin-shaped Silver Fox is no Silver Fox at all in my book.

Harlequins currently fall under the labels of rare, endangered, heritage, etc., but as you know, most Harlequins I see bred today have so much emphasis on markings that everything else has fallen to the wayside. This makes them almost exclusively a fancy breed, although they were originally multi-purpose for meat, fur, and exhibition and are supposed to have commercial type. I hope, for my own lines, that we are able to develop a Harlequin that has decent markings, but that also retains the traits they were originally developed for. Pipe dream? Maybe, but it can't hurt to try. :)