Category Archives: Health

When the Show Must Go On… (Or, how do you take care of the animals when you’re sick yourself?!)

 

Taking Care of Animals When You're Sick Too

What do you do when you’re sick but the animals still need daily care?

One of the worst things about raising animals is how they are so darn needy on a daily basis. Seriously – they want food. They want water. They need milking. They need grooming. It’s just so… regular.

 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week because our family has been hit hard by some type of sickness that’s going around. It’s been about a two week period and it’s cycled through all six of us. Assuming it doesn’t offer the pleasure of a repeat round I think we’re about three days from being totally done of it…

And all during this time we’ve still had to feed and water the rabbits. Milk the goats. Collect the eggs.

Animals don’t care a whit if you have a 103* temperature and chills.

Fortunately in our case the sickness we’ve had has been staggered so there’s always been someone healthy enough to do the chores, but it reminds me of the stories of early pioneers who were found dead in their tracks on the way to the barn while the rest of their family is dead in the bed. The last one standing in that situation was obviously overcome with the immensity of it all.

Morbid, I know. Sorry.

My goal in sharing this was actually not to be depressing and speak of death, doom, and destruction, but to point out the need for a plan when things go bad.

We know that life is always going to through curve balls at us – so when it comes to our animals, how are we prepared? Who is your back up to call and take care of the fur babies if you’re suddenly ill? On vacation?

This has been the greatest discussion in our family when our daughter first brought up wanting dairy goats. We know that with a milking animal our schedule will be much more limited and our travel adventures will slow down. However, we’re moving into a season of our family where that fits… so we can make a sacrifice of time and effort for this season.

How are you prepared for an emergency?

 

 

 

In response to our growing microfarm adventures, I’m taking another look at our emergency plan (initially created after I wrote this post a few years ago) and making sure it’s up to date. My plan is to turn it into a fillable .pdf and make it available to all of YOU so your leg work in creating your own plan is a little less stressful. Hopefully it will be out by the end of next week!

In the meantime, may your animal adventures be calm and that Murphy’s Law thing stay far away from you!

I’d love to hear from you about how you handle emergencies and travel plans! I feel like we should create some sort of a web-based service (like the Babysitters Club) where people could schedule others to come and cover chores!

Dr. Seuss’s Guide to Using Heat Lamps with Rabbits

I can take zero credit for the creativity you’re about to see. It is a straight copy from a thread of comments on the Facebook group page Backyard Meat Rabbits. However, it’s pretty fabulous what can happen with the collective creativity of people – and it deserves to be recorded! The advice is also quite sound!

 


 

“When the internal temperature of hay rises above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celcius), a chemical reaction begins to produce flammable gas that can ignite if the temperature goes high enough.”

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

 

 

Could I, should I, in a nest?

You could not, should not, in a nest. Having a fire would not be the best.

 

Could I, should I, in my barn? Surely that will cause no harm.

You could not, SHOULD NOT, in your barn! A blazing fire brings MUCH harm.

 

Do not use them here nor there.

Do not use heat lamps anywhere.

 

You could not, should not, in a barn.

Not in a nest, on any farm!

Not in a cage, not in a herd – they don’t need heat lamps, you silly old bird!

Do not use them here or there, don’t use heat lamps anywhere!

 

Could I, should I, in the cold? My little kits are not too old.

You could not, should not in the cold. The nest has fur, the heat to hold.

 

But if my doe does not pull fur… could I, should I, then for sure?!

You should not not! Not for sure at all! Just grab your doe and pull it all!

Do not use them, Steve, my dear. They’ll be fine! Do not fear!

 

Can we use them for their dad? Frozen water makes him mad.

You cannot use them for their dad. For EVERY bunny, they are bad!

 

 

Credit for this rhyme goes to Justin Beilstein, Stefanie Ryne Godfrey, Nick Gunnells, Jekka Lynn, Steve Detmer, Savannah Berniquez, Linda Wilson, Jeremy Lawson.

 

Our Rabbit Tattooing Essentials

Every year around the time of the fair, I have an opportunity to help 4H students with their rabbits. One task in particular is in high demand… tattoos!

 

Since ARBA requires that rabbits at a show be marked with a permanent, legible ear tattoo. This is so helpful in many ways, the main one being that rabbits tend to look a lot like one another! (I have sworn I could pick out our rabbit for specific characteristics, and then gotten the rabbit on the table and realized that I have no idea which is ours!) Permanent tattoo markings are a safety net to the original breeder (no one wants to think of it, but a distinctive tattoo keeps rabbit breeders honest when they might be tempted to buy a new rabbit and fudge a little, calling it one of their own breeding), to a buyer (I’ve had people contact me with a rabbit they bought from someone else and been able to track down a pedigree years later based on our distinctive tattoos), and it isn’t harmful to the rabbit.

 

However, actually tattooing a rabbit can be a concern to many people. What equipment do I use? How do I do it? How do I make sure it’s legible? These are common questions! There is a lot of diversity within preferences, but I’m happy to share the things we’ve found to be really useful for our own rabbitry.

 

The Bunny Burrito. Obviously, this isn’t an official name, but I use what I call a bunny burrito to hold the rabbits in place while I tattoo. I started out using a towel wrapped tightly and it worked… but then a friend got out of rabbits and I inherited the burrito. This wrap is made of fabric and has three hook and loop fasteners to hold the rabbit in place. IT IS AMAZING.

Because I inherited this lovely piece of equipment, I had no idea where it was purchased. Then, randomly, I saw a post on facebook the other day and found the original source! It’s a Wrap-n-Tat! I promptly ordered new Wrap-n-Tats in a smaller size (since our original was made for big meaty buns and now we have some super teeny little ones) and I am so charmed by the fabric and the durability of the workmanship!

Obviously, one of these has been used A LOT and two are brand new… but don’t worry – I’ll be breaking them in shortly!

 

KB Tattoo Pen. There are a lot of choices when it comes to tattoo pens (or clamps) but we chose to go with the KB Tattoo. I’ve tried others over the years and have never found one I like better. For the price and the quality it can’t be beaten. I’ve replaced the batteries twice and needles once in six years. That’s not a bad deal! I’d also recommend getting the ink that they sell with the pen – I’ve tried other inks and the tattoos have faded quickly or never even seemed to really stick.

Healing Ointment. After every tattoo I blot the ink off of the tattoo and then dab a little ointment on it. Sometimes I use Aquaphor and other times Bag Balm… I imagine Vaseline or almost any healing ointment would work just as well. I just think it helps the tattoo heal better.

 

A few more tips for the beginning tattooer:

 

Banana. I have recommended that before tattooing for the first time, tattoo a banana. The flesh of the banana helps give you an idea of how hard you’ll need to press down to get a clear tattoo.

Be Bold. When you decide to tattoo, fully commit. Do it quickly and firmly. If you are tentative the rabbit will likely give you grief whereas if you tattoo confidently you will be done with the tattoo in a jiffy.

Tattoo System. Choose a tattoo system that is identifiable to you and your rabbitry. For us, our breeders always start with a letter “H”. (If you’d like to know about our tattoo system this blog post goes into it in more detail, The Quirky Art of Tattooing

Cleaning out the Webs

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Orb spiders. They’re nasty and also harmless. And huge. They make HUGE Cobwebs. Lots of ’em. We have become a breeding ground for these suckers and while they totally freak me out, I also know they’re beneficial in our attack against the flies and gnats that enjoy our rabbitry, so we have to make some sort of peace – up until a point.

 

Given only a small amount of time, these spiders can very effectively cover every inch of space around the rabbitry with webs and that, friends, is both scary and gross, definitely the stuff of heebie-jeebies. Yesterday was the day we said, “Enough is enough!” and went to battle.

 

Our weapon of choice for these silky, sticky, nearly invisible barriers?

 

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Fire. Lots and lots of continuous flame. (Contained and as safe as possible, of course.)

 

Really and truly, a butane torch (or “flamethrower,” for the more adventurous rabbit breeders), a steady and swift sweep, and the hair, cobwebs and gunk disappear in a flash, leaving behind cleaner and relatively sterilized cages. It’s a pretty nifty deal!

 

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Fire. Cobwebs. Disappearing in a flash and only slightly freaking out the rabbit in the photo. We never get near the rabbits but they find this whole business highly suspicious.

 

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This hair, food, cobweb mess goes up in flames. It’s quite satisfying.

Just in case you don’t believe me at how quick it is? Here’s a video of the space in between our hutches, which has been left undisturbed to the point of insanity. Spiders own the place. It’s like the wild west of spider adventures. And now? Poof! It’s gone!

Happy flame throwing!

Stuck Kits

This past fall we lost our minds for a little bit and came home with some dwarf rabbits, both Dwarf Hotot and champagne Netherland Dwarfs. Obviously, this is really big departure for us because we are used to BIG rabbits and these… even full grown they are so tiny!

 

We’ve been enjoying them, however, and have bred them for some successful litters. However, this week our ND was due and we had our first run in with a stuck kit. A little back story, this doe has given birth without issue before, but this litter was two days overdue. We’ve since learned that there is a theory that you want to breed a dwarf with stuck kit issues multiple times so that she had a larger litter which theoretically also equals smaller kits.

 

This is our daughter’s rabbit and she’s been watching her like a hawk for the babies to arrive. The doe nested as usual and did a great job of preparation but the kits just didn’t arrive. Then we went out and my husband observed her convulsing and pulled her out for a closer examination.

 

Stuck kits occur when the baby is took large to be easily delivered through the birth canal. This is especially common within the dwarf rabbit breeds because of the shape of their skulls.

 

Here is a clip of the video we took of the contractions. Since we have never had a stuck kit, it was extremely informative to us to even know what we were seeing.

 

 

Once we turned her over we were able to observe the feet of the kit emerging from the birth canal and we realized what was happening.

 

It seems the best practice if you’re going to assist with a stuck kit is to wait for a contraction and gently tug with the contraction toward the stomach of the rabbit.

 

In the end, the doe delivered three dead babies (very, very large!) and over the next 24 hours she delivered the placentas, etc. She’s doing fine and recovering well. We have given her raspberry and dandelion leaves and rest. Experienced breeders have encouraged us to give her a few days and then breed her again.

 

Recipes for Getting Stains Out of Rabbit Fur

Hutch stains and spray stains are the bane of a white rabbit breeder's existence!

Hutch stains and spray stains are the bane of a white rabbit breeder’s existence!

Recently we discovered a few of our bucks had had a literal pissing contest with each other and both were covered with urine stains. There’s a high “eww” factor involved in this, as you can actually feel the urine on a dirty coat. The rabbits themselves don’t seem to mind one way or another, but a dirty rabbit is pretty distasteful to view. (Just imagine if you are a judge and get handed a rabbit with a dirty coat like the one pictured… common courtesy toward a fellow human being tells us we need to do our best to clean them up!)

 

In a black rabbit like a Silver Fox you can use a baby wipe and elbow grease to clean them up pretty easily – but with a white rabbit like a Blanc de Hotot even when the residue of the dirtiness is gone those stains can stay and become the bane of your existence! Even a Champagne d’Argent is capable of getting some nasty coat stains under the right conditions. What to do?!

 

We have tried several different stain removers and all have had some limited success. I don’t think we’ve gotten it figured out – which honestly may be due to the individual coat differences of the rabbits. Here are a few we’ve used successfully*, plus some of the remedies others regularly recommend:

 

  1. Baking Soda and Vinegar. This is our homemade recipe that we like the best so far. We dissolved about a teaspoon of baking soda into about a 1/4 c. of white vinegar. Added some drops orange essential oil to address the vinegar odorthat stays on the rabbit. Spray on the rabbit, rub it in, and let it dry. After dry, wipe with cloth. Repeat as necessary.
  2. Miracle Groom. This is a horse product that some Champagne d’Argent breeders swear by. It had a nice scent to it. We got ours at Tractor Supply Co.
  3. Chase’s Stain Away. Good scent, good success with getting our Blancs white again, although it left a little oily residue behind. Can be purchased at BunnyRabbit.com.
  4. Corn Starch Paste. Corn starch mixed with white vinegar into a paste and rubbed onto the stain. Let dry, then brush it out.
  5. Witch Hazel & Hydrogen Peroxide. Create a 50/50 mix of witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide. Rub on with a soft rag or cotton pad (be aware that both of these are drying and could cause hair breakage if overused).
  6. Lemon Juice. Spray on and let the rabbit groom it out themselves.
  7. Blue Listerine. Only the blue version of Listerine will work for this. Use a paper towel to wipe the solution on. Fur should be damp, not wet. As the fur dries, the urine/hutch stains will disappear. Repeated applications over the course of several days may be necessary.
  8. Baking Soda and Peroxide. Spray it on, let it dry, brush it off. Note this recipe is for peroxide from a beauty supply store, not hydrogen peroxide.
  9. Cowboy Magic Rose Water. This demineralizing shampoo and conditioner is useful for some breeders.

 

As you can see there are many variations on some similar ingredients. In the end there are some cases where you’ll simply have to wait for the stains to molt out, or you might have a rabbit that just likes to be dirty. If you’re hoping to force a molt, a few kernels of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds a day for a couple of weeks can be helpful to force the molt (but can also add weight to your rabbit or create a perpetual molt, so be cautious).

 

Also, remember that altering a rabbit’s fur for a show is against ARBA showing regulations. These remedies are best used well in advance of a show. And, of course, keeping them from getting dirty in the first place by separating sprayer and having clean cages is the best defense!
What are your recommendations for stain cleaning? We’d love to hear in the comments!

Blame it on the Wind

Someone please tell me they are also hearing Milli Vanilli singing in their brains after reading the post title? Please?! Just in case you missed the joys of being a 90s kid, here you go, in it’s full non-rabbit related splendor:

 

 

 

That’s good stuff, that.

 

Now, about the rabbits. Do you know what? My area has a “red flag warning” issued by the National Weather Service today, regular wind gusts of 40mph-50mph are expected with isolated gusts even higher!

 

Friends, that’s strong enough that our 3 year old could be knocked off his feet.

 

Maybe it’s a sad statement, but my immediate reaction to this news was to think of the rabbits in two major areas:

  1. Protection
  2. Sneezing

 

Protection. Wind is a more threatening weather condition than cold to a rabbit. Rabbits, with their nice warm coats of fur, can be extremely happy in below freezing weather. They thrive in brisk temperatures and breeders in very extreme cold climate report great success with their rabbits. Give them a bunch of hay or a box and they can withstand almost any temperatures (assuming they also have access to non-frozen water).

 

But the wind. Oh the wind.

 

There is something about wind that can take a rabbit’s life in an afternoon. I don’t fully understand it myself but I know it is true because of the experiences of multiple friends in our town. When the rabbits don’t have a wind break they can go fast.

 

Please, give your rabbits a wind break. A wind break that won’t go flying in the gusts! Our location has strong winds all spring and we’ve actually had to put several things in place to shelter the rabbits. One is the tall fence of our yard, another is a structure to block the wind, another is using the natural vegetation to block the wind. In areas that might still get wind we also put corrugated metal sheeting.

 

The tricky part is to block the wind while not removing the potential air flow that is also necessary for your rabbit’s health! Study where your wind typically hits and adjust on that side accordingly!

 

Sneezing. If you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll know that we have a zero tolerance attitude toward rabbits with respiratory issues. If we suspect something is off we remove them from the herd. We practice quarantine religiously. We are those types of anal retentive people.

 

That being said, we occasionally have rabbits who sneeze. Our first spring having rabbits I heard a sneeze and that rabbit went directly to the cull block … where we found not a single thing awry with it upon autopsy. The second rabbit sneezed…. and we had a repeat, second verse, same as the first.

 

When the third rabbit sneezed my spouse (who tends to be pretty reasonable) said, “The last few days have been the windiest this year so far… and we have a dirt yard… and your own eyes are almost swollen shut with allergies… and I think we need to stop bopping them on the head only to discover they’re totally healthy. Animals sneeze. That’s life… not always a pure indication of illness!”

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And he is right. Completely accurate. We need to be reasonable in our animal raising. If there is crazy wind and something sneezes, it’s absolutely possible they have dust in their nose and are trying to clear the way they’ve been designed to clear dust: by sneezing it out. If a rabbit sneezes after drinking water, it’s absolutely logical that it has water up its nose and it’s using its natural defense structure against drowning correctly: by sneezing it out.

 

It’s absolutely wise to isolate a rabbit that’s sneezing and observe it. If it’s just wind then the sneezing will subside. If the rabbit is unhealthy, it will become evident within a few days. Don’t be hasty.

 

It is right to be vigilant about the health of your herd, but also remember to be reasonable. It’s an Occam’s Razor idea: “Among competing hypothesis, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected” or — in other words — don’t bop the bunny on a windy day!

 

 

 

 

 

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