Category Archives: Meat Rabbits

Things We’ve Gotten from Raising Rabbits

The Rabbits Bought my KeurigThis morning I made myself a cup of tea and looked hard at the Keurig machine. It’s getting old – not the sleek styles you can find available today, but it still gives me a great amount of joy. Why? Well, because the rabbits bought my Keurig!

We’ve been raising rabbits for several years now. Back in the day, the first time we had any extra money above the feed costs and facility costs, I bought a Keurig with the rabbit money!

There have been seasons where we have bred very hard and seasons where we have not. We have left certain breeds and added others. But in general our principles of raising rabbits as naturally as possible, toward the ARBA standard of perfection, and allowing the rabbits to be part of a larger homesteading lifestyle… well, those things are still there.

We rarely make money with rabbits. On good months we’re able to break even with feed costs. Going to shows can be expensive, especially if you load up your entire car with rabbits when you go like we do! We don’t raise rabbits to make the big bucks, we raise rabbits for the other lessons we get which are invaluable:

Our children value life. We raise our rabbits as a family. As a family we care for them. We process as a family. The kids, generally, value life. They realize that if the animals aren’t fed, they aren’t going to be fed because they have stewardship over these lives and that’s important. They know that each life has a purpose and those purposes may look different but they are all valuable.

Our family understands healthy competition. When we go to a show, of course it’s an opportunity to see how your breeding program is doing. You’d love your rabbit to win the top honors! But it’s more importantly an opportunity to interact with other breeders, to encourage one another, learn best practices, and admire these animals. Showing rabbits has helped us cement that WE are our main competition… if we haven’t done our personal best we aren’t winning at anything.

We’ve learned science in a hands on way. Rabbits are an amazing tool for understanding genetics. I honestly can’t see any other area that would give us as much knowledge in a practical way about genetics as raising rabbits. Now… has that led to some interesting conversations? Why, yes! Once my dear child told me that with my naturally horrible eyesight I ought to be glad I’m not a rabbit because I would have been culled from the breeding program! Ha! But there is a reality that these experiences help us understand natural order and scientific inquiry in a whole new way.

 

I could go on and on, but I will stop now because my tea is getting cold. The tea that came from the hot water from the Keurig that our rabbits bought. These rabbits, they are always bringing us important things!

Falling in Love All Over Again

Image may contain: textGuys… things have been busy around here. The kids are growing up and they have various interests and so I haven’t been puttering around the rabbitry like I used to enjoy doing with my free time – the free time has been minimal!

So let me share with you how exciting it was to evaluated the juniors we have and realize they may be my favorites in a really long time! It made me immediately want to drop all the things and just wander around the rabbitry with my heart going pitter patter.

I think I’m even more aware of how much I love them because we aren’t attending the National Show this year. It’s been on the calendar for two years, since they announced the location and it was closer than a days drive away. But then, in August when the kid’s soccer schedules came out, I learned that having four kids in traveling soccer and trying to attend a rabbit show in October is not a good combination. Sad days.

Alas… we’ll be planning for shows in the future and hopefully change our current lame track record. Showing really adds to the excitement of raising rabbits, and I miss my show friends!

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!

Our “MicroFarm” is a MacroDeal

Mad Hatter Microfarm LogoOne thing you’ll notice in the future is that we’re expanding our horizons from simply “Mad Hatter Rabbits” to “Mad Hatter MicroFarm.” We admit it, the rabbits were our gateway animal! They got us into this happy homesteading lifestyle and we will always be grateful for this!

Part of our commitment when we first started in rabbits in 2012 was that we would be on the lookout for additional sustainable living options that we could do on our urban property. Over the years that has expanded as we’ve taken one small step at a time toward a more wholesome lifestyle.

Rabbits were our beginning. Lots of research, lots of practice, and we felt like we were getting the hang of it. Four years ago we started with our gardening projects, and the last two years have really ramped it up where we can actually supplement our family’s diet with what we grow. Last spring we ended up with both quail and chickens, and this spring we are expanding our efforts with a dairy goat.

At the root of all of these changes is a desire to be as close to our food processes as possible. We aren’t certified organic anything… but we do our best to be as close to organic as possible. I like to think of it as attempting to copy the way our grandparents lived life, when a full-service WalMart wasn’t within a 20 mile radius of practically everywhere and our meat didn’t come on styrofoam trays!

Our movements toward this lifestyle have been gradual, but our blog will now reflect the various aspects of learning and exploring we do to create this high-altitude homesteading, microfarming experience at 7,000 ft. Hopefully by bringing all of the various aspects of our life underneath one blog you’ll see more frequent posts and find yourself exploring ideas and learning for your own self-sufficient dreams!

You’ll still find this site when you search for “Mad Hatter Rabbits,” but over time we’ll be using Mad Hatter Microfarm more and more. Don’t get confused! It’s still us!

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.

 

On our New Pricing…

Can I just tell you my least favorite part of raising rabbits? Selling rabbits.

 

I know this may sound silly, but selling rabbits ranks right around cleaning out the waste pile for me in terms of favorite activities. Partially because there is no right or wrong rule with setting prices, and there is a lot of back and forth variety in what breeders do in specific areas. Add in flaky buyers who fall through at the last minute and, in general, it’s a challenge!

 

We’ve just upped our prices a tad – it’s the first time in three years we’ve done so. It’s always hard to consider raising prices, and I want you to know we are doing so intentionally, not because we suddenly want more bang for our sales.

 

Since we breed rare breeds almost entirely, we keep availability in mind. Yes, it’s extremely difficult to find some of these breeds – and truthfully we have paid a top dollar for most all of our foundation animals. However, we would love these rare breeds to gain in popularity, which means that if you price them too high you run some serious, great breeders out of the game with a high price.

 

We’ve also become pretty choosy with our keeper/sellers and in the past two years we’ve culled hard, which has improved the quality of our herd overall. When I think back to the rabbits we had several years ago, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made with the breeds, and there is a dedication to care and analytical breeding that has been proven in the test of time. Are we perfect, not at all! But do we have better judgement than we did when we were starting out? Absolutely. Are we producing higher quality animals? Yes, we are. People who buy a Mad Hatter Rabbit now receive the benefit of the education we’ve gained over the years – and there’s value to that.

 

I believe you’ll still find us on the “reasonable” spectrum of the prices for our breeds, as our goal is still to provide a quality rabbit at a decent price to encourage other folks to raise these heritage and rare breeds. We thank you for your patience and look forward to working with you!

So, Um… We have fuzzy bunnies now.

IMG_6678Just about 12 months ago we attended a show and happened to set up camp next to a very kind angora breeder who gently and patiently put up with our kid’s questions about angoras and requests to touch and love on angoras. Of course, because angoras are beautiful, they begged to take an angora home. We firmly, repeatedly said, “No.”

I have a grudge against rabbits that can’t clean their own poop up well. We raise meat rabbits. We don’t like high maintenance. NO ANGORA BUNNIES.

Fast forward several months and I learn that one of my favorite breeders ever raises Satin Angoras. We’re negotiating for a trade in bloodlines for some other breeds and she offers to set the kids up with Satin Angoras, “They’re meat bunnies wearing coats. You can do this!” she says. I hem and haw because the kids haven’t stopped bugging me about the fuzzy animals.

We work with the kids to set some goals for responsibility to show us that they’re ready to take on a high maintenance breed. Remarkably, the kids meet their goals. The trade of breeds takes place, our friend tells me she’s doing her best to give the kids a great start, and don’t worry, they’re meat animals – if they’re awful they can go to freezer camp.

In May we came home from West Coast Classic with a trio of Satin Angoras. I don’t want to admit it but I kind of like them – the personality is amazing on these animals. We go on a field trip to a fiber mill and also a fiber festival, realizing we can utilize the wool on these animals to do some cool crafts and learn a new skill.

IMG_0902We trade for more fuzzy bunnies through ARBA nationals.

We breed the fuzzy bunnies. The babies are adorable. We show a fuzzy bunny at a show and realize our original breeder friend took very good care of us in starter stock.

And now, it appears we are breeders of fuzzy bunnies. Also known as Satin Angoras. Lord help us.IMG_0924

Be Kind. Always.

I clicked the “leave group” button today on Facebook.

This particular group, specific to a class of rabbits, has been a long-standing area of angst for me. There are some wonderful, educational posts that come through it, and then there are also a lot of inside jokes, inappropriate humor, and attacking behavior as well. Today those attacks crossed a line so… I left.

First things first – people need to understand about defamation, slander and libel.

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If you are negatively promoting a person and it affects their reputation or livelihood – you’re committing a crime.

When you publish photos of someone online and encourage others not to use their product (whether it be transportation, stock purchases, or judging services) guess what – you’ve committed LIBEL. It’s a crime and it’s something that can be prosecuted. Be wary and follow a simple rule:

Be Kind or Be Quiet

Be nice. Especially online.

I know, I know – it’s the same advice your grandma gave you: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” BUT just because it’s old-fashioned wisdom doesn’t mean it’s untrue! Seriously. Be nice or be quiet. We don’t need little gossip mongers in this hobby. We need people who are willing to be kind, promote their breeds, and pet their rabbits. Be one of those people – you’ll have more fun (whether you’re blonde or not! LOL!)!

Because I was pretty steamed this morning about the post in the facebook group which caused me to unfollow, I put a comment up on my regular, private facebook page referencing the poor behavior. That generated some commentary from my facebook friends where I learned from friends across the country that they won’t let their kids get involved in raising and showing rabbits because the ADULTS at the shows are argumentative, resentful, and expletive-spreading meanies. REALLY?!!

We love our rabbits shows for the very opposite reason! We meet people who are willing to take the time with our kids, educate us on best practices in their barns, and generally be awesome. We have found some amazing folks we love at rabbit shows and to learn that other areas of the country are acting awful makes my heart break.

THESE ARE RABBITS. This isn’t an Olympic arena. It’s a fuzzy bunny and we make lots of them. There is absolutely no call for people to get superior or condescending about rabbits. This is like the nerd hobby of livestock – we wander around barns covered in fur and wicked looking nail scratches. Who does this?! Quirky folks who are pretty awesome but probably weren’t the cool kids in high school.

Put it all in perspective… THESE ARE RABBITS. Stop being a jerk. Just be nice and have fun!

So here’s my plea: Make Kindness Normal. Go out of your way to encourage and build up others. Be the positive change in the hobby. Look for ways to be helpful. Keep your words respectful in all circumstances.

Kindness confetti.jpg

 

The End.

We Don’t Keep a Sales Waiting List

wait List

We no longer keep a waiting list for sales, despite many requests.

Over the years we have been contacted by many people regarding purchasing rabbits, which is always such an honor! When we have rabbits available for sale, we are happy to hash out the details of the purchase, transport, etc. But other times we don’t have exactly what the buyer is looking for and so aren’t able to help immediately. Almost invariably the buyer will ask to be put on the waiting list for their specific rabbit.

 

And I, in a dose of pure Scrooge-like meanness, tell them, “No.”

 

Why on Earth would we say no to a waiting list? Don’t we want to sell our rabbits?! Well, in a nutshell, yes. It does seem counter-intuitive that we wouldn’t keep a waiting list. But let me take you on a walk down memory lane…

 

In the early days of Mad Hatter Rabbits, when every cage was shiny and the food crocks still had the stink of the factory on them, we kept a waiting list. It was a lovely excel spreadsheet with the contact information of every person who contacted us, the date of communications, the exact request they had for their rabbits. It was a thing of beauty and organizational structure and it gave great joy to it’s maker, ME.

 

But then, the dark shadows of reality began to intrude. I would contact people on the waiting list to tell them their rabbit was available and they’d tell me they’d changed their minds. Or purchased a rabbit from another breeder. Or moved to Zimbabwe and developed a rash from looking at rabbit pictures… there were any number of reasons they were backing out of the purchase.

 

My excel spreadsheet became a mausoleum of unrealized dreams. It was a sad, sad thing. I grieved.

 

After about two years regularly getting burned by flakey rabbit folks, we made an executive decision. What stock is available will be posted on our rabbitry facebook page, and if people contact us directly and we can help them, we will. First come, first served at that particular moment. If the buyer is consistent in pursuing us, we can pretty much guarantee we’ll get a rabbit to them as quickly as possible, but the responsibility now lands on the buyer, rather than us as the seller, to follow through on the effort of a stock purchase.

 

I still miss that excel spreadsheet, but it was time to build a bridge and get over it.

 

Do you maintain a waiting list?

Checklist for Starting a Rabbit Project

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 9.50.42 AM

What do you need to start a 4H rabbit project?

We have just finished the county fair around here and are proud to announce that one of the kid’s mini satins was awarded Reserve in Show and our oldest was given the Champion rabbit showmanship award for her division. Good times!

 

 

Of course, being around all of those awesome 4H kids and their different projects, plus learning more about the livestock auction and its ins an outs has encouraged our kids to start working toward starting a goat (!) project! Eek! Our first step has been to start the research and as we’ve tried to gather information about goats, I’ve realized that other people might feel the same about how to start a rabbit project, so a post on how to get into rabbits might be helpful to you all!

 

So, here are a few things you might want to consider if you’re beginning a rabbit project:

 

  1. Finances. One thing I really appreciate about the 4H member record is that it forces the child to lay out a budget for their project. Things you should consider as you’re starting a rabbit project are: Stock, Food, Housing, and Tools.
  2. Purpose. What type of project do you want to purse? A market/meat project? Doe and litter? Showmanship? Each of these categories might require a different set up so begin with the end in mind for your success.

Here are our thoughts and best practices regarding these items:

Stock: The initial investment of stock is a big deal and many parents don’t have a clue as to where to begin to help their children! Consider the purpose of the project – if you want to do a meat pen, take a look at the breeds of commercial typed rabbits and then ask your fair what breeds of rabbit have been recognized for excellence in your area previously. If you want a doe and litter, look to a breed known for their mothering abilities. If you want a showmanship rabbit, look for breeds with a reputation for being easy to handle. Make sure that you have a copy of the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association Standard of Perfection, which is the book with the identifying characteristics of each breed. This $20 investment will save you hundreds if you allow it to teach what you’re looking for in choosing your animals and how to steer clear of disqualifications.

After identifying your purpose, start looking for places to acquire the animal(s). My recommendation is to start with the ARBA website breeder listing. This is broken down by breed and location. Ask for recommendations from those breeders. Take a look at the ARBA National Convention results. Check out the breed webpage for their top breeders. Look in the Domestic Rabbit to see which breeders have rabbits being given Grand Champion status. These are ways to figure out how you can get good advice and counsel from those who are serious about rabbit raising. (Also realize that those folks who have 30+ years of rabbit raising experience probably don’t have a webpage or Facebook farm page, so go to a rabbit show and ask people who to sit with to learn more – you’ll be shocked at how many people who truly love rabbits are truly looking to pass their knowledge on!)

Food: Each region of the country has different food offerings, so ask around. Your local feed store will be able to tell you what their best selling feed is, and if you do an internet search for food recommendations you’ll get many results. Recognize that people have really passionate about their food and many breeders blame their feed for all of their problems!

Regardless of whether you choose pellets or natural, or one brand over another, just know that your rabbit is going to have to eat! Every feed has pros and cons. Just feed your rabbit. (As an aside – seriously. Feed your rabbit. At our fair I wanted to cry over how many rabbits showed that they hadn’t been fed regularly or enough. FEED YOUR RABBIT EVERY DAY. Period.)

Feed costs will vary over the year based on what breed of rabbit you have and how much the pellets cost (a meat rabbit will eat approximately 200 lbs of pellets in a year if they’re being feed 8 oz./day). You’ll get a better price on a larger bag of feed, but make sure you’re not feeding your rabbit old feed about 3 weeks old is the longest you’ll want to keep feed for your rabbit. Fresh feed = healthy rabbits.

Housing: We follow the guidelines from ARBA and a book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennet in our housing choices. We have chosen to purchase our cages from KW Cages and Klubertanz and find both cages to be of excellent quality. Putting your rabbit in a cage with rusted wire or uneven angles will hurt their feet and make their life harder. Food and water can depend on the preference of your rabbit as well as your area. For years we’ve used stainless steel crock water dishes in the winter when it’s freezing and water bottles for the summer time – but there’s not a right or a wrong to this.

Consider what you will do with your rabbit waste. Are your cages going to have pans for the droppings? If so, budget for bedding to cut down on the odors and ammonia from the urine that can hurt your rabbit’s nose. Are your droppings going to go to the ground? If so, do you have access to a shovel and wheelbarrow? Do you have a compost pile? Do you have a garden where you can put the bunny berries?

Are you raising a doe and litter project? If so you’ll need a nestbox. You can use a variety of items for your nestbox – we’ve found we prefer this style ourselves because we can clean them reliably, they are able to withstand consistent use, and they’re secure for the kits.

Tools: Livestock require tools for handling and rabbits are no exception. You’ll want to have access to a tattoo tool, whether a pen or clamp. (We use a KBTatts tattooer and love it. We also have a rabbit wrap that is extremely helpful when tattooing.) For grooming you’ll need to have nail clippers and possibly Kevlar sleeves to protect your arms from scratches. An apron or a pair of overalls can protect your midsection from scratches and your clothes from rabbit toenail snags and rips. If you have a wooled breed of rabbit you need a grooming comb.

When you take your rabbit to a show or fair, you need to have a safe way for them to travel. We use these 3 compartment, 3 lid travel carriers and we love them because they have individual openings for each hole.

Our tool box is very low on the medicines for your rabbit because we have chosen to simply do our best to breed healthy rabbits. We don’t use antibiotics. However, we do have some olive oil for the occasional time a rabbit gets ear mites and Diamataceous Earth to sprinkle over the droppings and in the fur of our rabbits. We keep a bottle of lavendar/tea tree essential oil and tin of Bag Balm around for our own scratches! (We also put bag balm on the rabbits ear after tattooing.)

 

I’ve tried to put together a pretty exhaustive list here, but I’d love to hear in the comments if you’d recommend anything additional. Starting a rabbit project is easy – rabbits are quiet, pretty clean, a lower monetary investment, and pretty cheap to keep. We’d recommend them!

Now… who can help us with the goats?! Ha!

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