Category Archives: Pet Rabbits

Give the Gift of Rabbits – Heifer International

HeiferI just received this wonderful reminder from Linette:

“Since this is a time of year many people think to donate to charities, I was reminded of the Heifer project which donates animals and farming equipment to people in developing countries. They have a program to purchase breeding trios for people who will raise them for meat.

It’s a wonderful way of sharing rabbits with people in need!”

heifer-international1

Moria chimed in, “We have done this a few times and it’s awesome to be able to share the love of bunnies and the reason they are so versatile to other people! And it’s not expensive at all! highly recommend it!”

 

Would you like to give the give of self-sustainability to those who might not have access to meat in other ways?

http://www.heifer.org/gift-catalog/animals-nutrition/gift-of-rabbits-donation.html

 

Share a rabbit c

Best Opposite of Breed, Silver Fox, ARBA National Convention 2014

Photo by L. Fischbeck

Photo by L. Fischbeck

We are just beside ourselves tonight with excitement because we got word that the doe we entered into the ARBA National Convention was placed as Best Opposite of Breed! It is such an treat to have your animal selected for this honor and it’s not something we expected as we waved goodbye to our transporter last Thursday night!

 

This particular doe was bred by Nick’s Nibblers in California — Nick’s Nibblers had Mad Hatter stock to get started in Silver Fox and we traded for Zelos earlier this year. Since she came out of Mad Hatter lines we felt it was still ok to send her as our entry, typically we wouldn’t plan to send a rabbit we haven’t personally bred to the National Convention.

 

Boy are we feeling blessed tonight, and grateful for how things turn out! On any given day every rabbit has a serious chance at top honors. Even though we didn’t place as best of breed, we’re still feeling pretty happy about her performance and eager to bring her home, get her registered, and send her legs in to complete her Grand Champion process before we start her down the merry path of motherhood.

 

So many thank yous to so many people who have assisted with the national show! We’re looking forward to seeing how our other rabbits placed, and preparing a welcome home treat for Zelos, our very first nationally winning rabbit!

My Rabbits Bought my Keurig

Our rabbit money purchased a Keurig for our family this fall.

Our rabbit money purchased a Keurig for our family this fall.

People will often ask if it’s possible to make money on rabbits.

 

No. (Kinda.)

 

Raising rabbits is a lot like the blogging world in some respects. There are some people, like the Pioneer Woman, who make money on their blogs because they have a massive following and sponsors. But for every Pioneer Woman there are 5,000 people who opened their free blog account and post on occasion and make nothing.

 

Kinda like rabbits.

 

There are people who run commercial rabbitries who are able to make money for themselves selling meat rabbits. There are some people who have worked very hard on their lines and can make money on sales for their rabbits that actually support them in their retirement.

 

But for the average person, rabbits can be a bit of a money pit, especially if you’re addicted to buying new stock all of the time and you haven’t clearly stated your objectives.

 

For our family, we have three priorities for our rabbits:

 

1. To provide a healthy meat source for our family, where we know what is in the food we are eating. In this respect we are paying about $3/lbs for rabbit meat when we process on a 10-week schedule. That takes in to account the amount of food consumed by mama while nursing the litter and the amount of food consumed by the individual rabbit until butcher time.

2. To produce show animals that pay for themselves. We enjoy showing. I get it that not everyone does, but we find it to be a lot of fun for our whole family. Showing a rabbit is not terribly expensive, but it does take money in gas, entry fees, purchase of carriers to get them to and from the show, and incidental costs while there, like a soda. If we are able to sell stock to cover the cost of our show experience we consider that a fun experience that pays for itself… and that’s a win-win. As time has gone on our rabbit sales have also slowly chipped away at the initial purchase cost of our cages and supplies. We have a depreciation schedule for this so I’m not expecting to break even but, it’s happening slowly!

3. To allow this hobby to bring our family together. This is a purpose that doesn’t have a price tag, but so many of the hobbies we see as options are not whole family events. We love to go snowboarding, but now that we have kiddos it’s a bit of a scheduling nightmare to figure out how to manage all the childcare so we can hit the slopes. Rabbits aren’t like that for our family – we come together to take care of the daily husbandry tasks and when we go to shows we are often en masse with the kids and have found rabbit people to be extremely welcoming to well-behaved children.

We also recognize that rabbits have become our family hobby. Hobbies of all types exist in the world, but usually you expect to have a bit of expense involved whether it’s buying a specific size of knitting needle or yarn, or a special rope perfect for bouldering. Hobbies come with a price tag – ours also comes with fur!

 

The first year we had rabbits I fretted quite a bit over the monthly budget allowance we had going to the animals, thinking we would never break even. We sell our animals to people for show and starting their own meat operations, and have gotten a fairly steady stream of people who are interested in purchasing the poop — ‘bunny berries’ — for their gardens, which brings in a little extra cash. Now that we’ve been at it awhile, we also have been able to scale back our regular costs significantly to basically food and shows.

 

That has left a little extra room on occasion to save for bigger upcoming expenses. Dollar by quarter we are able to set money aside… and just a few weeks ago I was able to completely pamper myself by buying a Keurig coffee maker using our rabbit profits! So now we’re caffeinated as we pet our bunnies, a crazy combination! Ha!

 

I suppose when it comes down to it, it’s about your priorities. I would never recommend rabbits to someone as a money-making proposition. If you’re interested in a rewarding hobby with lovely relationships with others and potential to make a healthy lifestyle choice, this might be right up your alley!

How Much is Too Much to Spend on a Rabbit?

Yep. Been known to Happen.

Yep. Been known to Happen.

The ARBA national convention is this weekend and I’ve been having several discussions with different breeders about their purchasing budget.

 

Convention is a two-edged sword, because on one hand it’s a wonderful opportunity to spread bloodlines across the country and have access to livestock you can’t normally get because of distance. On the other hand, a rabbit purchased through Convention is typically much more expensive – maybe double the price or more – than a rabbit you can get locally once you add up the purchase price, transport cost, care cost, and entry fees.

 

So what’s the right choice? To buy… or NOT to buy? This is the question!

 

Everyone will have to come to their own conclusions, but this is how we look at it.

 

1. Gene Pool. We are raising rare breed rabbits. The ability to mix up bloodlines is pretty important – over generations sticking to the same gene pool will lead to a smaller sized, genetic abnormalities, and type characteristics that won’t help the breed long term. So getting new blood is worth the expense to us in that respect.

 

However, we don’t want to buy just anything willy-nilly. When we were first starting out I was interested in buying stock from anyone that had rabbits available. Now that we’ve gotten our feet wet and know our own lines, we can selectively choose animals that will (hopefully) add a specific trait to our herd. No herd is perfect! Part of what makes rabbit breeding so fun is seeing the changes in quality in your herd over time. Convention provides a perfect opportunity to gain access to a wider spectrum of rabbits.

 

2. Cost Analysis. From a purely practical standpoint, each rabbit has a cost/benefit. Let’s say a rabbit’s purchase price is $100. (That’s a nice even number). It’s a doe and she has a litter of 7 – of those you sell 2 and cull the other 5 for meat or such. Even if you sell the two babies for $50 each and the culls at $5 apiece you’ve made your purchase price back off of just one litter, while your original rabbit might produce ten more litters for you in her lifetime… or you might sell her as a proven doe at some point later in her life, recouping some of her original purchase price.

 

With that in mind, I find it easier to spend more on a Convention rabbit, as long as I keep a longer-term outlook about it. Over time rabbits will pay for their own food, the cost of physical rabbitry (cages, water bowls, etc.), any miscellaneous costs, BUT it’s not going to happen in six months. It’s a multi-year process and in the meantime you have to guard your own reputation and make sure you’re keeping your rabbitry clean, rabbits healthy, and selling stock buyers are excited to have and can (hopefully) win for them or produce great litters for their own livestock operation.

 

3. What’s Practical Now. When we were just getting started I practically mortgaged one of our children to get stock! Well, that’s overstating it quite a bit, but at that season I felt we had to snatch up the opportunity to get animals out here, since no one in our area was breeding some of these breeds. Fast forward a few years and now I’m staying within my budget and passing on animals I wish we could buy because I already said yes to some offered earlier.

 

Just a piece of marital advice, stick to your budget! My husband told me I could only buy rabbits with money rabbits made this year and it’s caused a few pains when I passed on a great animal… but a whole lot of peace with my spouse! There will always be more rabbits, I only want one husband!

 

So there you have it! It’s not a straight up  answer to how much YOU should spend on your animals, but at least a glimpse of how it’s working for us right now. May all your purchases be positive!

Rabbit Breeders Alert Network (R-BAN)

Even Einstein was smart about bunnies.

Even Einstein was smart about bunnies.

Those of you who are on Facebook may be interested in a newly formed group, Rabbit Breeders Alert Network (R-BAN).

 

The group was formed this past week with a goal of helping fellow rabbit breeders be aware of potential disease risks in an area for protecting their rabbits as well as legislative action alerts pertaining to our hobby and right to raise rabbits.

 

Some examples of posts are the following:

 

Myxamatosis epidemic spreading in California. Coastal regions reported from Monterey to Sonoma Counties. Latest reports are inland to Fresno area. Myxamatosis is spread by insects such as mosquitoes and fleas, and is hosted in wild cottontail populations in CA and OR. Prevention is the best remedy: keep your rabbitry free of mosquitoes, fleas, any biting insects. Note that once infected rabbits are present the disease is also transmitted by hands and clothing. Symptoms for the disease range from sudden death within 2 days, to 12 days of virus incubation then rabbits eyes swell up and rabbit becomes lethargic, sometimes suffocating from secondary pneumonia. Cases in other countries reported to have some survival rate, the CA strain of virus does not have any reports of survival rate. Vaccine available in the UK but for some reason not here?? If purchasing rabbits from CA and OR it is recommended you quarantine them in a bug-free zone for two weeks.

 

Another post:

This is a message from BOB GLASS!!! from RABBIT PASTEURELLA VACCINE FORUM

Pan American Vet Labs is undertaking a research project on Enzootic Rabbit Enteritis (ERE). This disease, which causes bloating, diarrhea and death, has been ravaging rabbit herds worldwide for several years and has been proven to be an easily transmitted infectious disease but the causative agent has not been identified. ERE impacts weanling rabbits most severely, killing 50-75% of those that develop symptoms. The course of the disease typically follow these general steps…:
1) 7-14 after weaning the infected rabbit shows a (usually) single large fecal discharge that is almost entirely jelly like pale yellow to brown mucous
2) the patient stops eating and drinking
At +/- 24-48 hours
3) the abdomen swells as the intestinal tract becomes “paralyzed” and large amounts of gas develop
4) the patient becomes weak and refuses to move
5) liquid green diarrhea of varying amount
6) the lips and tongue develop a blueish color
7) the patient dies
We are working on a new approach to isolate the causative agent and need some help. Our goal is to identify the agent, develop a diagnostic test to confirm disease and eventually a vaccine to prevent infection.
We need samples of the mucous material that is the first sign of infection and we need it as soon as possible to do preliminary studies to validate our study hypothesis. We need samples from several herds in order to prove that this is the same organism in each outbreak. Time is critical, we are applying for a grant to fund a portion of this study and the deadline is only a few weeks away. It is very difficult to obtain funding for “rabbit health” issues. We need data from these samples to add validity to our proposal. We will not reveal the source of the samples to anyone and we will share anything we learn about this disease.
Over the last 18 months I have spoken with dozens of rabbit breeders who are dealing with this infection in their herds and I am asking that anyone who currently has this disease please contact me as soon as possible if you are willing to send samples.
Get info on how to send samples here: WWW.PAVLAB.COM

Many times breeders aren’t aware that others are facing health issues in their rabbitries or what treatments have been successful or unsuccessful in combatting the issues. This forum is designed as a way to alert others about what may be spreading across various areas of the country and how to manage the issue.

 

We’re in favor of anything that helps these animals stay healthy and productive! If you’re interested, head over to Facebook and join the Rabbit Breeders Alert Network (R-BAN).

The Rabbit With No Ears and Big Teeth

It was a rough day around the rabbitry for No Ears.

 

If you’ve been following our blog for awhile, you’ll remember that back in February we had a litter of Cinnamon born where their first-time mother got over zealous in her cleaning at birth and ate the ears of several of her kits! Most were damaged only a little bit, but one poor rabbit had his ears bitten right down to the ear base.

 

No Ears' baby photo. He's ... the one with no ears.

No Ears’ baby photo. He’s … the one with no ears.

 

This little buddy has been known as “No Ears” since then. I wasn’t sure he’d make it through the summer, as rabbit ears are important for a rabbits body temperature regulation and our rabbitry is outside in Arizona! (It’s a mountain town but it can still get hot here!) He made it through the summer just fine but this afternoon… he’s hit a spot he probably won’t make it through.

 

We have children here. Our children get rabbits out and play with them almost every day. Our rabbits are loved, harrassed, and spend time hanging out on a trampoline with kiddos regularly.

 

When you have children and animals, there’s a special level of kindness necessary on the part of both the children and the animal. We think of it kind of like this – the children have to treat the animals in a way that will engender trust… and the animals have to not bite the children.

 

We’ve only had two biters around here and both found their way to the slow cooker almost immediately. Today, No Ears made the unfortunate choice of unleashing his teeth on my arm.

 

At this moment, he’s still breathing, but he signed his death warrant with that decision. Some might say we’re harsh to have such  black & white stance on the subject, especially since No Ears is the last of his line and has a pretty nice body type. I’m tempted to breed him before he hits the road… but we’re also firm believers that personality is a genetic trait as much as body type.

 

No Ears is a satinized Cinnamon, which I was looking to use to work with a torted Satin project. This photo was taken just minutes before "the incident."

No Ears is a satinized Cinnamon, which I was looking to use to work with a torted Satin project. This photo was taken just minutes before “the incident.”

No Ears has proven his mama was a biter and he’s a biter – I’m a little concerned about any animals produced out of him and their demeanor.

 

Do any of you have experience with this? Can you confirm or deny the biting tendency and whether it is passed down from generation to generation?

 

Setting Prices for Stock Sales

wendy's origami

wendy’s origami

If you’re anything like me, talking money can sometimes be uncomfortable. Especially if you’re not used to buying and selling.

 

When we purchased our initial stock, I was pretty determined not to spend more than $20 per rabbit. When I started researching the animals we were interested in, I realized that I would have to make some significant compromises in my expectations if I wanted a $20 rabbit – and even then, it was going to be hard to accomplish. Over time, I changed my philosophy, upped my budget, and found a sweet spot between what I am willing to pay for a purebred, pedigreed rabbit and what compromises I will make in quality in order to stay in my budget.

 

Obviously people have different budgets for their rabbit life, so  how do you come up with the prices for your own rabbits when it comes time to sell them?

 

There are probably a million different ways, but we connected with another breeder in our area who raised the same breed(s) and we discussed our pricing structure together. We ended up deciding on the same prices, which meant that we could refer people to one another for rabbits if they wanted gene pool diversity without having additional money conversations and we knew also that we could back each other up in our pricing and discussions of the value of the rabbits. This worked well for us as we both raised rare breeds.

 

Though we agreed for our area, we are not lock step with other breeders in the country for these breeds. For example, currently we sell our Cinnamons for $55/rabbit with discounts for multiples or 4H members. However, one awesome breeder in the midwest sells for $25/rabbit; another a few states away charges $125/rabbit. With a range like that, how do you know if you’ve got the right price on your rabbits?! How do you know you’re getting a good deal as a buyer?

 

Take some time to consider what you are selling.

  • Are your rabbits purebred? Pedigreed?
  • Are your rabbits being used for food, fur, or fancy?
  • If you show, how do your rabbits perform? Do they win top honors for the breed?
  • If you are working with meat animals what is your average litter size and mortality rate? What is the growth rate of your kits to 10 weeks? What is your dress out percentage?
  • If you are selling as pets, who is your market? A pet store? Craig’s List? Your mom’s best friend?

If you are a buyer, consider what you’re looking for?

  • What is your goal for your rabbitry? Food, fur, or fancy?
  • How important is it to you to have a pedigreed rabbit?
  • How important is your genetic diversity at this point? (At some point it might be worth importing a rabbit from another region of the country to widen your gene pool – that can be expensive.)
  • Are you hoping to sell rabbits yourself (if that’s the case, I’d strongly encourage you to start with pedigreed stock)?
  • Have you talked to breeders about who they’d recommend for purchasing your rabbits?

 

Once you have identified your goals it will become easier to determine your pricing structure. Investigate the websites of other people with your breed. Get on your breed’s facebook or yahoo chat groups and ask other breeders about their prices. Check out the ARBA results for your breed at the national convention and ask the winners what they charge. Cruise by your local feed store and price their rabbits.

 

All of these pieces of information will help you as you set up your own pricing. I will caution you, however – do not expect to make money on rabbits! I’m grateful those months that the rabbits sales cover the feed costs, which is only about half the time right now! Also realize that not every rabbit surviving to adolescence is worthy of being sold as a show rabbit and if you sell ugly rabbits for show or a sickly rabbit at any time your reputation will begin to precede you and you’ll find your sales will dry up.

 

We have a sales policy on our page that we worked on to protect us as the seller, as well as lay out clear expectations for the buyer. We often do our best to go above and beyond to make sure people are happy with their purchase. We are so pleased when we have repeat buyers! Our goal as a rabbitry is to be around for the long haul, which means that we have become more and more selective for what rabbits leave our rabbitry bearing our name. In our minds it’s a major accomplishment to send a rabbit out to another location and discover it’s regularly Best of Breed or a fair Grand Reserve. That’s good stuff!

 

Obviously, no one is breeding the perfect rabbit and everyone has to work on their own lines in order to know what their rabbits are actually worth. Once a rabbit leaves our rabbitry we have no control over how it is cared for or how it performs. That being said, we are doing our best to continually improve our rabbitry and the animals leaving – the search for perfection is quite fun!

Forget Free Willy, Free Bunnies!

It’s confession time.

For all we talk a good game of eating our uglies and realizing that everything has a purpose and sometimes that purpose is to be edible… Well, sometimes we just can’t pull the trigger.

Case in point: this is Eclipse.

IMG_0323.JPG

She is a fantastic Silver Fox doe who has given us a ridiculous amount of joy during her life. It has become evident that she is past her child bearing prime but we struggled with wanting to use every cage, every hole to it’s greatest impact.

So… Eclipse was turned loose in the back yard. She has been set free to hide underneath the saw horses supporting the Timothy hay bales and eat our lettuce sprouts. She loves it!

It’s been a few months since we got a freely roaming lagomorph and we weren’t sure it would suit us. But it has! Since then we’ve retired two more of our older does who have earned a special spot. There are a few more holes being dug in our back yard but it’s been working wonderfully.

The rabbits are living peaceably with our Great Dane and miniature poodle and it’s being done! They have not destroyed our feeble attempt at a garden and, as long as we keep them away from the bucks, I believe we have a winning combination.

A 10-lbs rabbit (or two… Or three) does tend to startle the uninformed, however. We had a friend over and when he saw the rabbit resting a few feet away from him he visibly startled. We all got a chuckle out of his reaction and the rabbits ended up coming over for scratches!

A Rabbit with All the Fixin’s

Not so appropriate... but funny!

Not so appropriate… but funny!

This may seem like a silly statement given the website you’re on, but we don’t spay or neuter our rabbits around here.

 

We are of the belief that if we are raising rare breed rabbits to improve the breed and to provide for our family… we should actually breed the rabbits so spread the gene pool and cure the rumbly in our tumbly. (Logic, it’s a killer.)

 

However, there are several people around our area with some of our rabbits who keep them completely as pets and have ventured into the spay and neuter territory with their bunnies. While it’s a not a choice we will pursue, it has been the right choice for those owners.

 

There are a few behavior issues that come with sexual maturity in a rabbit. Bucks will spray or try to rub their scent all over anything they can touch (no joke – a friend had his rabbit trying to hump his feet!). Doe will become extremely irritable and even put out chunks of their fur in frustration. For some, the simple solution to these behaviors is to let the bunnies… breed like bunnies… but for others it might be a better fit to head to the animal hospital for a little snip snip.

 

Most rabbits fall under exotic pet veterinary practice. This might vary in your geographical region, however. If you decide to spay or neuter your rabbit you’ll want to check around to see if there is a vet who is familiar with rabbits. Many, many veterinarians are not! Rabbits tend to be sensitive to anesthesia, so you’ll want to have someone who is used to working with the lagomorphs or Fluffy Bun Buns might sink into sleep forever. My understanding is that you should expect to pay at least $100 for the procedure as well.

 

There is an argument out there that fixing your rabbit can extend their lifespan, however I’ve heard many rebuttals to that statement that rabbits are “cancer machines” and, as biologically evolving prey animal, they are going to pass on quickly anyway. I don’t have the personal research to weigh in on this matter myself, but I would definitely encourage anyone worrying about this to ask a LOT of questions of people before you make your final decision regarding the reproductive capabilities of a rabbit.

 

As I mentioned before, we have not chosen this route for our own rabbits, so if you have a personal story of success or disaster to tell, please do so in the comments!

How to Identify Rabbit Body Parts

Even with a background in rabbit showmanship, when we started raising rabbits as adults, I was often confused by the terminology of rabbit husbandry.

 

Too many big words, not spoken slowly enough!

 

I’m not sure who created this graphic, but I have saved it on my phone and often refer to it when I am unfamiliar with a term or exactly what a judge is talking about. I hope it’s helpful to you as well!

Knowing what something is called on your rabbit is a big deal!

Knowing what something is called on your rabbit is a big deal!

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