Category Archives: Show Rabbits

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

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!

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!

Memorization Tools for ARBA Registrar Exam

 For those of you who know us, we are big believers in ARBA’s registration system and do our best to register all of our rabbits. Being able to find stock that’s registered is a great help to newer breeders who may not know the ins and outs of a breed!

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this, here’s a description of registration from the ARBA website:

“The American Rabbit Breeders Association has a unique and exacting registration system. Unlike other animal registration systems, each rabbit or cavy must be examined by a licensed registrar, certified free from heritable defects and found to meet specific breed requirements as outlined in the ARBA Standard of Perfection.

The ARBA does not issue registrations of litters or register individual rabbits based on the registration or pedigree of its sire or dam. Each rabbit or cavy must be at least six (6) months of age before it can be inspected by a licensed ARBA Registrar. Because of its exacting requirements, the ARBA Rabbit/Cavy Registration system is arguably the single best livestock or pet stock registration system in the world.”

Because we believe in the system, I’ve had the idea of attempting to become a registrar in the back of my mind for quite some time. But the application process is not a walk in the park:

“In order to receive an ARBA Registrar’s license, each individual must be a continuous member of the ARBA for at least three (3) years, as well as have secured the written endorsement of 20 ARBA members in good standing prior to submitting an application to the ARBA office. Upon being approved to apply for an ARBA Registrar’s License, the applicant has two (2) years in which to pass a written and oral examination delivered by an official examining judge appointed by the ARBA and must work under three (3) judges at three (3) shows, assist one (1) registrar with registering animals, and secure the endorsement of the registrar and at least two (2) of the judges under whom he or she has worked.”

Big sigh. Time to set the goals high, right?!

 

At Arizona State Convention last month I was able to obtain the necessary signatures of support from other members (THANK YOU FRIENDS!) and since then have been trying to prepare myself to take the exam.

 

There’s a lot to learn and memorize. Like, a lot. It’s a little bit like trying to take a sip from a firehose.

 

Now, our kids are involved in programs that require a TON of memorization, so after becoming overwhelmed with all of the information in the Standard of Perfection to study, I decided to pretend I was going back to elementary school and use my kids memorization techniques, applied to rabbits.

 

First, I purchased and started working through the ARBA Registrar Study Guide:

 

Next, I channeled my homeschool vibe and made a lapbook of the pertinent facts. This is expandable, so if more items come up, I can just add another flap using colors, shapes, and placement as a tactile Memory Palace, or Method of Loci (yes, a Memory Palace is a thing):

 

Then, I took yet another step down the rabbit hole of super-kooky and… created songs and chants. (Yes, You May Laugh At Me Now.) (I’m laughing at myself. But kinda proud all at the same time.)

 

Now, before you click on any of these links I think it’s really, really important to note that I am in no way a professional musician, singer, or anything else that would cause people to admire my warbling. BUT, if a method is quirky and kind of strange, that in itself is part of the memory technique! I’ve found myself singing these songs in my head before I go to bed, which is a sign that something is working correctly in the memory banks!

 

So feel free laugh at me for these songs, but be gentle with your comments because ain’t nobody got time for nastiness ’round here.

 

Ear Length Disqualifications

Types of Fur

5 Body Types

4 Class Breeds

6 Class Breeds

 

If these are helpful to you, please use them! It’s general information that might be good for children studying for 4H exams, Registrar or Judge hopefuls, or people who just really like to embrace their best quirky self and know random facts about rabbits! Perhaps this will be a Jeopardy quiz show winning answer at some point in time! (And if you win $1,000,000, please be sure to send a chunk of it back to me as an expression of gratitude!)

 

I’m not exactly certain when I’ll take the test. Hopefully sometime in the next month. I’d rather be prepared than fail, so I’ll have to take the rest of our crazy life and schedule into account and right now, finishing up our school year with projects galore, may not be the best time to focus on studying.

 

The more time to memorize the better, right?!

 

If you’ve taken the exam, I’d love to hear your tips for success in preparation!

%d bloggers like this: