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?
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!
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
We blew it. Except we didn’t know we were blowing it.
Here’s the story – we put the nestbox in with our doe. We waited. She pulled fur and had one baby. All evidence pointed to the fact that this was a singleton litter and our temperatures are still below freezing many nights, so we fostered the little loner in with another litter to better its odds of survival, then removed the nestbox from mama.
And walked out the next morning to six more babies on the wire of mama’s cage, frozen solid.
All of our rabbit husbandry experience has taught us that rabbits give birth within a span of about 15 minutes. But in this case, I can say absolutely without question, that there was at least a 36 hour break between that first little bunny being born and the other six!
I don’t know how often this is, and without having personally experienced it we would have pooh-poohed the possibility of rabbits giving birth at different spaces. However, it does make me wonder about the few times we have counted babies, then a week later discovered our count was wrong and there is another baby in the box. Did the mama have another while we weren’t looking?
The only explanation I can figure for this behavior is if both of the uterine horns were impregnated. Since we occasionally leave our rabbits in with the bucks overnight (in the winter they typically don’t want to breed immediately so we’ve found making them roommates for a time works better) perhaps the doe was impregnated in different uterine horns, hours apart, and that caused a different delivery schedule?
Who knows, but I was shocked enough I felt it was worth noting on the blog that it can happen.
And we’re so bummed about the babies who didn’t make it because we blew it.
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.
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!
One of the door prizes handed out at the banquet. An Arizona coffee mug, theater candy, and a movie gift card. (It’s missing it’s movie theater gift card in this pic!)
Last weekend we attended Arizona State Convention. The state convention is a wonderful time to meet new breeders, see friends, and compete against a wider pool of exhibitors. Many breeders who aren’t able to attend shows regularly will attend the state show, which is a wonderful treat.
We took a full carload of rabbits in six breeds: Cinnamon, Champagne d’Argent, Blanc de Hotot, Silver Fox, New Zealand and mini satin. Many bunnies. Much fur. My body is still telling me we were busy shifting those carriers around! A carton of approximately 30 lbs. is not so bad when you first move it… but when you move it over and over… yikes! Oh my achin’ bones!
It’s really exciting to report that we came home with a Best of Breed or Best Opposite of Breed in all the ones that we took except mini satin. (We only took one mini satin and he just couldn’t compete against the animals there. Arizona has some phenomenal animals! But we listened, took notes, and know where to work for the future!) What an encouragement that we’re doing something right!
I think that encouragement is pretty huge. It’s very, very easy to get consumed with the hard things of raising rabbits – the litters that don’t work out, the poop that needs to be scooped, the grumpy intermediates who scratch you and make your hands look like they’ve been through a blender… there are plenty of things about rabbit raising that aren’t at the top of the “fun” list! For us, while receiving the recognition of having a top animal is great, I’ve learned that listening carefully to the judges will help encourage me about the strongest attributes of even our worst rabbits! Encouragement is awesome!
The thing is, very few rabbits have nothing to commend them. If may be that this rabbit has a great head or strong shoulder or wider hindquarters. Maybe they don’t compete with the top animal, but there is always some thing encouraging to work with in the future if you’re able to see them all lined up together on a judging table. Even if it’s just validation that the rabbit I think it pretty awful is actually awful, going to a show is a great encouragement!
I also really can’t talk up the folks who put on the Arizona State Convention enough. They know what they’re doing and they’re kind. There’s always a bit of drama (people being people) but the show committee isn’t the start of it or spreading it. Whether it’s addressing difficult decisions or making sure the judges are able to maintain a constant flow of rabbits on their table, these people are amazing. If you’re looking for a great show to add to your routine, consider Arizona!
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:
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.
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.
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.
Corn Starch Paste. Corn starch mixed with white vinegar into a paste and rubbed onto the stain. Let dry, then brush it out.
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).
Lemon Juice. Spray on and let the rabbit groom it out themselves.
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.
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.
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!