Tag Archives: livestock

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!

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:


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).

Using Essential Oils on Your Bunny

So… we’re slowly becoming an “oily” family. We’ve been doing research on Essential Oils, the different companies, and how they work. We haven’t committed to any particular brand or theme as we go about our lives, but every night the kids get their “mellow mix” essential oil on their wrists and we use a mix of tea tree, lavender and chamomile on rabbit scratches all the time. Takes the sting out right away!


Because we’re so interested in this right now, I was super excited to see these infographics released! I have heard they need to be read carefully (for example, frankincense is allegedly poisonous to rabbits!). Here’s the upshot, this is not an endorsement of any particular essential oils company. Double check with an expert before you use any essential oils on your animals.


And… here they are! The infographics!











Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

ilco / stock.xchng

ilco / stock.xchng

As silly as it may seem, sometimes rabbits don’t… breed like rabbits.

I often hear complaints about a doe that won’t lift or is otherwise reluctant to breed. This is not necessarily uncommon and can be a factor of age, weather, or general temperament. Most often a buck is more than willing to oblige but occasionally you run into troubles with your mister refusing to be a “kisser.”

There are some fairly standard recommendations for getting your rabbits “in the mood”:

  • Add Apple Cider Vinegar to their water or wheat germ to their feed;
  • Make sure they have at least 16 hours of daylight each day;
  • Put the doe and the buck in one another’s cages for 24 hours;
  • Table breeding;
  • Breeding by moon calendar.

But just this month we came across a totally new (to us) method – breeding by moonlight.

Since rabbits are fairly nocturnal it’s not a surprise that they are more active at night. In warm weather we sometimes sleep with our windows open and the noise the rabbits make playing with their toys and thumping around can be quite noticeable. (They’re no match for an antsy barking dog or a cat in heat, but for a rabbit they’re loud!)

Rabbits are lively at night!

Just this month we got home late and remembered that we needed to breed a few rabbits in order to plan their due dates around some travel plans next month. So, even though it was fully dark, we decided to head out to the rabbitry and see if we could get some dirty business started.


Oh. My. Goodness.

What a shock! Those girls were so ready it was as though their backsides were attached to rockets! We had such immediate success by moonlight fraternization we even attempted to breed a few of our most reluctant ladies — and they were quite happy to oblige!


This was such a blatant change of pace that it’s another trick we’ll be adding to the options for what to do when your doe isn’t interested. After all, everybody loves a little late night romance, right?!


*We will continue to use the moon calendar for our breeding programs. Here’s the link to a 2014 moon breeding calendar!*

How To Tell Your Kids What’s For Dinner

Meat processing may not be the oldest activity in creation, but it's close!

Meat processing may not be the oldest activity in creation, but it’s close!

When we began raising rabbits it was to provide an organic meat source for our family. We did a lot of research and discovered rabbit meat is one of the healthiest meats around, rabbits are easy to raise and relatively inexpensive, and they are quiet, making them an ideal choice for our vaguely-urban neighborhood.


Even though it was a logical choice for us, the reality of having children is that what makes sense to an adult is not always sensible to a young one! Many people have asked us how our children react to knowing we’re having rabbit for dinner so this seems like a good place to address their questions.


Our major philosophy with butchering (and life!) is to be honest with our kids, answer any questions they have, invite them to participate as much as they would like (but never force them!), and to share our reasoning and the struggles we have with the process.


Make no mistake, taking life in any form is significant to us and not something we do lightly. I’m been known to apologize to an apple tree for picking an apple! (Yep, I know this is strange but it’s how I roll!) Knowing we have a reasoning and thought process behind it makes a huge difference for us.


I’ve found this article (Kids and Farming: How To Tell Your Children Which Animal Is For Dinner) has some great tips on preparing your children for livestock processing. They do a good job of giving pointers on how to work with your children through what some might consider a disturbing event.


Our children have had lots of question but in general are really unconcerned about eating animals we’ve raised. When I announce we’re having rabbit enchurittos for dinner, rejoicing is heard throughout the land! Ha!


Every child is different and each family needs to find their own comfort level, but here are a few things that have worked for our children as we discuss raising rabbits as livestock rather than pets:


1. Every rabbit has a purpose. We watched a movie called Hugo a while ago and I fell in love with the main premise behind the film: that everything is created to fulfill a purpose and bringing that purpose to fruition is a thing of beauty! On a basic, biological level, rabbits were created as food for others. This is why they reproduce so quickly, have such short gestation periods, and are relatively unintelligent, small, and nutritious. Though they can fulfill multiple purposes, perhaps as a breeding animal for stunning show stock or as a companion for a human, at their basic level they are prey. Allowing them to complete their function is a thing of beauty in the same way humans can fill different roles, perhaps as a mother, or lawyer, doctor, or garbage collector. Every thing has a role to play!


2. Rabbits are an object lesson. We encourage our children to a part of the harvesting process much as they would like. While processing we use our rabbits as hands-on learning; we take care to identify the different elements of anatomy, recognize what healthy animals look like or what we might see if an animal were sick; we talk with our kids about the food we feed the rabbits and why protein content in a pellet matters, about how access to hay enhances a rabbit’s life, and what methods of taking life are honorable, fast, and painless. There are so very many subjects that come up from an educational standpoint if you talk honestly with your kids about your motives and how every piece of this life puzzle fits together, plus this provides a fall back plan for them in the event of a major lifestyle change. Has anyone seen Hunger Games?!


3. Our meat shouldn’t come on a styrofoam container. While grocery stores are convenient and I visit one (or two!) on a weekly basis, we want our children to understand that milk doesn’t come in plastic jugs and meat isn’t naturally served up on a styrofoam container. Most people in the U.S. are one-to-two generations removed from a food-producing farm and we’ve forgotten that we are dependent upon nature and hard work to provide the food we need to survive. As parents, we talk with our children about farming and our commitment to providing for our own needs in as wholesome and healthy way as we have available.


4. We adopt an attitude of gratitude. We have willingly entered into a symbiotic relationship with our livestock. It is our responsibility to care for the rabbits in the best way we know how and we take our stewardship very seriously. We always talk with our children about how thankful we are that these rabbits are able to meet one of our foundational needs — to eat — and do not take the responsibility we have to the animals lightly.


5. Practical Anonymity. When it’s all said and done, no matter how much you talk to someone about the big picture and philosophy behind raising your own food, no one wants to know it’s Mr. Binkles on the dinner plate! From a practical standpoint, we won’t name rabbits unless we intend to keep them for a good while and we typically process and freeze the meat under the generic “rabbit” term for long enough that we can’t remember who was whom!


While this is a far from exhaustive list, I hope it provides a spring board for your own discussions with kiddos about livestock and food and our roles as consumers in this world.




Get the Blues

A few drops of blue food coloring per gallon of water has inhibited algae growth in our water bottles.

A few drops of blue food coloring per gallon of water has inhibited algae growth in our water bottles.

Until we have an automatic watering system we will be best friends with our flip-lid water bottles. I love these bottles and especially the flip top lids – it takes so much less time than unscrewing the nozzle of each bottle to fill with water!

One thing I DO NOT love about water bottles is that they can get “ew!”-stuff inside of them – algae, moths, dirt, etc.

Earlier this year I complained about this at the feed store and one of the workers suggested putting blue food coloring in the water. She told me the blue coloring would inhibit the growth of mossy-type things in the water bottles.

We tried putting 1-2 drops of blue food coloring per gallon of water for months and didn’t think much of it, it was under the category of “can’t hurt, might as well try.” We saw only minimal algae growth over the following months. When we ran out of blue food coloring we tried green for about a week – but that actually seemed to encourage growth in the bottles!

When it was all said and done, space was at a premium I was being cheap. I didn’t want to buy all the other colors of food coloring from the box of four colors I could buy at the grocery and only use the blue, so we finally just gave up on it and for several weeks we haven’t put anything but our normal Apple Cider Vinegar in the water.

Granted, it’s summer time and our bottles spend a few hours a day in direct sunlight, but the algae growth has been impressive! I could scrub those bottles every other day and they’d still not be clean. (If only I could figure a way to market algae – we have been able to produce it!)

Last week after examining the cuts on my hands from scrubbing the bottles – yet again – I broke down and ordered blue food coloring off of Amazon. It arrived yesterday and I’ve been happily dripping the coloring in the water again. I have no scientific proof that this works, but from our real-life assessment, a few drops of blue could be what you need to fight the algae growth in your water bottles, too!

Our Silver Fox Friends

We’ve decided to put our trampoline to another purpose lately – the large space and netted enclosure has been perfect for doubling as a rabbit run.

The rabbits are on a rotation and it’s fair to say they love their time in the trampoline, bounding, hopping and generally frolicking about.

Because I was tired of holding the baby I did some analysis and decided to pop our 10 month old son, who’s a very able crawler, into the tent with the rabbit. Within minutes he’d located Fennel, our white Silver Fox, and was giving him loves.



This is why I love our Silver Fox rabbits! They are laid back to the extreme. It’s a little bit like what I see in Saint Bernard or Great Dane dogs – they’re huge, they have nothing to prove, and they can just be cuddle bugs!

We have black, blue, and white Silver Fox at our house. The only recognized color for showing right now is black – although blue is under development and will likely be showable in the next year. They are all sweet, but our white SF have really stolen my heart. Their fur is amazing and their personalities are gentle.

Why our babies rehome at six weeks or later

Bushy, broken blue mini rex buck.

This is the story of a guinea pig, Christmas, and how a six-year-old’s life lesson has to do with rabbits.

Earlier this week we had someone ask us if our Holland Lop babies would be ready to go home in time for Christmas morning.Unfortunately the answer is no. It will be right after New Year’s instead (and we’ll do our breeding in better time next year!)

I almost buckled and told them we would make an exception because it was Christmas… and then I had a flashback to the Christmas I was six-years-old.

Christmas was a big deal growing up; our financial situation was always modest so any presents we received were a Really Big Deal.

(When I was seven years old my greatest desire was a Trapper Keeper with kittens on it from Revco, the local drug store. When I woke up that Christmas morning and saw that Trapper Keeper… oh! I just couldn’t get over how lucky I was! Perhaps I was exceptionally excited about the Trapper Keeper because I could remember my gift from the previous year.)

As a little six-year-old, still believing in Santa Claus but realizing that Mommy and Daddy were the financial backing of most gifts, I woke up to a stocking filled with navel oranges, life savers, bubble gum, and a medium-sized cardboard box.

When I unwrapped that cardboard box, there was something amazing inside!A guinea pig!

It was white and brown and very snuggly! It was mine, all mine!  Oh, the joy!

I held that guinea pig on our cream-colored velour sofa and gave my heart to it completely. I loved that guinea pig, knowing we were meant to be fast friends.

The guinea pig was so willing to sit calmly on my lap! It was lovely with its pink nose and beaded eyes.

I couldn’t have been happier with my guinea pig!

Right up until the moment I realized it wasn’t breathing anymore.

Yes, folks, my parents gave me a guinea pig on Christmas morning and by lunchtime on Christmas day… it was dead.

Now that I’m a parent, I can only imagine what my own parents were thinking as I came to them, crying, with a dead guinea pig in my arms. The kicker, though, was that I looked at my mom, accusingly, and asked, “Did you get it on sale?!”

My mom assured me they did not get it on sale and we travelled an hour away on Christmas day to another city to pick up a new, very live guinea pig from the breeder.

I remember being depressed about the new guinea pig. I had really loved the first one so the replacement was just… a replacement.

It turns out the guinea pig was separated from its mother too soon in order to send it home for a Christmas-morning reveal.

Nothing puts a damper on the Christmas spirit quite like a dead animal.

I had forgotten this story until today (proof the scars we receive as children really do heal). I told the gentleman asking us about rabbits that we’d provide a professional quality photo to wrap for the gift and visitation rights instead.

We will let our babies go to their homes when they are weaned, not before six weeks. If they are aged six-to-eight weeks, they need to go in pairs, as rabbits who are together just do better. If it’s just a single rabbit, they need to be eight weeks old before they head to their new digs.

And that, my friends, is the end of that.

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