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Tag Archives: rabbit

Blame it on the Wind

Someone please tell me they are also hearing Milli Vanilli singing in their brains after reading the post title? Please?! Just in case you missed the joys of being a 90s kid, here you go, in it’s full non-rabbit related splendor:

 

 

 

That’s good stuff, that.

 

Now, about the rabbits. Do you know what? My area has a “red flag warning” issued by the National Weather Service today, regular wind gusts of 40mph-50mph are expected with isolated gusts even higher!

 

Friends, that’s strong enough that our 3 year old could be knocked off his feet.

 

Maybe it’s a sad statement, but my immediate reaction to this news was to think of the rabbits in two major areas:

  1. Protection
  2. Sneezing

 

Protection. Wind is a more threatening weather condition than cold to a rabbit. Rabbits, with their nice warm coats of fur, can be extremely happy in below freezing weather. They thrive in brisk temperatures and breeders in very extreme cold climate report great success with their rabbits. Give them a bunch of hay or a box and they can withstand almost any temperatures (assuming they also have access to non-frozen water).

 

But the wind. Oh the wind.

 

There is something about wind that can take a rabbit’s life in an afternoon. I don’t fully understand it myself but I know it is true because of the experiences of multiple friends in our town. When the rabbits don’t have a wind break they can go fast.

 

Please, give your rabbits a wind break. A wind break that won’t go flying in the gusts! Our location has strong winds all spring and we’ve actually had to put several things in place to shelter the rabbits. One is the tall fence of our yard, another is a structure to block the wind, another is using the natural vegetation to block the wind. In areas that might still get wind we also put corrugated metal sheeting.

 

The tricky part is to block the wind while not removing the potential air flow that is also necessary for your rabbit’s health! Study where your wind typically hits and adjust on that side accordingly!

 

Sneezing. If you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll know that we have a zero tolerance attitude toward rabbits with respiratory issues. If we suspect something is off we remove them from the herd. We practice quarantine religiously. We are those types of anal retentive people.

 

That being said, we occasionally have rabbits who sneeze. Our first spring having rabbits I heard a sneeze and that rabbit went directly to the cull block … where we found not a single thing awry with it upon autopsy. The second rabbit sneezed…. and we had a repeat, second verse, same as the first.

 

When the third rabbit sneezed my spouse (who tends to be pretty reasonable) said, “The last few days have been the windiest this year so far… and we have a dirt yard… and your own eyes are almost swollen shut with allergies… and I think we need to stop bopping them on the head only to discover they’re totally healthy. Animals sneeze. That’s life… not always a pure indication of illness!”

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And he is right. Completely accurate. We need to be reasonable in our animal raising. If there is crazy wind and something sneezes, it’s absolutely possible they have dust in their nose and are trying to clear the way they’ve been designed to clear dust: by sneezing it out. If a rabbit sneezes after drinking water, it’s absolutely logical that it has water up its nose and it’s using its natural defense structure against drowning correctly: by sneezing it out.

 

It’s absolutely wise to isolate a rabbit that’s sneezing and observe it. If it’s just wind then the sneezing will subside. If the rabbit is unhealthy, it will become evident within a few days. Don’t be hasty.

 

It is right to be vigilant about the health of your herd, but also remember to be reasonable. It’s an Occam’s Razor idea: “Among competing hypothesis, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected” or — in other words — don’t bop the bunny on a windy day!

 

 

 

 

 

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West Coast Classic 2016

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WCC 2016 Showroom at the Reno Convention Center – 14,000+ rabbits!

We love West Coast Classic.

There. I’ve said it. And I won’t take it back.

 

This show has become a highlight of our year, it’s well-run, well-attended (14,000+ rabbits this year!) and within driving distance for us. What’s not to love?!

 

Because we raise rare breeds it’s sometimes difficult to find other breeders to show our rabbits against. In order for us to know that we’re on the right track with our breeding program, it’s very important we make the effort to get out of our immediate area at least once a year. For us, that opportunity is West Coast Classic.

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On our way to Reno!

It’s a 10+ hour driving commitment, and since we have our school co-op day on Fridays that has meant we arrive in Reno in the wee, wee hours of Saturday morning. This year we brought our oldest girls and they also competed in the youth contests.

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The West Coast Silver Fox Club sponsored a specialty this year – and look at those prizes! So thankful to Lynn Fischbeck for her handiwork as well as the dedication of Morgan Elliot in promoting the club and donating some really amazing aprons sporting the club logo!

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Mad Hatter’s Hans Solo placed Best Opposite of Breed under Judge Ryan Fedele – earning this gorgeous wooden plaque that is now in our kitchen. Thank you to Lynn Fischbeck for making it! (www.facebook.com/skylerscollection)

Our Blanc de Hotot received a great compliment from past ARBA President Mike Avesig, he said our doe, Torree, was an excellent representation of the breed. Woo hoo! We’re moving in the right direction!

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The best part about our WCC experience is always the conversation. We were so welcomed by the different breeders, were able to put faces and names together, and thoroughly enjoyed our experience. It always warms our heart when a judge takes the time to educate us and our children on the breed as they are going along – how better to learn?!

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We already have next year’s show on the calendar, May 6, 2017. We will be helping host the Blanc de Hotot National Show as well!

When do Rabbits Give Birth?

Babies bunnies are just as unpredictable as human babies in their arrival times!

Babies bunnies are just as unpredictable as human babies in their arrival times!

It’s day 31 and we’re waiting on four litters to be born. And, of course, there’s a storm front moving in, which makes checking for new babies an hourly event!

 

All of this baby-waiting brought a question to mind, “How do we know when a mama rabbit is going to pop?!”

 

The easy but unsatisfying answer is that we just don’t know. Rabbits in general will have a month-long gestation period. I have noticed that our larger breed rabbits will frequently have a 34 day gestation period (which is totally normal for them but completely irritating to us, as we’re anxious to meet those new babies!)

 

We’ve come to terms with the realization that it might be anywhere from 31-35 days of gestation and still be considered normal, but I’ve become a little bit bitter over the fact that I can almost guarantee if there is a storm or cold weather that could endanger the lives of newborn, naked kits… those mamas will give birth around 2 am!

 

There are a few clues we’ve noticed in our rabbits regarding their birthing tendencies:

 

  • Over the past several years I’ve made note of what time of day the initial breeding takes place. We have a fairly consistent pattern that our mama will give birth two-to–four hours after the initial breeding. It could be coincidence, but we typically breed our rabbits in the afternoon and almost always have babies born around dusk.
  • Our mamas will usually go off food in the 24 hours prior to giving birth.
  • If a doe poops in her nestbox she usually isn’t pregnant.
  • When our does are in labor they usually hold their ears at a slightly different angle and their eyes are unfocused. If they were humans I’d describe it as a look that says, “I’m a little concerned about this… and I’m concentrating on my body right now… and I’m doing what I know I’m meant to do.”
  • The vast majority of our does don’t start pulling hair until less than an hour before they give birth.

 

All of this is unproven and based on our observations, but our experience is that baby rabbits are almost never born in the middle of the day. Perhaps because they are more active at night, maybe because we tend to breed in the afternoons, but it seems that the rabbits will give birth at dusk or dawn. (The “earthy” part of me wonders if this has anything to do with the gravitational pull of the moon… but I honestly have no idea and haven’t kept strong enough records to be able to back this suspicion up scientifically.)

 

Most of our does are very predictable and pull tons of hair from their dewlaps and tummies; we can trust them to take excellent care of their babies outside even when the temperatures drop to the high teens. Between the shared body warmth of the litter and the insulating factor of the rabbit hair and hay, they can have quite a cozy little nest with temperatures in the 80s in the hole!

 

However, our first time mamas don’t get any free passes! If we have an unproven doe about to give birth and we have freezing weather we check the cages about every hour all night long to make sure those babies aren’t frozen just in case they’re born on the wire.

 

Now, back to baby watch… hoping for some new little munchkins by tomorrow morning!

Blanc de Hotot Sports — Photo and Classification

Obviously, this is not a rabbit. It is a sport. Or a hat. Your call.

Obviously, this is not a rabbit. It is a sport. Or a hat. Your call.

Don’t you just love it when something forces you to think and learn? We do!

 

Raising Blanc de Hotot have given us a whole new topic to explore and learn. To be frank, we’re just working to figure out the genetics piece, and I’m also deep in the research different factors affecting spotted rabbits.

 

Genetically speaking, the Blanc de Hotot is a black bunny with a really, REALLY large white spot! Here’s the starting point: the genetics of a purebred Hotot should be aaBBCCDDEEEnEnDudu. And the broken gene in an Hotot is also called the “English Spotting” gene.

 

I’m sure that means something to you genetic gurus out there. I’m still figuring it out, personally!

 

Since I’m not fluent with the genetic identifications here, another thing we’re learning is that different Hotot sports have different names. I’ve collected photos from around the internet with explanations of what these markings are called. Thank you to anyone who actually took these photos – in many cases I haven’t been able to identify the owner of the photo or rabbit.

 

If a “broken” Hotot produces a show marked animal (dark eyes, white rabbit, black spectacles or eye bands) and looks like this:

Is this not a beautiful rabbit?!  Photo Courtesy of Autumn Denistoun

Is this not a beautiful rabbit?! Photo Courtesy of Autumn Denistoun

 

Then a “solid” Hotot produces a Piebald, which looks a lot like a Dutch rabbit:

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Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

Now, within the piebald category there are also silver pied. This is a rabbit exhibiting the Dutch markings but with silvering throughout the black blanket of its coloring:

 

See the white silvering in the black? That's a giveaway that you've got an  hotot! Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

See the white silvering in the black? That’s a giveaway that you’ve got an hotot! Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

Piebald with spots - baby fur. Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

Piebald with spots – baby fur. Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

 

The markings of the Hotot also have specific names. When an hotot has only one eye (instead of both) with the black fur rimming it is called a boxer:

Finger is on the boxer baby. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

Finger is on the boxer baby. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

Older boxer, missing one of the eye bands. Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

Older boxer, missing one of the eye bands. Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

 

(And reminds me of Petey from Little Rascals!):

 

I know, wrong animal. Cute nonetheless, though, right?!

I know, wrong animal. Cute nonetheless, though, right?!

 

The original goal of the Blanc de Hotot was to build a breed of pure white rabbit with dark eyes. The woman credited with starting the breed is Madame Eugenie Bernhard of Northern France. Because of her influence, when you run across an hotot with NO eye bands at all, it’s called a Bernhard:

A bernhard, named after the founder of the breed, has no black rings of fur around their eyes. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

A bernhard, named after the founder of the breed, has no black rings of fur around their eyes. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

 

Another interesting variation of the Blanc de Hotot sport is the evidence of blue “marbling” in their eyes. Marbling refers to having blue spots or streaks on an otherwise brown iris. This is not a desirable trait, but does come up:

Most of the time the marbling will not be the entire eye, although it's possible for an entirely blue iris to occur.

Most of the time the marbling will not be the entire eye, although it’s possible for an entirely blue iris to occur.

Do you see the blue there in the bottom of the eye?

Do you see the blue there in the bottom of the eye?

 

Many times I am confused by descriptions and need a visual to understand what people are mentioning. I hope this little pictorial will help others as we learn about this wonderful breed. Many thanks to all who offered photos for us to see! We welcome your comments!

 

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!

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!

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!

 

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