Tag Archives: show rabbits

Our “MicroFarm” is a MacroDeal

Mad Hatter Microfarm LogoOne thing you’ll notice in the future is that we’re expanding our horizons from simply “Mad Hatter Rabbits” to “Mad Hatter MicroFarm.” We admit it, the rabbits were our gateway animal! They got us into this happy homesteading lifestyle and we will always be grateful for this!

Part of our commitment when we first started in rabbits in 2012 was that we would be on the lookout for additional sustainable living options that we could do on our urban property. Over the years that has expanded as we’ve taken one small step at a time toward a more wholesome lifestyle.

Rabbits were our beginning. Lots of research, lots of practice, and we felt like we were getting the hang of it. Four years ago we started with our gardening projects, and the last two years have really ramped it up where we can actually supplement our family’s diet with what we grow. Last spring we ended up with both quail and chickens, and this spring we are expanding our efforts with a dairy goat.

At the root of all of these changes is a desire to be as close to our food processes as possible. We aren’t certified organic anything… but we do our best to be as close to organic as possible. I like to think of it as attempting to copy the way our grandparents lived life, when a full-service WalMart wasn’t within a 20 mile radius of practically everywhere and our meat didn’t come on styrofoam trays!

Our movements toward this lifestyle have been gradual, but our blog will now reflect the various aspects of learning and exploring we do to create this high-altitude homesteading, microfarming experience at 7,000 ft. Hopefully by bringing all of the various aspects of our life underneath one blog you’ll see more frequent posts and find yourself exploring ideas and learning for your own self-sufficient dreams!

You’ll still find this site when you search for “Mad Hatter Rabbits,” but over time we’ll be using Mad Hatter Microfarm more and more. Don’t get confused! It’s still us!

ARBA Nationals 2016 Show Report

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Sunset in Del Mar

We are back from Nationals and ready to give a report of the fun and excitement!

 

First and foremost, we had a wonderful time. The national show is really something. You look out along rows and rows of beautiful animals and can’t help but feel connected to other breeders. There was a sign posted on the outside of the building that said, “For five days you don’t have to explain to anyone why you show rabbits” and it’s true. You’re there with a whole bunch of other people who love this quirky hobby and it’s… community. It’s great!

 

We were able to drive this year, which was wonderful. We did not anticipate the traffic getting into Del Mar and were running a little late. So, first lesson learned – don’t push it when it comes to timing! Whoops! I could have saved myself a few grey hairs and sweaty armpits by adding extra time into our schedule!

 

Unloading the rabbits took some time because there were three buildings, Open, Youth, and Exhibition. We had rabbits in each building. Isaiah’s fitbit said we walked 10+ miles on Saturday getting everyone checked in! Whew!

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We got a few extra passengers on the cart after the rabbits were unloaded!

One all the cage risers were in, food and water cups filled, labels attached, we were good to go for the night and man, were we tired. We found a yummy seafood place for dinner, then collapsed at our hotel room.

 

The show committee had placed a schedule with approximate times and tables for breed judging on the doors of the barns, so we had a vague idea of when our breeds would show. The reality of the schedule, however, is that some breeds will move quicker than anticipated and others take longer, so everything is just a general suggestion.

Our preliminary Show Schedule

Our preliminary Show Schedule

As it turned out, all of our breeds showed on day one with one exception! So we had a very, very long day (and actually completely missed the Silver Fox showing) on Sunday and an easy day on Monday. Still it was wonderful to talk with other breeders as we waited for the judge to look over rabbits, and wander the aisles of coops to admire breeds!

 

We were thrilled to see our daughter’s Cinnamon win Best Opposite Sex of Breed in the Youth show!

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Mad Hatter’s Politico wins Best Opposite of Breed, Cinnamon Youth.

Sunday night we went to Fletcher’s Cove for dinner and enjoyed the most amazing sunset. The kids played in the ocean and we relaxed and let the salt water soothe our aching feet.

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Playing in the waves at sunset at Fletcher’s Cove will be one of our favorite memories!

 

On Tuesday night we went down to Seaport Village. The girls were thrilled to discover Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes because, well, theres a Food Network/Cupcake Wars obsession in our house!

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Frost Me from Food Network’s Cupcake Wars at Seaport Village.

Overall I can’t say enjoy good about the National Show. Next year is Indianapolis, so I’m not sure how that will work out (although both Isaiah and I went to college in Indiana and a campus visit for old times sake wouldn’t be the end of the world to either of us… hm…) but we are going to prioritize the National show as much as possible!

Now, back to the breeding drawing board for next year’s entry!

 

Our show report from 2016 ARBA National Convention:

Cinnamon:

Best Opposite of Breed, Youth, Mad Hatter’s Politico

3rd Senior Buck, Open,Mad Hatter’s Impudence

Blanc de Hotot:

1st Senior Buck, Open,Mad Hatter’s King Fergus

Silver Fox:

1st Senior Doe, Open,Mad Hatter’s Ovation

1st Intermediate Doe, Youth,Mad Hatter’s Idryl Celebrindil

2nd Senior Buck,Mad Hatter’s Samwise Gamgee

Mini Satin:

Best of Variety, Youth,Mad Hatter’s Lucky

 

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!

Blanc de Hotot Breeders

Hotot logoOne of the things we have committed to in our rabbitry is raising rare breeds in as quality a manner as possible. That means not only breeding them, but also culling hard toward the breed standard and promoting them whenever possible.

One of our breeds is the Blanc de Hotot. It is ranked #1 on the Rare Breed list and adds a certain challenge to the breeder because it is a marked breed – the Standard of Perfection calls for evenly marked black eye bands — “spectacles— round dark eyes on a perfectly white rabbit. Additionally, the fur has a frosty appearance due to longer guard hairs.

In our litters we often have show marked rabbits, as well as “sports,” those rabbits who aren’t completely white and have black markings on them in random spots. We see our spots most often in between the ears or along the spine. Unless a sport has incredible body type, we cull them out of our program, and are working toward having exclusively show marked rabbits. But it’s a long process!

One thing that often confuses people is that there is a difference between a Dwarf Hotot and a Blanc de Hotot. The Blanc de Hotot is what we raise, and it is a commercial breed rabbit… BIG! It’s comparable to a Champagne d’Argent, Satin, Silver Fox, Californian, or New Zealand. The Dwarf Hotot is also white with black eye bands but it’s a little thing, more along the lines of a Netherland Dwarf. It’s much more common to see Dwarf Hotot around, we have often gotten comments from people who are shocked at the size of the Blanc de Hotot because they’ve never seen them in real life!

Since the Blanc de Hotot are a rare breed rabbit, it’s often difficult to figure out where other breeders are located. There is a facebook group called Blanc de Hotot rabbit breeders that has been very helpful to us as we have gotten more involved with the breed. We recently came up with a breeder listing and now have a map to generally see where people are located:

We're a small but mighty group! Would you like to join us in preserving this rare breed?!

We’re a small but mighty group! Would you like to join us in preserving this rare breed?!

Doesn’t Arizona look lonely?! It’s just our single little dot on the map! We’d sure love to see other Blanc de Hotot breeders come forward and work with us to preserve this breed! They’re funny rabbits, solid for meat production, curious in temperament, and in need of people to work on improving their type and competitiveness!

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!

Youth Discounts & Questions

on-vase-34We have been privileged to work with some excellent young people who are looking for a quality start or continuation of their rabbit projects for 4H or just because they love the breeds we raise! We have children ourselves, and we hope that they will love rabbits through their whole lives. It makes sense to invest in the children who will one day be adults directing the atmosphere of the rabbit world.

Because we have chosen to take a long-term view of the benefit of kids working with rabbits, we will do our best to offer our best stock to young people so they have a chance to work with a great rabbit with reasonable ability to compete strongly. No one likes a loser and it’s not fair to give a child a cast-off rabbit that will not be a winner just because they’re young and need a discount. We feel pretty strongly about this because we want to set kids up for loving this hobby their whole lives… but that’s just us and I’ll get off the soap box now!

One of the ways we work with youth is to offer a lower purchase price for our rabbits, but then also give them the options of gaining an even greater discount by answering rabbit trivia questions correctly. We compiled a list of questions and answers about rabbit raising – when we have an interested youth we let them draw as many as three questions from a fishbowl. Each correct answer is equal to a $5 discount off the purchase price of their rabbit.

Here are the questions we’ve come up with so far. I’m sure over the years we’ll come up with more, but it’s a good starting spot! ** If you have additional questions we should add to this list, please put them in the comments!

Youth Discount Rabbit Trivia Questions
1. Why are rabbits a good livestock choice in an urban area? They produce more pounds of meat per pound of food consumed than other choices, can be kept in a relatively small space, are practically silent, and their manure can be used for backyard gardens, etc.
2. What is the national professional organization for rabbits? ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association)
3. What is a good rule of thumb for cage size for a rabbit? 1 square foot per pound of rabbits adult weight.
4. What is more dangerous for a rabbit – warm temperatures or cold temperatures? Warm temperatures. Rabbits actually thrive in colder temperatures and are quite happy even in below freezing temperatures.
5. When raising a meat breed, what is the ideal weight the rabbit will hit by 8-10 weeks of age? 5 lbs.
6. What is the average gestation (pregnancy length) for a rabbit? 31 Days.
7. What is a male rabbit called? Buck
8. What is a female rabbit called? Doe
9. What makes up a trio of rabbits? A buck and two does.
10. What is a rabbit cage called? Hutch
11. When is the best time to feed your rabbit? At the same time every evening.
12. What is the large fold of skin at the throat of a female rabbit? Dewlap
13. A domestic rabbit can be bred with a wild cottontail rabbit. True or False? False – They are different species.
14. A domestic rabbit can be bred with a wild European rabbit. True or False? True – Domestic rabbits are descended from wild European rabbits.
15. How many teeth does a rabbit have? 28
16. Name two ways to control disease in the rabbitry. Keep hutches, food & water containers clean, do not lend rabbits, quarantine new rabbits, provide fresh food and clean water, bury or burn dead rabbits, good ventilation
17. What mammal order are rabbits classified as? Lagomorphs
18. Where are rabbits believed to have originally come from? Spain
19. What is a pedigree? A record of a rabbit’s date of birth and three generations of ancestors.
20. Who originally is believed to have introduced domesticated rabbits to England? The Romans
21. What is the extra claw on the inside of the front leg? Dewclaw
22. A rabbit’s teeth grow 1/2 inch or more per month. True or False? True
23. What is the most common feeding problem? Over feeding
24. Name three parts of a rabbit besides eye, ear, nose, mouth, foot or tail. Cheek, dewlap, chest, toe, rib, belly, flank, hock, leg, shoulder, hindquarter, forequarter, rump, hip, loin.
25. What is a baby rabbit called? Kit
26. What is a group of kits? Litter
27. What is the mother of a rabbit called? Dam
28. “Variety” is a term for what? Color
29. When do a baby rabbit’s eyes open? 10-11 days
30. What is the father of a rabbit called? Sire
31. How many generations are on a full pedigree? Three (parents, grandparents, great grandparents)
32. At what age should kits be weaned? No earlier than 4 weeks, 6-8 weeks preferred
33. Which ear do you tattoo on a rabbit for identification? Left
34. What book lists pictures, descriptions and standards for all the breeds? The ARBA Standard of Perfection
35. Name two types of records that are important in good rabbit raising. Expenses, Income, Pedigrees, Show Records, Hutch Cards, Doe Records, Buck Records
36. Name a Commercial breed. French Angora, Giant Angora, Satin Angora, Blanc de Hotot, Champagne D’Argents, Californian, Cinnamon, American Chinchilla, Creme d’Argent, French Lop, Harlequin, New Zealand, Palomino, Rex, American Sable, Satin, Silver Fox, Silver Marten
37. What is an official ARBA document indicating that a rabbit is of good quality and meets the standard for it’s breed? Registration
38. How many times a day does a doe normally nurse her young? Once
39. Rabbit show category for breeds having an ideal adult weight of under 9 pounds? Four-Class
40. Rabbit show category for breeds having an ideal adult weight of 9 pounds and over? Six-Class
41. How many rabbits are in a Meat Pen entry? Three

42. What is the maximum weight of a Meat Pen rabbit? Not over 5 pounds.

43. Name a breed in the cylindrical group. Himalayan

44. Name a breed in the Full-Arch group. Belgian hare, Britannia Petite, Checkered Giant, English Spot, Rhinelander, Tan

45. Name some rabbit disqualifications. Abnormal eye discharge, colds or nasal discharge, mange, ear cankers, vent disease, abscess, split penis, malocclusion, marbling, pegged teeth, sore hocks, screw tail, missing toe, wall eye, spots

46. Name a breed in the Semi-Arch group. American, Beveren, English lop, Flemish Giant, Giant Chinchilla

47. Name a breed from the Compact group. American Fuzzy lop, English Angora, Standard Chinchilla, Dutch, Dwarf Hotot, Florida White, Havana, Holland Lop, Jersey Wooly, Lilac, Mini lop, Mini Rex, Mini Satin, Netherland Dwarf, Polish, Silver, Thrianta

48. What are the five groups of ARBA rabbits? Semi-Arch, Compact, Commercial, Cylindrical, Full-Arch

Best in Show!

We’ve had our most exciting show experience yet – our 6/8 blue otter Satin doe won Best in Show yesterday!

 

For those of you who couldn’t care less about show adventures, the Best in Show happens when all of the rabbits who have been judged as best against their own breed (apples to apples) are placed in one last show and compete against one another for top honors (apples to oranges).

 

We had been talking about whether we should stay for the Best in Show and strongly considered leaving. But something made us stick around and… woo-hoo! It was worth it!

 

After pulling our jaws up off the floor, we were able to hunt down the ARBA judge, April Wilhour, and get her to take a picture with us. She did the bunny hypnotism thing and Beretta sat nice and still while I snapped the photo:

 

Beretta, our blue otter Satin doe, won Best in Show!

Beretta, our blue otter Satin doe, won Best in Show!

 

What a great day! Can’t wait to see how Beretta continues to stack up in the future!

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