Our Rabbit Tattooing Essentials

Every year around the time of the fair, I have an opportunity to help 4H students with their rabbits. One task in particular is in high demand… tattoos!

 

Since ARBA requires that rabbits at a show be marked with a permanent, legible ear tattoo. This is so helpful in many ways, the main one being that rabbits tend to look a lot like one another! (I have sworn I could pick out our rabbit for specific characteristics, and then gotten the rabbit on the table and realized that I have no idea which is ours!) Permanent tattoo markings are a safety net to the original breeder (no one wants to think of it, but a distinctive tattoo keeps rabbit breeders honest when they might be tempted to buy a new rabbit and fudge a little, calling it one of their own breeding), to a buyer (I’ve had people contact me with a rabbit they bought from someone else and been able to track down a pedigree years later based on our distinctive tattoos), and it isn’t harmful to the rabbit.

 

However, actually tattooing a rabbit can be a concern to many people. What equipment do I use? How do I do it? How do I make sure it’s legible? These are common questions! There is a lot of diversity within preferences, but I’m happy to share the things we’ve found to be really useful for our own rabbitry.

 

The Bunny Burrito. Obviously, this isn’t an official name, but I use what I call a bunny burrito to hold the rabbits in place while I tattoo. I started out using a towel wrapped tightly and it worked… but then a friend got out of rabbits and I inherited the burrito. This wrap is made of fabric and has three hook and loop fasteners to hold the rabbit in place. IT IS AMAZING.

Because I inherited this lovely piece of equipment, I had no idea where it was purchased. Then, randomly, I saw a post on facebook the other day and found the original source! It’s a Wrap-n-Tat! I promptly ordered new Wrap-n-Tats in a smaller size (since our original was made for big meaty buns and now we have some super teeny little ones) and I am so charmed by the fabric and the durability of the workmanship!

Obviously, one of these has been used A LOT and two are brand new… but don’t worry – I’ll be breaking them in shortly!

 

KB Tattoo Pen. There are a lot of choices when it comes to tattoo pens (or clamps) but we chose to go with the KB Tattoo. I’ve tried others over the years and have never found one I like better. For the price and the quality it can’t be beaten. I’ve replaced the batteries twice and needles once in six years. That’s not a bad deal! I’d also recommend getting the ink that they sell with the pen – I’ve tried other inks and the tattoos have faded quickly or never even seemed to really stick.

Healing Ointment. After every tattoo I blot the ink off of the tattoo and then dab a little ointment on it. Sometimes I use Aquaphor and other times Bag Balm… I imagine Vaseline or almost any healing ointment would work just as well. I just think it helps the tattoo heal better.

 

A few more tips for the beginning tattooer:

 

Banana. I have recommended that before tattooing for the first time, tattoo a banana. The flesh of the banana helps give you an idea of how hard you’ll need to press down to get a clear tattoo.

Be Bold. When you decide to tattoo, fully commit. Do it quickly and firmly. If you are tentative the rabbit will likely give you grief whereas if you tattoo confidently you will be done with the tattoo in a jiffy.

Tattoo System. Choose a tattoo system that is identifiable to you and your rabbitry. For us, our breeders always start with a letter “H”. (If you’d like to know about our tattoo system this blog post goes into it in more detail, The Quirky Art of Tattooing

Our Garden with Bunny Berries – 2018

After a few years of gardening with bunny berries, we are now convinced that these little cast off nuggets make our plants crazy, ridiculously happy!

For background, we live in the mountains of Arizona, in zone 6a. Our last frost date is June 14, and we usually drop to freezing/have snow by mid-October. This makes gardening relatively challenging. Many of our plants don’t grow quite as well or large as those in our slightly southern areas. BUT, gardening with bunny berries gives us an advantage!

This year we planted a bed of squash/zucchini, tomatoes, and comfrey, a bed of salad leaves, basil, broccoli, and lemon balm, a bed of sweet peppers and okra, a bed of cucumbers, a bed of watermelon, and a bed of asparagus. Additionally we had a container garden of several varieties of potatoes, mint, bunching onions, strawberries, artichoke, rosemary, and chives.

We also added three raised beds that were filled 8″ with cinder dirt and 8″ with pure rabbit manure. When we got finished we just planted straight into the bunny berry dirt and let them grow! (We did add a decorative top soil of wood chips.

We decided to be bold and prepared the garden in May. We knew we were traveling the first two weeks of June and wouldn’t be home to plant so we took our chances with the weather and fortunately, this year the gamble paid off!

Over the summer we have been able to see our garden sprout and then flourish. It has been incredibly satisfying to grow our own vegetables and also reuse a resource in the form of bunny manure. We used both aged manure and fresh manure throughout the garden and saw no difference between those two forms of fertilizer.

One thing that was new for us this year is that we now have chickens! We have been fairly anti-chicken for quite awhile because they aren’t silent like rabbits! However, our daughter begged and begged and I made the mistake of going to the feed store during chick days. We came home with a lot of chicks. NONE OF THEM DIED AND NONE OF THEM WERE ROOSTERS. What are the odds?!

Because we had these crazy little birds we also used them to till our garden beds. It worked out fabulously and we plan to set them loose in the garden area throughout this spring to work the soil for us. It’s all about symbiotic relationships and capitalizing on what is natural to benefit all parties, right?!

Now that you’ve seen the bare ground of our gardening attempts, let me share some photos of our garden and harvest as it progressed over the summer. We were thrilled!

Cucumbers were our best crop this year by far. Last year it was the tomatoes, but this year we had fresh cucumbers and pickles until the world looked level. Our squash and zucchini also produced the biggest leaves I’ve ever seen outside of the pacific northwest!

I can’t say exactly how much money we saved using bunny berries instead of soil from the garden center but when you consider the size of our raised beds that needed to be filled I’d hazard it was several hundred dollars of savings just by recycling our bunny berries. Additionally, our daughter sold bags of rabbit manure ($5 for a bag of berries, we reused 50 lbs, rabbit food bags for packaging) and was able to pay for her market goat project independently using that income. Our local gardeners were thrilled and so was our daughter!

It’s been a fun adventure to try to figure out the ways we can create multipurpose benefits from having these rabbits. They continue to be a fun adventure for our whole family!

Gardening with Bunny Berries

As I type it’s snowing outside, which may be the reason I’m thinking about gardening! We are in planting zone 6a in our little mountain town, so where some people are starting to put plants in the ground, we are still looking at sprouts – our last expected freeze is June 14!

 

Last year was the first year that we seriously attempted the garden and we counted on the bunny berries to make it happen! In previous years we have done planter gardening, or had success with small pieces of the puzzle, but last year we had actual raised beds and straw bales and all sorts of goodies. We are fortunate to have family members who are excellent gardeners, and their encouragement inspired us to boldness to try our own!

 

The natural soil in our area has a lot of cinder dust. We created our beds, filled them with rabbit manure, and topped it off with pine chips we had from a tree being taken down a few years ago. We used a drip line to run through the beds. We planted several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, lemon balm, peppermint, salad greens, basil, strawberries, cucumbers, rosemary, asparagus, and bunching onions. We also planted marigolds, day lilies, and zinnia for splashes of color and the bug deterring properties!

In our back yard we planted five honeysuckle, two blueberries, and three raspberries. And then we got a monster of a puppy who ate every single one of the bushes as well as our entire drip system, wallowing in the damp beds with evident satisfaction. Our plan this year is to control the beast. But for last year the garden was a complete wash.

 

According to our gardening folks who know, our first year garden was a smashing success! Much, much of this can be attributed to the rabbit manure, and very little can be credited to the growers. However, our tomatoes were happy, happy, happy, they grew tall and produced fruit for weeks! We had salad all the way into February, although our cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries were not happy and didn’t produce anything. We will move them next year and try again.

 

We still don’t understand the science behind all of it, but we can affirmatively state that the bunny berries are the way to go for success. Apparently our soil is extremely happy, smells right, and is dying for the opportunity to produce more soon! We got the book, Crockett’s Victory Garden as a Christmas present and are devouring it to learn how to have even more success this summer.

This year we’re going to try again, and maybe even add another bed or two since we have the space. We’ve been emptying our rabbit droppings straight into the garden beds in preparation and I’m plotting to add bee-friendly varieties of plants.

How have your gardens been doing with the addition of bunny berries?

On our New Pricing…

Can I just tell you my least favorite part of raising rabbits? Selling rabbits.

 

I know this may sound silly, but selling rabbits ranks right around cleaning out the waste pile for me in terms of favorite activities. Partially because there is no right or wrong rule with setting prices, and there is a lot of back and forth variety in what breeders do in specific areas. Add in flaky buyers who fall through at the last minute and, in general, it’s a challenge!

 

We’ve just upped our prices a tad – it’s the first time in three years we’ve done so. It’s always hard to consider raising prices, and I want you to know we are doing so intentionally, not because we suddenly want more bang for our sales.

 

Since we breed rare breeds almost entirely, we keep availability in mind. Yes, it’s extremely difficult to find some of these breeds – and truthfully we have paid a top dollar for most all of our foundation animals. However, we would love these rare breeds to gain in popularity, which means that if you price them too high you run some serious, great breeders out of the game with a high price.

 

We’ve also become pretty choosy with our keeper/sellers and in the past two years we’ve culled hard, which has improved the quality of our herd overall. When I think back to the rabbits we had several years ago, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made with the breeds, and there is a dedication to care and analytical breeding that has been proven in the test of time. Are we perfect, not at all! But do we have better judgement than we did when we were starting out? Absolutely. Are we producing higher quality animals? Yes, we are. People who buy a Mad Hatter Rabbit now receive the benefit of the education we’ve gained over the years – and there’s value to that.

 

I believe you’ll still find us on the “reasonable” spectrum of the prices for our breeds, as our goal is still to provide a quality rabbit at a decent price to encourage other folks to raise these heritage and rare breeds. We thank you for your patience and look forward to working with you!

So, Um… We have fuzzy bunnies now.

IMG_6678Just about 12 months ago we attended a show and happened to set up camp next to a very kind angora breeder who gently and patiently put up with our kid’s questions about angoras and requests to touch and love on angoras. Of course, because angoras are beautiful, they begged to take an angora home. We firmly, repeatedly said, “No.”

I have a grudge against rabbits that can’t clean their own poop up well. We raise meat rabbits. We don’t like high maintenance. NO ANGORA BUNNIES.

Fast forward several months and I learn that one of my favorite breeders ever raises Satin Angoras. We’re negotiating for a trade in bloodlines for some other breeds and she offers to set the kids up with Satin Angoras, “They’re meat bunnies wearing coats. You can do this!” she says. I hem and haw because the kids haven’t stopped bugging me about the fuzzy animals.

We work with the kids to set some goals for responsibility to show us that they’re ready to take on a high maintenance breed. Remarkably, the kids meet their goals. The trade of breeds takes place, our friend tells me she’s doing her best to give the kids a great start, and don’t worry, they’re meat animals – if they’re awful they can go to freezer camp.

In May we came home from West Coast Classic with a trio of Satin Angoras. I don’t want to admit it but I kind of like them – the personality is amazing on these animals. We go on a field trip to a fiber mill and also a fiber festival, realizing we can utilize the wool on these animals to do some cool crafts and learn a new skill.

IMG_0902We trade for more fuzzy bunnies through ARBA nationals.

We breed the fuzzy bunnies. The babies are adorable. We show a fuzzy bunny at a show and realize our original breeder friend took very good care of us in starter stock.

And now, it appears we are breeders of fuzzy bunnies. Also known as Satin Angoras. Lord help us.IMG_0924

Be Kind. Always.

I clicked the “leave group” button today on Facebook.

This particular group, specific to a class of rabbits, has been a long-standing area of angst for me. There are some wonderful, educational posts that come through it, and then there are also a lot of inside jokes, inappropriate humor, and attacking behavior as well. Today those attacks crossed a line so… I left.

First things first – people need to understand about defamation, slander and libel.

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If you are negatively promoting a person and it affects their reputation or livelihood – you’re committing a crime.

When you publish photos of someone online and encourage others not to use their product (whether it be transportation, stock purchases, or judging services) guess what – you’ve committed LIBEL. It’s a crime and it’s something that can be prosecuted. Be wary and follow a simple rule:

Be Kind or Be Quiet

Be nice. Especially online.

I know, I know – it’s the same advice your grandma gave you: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” BUT just because it’s old-fashioned wisdom doesn’t mean it’s untrue! Seriously. Be nice or be quiet. We don’t need little gossip mongers in this hobby. We need people who are willing to be kind, promote their breeds, and pet their rabbits. Be one of those people – you’ll have more fun (whether you’re blonde or not! LOL!)!

Because I was pretty steamed this morning about the post in the facebook group which caused me to unfollow, I put a comment up on my regular, private facebook page referencing the poor behavior. That generated some commentary from my facebook friends where I learned from friends across the country that they won’t let their kids get involved in raising and showing rabbits because the ADULTS at the shows are argumentative, resentful, and expletive-spreading meanies. REALLY?!!

We love our rabbits shows for the very opposite reason! We meet people who are willing to take the time with our kids, educate us on best practices in their barns, and generally be awesome. We have found some amazing folks we love at rabbit shows and to learn that other areas of the country are acting awful makes my heart break.

THESE ARE RABBITS. This isn’t an Olympic arena. It’s a fuzzy bunny and we make lots of them. There is absolutely no call for people to get superior or condescending about rabbits. This is like the nerd hobby of livestock – we wander around barns covered in fur and wicked looking nail scratches. Who does this?! Quirky folks who are pretty awesome but probably weren’t the cool kids in high school.

Put it all in perspective… THESE ARE RABBITS. Stop being a jerk. Just be nice and have fun!

So here’s my plea: Make Kindness Normal. Go out of your way to encourage and build up others. Be the positive change in the hobby. Look for ways to be helpful. Keep your words respectful in all circumstances.

Kindness confetti.jpg

 

The End.

We Don’t Keep a Sales Waiting List

wait List

We no longer keep a waiting list for sales, despite many requests.

Over the years we have been contacted by many people regarding purchasing rabbits, which is always such an honor! When we have rabbits available for sale, we are happy to hash out the details of the purchase, transport, etc. But other times we don’t have exactly what the buyer is looking for and so aren’t able to help immediately. Almost invariably the buyer will ask to be put on the waiting list for their specific rabbit.

 

And I, in a dose of pure Scrooge-like meanness, tell them, “No.”

 

Why on Earth would we say no to a waiting list? Don’t we want to sell our rabbits?! Well, in a nutshell, yes. It does seem counter-intuitive that we wouldn’t keep a waiting list. But let me take you on a walk down memory lane…

 

In the early days of Mad Hatter Rabbits, when every cage was shiny and the food crocks still had the stink of the factory on them, we kept a waiting list. It was a lovely excel spreadsheet with the contact information of every person who contacted us, the date of communications, the exact request they had for their rabbits. It was a thing of beauty and organizational structure and it gave great joy to it’s maker, ME.

 

But then, the dark shadows of reality began to intrude. I would contact people on the waiting list to tell them their rabbit was available and they’d tell me they’d changed their minds. Or purchased a rabbit from another breeder. Or moved to Zimbabwe and developed a rash from looking at rabbit pictures… there were any number of reasons they were backing out of the purchase.

 

My excel spreadsheet became a mausoleum of unrealized dreams. It was a sad, sad thing. I grieved.

 

After about two years regularly getting burned by flakey rabbit folks, we made an executive decision. What stock is available will be posted on our rabbitry facebook page, and if people contact us directly and we can help them, we will. First come, first served at that particular moment. If the buyer is consistent in pursuing us, we can pretty much guarantee we’ll get a rabbit to them as quickly as possible, but the responsibility now lands on the buyer, rather than us as the seller, to follow through on the effort of a stock purchase.

 

I still miss that excel spreadsheet, but it was time to build a bridge and get over it.

 

Do you maintain a waiting list?