Category Archives: Health

Cleaning out the Webs

img_9633

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?

 

img_9596

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!

 

img_9590

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.

 

img_9594

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!

Happy flame throwing!

Stuck Kits

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.

 

Recipes for Getting Stains Out of Rabbit Fur

Hutch stains and spray stains are the bane of a white rabbit breeder's existence!

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:

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Corn Starch Paste. Corn starch mixed with white vinegar into a paste and rubbed onto the stain. Let dry, then brush it out.
  5. 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).
  6. Lemon Juice. Spray on and let the rabbit groom it out themselves.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!

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!”

bunny

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Researching Raising Rabbits

More and more we are contacted by people who are interested in beginning their rabbit raising adventures! This is a huge kick for us, as we have found raising rabbits to be affordable, entertaining, and nutritious!

 

There are a few basic resources we recommend to anyone getting started in rabbits; ways to research the breeds and learn best practices from those who have been there, done that. Here are our favorites:

 

This is a first stop resource for beginning rabbit breeders.

This is a first stop resource for beginning rabbit breeders.

Read Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennett from cover to cover. This is a great resource! We found our copy at CalRanch but it’s also available on Amazon. His perspective helped us decide what design to use for our rabbit hutches, and gave us practical information on basic rabbit husbandry items. While it doesn’t go into great detail about every single aspect of rabbits, it does provide plenty of information to get you started well and understand what you’re doing and how to purchase your initial stock.

 

A subscription to the Domestic Rabbits magazine comes with your ARBA membership.

A subscription to the Domestic Rabbits magazine comes with your ARBA membership.

Join ARBA (the American Rabbit Breeders Association). Not only will being a member of ARBA give you access to their publication, Raising Better Rabbits and Cavies, you will also receive the Domestic Rabbit magazine! Every issue provides articles, district reports, veterinarian tips, and listings of individual rabbit raisers who are setting the bar high. This is a great resource for finding breeders who are showing, registering, and granding their rabbits – find the people who are serious about their rabbitry and you’ll find people who will help you get started well. The articles are top notch and relevant.

 

The ARBA Standard of Perfection gives the details of each breed.

The ARBA Standard of Perfection gives the details of each breed.

Purchase the Standard of Perfection. This is an ARBA publication that is invaluable to the new breeder. The SOP has vocabulary and definitions of different rabbit body parts, diseases, breeds, etc. Each recognized breed is listed in the SOP along with the expectations for weights and how the rabbit should look. If you want to raise rabbits that promote the breed well – and be reputable, you need to know what’s in the Standard of Perfection.

 

Rabbit Production is a comprehensive manual and excellent resource.

Rabbit Production is a comprehensive manual and excellent resource.

Consider Rabbit Production. Once you’ve fallen in love with rabbit breeding and you’re looking for a much more detailed explanation of best practices, diseases, etc., you will want to spring for Rabbit Production. This comprehensive guide is amazing in its scope! It’s a true asset to have in your library, although it does run on the pricier side.

 

Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories can give you great insight into the work needed to establish rabbit breeds.

Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories can give you great insight into the work needed to establish rabbit breeds.

Learn the History. Each of the breeds recognized by ARBA has a long and interesting history. While you might be most interested in your specific breed, it’s still interesting to learn the stories of how breeds came to be. The book, Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories by Bob Whitman is a beautiful book with really interesting stories. While it may not be on your “urgent” purchases, it’s definitely worth the read as you become more knowledgable about rabbits in general.

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!

The Rabbit With No Ears and Big Teeth

It was a rough day around the rabbitry for No Ears.

 

If you’ve been following our blog for awhile, you’ll remember that back in February we had a litter of Cinnamon born where their first-time mother got over zealous in her cleaning at birth and ate the ears of several of her kits! Most were damaged only a little bit, but one poor rabbit had his ears bitten right down to the ear base.

 

No Ears' baby photo. He's ... the one with no ears.

No Ears’ baby photo. He’s … the one with no ears.

 

This little buddy has been known as “No Ears” since then. I wasn’t sure he’d make it through the summer, as rabbit ears are important for a rabbits body temperature regulation and our rabbitry is outside in Arizona! (It’s a mountain town but it can still get hot here!) He made it through the summer just fine but this afternoon… he’s hit a spot he probably won’t make it through.

 

We have children here. Our children get rabbits out and play with them almost every day. Our rabbits are loved, harrassed, and spend time hanging out on a trampoline with kiddos regularly.

 

When you have children and animals, there’s a special level of kindness necessary on the part of both the children and the animal. We think of it kind of like this – the children have to treat the animals in a way that will engender trust… and the animals have to not bite the children.

 

We’ve only had two biters around here and both found their way to the slow cooker almost immediately. Today, No Ears made the unfortunate choice of unleashing his teeth on my arm.

 

At this moment, he’s still breathing, but he signed his death warrant with that decision. Some might say we’re harsh to have such  black & white stance on the subject, especially since No Ears is the last of his line and has a pretty nice body type. I’m tempted to breed him before he hits the road… but we’re also firm believers that personality is a genetic trait as much as body type.

 

No Ears is a satinized Cinnamon, which I was looking to use to work with a torted Satin project. This photo was taken just minutes before "the incident."

No Ears is a satinized Cinnamon, which I was looking to use to work with a torted Satin project. This photo was taken just minutes before “the incident.”

No Ears has proven his mama was a biter and he’s a biter – I’m a little concerned about any animals produced out of him and their demeanor.

 

Do any of you have experience with this? Can you confirm or deny the biting tendency and whether it is passed down from generation to generation?