Category Archives: Pet Rabbits

On the Minutiae of Record Keeping

The piles reproduce like bunnies!

The piles reproduce like bunnies!

It’s a new year! Happy day!

 

Today I went through our rabbitry notes and switched everything over so the year is ready to begin again. It’s both a liberating and confusing feeling – what do I need to keep and what can be send to that circular file system called the trash can?!

 

 

I’m a little neurotic (one computer crash too many as un undergrad trying to turn in final projects) and I keep both electronic and paper records. For our electronic record keeping we use Kintraks. Since we are a Mac family this has been the best option for us.

 

I also have a 3-ring binder of rabbitry records. Each rabbit we have on site has a photo, pedigree, sales receipts, any legs they’ve earned, Registration and/or Grand Champion certificates in a plastic page protector. I use this to record matings and outcomes, tendencies, worming, and anything else that seems relevant. This is also where I have the exhaustive list of weights, treatments, etc. so I can see the longitudinal outcomes of specific pairings of rabbits.

 

These two systems essentially contain the same information and it does require me to do extra work, but I have a lot of confidence in having a copy. (One friend was on their way to a rabbit show when they had a major car issue and their vehicle caught fire! They were able to rescue the animals and grab the pedigree book but… the idea of losing all of that in a disaster was enough to make me want a back up of EVERYTHING!) Another side effect of writing everything down twice is that it aids my memory. I can recreate most pedigrees from memory just from having messed with them so much.

 

The negative? We generate a lot of pieces of paper each year. And what to do with all that paper at the end of the calendar year? I figured I may not be the only person who has run into this conundrum, so here you go, what we keep, what we pitch, and how we decide which is which:

 

Physical Records of Rabbits Gone By. I keep the photo ID page, pedigree, certificates, legs, etc. of any rabbit we’ve named. Whether the rabbit has been sent to freezer camp, sold, passed, it doesn’t matter. We keep the records. So far we haven’t had to use the paper copy for research but it’s a comfort to have the notes on the rabbit if something comes up.

Breeding Calendars. I’ve written in the past about using a breeding calendar for our rabbits. Eventually I will find the hours needed to go back through our breedings and results and meticulously compare that to the moon phases to figure out exactly how accurate the breeding calendar is in our rabbitry. Until that magical time slot appears, however, I just keep the calendars!

Catch-All Calendars. We have a paper copy of calendars we use to record when does are due, nestboxes needed, when we’ve used BunnyVac or wormed, when our rabbit club memberships are due, when shows will be held… all of that stuff! I keep these records, too, as sometimes it’s nice to be able to look at a receipt and go back and know it’s from the show we went to eight months ago.

 

Everything else, we scrap. That’s actually not too much else, but at least I’m not hoarding all sorts of miscellaneous bits of paper. (I’m ashamed to admit when we switched food I kept track of the lot numbers of each bag of food so that if there was a problem with it I would know which bag was the problem! Geesh!)

 

What do you keep track of from year to year in your rabbitry?

Rabbit Pots and Bunny Berries

The display of our bunny berries at the craft fair.

The display of our bunny berries at the craft fair.

We have been stretching all of our boundaries lately.

 

Earlier this year we invested in a cubit press from the Urban Rabbit Project to make Rabbit Pots.  (For the unfamiliar, Rabbit Pots are cubes of compressed bunny berries (rabbit poop). These are excellent starters for seed sprouts, or can be crumbled over houseplants as a fertilizers. The cubit press can also be used to create fire starters and compressed fodder cubes.)

 

We have friends who are going through the adoption process and asked us if we could participate in their fundraising efforts by offering something to sell in a local craft fair. We were absolutely in favor of supporting them but yours truly doesn’t rank high on the “crafty” scale.

 

But we do have poop.

 

So, our family put our heads together and put together an assembly line packing moistened, aged bunny berries in Dixie cups and squeezing it into cubes. (Best case scenario will allow the poop to air dry thoroughly before packaging, although a dehydrator is also a good option.) Then we primped and packed our offerings to try to “gussy them up.”

 

The results:

Rabbit Pots

The Rabbit Pots we made are about three inches square. They’re a little delicate.

Bunny Berries

Dixie cups with compacted Berries make this a good option as a seed starter.

 

 

To be frank, the feedback we received is that the Bunny Berries were the talk of the craft show and people thought it was very clever but the sales were slow, as most of the craft show clientele (it was hosted in a retirement community) were more in the market for crocheted pot holders and scarves than manure… go figure!

 

The general take away is this is a good idea, but better marketed in Farmer’s Markets or at local plant nurseries. Either way, we’re glad to add this to our arsenal of ways to make rabbit relevant to every day life!

Give the Gift of Rabbits – Heifer International

HeiferI just received this wonderful reminder from Linette:

“Since this is a time of year many people think to donate to charities, I was reminded of the Heifer project which donates animals and farming equipment to people in developing countries. They have a program to purchase breeding trios for people who will raise them for meat.

It’s a wonderful way of sharing rabbits with people in need!”

heifer-international1

Moria chimed in, “We have done this a few times and it’s awesome to be able to share the love of bunnies and the reason they are so versatile to other people! And it’s not expensive at all! highly recommend it!”

 

Would you like to give the give of self-sustainability to those who might not have access to meat in other ways?

http://www.heifer.org/gift-catalog/animals-nutrition/gift-of-rabbits-donation.html

 

Share a rabbit c

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!

My Rabbits Bought my Keurig

Our rabbit money purchased a Keurig for our family this fall.

Our rabbit money purchased a Keurig for our family this fall.

People will often ask if it’s possible to make money on rabbits.

 

No. (Kinda.)

 

Raising rabbits is a lot like the blogging world in some respects. There are some people, like the Pioneer Woman, who make money on their blogs because they have a massive following and sponsors. But for every Pioneer Woman there are 5,000 people who opened their free blog account and post on occasion and make nothing.

 

Kinda like rabbits.

 

There are people who run commercial rabbitries who are able to make money for themselves selling meat rabbits. There are some people who have worked very hard on their lines and can make money on sales for their rabbits that actually support them in their retirement.

 

But for the average person, rabbits can be a bit of a money pit, especially if you’re addicted to buying new stock all of the time and you haven’t clearly stated your objectives.

 

For our family, we have three priorities for our rabbits:

 

1. To provide a healthy meat source for our family, where we know what is in the food we are eating. In this respect we are paying about $3/lbs for rabbit meat when we process on a 10-week schedule. That takes in to account the amount of food consumed by mama while nursing the litter and the amount of food consumed by the individual rabbit until butcher time.

2. To produce show animals that pay for themselves. We enjoy showing. I get it that not everyone does, but we find it to be a lot of fun for our whole family. Showing a rabbit is not terribly expensive, but it does take money in gas, entry fees, purchase of carriers to get them to and from the show, and incidental costs while there, like a soda. If we are able to sell stock to cover the cost of our show experience we consider that a fun experience that pays for itself… and that’s a win-win. As time has gone on our rabbit sales have also slowly chipped away at the initial purchase cost of our cages and supplies. We have a depreciation schedule for this so I’m not expecting to break even but, it’s happening slowly!

3. To allow this hobby to bring our family together. This is a purpose that doesn’t have a price tag, but so many of the hobbies we see as options are not whole family events. We love to go snowboarding, but now that we have kiddos it’s a bit of a scheduling nightmare to figure out how to manage all the childcare so we can hit the slopes. Rabbits aren’t like that for our family – we come together to take care of the daily husbandry tasks and when we go to shows we are often en masse with the kids and have found rabbit people to be extremely welcoming to well-behaved children.

We also recognize that rabbits have become our family hobby. Hobbies of all types exist in the world, but usually you expect to have a bit of expense involved whether it’s buying a specific size of knitting needle or yarn, or a special rope perfect for bouldering. Hobbies come with a price tag – ours also comes with fur!

 

The first year we had rabbits I fretted quite a bit over the monthly budget allowance we had going to the animals, thinking we would never break even. We sell our animals to people for show and starting their own meat operations, and have gotten a fairly steady stream of people who are interested in purchasing the poop — ‘bunny berries’ — for their gardens, which brings in a little extra cash. Now that we’ve been at it awhile, we also have been able to scale back our regular costs significantly to basically food and shows.

 

That has left a little extra room on occasion to save for bigger upcoming expenses. Dollar by quarter we are able to set money aside… and just a few weeks ago I was able to completely pamper myself by buying a Keurig coffee maker using our rabbit profits! So now we’re caffeinated as we pet our bunnies, a crazy combination! Ha!

 

I suppose when it comes down to it, it’s about your priorities. I would never recommend rabbits to someone as a money-making proposition. If you’re interested in a rewarding hobby with lovely relationships with others and potential to make a healthy lifestyle choice, this might be right up your alley!

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:

This is a message from BOB GLASS!!! from RABBIT PASTEURELLA VACCINE FORUM

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).