Category Archives: Record Keeping

We Don’t Keep a Sales Waiting List

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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?

Checklist for Starting a Rabbit Project

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What do you need to start a 4H rabbit project?

We have just finished the county fair around here and are proud to announce that one of the kid’s mini satins was awarded Reserve in Show and our oldest was given the Champion rabbit showmanship award for her division. Good times!

 

 

Of course, being around all of those awesome 4H kids and their different projects, plus learning more about the livestock auction and its ins an outs has encouraged our kids to start working toward starting a goat (!) project! Eek! Our first step has been to start the research and as we’ve tried to gather information about goats, I’ve realized that other people might feel the same about how to start a rabbit project, so a post on how to get into rabbits might be helpful to you all!

 

So, here are a few things you might want to consider if you’re beginning a rabbit project:

 

  1. Finances. One thing I really appreciate about the 4H member record is that it forces the child to lay out a budget for their project. Things you should consider as you’re starting a rabbit project are: Stock, Food, Housing, and Tools.
  2. Purpose. What type of project do you want to purse? A market/meat project? Doe and litter? Showmanship? Each of these categories might require a different set up so begin with the end in mind for your success.

Here are our thoughts and best practices regarding these items:

Stock: The initial investment of stock is a big deal and many parents don’t have a clue as to where to begin to help their children! Consider the purpose of the project – if you want to do a meat pen, take a look at the breeds of commercial typed rabbits and then ask your fair what breeds of rabbit have been recognized for excellence in your area previously. If you want a doe and litter, look to a breed known for their mothering abilities. If you want a showmanship rabbit, look for breeds with a reputation for being easy to handle. Make sure that you have a copy of the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association Standard of Perfection, which is the book with the identifying characteristics of each breed. This $20 investment will save you hundreds if you allow it to teach what you’re looking for in choosing your animals and how to steer clear of disqualifications.

After identifying your purpose, start looking for places to acquire the animal(s). My recommendation is to start with the ARBA website breeder listing. This is broken down by breed and location. Ask for recommendations from those breeders. Take a look at the ARBA National Convention results. Check out the breed webpage for their top breeders. Look in the Domestic Rabbit to see which breeders have rabbits being given Grand Champion status. These are ways to figure out how you can get good advice and counsel from those who are serious about rabbit raising. (Also realize that those folks who have 30+ years of rabbit raising experience probably don’t have a webpage or Facebook farm page, so go to a rabbit show and ask people who to sit with to learn more – you’ll be shocked at how many people who truly love rabbits are truly looking to pass their knowledge on!)

Food: Each region of the country has different food offerings, so ask around. Your local feed store will be able to tell you what their best selling feed is, and if you do an internet search for food recommendations you’ll get many results. Recognize that people have really passionate about their food and many breeders blame their feed for all of their problems!

Regardless of whether you choose pellets or natural, or one brand over another, just know that your rabbit is going to have to eat! Every feed has pros and cons. Just feed your rabbit. (As an aside – seriously. Feed your rabbit. At our fair I wanted to cry over how many rabbits showed that they hadn’t been fed regularly or enough. FEED YOUR RABBIT EVERY DAY. Period.)

Feed costs will vary over the year based on what breed of rabbit you have and how much the pellets cost (a meat rabbit will eat approximately 200 lbs of pellets in a year if they’re being feed 8 oz./day). You’ll get a better price on a larger bag of feed, but make sure you’re not feeding your rabbit old feed about 3 weeks old is the longest you’ll want to keep feed for your rabbit. Fresh feed = healthy rabbits.

Housing: We follow the guidelines from ARBA and a book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennet in our housing choices. We have chosen to purchase our cages from KW Cages and Klubertanz and find both cages to be of excellent quality. Putting your rabbit in a cage with rusted wire or uneven angles will hurt their feet and make their life harder. Food and water can depend on the preference of your rabbit as well as your area. For years we’ve used stainless steel crock water dishes in the winter when it’s freezing and water bottles for the summer time – but there’s not a right or a wrong to this.

Consider what you will do with your rabbit waste. Are your cages going to have pans for the droppings? If so, budget for bedding to cut down on the odors and ammonia from the urine that can hurt your rabbit’s nose. Are your droppings going to go to the ground? If so, do you have access to a shovel and wheelbarrow? Do you have a compost pile? Do you have a garden where you can put the bunny berries?

Are you raising a doe and litter project? If so you’ll need a nestbox. You can use a variety of items for your nestbox – we’ve found we prefer this style ourselves because we can clean them reliably, they are able to withstand consistent use, and they’re secure for the kits.

Tools: Livestock require tools for handling and rabbits are no exception. You’ll want to have access to a tattoo tool, whether a pen or clamp. (We use a KBTatts tattooer and love it. We also have a rabbit wrap that is extremely helpful when tattooing.) For grooming you’ll need to have nail clippers and possibly Kevlar sleeves to protect your arms from scratches. An apron or a pair of overalls can protect your midsection from scratches and your clothes from rabbit toenail snags and rips. If you have a wooled breed of rabbit you need a grooming comb.

When you take your rabbit to a show or fair, you need to have a safe way for them to travel. We use these 3 compartment, 3 lid travel carriers and we love them because they have individual openings for each hole.

Our tool box is very low on the medicines for your rabbit because we have chosen to simply do our best to breed healthy rabbits. We don’t use antibiotics. However, we do have some olive oil for the occasional time a rabbit gets ear mites and Diamataceous Earth to sprinkle over the droppings and in the fur of our rabbits. We keep a bottle of lavendar/tea tree essential oil and tin of Bag Balm around for our own scratches! (We also put bag balm on the rabbits ear after tattooing.)

 

I’ve tried to put together a pretty exhaustive list here, but I’d love to hear in the comments if you’d recommend anything additional. Starting a rabbit project is easy – rabbits are quiet, pretty clean, a lower monetary investment, and pretty cheap to keep. We’d recommend them!

Now… who can help us with the goats?! Ha!

Extended Labor in Rabbits

We blew it. Except we didn’t know we were blowing it.

 

Here’s the story – we put the nestbox in with our doe. We waited. She pulled fur and had one baby. All evidence pointed to the fact that this was a singleton litter and our temperatures are still below freezing many nights, so we fostered the little loner in with another litter to better its odds of survival, then removed the nestbox from mama.

 

And walked out the next morning to six more babies on the wire of mama’s cage, frozen solid.

 

What the….?!

 

All of our rabbit husbandry experience has taught us that rabbits give birth within a span of about 15 minutes. But in this case, I can say absolutely without question, that there was at least a 36 hour break between that first little bunny being born and the other six!

 

I don’t know how often this is, and without having personally experienced it we would have pooh-poohed the possibility of rabbits giving birth at different spaces. However, it does make me wonder about the few times we have counted babies, then a week later discovered our count was wrong and there is another baby in the box. Did the mama have another while we weren’t looking?

 

The only explanation I can figure for this behavior is if both of the uterine horns were impregnated. Since we occasionally leave our rabbits in with the bucks overnight (in the winter they typically don’t want to breed immediately so we’ve found making them roommates for a time works better) perhaps the doe was impregnated in different uterine horns, hours apart, and that caused a different delivery schedule?

 

Who knows, but I was shocked enough I felt it was worth noting on the blog that it can happen.

 

And we’re so bummed about the babies who didn’t make it because we blew it.

Prepping for ARBA Nationals

It’s time for the big show! ARBA Nationals 2016 is located in Del Mar, California and we are going!

 

This is only our second national show to attend, so we aren’t truly experts, but here are a few things we have done to prepare:

 

Get Hotel Room. We originally made reservations at a hotel that was several miles from the fairgrounds, but then a few spots opened up at the host hotel so we switched! Hurray!

Purchase Show Catalog and Results book. The show catalog is full of great information about the schedule, extra meetings, rules, judges of the breeds, club information, etc. Also places to eat and stay, extra tours… lots of stuff! We also enjoy getting the Results book because there is no set schedule for breed judging and if you miss your breed you won’t have a clue how everyone placed without the Results book!

Get Car in for Check Up. We are driving to Nationals and I can’t think of anything worse than being broken down on the side of the road with a load of bunnies in the back! So our trusty Suburban went to the shop for a complete check up from tires to wires and got the seal of approval.

Paperwork. Not only do we have the paperwork from our Convention entry, but also the load/unload sheet for our rabbits. We label each hole of the carriers with the rabbit who will occupy it, and then check it off as we load. We’ll do a similar situation with our return animals. At checkin you also need your ARBA membership card.

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This is our pocket-sized cheat sheet for our breeds and coop numbers.

Labels. Decorations on the coops are discouraged at the Convention, but having something to identify your rabbits is really helpful in the long rows of coops! We used a free download from a teacher for labels this year and included the name of the rabbit and a contact phone number just in case anyone needed to talk to us about the rabbit. And we’ll remove the labels completely when we leave, of course.

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Our coop labels for Convention this year.

Coop Risers/Cleaning Supplies. The rabbits are cooped on wooden floors with shavings. Obviously these shavings get messy quickly and need frequent cleaning! This year we are trying coop risers for our Blanc de Hotot to help keep them clean.This is the way to go! The rabbits stay sooo much cleaner and happier with the risers!

Water Bucket with Spout. We have found a houseplant watering can with the long spout extremely helpful. We can get the job done with a milk jug but the extra maneuvering provided by a watering can is awesome!

Pedigree Book. You never know what might come up, so I’m bringing hard copies of all of our pedigrees. One thing I’m pretty excited about for our sale rabbits is a newer program called Hutch. It allows you to generate a QR code for pedigrees, so if you print the QR code and put it with the rabbit anyone interested would be able to see the lines behind the rabbit right then. How lovely!

Good Attitude and Comfortable Shoes. I was stunned in Portland at how much my feet hurt! The judging classes are large, so there is a lot of standing around as you’re waiting to hear the results! By the end of the first day my back was tight and my feet were sore. By the end of day two even our 9-year-old was desperate for a place to sit! This year we are bringing our most comfortable shoes and consciously choosing to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances.

 

That’s our quick an dirty prep list for Nationals. I’m sure we’ll have more in the future, but here are the basics!

Dress Out Rates

Keeping track of your live weights, dead weights, and calculating percentages will help you know if you're on the right track for breeding.

Keeping track of your live weights, dead weights, and calculating percentages will help you know if you’re on the right track for breeding.

Caution: be aware this post discusses processing rabbits. If this is disturbing to you, please scroll on by without comment.

 

Our initial purpose for breeding rabbits was to create a sustainable food source for our family. In our state, it is completely legal to raise rabbits for your own consumption, although you may not sell them to others for anything except animal consumption. Our desire to have this all-natural meat option factored into which breeds we selected for our rabbitry, as well as what breedings we pursue as we continue moving forward.

 

As meat breeders, having a strong dress out percentage from our rabbits is incredibly important. This is where we are rewarded for the days we care for animals in harsh weather, the multiple times a day we water every rabbit by hand, etc. If you don’t actually get a return for your investment of time and energy… what is the point?!

 

Our goal for all of our rabbits is a minimum of 50% dress out rate. The dressout percentage is the percent of the live animal that ends up as carcass. Generally, the carcass weight is taken immediately after skinning and evisceration and is commonly known as the hot hanging weight. (Evisceration is the removal of viscera (internal organs, especially those in the abdominal cavity). This can refer to: Disembowelment, removal of the internal organs of an animal.) Other people may refer to this as the bone-in weight.

 

We have some breeds that will just barely clear 50% dress out and others that are closer to 59% Obviously, the higher the dress out percentage the greater return you’ll have on your investment. After that you have to figure in your cost of feed and, if you’re really daring!, the cost of your time management in order to figure out what your actual cost per lbs. of meat is in comparison to what you can get on a little styrofoam platter at the grocery.

 

Here is yet another area where keeping precise records is important! For us this means our records make note of every rabbit ending up in the cull pen is weighed live, weighed dressed out (bone in, kidneys, liver, and heart saved), and the percentage calculation.

 

Now that we’ve been keeping our records for awhile we can start tracking which bucks and does have the strongest results, which breeds are most productive, whether we have higher percentages based on the season, etc. It’s really fascinating if you’re a rabbit nerd (as we are)!

Roundup of Rabbit Pedigree Programs

One of the basic needs for a rabbit breeder is the ability to track rabbits genealogy over time. This is one of the first tenets of rabbit raising we picked up from Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits. KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS.

 

The problem with this, however, is how you plan to do it. If a rabbit is going to have an accurate pedigree, there are a lot of ways to store the information! This post will serve as a compilation of the rabbit pedigree programs that exist to date (as shown by internet searching. Hopefully it’s accurate, don’t shoot the messenger if something is forgotten!)

 

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Traditional Pedigrees

The traditional way of pedigree record keeping is a handwritten pedigree. These are available from the ARBA store (https://www.arba.net/store/) and include the required three generations, complete with spaces to fill out weight, color, tattoo number, registration and grand champion numbers.

Another option is to use a pedigree template, like this one from The Nature Trail Custom Rabbit Pedigree Design. They will design a template that can be used repeatedly, each time you can type in the rabbit’s information. Pricing: $30 (as of post publication).

 

Database-based Pedigrees

Over time, smart folks have come up with the idea of creating a database pedigree program. Instead of having to write every bit of information in the pedigree, the rabbit’s information is entered into a database. Then, anytime that particular rabbit is selected in a pedigree it will automatically load and the information will populate!

As long as the original information entered is accurate, you have accurate pedigrees from that point forward, easy-peasey. The following are simply listings. We don’t have personal experience with each one of them! (We have used Kintraks for years because we have Mac computers.)

 

For Windows-based computers (PC):

Evan’s Software. Arguably the most popular pedigree software, particularly designed for those using a PC, Massechusetts-based Evan’s is reported to have excellent customer service; their webpage text exhibits a strong sense of humor on the part of the developers. Evan’s offers a service to import existing pedigree information from other databases. Pricing: $69-$89 (as of post publication).

ZooEasy. Designed for those using Windows-based computers, ZooEasy allows you to report pedigree information, medical data, finances, contacts and serves both ARBA members as well as members of the British Rabbit Council. Pricing: $59 (as of post publication).

Breeder’s Assistant. Designed specifically for dog and cat pedigrees using a Windows platform, Breeder’s Assistant can be used for all sorts of animals, including rabbits. The Breeder’s Assistant also included information stating it can import data from the Church of Latter Day Saint’s genealogical database. They offer several different types of pedigree formats, including a circular pedigree. So unique. Pricing: $99 and up (as of post publication).

Easy Rabbit Pedigree Generator. This CD-based software designed for Windows computers may be what you’re looking for if you can get past the gimmicky sales pitch of their website and want a simple, functional pedigree design. Pricing: $17 (as of post publication).

 

PC or Mac computers:

KinTraks. For many years, KinTraks was the only pedigree program available for Mac users – this is why we originally chose it for our rabbitry. Over the years, though, we have appreciated that it was a one-time purchase, the customer support is quick and personal, and the interface is very easy to use. There are a lot of ways to customize the pedigrees as well. Trial version of 100 records offered for free. Pricing: $18 (as of post publication).

Bunny Trails Software. Bunny Trails can run on Windows, Mac, or Linux systems, and was created by rabbit breeders for rabbit breeders. Includes a free app that will work on the iPhone, iPad, or iTouch and offers support for tracking show points and performances (this could be very handy for recording information during the show). Pricing: $59 – $79 (as of post publication).

Global Pedigree Project. The Global Pedigree Project is cloud-based, meaning that if you have an internet connection you can use it, regardless of whether you’re accessing the internet on a Mac or PC. Once a part of the Global Pedigree Project, users can search any rabbit within the database, whether it is in their barn or not. (I have asked my friend with Global Pedigree to double check factual information on rabbits for me – a really handy feature!) The upside? Lots of shared information and the ability to look at what other breeders have uploaded. The downside? It could be really easy for people to falsify their pedigrees using data from other rabbits. The emailed pedigrees are very well designed. Subscription based service. Pricing: $12.50 – $75 (as of post publication).

 

Do you have any pedigree programs to add to this list? What are your personal experiences using them? Leave your response in the comments!