Archive for April, 2013

Handy Reminder: the date of the 2013 ARBA Convention Rabbit Show

April 18, 2013
Looking for ARBA 2013 results?  Find them here:

Date of ARBA convention 2013
Just so I have it written down somewhere easy to find, and so it will maybe help others too, here’s a NOTE TO SELF:

The official dates of the 2013 ARBA National Convention are October 19-23, 2013.

Exhibitors will start to arrive about the 17th.  The set up crew will get there more than a week ahead of time to put up dozens of booths and tables, and cooping for some 25,000+ rabbits and cavies.

Show entry deadline will probably be sometime mid-September.

Youth members: Applications for the Royalty, Achievement, and Management contests need to be in by August 20 (mail in) or September 1 (online entry).  You can get the forms at the youth page.  But you are already studying, right?  If so, our website has tons of study guides and tips to help.  Check out our books and blog.

You can order a convention catalog anytime.  Don’t put it off and then forget!



Pregnant Rabbit Past her Due Date?

April 10, 2013

Pregnant rabbit female building a nest

The calendar says it’s time for your doe to give birth.  She’s even built a nest.  But day 31 hits…and no babies.

What should you do now?

How to help a Pregnant Rabbit go into Labor

What should you do when your rabbit won’t have her babies?  What if she’s already delivered one or two kits, but seems to be retaining more?  Remember, I’m not a vet, but my four suggestions in a situation like this are:

1. Just wait. I’ve had a doe have two babies one day, then two more two days later. It’s not very unusual for a litter to be spread out over a couple days. If she’s not straining, and not over 32 or 33 days, just keep her in a low-stress environment and see what happens.  Also – double-check the due date.  Are you sure you didn’t accidentally count three weeks ahead instead of four on the calendar?

2. Take her out for some exercise. If her body gets active it often brings on contractions. Let her run around your living room or a playpen for an hour or so.

3. Put her back in with a buck. She won’t get pregnant if she is already bred, and the encounter will stimulate hormones that will likely cause her to deliver the litter.

4. Offer her lavender. They say that this will cause a rabbit to go into labor. Never give it to a doe that isn’t full term, as it can cause her to abort.

Some breeders will reach for a drug called Oxytocin when their rabbits are slow to deliver.  I never have.  For one thing, I don’t know where people get it, if not from a vet.  Second — why would you drug your rabbits if you don’t have to?  Rabbits are very sensitive to anything that might upset their digestive system, especially when already stressed from the pregnancy.  Administration of any drug can lead to diarrhea and death in short order.  Third, oxytocin is powerful stuff.  Used incorrectly, it can lead to a ruptured uterus or other big problems.

So that’s why I try one of the four methods listed above.  And you know what?  So far, they’ve always worked.

Stuck kits are another story

The above are the methods I try if a doe isn’t going into labor.  If you have a doe that is laboring, but not delivering; if she has stuck kits, that is another story.  If you give a doe that is already laboring oxytocin, or do something else to make her just “push harder,” this can easily lead to a prolapsed uterus, which is fatal.  If your doe has stuck kits, please refer to this article on the Nature Trail.

Another great idea any time a doe is due to deliver is to give her half a crushed Tums tablet dissolved in her water.  This — or simply a handful of alfalfa hay– will provide the calcium her body needs at a time like this.

Here’s wishing you a healthy doe and plenty of these little things:

Squirmy newborn rabbits


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rabbit 4h showmanship guide and tips

April 1, 2013

What is 4-H Rabbit Showmanship?

*Click here to download this post as a PDF that you can distribute to your club members*

Rabbit Showmanship is an excellent activity for young 4-H members.  The purpose of the contest is to recognize youth who have taken proper care of their animals, learned important information about them, and become proficient at handling them correctly.  The spirit of friendly competition appeals to kids who thrive on challenge, and 4-H shows offer opportunities for kids to make friends who share their interests.

Unlike ARBA breed classes, which are based solely on a rabbits’ appearance, Showmanship is a team effort between bunny and owner.  To develop a line of show rabbits that will excel in breed classes takes years of trial and error, multiple generations of breeding, and a sizable bankroll.   But all that Showmanship requires is one bunny, the supplies to properly care for it, and a dedicated youth who is eager to learn.

In 4-H Rabbit Showmanship, contestants show off their ability to properly handle and care for their rabbits.  Contestants must demonstrate that they can pick up, hold, and carry a rabbit.  Sometimes they are even required to remove it from a cage.  They must examine it for signs of illness and for ARBA showroom disqualifications.  Judges give points for the cleanliness, health, and condition of the rabbit, as well as for the personal tidiness and professionalism of the contestant.  Lastly, participants must answer verbal quiz questions about rabbit husbandry and their breed’s standard.

The exact guidelines for rabbit showmanship contests vary from region to region.  For example, some counties require the 4-H’er to verbally explain their actions while examining the rabbit.  Other formats expect the exhibitor to be silent unless the judge asks them a question.  But though some of the details are different from place to place, all showmanship formats require the same basics from the contestants.  The tips below will apply to pretty much every 4-H member who hopes to take home the showmanship rosette.


Youth Rabbit Showmanship Contest Tips and Guidelines

  • Take your time.  Showmanship is not a race.  Don’t rush your examination.  If you do, you may forget steps, or even if you do them all, the judge might miss them. Calm and steady wins the prize.
  • If while you’re holding your rabbit upside-down, it flips back on its feet, don’t worry!  Simply turn it back over and pick up where you left off.  You don’t have to apologize to the judge or anything like that.  Don’t act distressed.  It happens.
  • Use a small to medium-sized breed.  We’re talking Dutch, Havana, Mini Rex, Thrianta, Florida White size.  Though many winners have used dwarf or giant breeds, my opinion is that the small-to-medium sized ones work best.  They are small enough to handle without difficulty, but large enough that the judge can see each step clearly.  My state has us “feel the meat” on the shoulders, midsection, loin, and hindquarters separately.  If you ask me, that’s kind of ridiculous on a Netherland Dwarf.

Rabbit showmanship tips

  • Take extra good care of your showmanship rabbit.  Keep his cage clean so there is no chance of him getting dirty from droppings.  Don’t use a white rabbit: he could suddenly pee his coat the day of the contest and you’d be in trouble.  Before the contest, trim his toenails.
  • Trim his toenails.  Trim his toenails.  Trim his toenails.  (Got that?  A lot of kids don’t seem to!)
  • Know your breed’s Standard of Perfection.  This is essential.  Memorize the schedule of points and the min/max/ideal weights.  Know the disqualifications.  It helps if you know other breeds, too, but it’s crucial to know your own very well.
  • Look the judge in the eye when you are speaking to him or her.  Really, this is important!
  • Make sure your rabbit has a legible tattoo in its left ear.  And please, make sure you know what its tattoo is in case the judge asks!
  • If you have long hair, tie it back so it won’t fall in your face.  Do not wear jewelry or sandals.
  • On the day of the contest, keep your rabbit in his cage or carrier as long as possible.  While you are waiting for your turn, don’t hold your rabbit in your arms.  The longer you hold him, the more antsy or hot he may become, and he will be less willing to sit still on the table during the contest.

Click here to download this post in a PDF Format

Click here to download an additional article: “Seven Essential Qualities of a Champion Rabbit Showman”


Get the Extensive Youth Contest Study Guide

Rabbit showmanship 4H study guideIf you liked this article, check out the book  “The Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide” for more like it!  Available from Rabbit Smarties Publishers, this book is written to help young 4-H and ARBA members excel with their rabbit project.  The Study Guide is rich in advice on rabbit care, health, showing, and breeding, and includes expert study tips for contests like 4-H showmanship and ARBA royalty.  Designed to be a 4-H rabbit leader’s aid, the pages may be reproduced for use in a club setting.  Includes an abundance of charts and color photos.  72 pages.  Full Color.  $20.00