Archive for the Rabbit Care Category

Lionhead Rabbit Breed – A Closer Look

May 5, 2015

Many thanks to Melissa van der Valke of www.LionheadRabbit.com for this article!

A Closer Look at the Lionhead Rabbit

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Many of you might have already heard about a relatively new rabbit breed, the lionhead rabbit. This amazing rabbit breed is becoming more and more popular within the United States and therefore we provide you with a closer look. The breed was officially accepted by the ARBA as a domestic breed of rabbits in February of 2014 and already had a longer history within the United Kingdom.

Different mane types

It is obvious that the reason why this breed differs from others it that lionheads have a wooly mane which makes them unique and appealing. There are however different so called mane types. A lionhead rabbit is either single maned or double maned. This is because of genetics, for example, if your doe is single maned it means that she has one copy of the gene that produces her mane. A double maned doe has two copies. The biggest difference is that double maned lionheads are more covered with wool. In addition, the wool of single maned lionheads might diminish over time. As a result double maned are more popular.

 

lionhead babies

Lionhead rabbit babies at birth

 

Is my lionhead single or double maned?

How do you know whether your lionhead is either single or double maned? You can only find out when your lionhead is becoming full-grown and his mane is developed or at birth. It is very easy to spot whether your single or double maned babies when they are born. If you notice a v pattern at their back they are double maned. If you don’t notice a pattern at all they are single maned.

 

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How to care for a Lionhead

When it comes to caring for lionhead rabbits it is somewhat similar to caring for other rabbit breeds. Provide fresh water at all time, make sure there is enough hay and optionally complement their diet with pellets. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that having a good looking wooly mane also requires some extra efforts. Therefore it is recommended to groom your lionhead on a daily basis. Make sure to visit http://lionheadrabbit.com/rabbit-care/ for more information on caring for these amazing rabbits.

 

Thanks, Melissa!

Rabbit Keeping in Kenya – An Exciting Project

April 11, 2014
rabbit breeding kenya africa

All photos courtesy of Ndagwe Okeda

 

What is Africa really like?  Images flash through our minds, images we’ve picked up from movies and mission groups.  But unless we’ve been there, can we really know what it’s like?

Until we know, how can we build friendships with those across the globe?  How can we encourage them in their pursuits until we know what their goals and what their challenges are?  And how can we learn from their innovation, and draw from their motivation, unless we are connected to each other?  We American rabbit breeders have strong ties with breeders in Candada, Europe and Australia.  We’re fostering rabbit communities in Japan and the East Indies.  But Africa?  That’s been off our radar.  And that means we’re missing out on great opportunities.

 

Kenyan village girls with rabbit cages

Girls from Ndagwe’s original village project with their rabbits

 

Stories start with E-mails

A few years ago I got a neat e-mail.  Mr. Ndagwe Okeda, of Bituyu Village, Kenya, sent a message thanking me for the information on the Rabbit Smarties website, and letting me know that he was using it for the rabbit project he started with the youth in his village.

I’m thrilled when anyone finds my scribblings helpful.  I’m honored that members and leaders all around the US have used them.  But from Kenya?  I had never even thought about rabbit raising in Africa!  What breeds did they have there, and which colors?  Did they feed pellets?  How could they keep rabbits in the extreme heat?  I had to know more.

So I asked questions.  And Mr. Okeda has wonderfully shared many details about his rabbit project, and gently corrected my ignorance in several areas.  (For starters, Nairobi area doesn’t get extreme heat – it’s a temperate climate.)  He started a rabbit project with youth members in his village, but moved to the capital city of Nairobi in 2012.  Good news is he took the rabbit project with him and now is reaching out to youth groups to get them involved.

I think he’s on the brink of exciting success.  Ndagwe has a ton of motivation and a comprehensive management plan for sponsoring rabbit projects across his region: projects that will provide youth and their families with income, healthy food, community enrichment, and pleasure – all the reasons why we see the rabbit project is so beneficial in our country.

raising rabbits in africa

Sound fascinating?  You bet it is.  Want to join in?  Now you can!  On March 6 (at 3:00 a.m., my time) I conducted an e-mail interview with Ndagwe to share with you all.  We talked about the details of his project and how we can partner together help it thrive.

Rabbit Raising Developments in Kenya: an E-mail Interview with Ndagwe Okeda of Nairobi

Ellyn E:  To kick us off, could you introduce us to yourself and your project?

Ndagwe Okeda:  I am an organic farming hobbyist who has been gardening since childhood – but as a hobby. I got into rabbit keeping by way of trying seek alternative means of occupation for youth in my village in the year 2010.

Children were more exited with rabbit keeping and I started partnering with their parents to construct cages and I would donate two Does per child. This led to more interest but challenges arose due to safety of the rabbits. Theft and wild animal attacks were more common.

I later relocated to a county near Nairobi in 2012 and introduced the project to the residents mainly the youth who were receptive and are still pushing the project.

EE: What gave you the vision to begin rabbit projects (versus other types of projects)?

By the way, are things with the strike better today?  That definitely sounded challenging.  [Our interview was delayed a day due to a public transportation strike in Nairobi.]

NO: Many issues led me to rabbit keeping. The poverty in our villages, idleness of the youth, lack of employment and lack of good production from our farms. I saw that the rabbit could and  is able to solve these problems that surround us.

The strike has fizzled out, thank you

EE: Was it difficult to find good stock to start out with?

NO: Good stocks are available but expensive. So I have been using what I can afford.

Rabbits + Weeds at Bituyu, Kenya

Rabbits + Weeds at Bituyu Village, Kenya

EE:  If I’m not mistaken, your vision is two-fold: both to help communities in a physical sense by providing a source of income and a sustainable food resource, and to help in a broader sense by building character in teens.  Let’s talk about the first part of that first, even though it’s perhaps the less important side of things.

In a physical sense, what ways does the rabbit benefit the community?  Is it helpful as a source of healthy and renewable food, or as income for families, or both?

NO: It is both. The community believes in hard work just like any other, but you can work hard and not earn enough to sustain yourself. Land is available in smaller and smaller sizes for the average citizen and calls for better production techniques to increase yields. The rabbit easily subsidizes the meat requirements for the family while at the same time providing useful products such as droppings to use as farmyard manure.  There is a growing market for pets as well.

Both the live rabbits can be sold to the next member of the community or on the general market, thus bringing income to the home. The manure can also be sold (the urine too fetched good cash) [as fertilizer].

EE: Oh, neat.  That makes perfect sense — raising rabbits is a way to be more productive with the same amount of work and land.

I know a big part of your mission is to support youth and help them be productive with their time.  This is a cause that rabbit breeders in the US are especially interested in.  Here we have strong youth programs, such as 4-H, to promote leadership skills and purpose in children as they mature.

Can you share a success story, or a moment where you knew the rabbit project was making a positive difference in a child’s life?

NO: One parent took up my idea of the son (11) and daughter (9) keeping rabbits. I constructed one cage and due to the interest of the children in grew to two cages – the girl wanted to have her own. The parents noted that their son had become more responsible – coming home straight from school to make sure the rabbits are fed with the help of his sister. Incidentally his school performance also improved – I am yet to connect this to the rabbit keeping.

The sad part, the bunnies were stolen.

kenyan rabbit breeder

One of Ndagwe’s current project does.

 

EE: So tell us about your current focus with the project.

NO: I introduced the rabbit project to a number of youth groups but I got mixed results.

Below is a sample of the activities;

Group 1 – This is a group of 20 youth who live in a slum (located 7 miles from my home).  Worked with them to get a government loan which they used to build cages and purchase 10 rabbits for breeding.  They worked so well for 6 months then they disagreed and the project has collapsed.

Group 2 – A family project run by their 22 year-old son (located 80 miles from my home).  This project developed from 10 rabbits to now 70 full grown rabbits and 80 kits.   However, the family is now engaged in selling meet due to financial difficulties. They have offered to sell me the rabbits and end the project. I am in the process of looking for funds to purchase them since I have other groups interested in the project.

Group 3 – A church based youth group (located 25 miles from my home).  Very encouraging team of teens who are enthusiastic about rabbitry. They love the  rabbits and are always seeking advice. We constructed a cage for them and they are taking good care of them.

I was almost giving up on introducing families to rabbitry, but Group 3 has made me to work even harder for the spread of this project.  I have incorporated a company (Phelbronn Enterprises)  to carry out this project and there is no stopping now. My current challenge is facilitating training and support since they are mainly unemployed young people.

I have now focused on church based youth groups since these are more stable and have land where they can run the project. I am also discussing with schools to introduce the project to the children for both education and fun.

I am currently using my cages for serving does so that the new members of my project receive does which are already served. I am planning to build more cages for myself since there is also a need for pet rabbits.

[Update: Ndagwe sent an e-mail on 3/27/14 saying,  “I have identified a primary (elementary) school where the management has agreed that we work with the children 2hrs per week to get them interested in rabbits and the value they bring in our life. I plan to use the videos you sent me in 2012 as a starting point. This is an urban community school based on the east of Nairobi city. This is a breakthrough that I am excited about.”

EE: That’s very exciting!  Is there anything more you’d like to share about your company, Phelbronn Enterprises?

NO: Yes. The company is the business end of the activities I am involved in. building cages, procuring rabbits, selling rabbits and my organic farm management activities. Other work like organising youth into groups and registering them with the government, training sessions and knowledge support I do it on a volunteer basis.

Why volunteer? Rabbits are not yet popular in Kenya so I opted to work with the capacity I have.

What are the challenges of raising rabbits in Africa?

EE: Wow, that sounds like a lot of work, on top of the challenges you face with raising the rabbits themselves.  You’ve mentioned theft and wild animal attacks as being the primary difficulties, but having raised rabbits myself, I know there are others.  Part of the project includes growing food for the rabbits, correct?

Cages currently being used in the Nairobi

Cages currently being used in the Nairobi project

NO: Growing rabbit food is easy in Kenya. We do organic farming for the small scale farmers and most of the weeds are food, we subsidize with hay. In the city outskirts we have rabbit pellets which can be used in place of weeds and vegetables.

However, the youth have to be trained on how to make the weeds dry before feeding. sometimes if consistency is not maintained, we lose some. The training is vital in this regard.

[In an earlier e-mail on this topic, before relocating to Nairobi, Ndagwe wrote:

“Initially, we did not have the rabbit project at our youth training center, but the idea came up when we realized that bio-intensive agriculture has a by-product of rabbit friendly weeds. So instead of using these weeds to make our compost, we decided to move them a step further in the food chain.

“WEEDS,  RABBIT FOOD, – RABBIT DROPPINGS, – MANURE, – WEEDS + FOOD FOR THE CENTER

“At the center we have a policy of recycling whatever we can. Wild rabbits have always inhabited our village, hence the name (Bituyu Village), but the concentration is now on farms where organic agriculture is being practiced. This is what gave us the idea to start rearing them.” ]

EE: what about equipment?  If money was no object, are the proper supplies within reach?

NO: What I have been using is OK for subsistence but for a serious venture, I need real solutions. The cages I talked about were what I could afford but I have seen the results of poor equipment and I am almost through with an affordable but robust design which I plan to start producing.

Most of the cage designs available here are for secure environments. Material for construction is readily available.

baby dutch mom

EE: Excellent. If you ever need some feedback I know a number of people here that produce cages.

It sounds like you are making great strides to change the face of rabbit raising in Kenya.  When I see something innovative and beneficial like that going on, I want to know how I can be of support, and I’m sure others feel the same.  In our past conversation, you’ve mentioned sharing information as a way we can help, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.  But first I want to ask if we can be of support financially as well.  You’ve never asked for donations, but I know there is a need for stock, equipment, promotional and educational materials, and there are management costs.

If we wanted to support in that way, what are the primary needs right now?

NO: Africa has always had donations to the Government and NGOs but this money does not reach the needy cause. I set myself to first do my experiments within my community and be a donor/partner and it has given me results to smile about.

The community is more appreciative of a partnership. This has not been done by the many NGOs that bring donor money to our continent. Why am I talking about a partnership – the people I work with first have to appreciate the idea and embrace the project, then they offer suggestions on the way forward holding the vision in mind. I guide them through this and we come to an agreement on implementation. People feel a sense of ownership in this way. They will work better and with more determination.

Where do donations come in? Infrastructure (cages) – these are quite expensive. We could create a revolving fund where each group or school refunds the donation when they sell their produce (SUSTAINABILITY) . The money can then be used to fund other areas.

Training material and facilitation is another area which needs donation but I propose it is done only in the initial phase of the project – later it should become sustainable.

Okay, so let’s talk about Partnership

EE: Ha, I totally agree with you that just handing money to people doesn’t usually help. But I love your vision.  You’re in charge.  Let’s skip the talk about “donations” and talk about a partnership.  Can we be involved in that?  (Such as your revolving fund idea?)

NO: You are welcome with open arms. Since the project is ongoing, we can give it a push with you as partners.

I sent you a request recently because the rabbits that this family want to sell off was my first breed of Californian White and I was intending to purchase them for extension of the project. We have just completed the cages but ran out of cash to purchase the rabbits. This is an ideal case for a donation – but we can also move it into the revolving fund I proposed.

Thanks for the offer to assist us.

EE: Sounds great.  Send me details or ideas on the fund whenever you are ready.  I’m excited to hear that you have the opportunity to work with some Californians, as the photos of rabbits you sent me a while ago looked like mixed breeds.

But for now, let’s talk briefly about training materials.  In the past you’ve mentioned that video is a preferred medium.  Do you still feel that way? Would materials be more accessible on a central training website, or if internet access is spotty, would it be better to distribute them in hard copies such as on an SD card?  Or most likely, both would be best.  I’m brainstorming here.

NO: Internet is OK with me. If we can find them on a webpage the better.

[Update: Ndagwe has found a young man willing to work on developing a training website, which we can help with.]

EE: I’m going to sound terribly ignorant here, but is there a language barrier?  Is English the primary language of the children you work with, or if it’s not their mother-tongue, do they learn it in school so English materials will work for them?

NO: English is our primary language (of course after colonization by the English), Kiswahili is our national language which we use more in conversation than in written communication. The children are OK with it where there is need to interpret we will manage.

kenya rabbit cages

A young man building rabbit cages

EE: Sounds good.  We’ve talked a long time, but I think we’ve covered a lot of ground and I appreciate it.  Let’s stay in touch as we develop these ideas and move forward.

NO: Thank you for that sacrifice of remaining awake so early in the morning. More so the fact that you were awake the previous night as well. Good Day!

Thanks so much, Ndagwe!

So what are the next steps?

I thought my talk with Ndagwe went great.  It gave us tons of good ideas.  But now it’s time to move beyond the talk and get to action.  Are you interested in joining in?  We’ll get more done as a team.

exciting

We need people to:

-Help develop training videos.  Video not only works best in Kenya; it works best here, too.  If you’re interested in producing some tutorial videos about any aspect of raising rabbits, give me a shout.  This could even blossom into a paid position, so e-mail if you’re interested.  Ellyn@rabbitsmarties.com

-Donate for cages and stock.  Donations would be put into the revolving fund Ndagwe mentioned.

-Be available by e-mail to interact with project leaders, sharing about our methods of rabbit keeping when questions arise.  You’d be especially welcomed if you have experience in FFA or 4-H leadership, since Ndagwe’s team is interested in developing something similar.

Pray for the rabbit project in Kenya to be successful and bless many lives.

If you’re interested in any of these things, or have ideas of your own, please e-mail me at Ellyn@RabbitSmarties.com

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Caring for Rabbits in the Winter

November 27, 2013

Can rabbits live outside in the winter?  Absolutely.  But there are a few things you should know about cold-weather rabbit care if you’re going to keep your rabbits outside in sub-freezing temperatures.

Wintery weather in Michigan - snow blowing

This is the view out my window at the moment.  I don’t think I’ll post a “selfie” right now, but if I did, you’d see I’m wearing a scarf.  In the house.  As usual.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving.  I live in northern Michigan, and if we don’t have snow by this time of November, we wonder what’s going on.  Some days I feel like I’d  welcome global warming if that meant I didn’t have to thaw frozen water bottles in November.  This year I was trudging through four inches of snow on my birthday, which was two weeks ago.  We’ve got eight inches on the ground right now.  And we’re sure grateful for our tank full of propane, because we’re burning through it fast.

I always feel for the little critters that live outside this time of year, both the wild animals and my domestic rabbits.  It seems impossible to live in an environment where the temperature doesn’t touch above freezing for weeks at a time, and yet they make it through.  Truth is that rabbits are built to handle winter weather much better than summer heat.  My rabbits often look their best over the winter.  They’re active and eager to see me rather than stretched out panting.  Their coats are dense and not molting.   Bitter cold is fatal for baby rabbits, but adult bunnies can do very well outside in the winter if you know how to care for them.

Care Tips for Pet and Show Rabbits Living Outside in Cold Weather

photo of domestic rabbit playing in the snow

Water matters…as usual.

Water is the most important thing you can provide for your rabbits during the hot summer season.  And guess what?  It’s also the most important thing you can give them in the winter.  If a rabbit doesn’t have water to drink, it won’t eat, and that can lead to G.I. Stasis quickly.  Provide your rabbits with fresh water at least twice a day.  It’s important any time of year, but especially when their water is going to freeze thirty minutes after they get it.

Since water freezes so quickly, it’s important to use the right watering equipment.  I always use plastic crocks in the winter  — no bottles, no glass, and no ceramic.   (EZ crock, I’m your biggest fan.)   Plastic will not crack when it expands, nor be as brittle if you drop it.  I keep two water crocks for each rabbit, so I can alternate between them well letting the frozen crocks melt in the house for twelve hours.  That’s a whole lot better than trying to work the ice cube out of each crock on the spot.

Rabbits will gnaw on the ice in their crocks, and sometimes this creates a hollow big enough that you’re tempted to just top it off with water instead of replace the whole crock.  Don’t do it.  Rabbits deserve a full dish of water which won’t freeze as fast as a little puddle on top of an ice cube.  I’m talking to myself here…

Handling your bunnies matters…as usual.

I’m always talking about how important it is to take your rabbits out on a regular basis and look them over for signs of illness.  This is especially true in the winter.  Feeding rabbits in cold weather can be tricky: you never want to let them get too fat, and yet they burn many more calories when they’re trying to get warm.  You need to watch your individual rabbits closely to make sure they are staying in good shape.  Watch them in their cages to make sure they are eating and moving around normally.  Take them out and feel their spines.  Lack of water will bring out a rough spine quickly, even if the rabbit still looks chubby under its winter coat.  In my experience, a rabbit who is suffering over winter will be very rough over the backbone.

Check your rabbits’ drop trays regularly.  If it stops producing normal-looking droppings, you have a problem and need to act fast.  (Take your rabbit where its warm, force-feed fluids, and keep it moving around, like you would a colicky horse.)  Of course, you won’t be able to know if the droppings have stopped unless you clean your drop trays once or twice a week… so make a point to clean them, even though it’s literally a frozen nightmare to do on a dark, 16-degree evening when you get home from work.

What and how much should you feed rabbits over the winter?

How much should you feed your rabbits over the winter?  Feed whatever will keep them in good condition.  That’s always the rule.  Where I live, the average high temp in January-February  is under 30 and the average low hovers around 11 degrees Fahrenheit.  It’s so cold that I want to make sure my rabbits have all the energy they need, so I full-feed.  (Full feeding means filling up the cups so rabbits have constant access to food.)  If you live in a warmer climate, you may find that your rabbits put on excess weight if you full-feed.  Or you might not.  My feeding program may not work for your rabbits, and yours may not work for mine.  Develop a plan that’s best for your own bunnies.

A lot of breeders feed high energy supplements over the winter, such as calf manna or an oat/barley/sunflower seed mixture.  I’ve never done this myself, but if you’ve got a bunny that’s underweight, those conditioners will help quickly.

Hay is always helpful for rabbits to have, including during winter.

rabbit playing in snow

Should you use electric heating devices?  Nest box warming pads, heated dishes, heat lamps and so on?

I am very, very wary of using electric heating devices around rabbits.  I strongly advise against them.  Firstly because they are unnecessary.  Barring very old and very young ones, rabbits can live outside in sub-freezing temperatures without issue.  (If you’re still not convinced, check out the paragraph on wild rabbits in the winter, below.)

Secondly, I don’t think you should use electric heating devices due to the fire risk.  Heated nest box pads very nearly killed our first two rabbits.  We had the bunnies in a wooden hutch, tucked up to the house so the cords on the heating pads would reach the outlet.  We were very careful to keep the cords out of reach of the bunnies’ teeth.  And yet something caught fire.  I thank God that we saw it from the window in time to rescue the rabbits, but they smelled like smoke for a long time.

In short, I don’t think the benefits of using electric heating devises with your adult rabbits are worth the risk.  If you want to help keep your bunnies warm, give them a nest box stuffed with straw.  Some bunnies will use it and some won’t, but at least it will make you feel like you did something.

What about a climate controlled rabbit barn?

If you plan to heat your whole bunny barn using electricity, that’s a different story.  I do think that can be done safely: I’ve used an electric space heater in the barn without issues.  There are better and worse ways to do it, but that’s a topic we’ll have to cover in another article.  For now, let’s focus on keeping rabbits outdoors.

Breeding rabbits in the winter

Again, this is a topic we should save for another article.  But I want to mention that it is totally possible to have success breeding rabbits in the winter: it’s just harder. Due to the lack of daylight, does will often be less receptive to the buck.  However, if you use an artificial source to make sure she’s got 10-12 hours of daylight, you may be able to trick her body into thinking its spring.  Once you’ve gotten a successful breeding, your biggest challenge will be keeping the babies alive in the cold.  I usually bring the doe into the house or a heated area for a week before and after she kindles.  After that I will leave the kits in the house and bring them out to the doe once or twice a day for feeding, until they are over two weeks old.

wild bunny in hole

Above photo: a wild cottontail peeks out of his hole in our yard, wondering if he should come out yet.

How do the wild rabbits get through the winter?

My family loves to watch the wild animals that live in our yard.  By day we feed the birds, and at night the wild cottontails come out to clean up the seeds that fell under the feeder.  Unlike the ground squirrel and chipmunk that we see in the summer, wild rabbits do not hibernate over the winter.  In fact, we see more wild rabbits when its snowy than at other times of the year.  When they’ve finished the leftover sunflower seeds, they’ll nibble on the raspberry canes that grow outside their holes.  During the day they stay in the shelter of their homes, cuddled up in their thick fuzzy coats.  At dusk they come out and warm themselves with activity, showing off leaps and straight-up vertical springs that no domestic rabbit can match.  I’m not sure how they make it through the winter, and yet somehow they do.  So to celebrate the hardiness of the winter bunny, I’ll leave you with a few sweet pictures of our feeder friends.  Happy winter!

 

bunny at feeder

wild cottontail at bird feeder

rabbit at feed plot

Midnight flashlight photo-op

 blue jay on a stick in winter

blue jay

squirrel

This squirrel is convinced he owns the feeder and everything near it.  He’ll run off the jays without hesitation.

 

Vote in our Winter poll!

[poll id=”6″]

 

If you liked this article, please do me a favor and share it on your favorite networks.  Thanks!

Book on bunny breeding basics

May 9, 2013

How do you breed your rabbits and take good care of the babies?

It’s guest post day!  Let me introduce you to Sarah from Arizona, a long-time breeder who is also a 4-H judge.  She has a new ebook out called “How to Breed a Rabbit” that she’s giving away free on Amazon.com for a limited time.  I’ve had a chance to take a look at it, and I think Sarah did a good job covering the basics that a new breeder must know.  So, since you’ve all heard from me before,  here’s a few words of wisdom from Sarah:

 

how to breed a rabbit bookHow to Breed a Rabbit

by Sarah Martin
Have you been thinking about breeding your rabbits? Want a bundle of cute, furry baby bunnies to call your own? Then read on to discover a quick guide to the basics of rabbit mating.

Before Mating

Before you start breeding rabbits you’ll need to make sure you have a few things covered:
–    Why are you breeding rabbits? Be sure that you are ready to find homes for all the babies that you don’t wish to keep and that you have the time/ energy to care of them.
–    Do you have the equipment? All rabbit moms-to-be will need a nest box to build their nest and give birth in. You’ll also want to have plenty of soft hay in that nest box so she can build her nest.
–    Is your doe  ready to breed? Check the genital area of the female rabbit (doe) that you are going to breed: is it’s a little red and swollen? Her behavior should give you a good indicator too. Is she lifting her tail and stretching out when you touch her back? If so then she is probably ready to breed!

Mating

To mate your rabbits you should always take the doe and place her in the buck’s cage, not the other way around. (Female rabbits can be very territorial of their space.) Then wait for the buck to mount the doe. Once he’s done his thing he’ll fall off her back and you can return the doe to her cage.
Rebreed the pair that same day to increase the chances of pregnancy. A doe releases her eggs after the first mating so this second time around will give you a better chance of conception. I like to rebreed within one to two hours of the first mating.

The Pregnant Doe

Wait until day 28 after you breed your doe and then give her a nest box stuffed with hay. If she’s pregnant then she’ll start building a nest and, by day 29-35, you should have baby rabbits!

Remember that this is a short article on breeding rabbits and if you want to read more details, check out “How to Breed a Rabbit – The Ultimate Guide to Rabbit Breeding, Baby Rabbits and Rabbit Care”.   I’m offering it for free (yes, totally free!) to help spread awareness and offer guidance on rabbit breeding.  You can download your copy from www.Amazon.com any time starting Saturday May 11th – Wednesday May 15th. Just click on the link above or go to www.Amazon.com and search for “How to Breed a Rabbit” (it’s the one written by me, Sarah Martin).

While you’re online please check out our companion website at www.EverythingRabbit.com.   It’s full of great rabbit articles to check out and you can sign up for our awesome newsletter that covers all sorts of bunny news!

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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Free Rabbitry Record Sheets to Download and Print

March 2, 2013

(Scroll down to skip all the chit-chat and get straight to the free downloads.)

What Records should you keep to Raise Rabbits Successfully?

It’s  a fact: if you want to be successful in raising show rabbits, record keeping is vital.  But which ones really matter?

As a teen, I made up all kinds of record sheets for my bunnies.  I had record sheets to track nearly everything: litters, shows, feed economics, health, hereditary traits, rabbits sold, chores accomplished, show quality of developing juniors, you name it.  I had a lot more fun making record sheets than I had filling them out.  In fact, I hardly ever filled out most of them.

rabbit record keeping sheets to download and printEventually I cut the fat out of my record book.  It wasn’t as sophisticated anymore, but I trimmed it down to the records I actually kept and needed.  And I was left with the following:

Pedigrees of course:  (Hint: custom-designed pedigrees are more fun than software-generated ones.)

Rabbits Sold: Write down every bunny sold and who you sold it to.  That way, when someone contacts you about the rabbit they sold them, you’re not sitting there wondering which rabbit they bought.

Income and Expenses:  Not fun, but must be done.

Doe Breeding Cards:  This is important.  Tells you at a glance who was bred to who and when.  Easy reference to look up kits’ birth dates, as well as to keep track of which of your does consistently produce nice offspring.

Show records when Grand Champion Legs are won:  Placements that didn’t win legs became extraneous.  I mean, two years later, do we really care that Chad beat Rocky…AGAIN?

Handy Dandy Calendar:  To doodle on regarding show dates and due dates.

-The Rabbitry Journal:  All my other extraneous records begone, and enter the Journal.  This was the single most helpful record I kept.  Every Sunday I made an entry in the rabbitry journal, just rambling about what happened in the past week.  I made notes on how the breeding program was going, litters born and how they went.  I jotted a recap of shows I went to.  If I was trying out a new feed supplement or had to purchase pellets, I wrote it down.  If a bunny was sneezing, or I suspected one of having fur mites, I wrote it down.  Basically I jotted down any notable events that happened in the past week.  That way I could keep track of how my management practices were evolving and affecting the success of my rabbitry.  If a problem occurred, I could trace it back to where it began and what was happening at the time.

Download Free Printable Rabbit Record Charts

So – here you go.  Record sheets you can download and print for your very own.

To download, right-click either “pdf” or “word” under each icon.  Then click “save link as” if you are using firefox, or “save target as” if you are using IE.

Show Records – I used this one on a rabbitry-wide basis:  I only kept one sheet for the whole rabbitry and noted several rabbits’ placements on it in each show.  But you could print one of these for each rabbit if you prefer.
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD  or PDF

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Doe Production Card
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

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Rabbits Sold / Income Chart
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

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Income Totals by Month/Year
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

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Rabbitry Expenses List
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

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Expenses Totals by Month/Year
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

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The Rabbitry Journal – Design 1
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

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The Rabbitry Journal – Design 2
rabbitry expenses chart
Download: WORD or PDF

If you’re looking for more, Lindsey @ 4Kings Rabbitry has some cool record sheets to download at her site: http://www.4kingsrabbitry.com/rabbitry-documents.html

Printable Pedigree Templates

This one isn’t quite free, but it’s not expensive either.  We’ll design you a fully-custom pedigree with hand-drawn bunnies, then send you a printable Word template that you can fill in with your bunnies’ info and use as often as you like.  Cost is only $20.  Visit this page to learn more.  Sample designs below:

rabbit pedigree design
custom rabbit retro pedigree
pine lionhead rabbit pedigree design

Happy Recording!

New Rabbit Supply website just launched!

We have your rabbit supply needs covered at PremiumRabbits.com!  We’ve got the essentials in cages, carriers, drop trays, cage stands, nest boxes, feeding and watering equipment, as well as valuable accessories such as EZ-mats, harnesses, cage card holders, and much more.  Visit PremiumRabbits.com to see our selection.

 

 

 

Grooming Holland Lop Rabbits – Pets or For Show

May 22, 2012

by Laurie Stroupe.
Grooming Holland Lop Rabbits - Mommy with babiesThe first step to grooming, of course, is to keep a clean cage.  It is important to brush the rabbit cages regularly and remove any fallen hay that will trap fecal matter and make for some really dirty feet.  I think that genetics do play a part here, too.  Some bunnies are just naturally cleaner than others.  When you are brushing cages, you will come to some cages that are a mess (just since yesterday!) and others are sparkling clean after two weeks.

The next step is to remove stains.  I find that peroxide works especially well on feed stains.  I had a buck with such a short muzzle that he couldn’t eat without getting food on his forehead.  Before every show, though, I could get it sparkling clean with peroxide.  I’ve heard of people drying the peroxide with corn starch, but I never had to do that.  I just let it dry naturally and then brushed the fur out.

Bunnies clean themselves daily just like cats do.  Bathing a bunny in water (with or without regular shampoo) can remove its natural oils and will make the fur worse than it was in the beginning.  I use a rinseless shampoo for stains only.  After spraying the stained area with the shampoo, I use a towel to dry and then finish up with brushing.

For rabbits just starting into a molt or those who haven’t been brushed in awhile, nothing beats just rubbing down their bodies repeatedly with slightly damp hands.  Shake the dead fur off your hands occasionally and continue until no more dead hair is being removed.

I also use an antistatic spray from FoxAllen Farm.  It really allows the fur to show at its best.  For longish hair that is flyaway, it is especially helpful.  I just spritz a tiny bit into my hands and rub them almost dry, then backrub the fur.  A bit of brushing and I have a very nice fur! (more…)

Keeping Baby Bunnies Safe – Touch them, keep them warm and dry.

February 13, 2012

I received some questions via email from a breeder who I believe is taking very good care of her first litter of Holland Lops  I thought some of these tips would be helpful to other new rabbit rasiers as well.  As this was originally an e-mail, it’s written in second person.

Touching newborn dwarf rabbit

It's just fine to handle newborn rabbits. Photo by Grace of Happy Farm Bunnies

Will the Mom Kill Baby Holland Lops – or any breed –  if you Touch Them?

It’s a myth that even some wild animals reject their young when people touch them, let alone your rabbit who is very used to human smells, and associates it with food and petting.

It IS important to touch your baby rabbits.  Very important.  There are several reasons.  You need to make sure there are not any dead ones that can contaminate the nest.  You need to see if they are being fed.  You need to make sure none have gone missing.  I’ve had kits crawl out of the box and out of the cage and I found them, still alive, in the drop pan beneath the cage, or somewhere else on the barn floor.   Also, you need to check their bottoms.  Newborns cannot go potty without help.  Usually the doe licks their genitals to stimulate them, but still they can get a blockage.  If caught early, you can clear it away easily.  If it’s not cleared it can lead to a nasty buildup and even infection.

Also, handling your kits from the time they are very little gets them used to human interaction.  This will make them more friendly as adults and better companions.

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12 Unlikely Useful Items in the Rabbitry

January 14, 2012

Be sure to keep these items on hand in the rabbitry…just in case you need them.
Dancing bunny graphic1. Marshmallow Creme. Spread on cage door to distract a chronic cage chewer.  Temporary fix.

2. Surveillance Camera in the Barn. Useful when you forget where you last put the toenail trimmers.

3. Extra storage card. For when it feels you just HAVE to take more video of those sweet little babies…even if you never end up watching it.

4. Standard of Perfection. Um.  Uhh…..  Everybody else has one!

5. Super duty triple-action Fort Knox quality combination lock and chain. To wrap around the cage once you realize that you have your first keeper in nine litters.

6. Metal saw. For when you forget the combination to aforementioned lock.

7. A dish of mints on a table.  Bunnies have no more excuse for bad breath.

8. Brick wall. To forcefully apply one’s head against when you realize you just bought a rabbit with buck teeth.

9. Amazing odor neutralizer: turns bunny smells into the scent of daffodils. Sorry, product no longer available due to manufacturer facing charges of false advertising.

10. Wire snips. For when a kit gets its head stuck in the wire and you have to cut it out.  (This one is serious — it has happened to me!)

11. Air conditioning. For when you have an older junior growing hotter by the day.

12. Bottle of Bubbles. For when a bunny’s sneezing, a doe is nesting on the wire, and you just want to go out and pretend you’re seven years old again to relax.

The Best Weapon Against Rabbit Cage Trays

April 30, 2011

What gets those rabbit cages cleaner than anything else?  What’s more effective than Vanodine, a power washer, or even bleach??  (As a side note…have you ever poured straight chlorine bleach on to an aluminum rabbit drinking dish?  I have.  It’s interesting.)

But what’s the best weapon against dirty rabbit cages?  Motivation, of course.

Belgian Hare Lookin' At YouI was thinking today about motivation, and how it’s not quite the same thing as perseverance.  Sure, they’re both guided by the same thing: vision — but perseverance sounds like the ability to hang on when you’re giving your all in a righteous war; when it’s conquer or be conquered… but motivation isn’t half so romantic.   Motivation just sounds like getting ourselves to stop slacking and do what we know we ought to do do.

All people struggle with staying motivated.  Yes, I mean BOTH kinds of people: the rabbit breeders and the non-rabbit breeders.  But we rabbit breeders find the results of a lack of motivation to be devastating in our herds.  Lost breeding dates, mixed up pedigrees, littermates kept in the same cage so long that they are breeding each other, droppings piled high enough to reach the cage floor… I’m not picking on anybody, because at some point in my history of raising rabbits, I’ve been guilty of all of those things.

Here are some tips that might keep you going in those times when you’re lacking motivation.  *cough* When it’s time to empty trays. *cough*

*Read More!* (more…)

Rabbits in Outdoor Hutches part 2

April 23, 2011

The Story of the Rolling Rabbit Hutch and other Matters

Keeping 4-H Rabbits in Outside Hutches, part II.

[For the rolling hutch story, see tip #8.  For the burning hutch story, see tip #9.]

Click here to see part 1 of this post
6. Put a fence around your rabbit hutch to keep predators out.   A strong wire or wood fence can keep enemies out and bunnies in.

7. Insulate your hutch with straw bales.  Rabbits really do quite well in the cold and don’t need much help keeping warm in the winter, even if the temperatures regularly drop below zero, as long as they are protected from drafts.  However, if you want to insulate your hutch during the winter, one of the best ways to do it is stacking straw bales around the sides and rear of the hutch.  You can even lay them on the roof.  You sometimes see hutches with quilts thrown over them, but quilts get wet, chewed, and moldy very quickly and don’t provide as much insulation as straw.

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Outdoor Hutch Rabbit Care

April 20, 2011

Caring for Outdoor Hutch Rabbits: Ten tips for keeping your rabbits healthy and safe, and for building pet, 4-H, show, and meat rabbit hutches.

Rabbit Hutch Building plan and rabbit cage design

Click for full size

Where do they keep rabbits in France?

In the hutch back of Notre Dame!
…Okay, dumb joke.  But if you are starting in rabbits and want to keep them in the hutch ‘back of your house, here are ten tips that can help them stay safe and healthy.

1.  Use weatherproof materials to build 4-H rabbit hutches.  The legs of your hutch should be of pressure-treated lumber so dampness in the ground won’t rot them as quickly.  However, the upper part of the hutch that supports the cage should not be pressure-treated, because you don’t want your rabbits ingesting the chemicals in the wood.  The sides and roof of your cage will take a beating from the weather, so make the sides and roof of sturdy plywood.  The roof of my first rabbit hutch was particleboard that quickly fell apart.  Even OSB weathers after a while.  If you can shingle the roof that’s great!  You can cut a piece of plastic tarp to go over the roof, but water will seep under it.  Never use chicken wire for rabbit hutch construction.  It may not be strong enough to hold up against the rabbits, let alone any predators.


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