Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Digestive Issues

With a rabbits extremely delicate digestive system, a common problem that plagues pet owners and breeders alike is digestive issues. If a rabbit stops eating for over 24 hours, death can quickly ensue. So it is important to figure out what is going on with your rabbit and how to fix it before the digestive system stops completely, which is called GI Stasis, or Gastrointestinal Stasis.

The first step is to answer a few questions. Is the rabbit producing excessive amounts of manure? Is the rabbit not produces fecal matter at all? Does the rabbit have soft or runny poo? Does the fecal matter have lots of hair in it?

Excessive amounts of manure or soft/runny poo indicates diarrhea. If you determine your rabbit has diarrhea, remove all pellets and free feed as much hay as your rabbit will eat. Make sure your rabbit is drinking. I also give the rabbit BeneBac or ProBios, which is a probiotic containing beneficial bacteria that helps a rabbit with digestive issues. Dandelions often help with the process of eliminating runny poo as well. If your rabbit's symptoms become severe enough you may have to take your rabbit to the vet. Diarrhea is often caused by a diet high in sugar, energy, carbs, and too low in fiber. Keep that in mind to prevent further incidents if you feed a low fiber, high sugar/carbohydrate diet.

If the rabbit is not producing any fecal matter, it likely has GI Stasis. Symptoms of GI Stasis are: little to no fecal matter, lethargy, sitting in a hunched over position, diarrhea, no gut sounds, and refusal to eat for more than 12 hours. Infant gas drops (simethicone) are helpful, because the rabbit may have gas, which extra hay and BeneBac won't help. A rabbit with gas can also be in severe pain; so nothing will help until you get rid of gas. Pedialyte (administered via syringe) will help hydrate a rabbit. I use one cup clean water, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/8 teaspoon salt. If the rabbit isn't eating either, I will add pellets, vegetable baby food, or canned pumpkin and syringe feed the rabbit. Fresh herbs, such as raspberry leaves, parsley, thyme, etc., can tempt a rabbit to begin eating as well.

Using the above suggestions, I have saved 9 out of 10 rabbits that suffered from digestive issues. But obviously, if you cannot provide the solution and your rabbit is not getting better, it is best to take your rabbit to the vet, or put it down humanely. It is our job as pet owners to make sure our pets are happy and healthy.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Hardest Part of Being a Rabbit Breeder

The hobby of rabbit breeding is complex, fun, challenging, annoying, hilarious, and wonderful all at the same time. Trekking outside to do chores in below-zero weather and in 100 degree plus weather isn't always fun. Then there's the magic of visiting the rabbitry at 7 a.m. to find a healthy litter of kits.

But from the newbie's perspective, a question that often begs to be answered is: What's the hardest part of being a rabbit breeder?

I think the hardest part is the decision-making. It's hard to make those logical decisions with your head when your heart begs to be the final contributing factor. It's hard to make the decision of who to keep and who to sell. It's hard to make the decision of whether or not to stay in a breed you can't keep up with. That's where I am now. Mini Lops are an extremely popular breed, especially in my neck of the woods. And I just can't keep up with those breeders who have 30 holes and are producing an average of 10 or so litters. I produce a maximum of 3 litters a year. I can only keep one breeding pair, or maybe a trio. I don't have it in the budget to expand, nor do I have the space.

So even though  I do enjoy Mini Lops, I've decided that it's probably more worth it for me to focus on my other breed, which has also become my favorite; Jersey Woolies. This way I will have more cage space to refine my lines with the Jersey Woolies, and I feel that in the long run this will be the best decision. But it was hard. Because this means I'm selling out of Mini Lops. I've decided to keep my breeding pair, Newt and Hemingway, because they're both still actively showing, but I'm selling all of my juniors.

When you have to make a decision that affects your entire rabbit raising hobby, sometimes you wish you hadn't chosen rabbits.

Another hard issue in rabbit raising is ethics. Nobody wants to put a rabbit down. But when it's suffering, you have to have a quick, humane way to ease its suffering, or I firmly believe you shouldn't be raising rabbits. Sure, you don't have any culls now, but you will in the future. It's also hard to make the decision of an open or closed rabbitry. Open rabbitries provide more resources for your buyer to come and visit and see the conditions in which your rabbits are raised, as well as view the parents of the rabbit being sold. But open rabbitries also run a very high risk of illness; people carry germs when they enter your rabbitry, which pass on to your rabbits. The same rabbits you have spent so much money and effort on can so easily be destroyed with a hefty dose of ignorance. For this reason, many breeders have resorted to a closed rabbitry, where rabbits that are for sale are separated from the herd and viewed in a different location. This not only provides peace of mind for you, it also prevents potential problems.

I like to call our rabbitry semi-open. I will allow buyers near my rabbitry upon request, but I generally do not. For instance, if it's a pet buyer, I usually just set up an exercise pen in my front yard away from the rabbits, and put the rabbit or rabbits the buyer wants to view in the pen. For show or breeding buyers, however, I tend to bring them back to the rabbitry. This way I won't have a pet buyer commenting stuff like, "Isn't that cage a little small?" "Oh, they're all alone, poor things." "Why do you have them  outside?" and so on. A breeder will mainly be concerned as to whether they all have food and water, whether the facility is clean, whether the rabbits have a chew toy to wear down teeth properly, whether the rabbits have sufficient entertainment to keep them happy, and whether the rabbit is in good condition (healthy weight, no sign of illness, trimmed nails, friendly disposition, no DQs).

The hardships of raising rabbits aside; as long as you have formulated a logical, well thought-out plan for all aspects of your rabbitry, you can lie back and relax, free to simply enjoy the fuzzy little hoppers that have stolen our hearts so completely.

Happy Hopping!
-Joanna

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Rabbits

Hey! I realized I've done a lot of informational posts, but not a lot of fun ones. So this post will be an update about my rabbitry. (Containing pictures of course 😉) 

Things are certainly hoppin' at my place right now. I have a litter of four Mini Lop babies recently weaned, six weeks old. (Anybody want a bunny?) I have a litter of EIGHT for my first time Mini Lop mom! Technically she had nine, but I had a really really tiny kit that died. It was less than half the size of its smallest sibling. The other super tiny one survived though. Anyway, they're doing good. I have four brokens in that litter one lilac? and three black otter/silver marten??? babies. We have a Mini Satin first time mom haystacheing and due any day, and a Jersey Wooly veteran (6 litters, all survived and cared for) mom due Monday. We built a rabbit hutch, went to a few shows, updated our supplies, and switched to a different feed that's working MUCH better.

SO here's a few pictures of my six week old Mini Lop litter. Three bucks and a doe I think.





And here's a picture I doctored up a bit. 


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Astrex Mutation in Rabbits

Hey guys! It's been a while since I last posted. Life has been busy.
On to my topic. I recently happened upon a post on a rabbit forum I frequent, talking about a random astrex baby that popped up in a litter of meat mutts. I had no idea astrex rabbits existed, but they do, and the mutation is quite fascinating.

Astrex is a mutation found in rex furred rabbits. They are basically rabbits with curly/wavy fur. An unpredictable mutation, some rabbits with astrex fur molt it out and some retain their curly fur throughout their life span.

Astrex fur is supposed to be an autosomal monogenic recessive, which means non sex chromosome linked and a one gene recessive. To be honest... I don't know what that means. 😂 A true Astrex rabbit will carry the double recessive gene for wave which will produce curly rex fur over the head, face, chest, back, sides, belly and hips.

Anyway, the genetics for astrex fur is pretty veiled. We don't really know exactly how they get this gene or how/if it will be passed down to an astrex rabbit's kits. It varies quite a bit. Usually, it helps to find the curliest astrex out of a litter and breed it back to its parent. Continuing to do this may result in litters full of astrex.

However, their are some health concerns, as with most mutations. In some rabbits, the fur on the feet is too thin, causing sore hocks, which sometimes never goes away if the fur is too thin. Entropion, a condition where the eyelids turn inward, can also be found in astrex rabbits.

That is all I could find out right now about astrex. I enjoy learning about genetics, although I'm not very good with them. If you would like to find out more, you can surf the internet for information.

Happy hopping!
-Joanna.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tips for Beginning Rabbit Raisers

I contemplated waiting to publish this article, seeing as I've barely begun raising rabbits myself, but I have learned a lot and made quite a few mistakes since I started nearly four years ago.

Mistake #1: For our first rabbits, we decided to browse craigslist and find some cute $10 bunnies. (Yes, I know. Yikes.) Fast forward to a bunny-filled garage. The people didn't know who the father was, and couldn't sex the babies properly. They simply grabbed two rabbits and plopped them in our arms. I received Willow the baby Dutch bunny and Jordan received Denali, also a baby Dutch.
Mistake #2: The rabbits were only 6 weeks old. Fortunately, we dodged a bullet; nothing went wrong.
Mistake #3: We put both adolescent rabbits in a hutch together. We were lucky and when puberty hit, nothing happened but a bit of missing hair.
Mistake #4: Once both rabbits reached adulthood, we noticed they were getting a little too friendly. Yep, you guessed it. Willow and Denali were actually doe and buck.

You may be wondering, what is so bad about all the mistakes written above? Well, to begin with, if you want to raise show rabbits, you should not buy the first cute $10 bunnies you see. You should research the breed you want, find a breeder, ask lots of questions, hopefully attend a rabbit show, and purchase a pedigreed, show quality rabbit. This rabbit should also be at least 8 weeks old; any younger age really is too young. Learn how to sex rabbits or take along a reliable friend who can before you look at the rabbits. Preferably, get a second opinion. Don't house two rabbits in the same cage. They may get along initially, but after young rabbits go through puberty many fight with each other. To me and many other breeders I've talked to, it is simply not worth the risk. Additionally, you obviously shouldn't house male and female rabbits together.

So what is the proper way to go about purchasing rabbits?

First of all, decide what breed you would like to buy. Would you prefer a small, medium, or large sized rabbit? Lop ears or regular, upright ears? Rex, wool, normal, or satin fur? Do you want to raise pet rabbits, meat rabbits, show rabbits, or even rabbits for fur? The ARBA Standard of Perfection lists all recognized rabbit breeds, or you can go to www.arba.net to view all recognized breeds. I highly suggest going to a rabbit show, looking at the rabbits, talking to breeders and judges. Once you've decided on your breed, find a reputable breeder. If you want to breed rabbits, purchasing a breeding trio of two does and one buck is often the best way to go. Before you buy the rabbits, look them over carefully. Check their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, feet, legs, belly, gender, tail, fur condition, and flesh quality. A healthy rabbit's eyes will be bright, ears will be clear, nose will be free of snot, teeth should be structurally sound(no malocclusion, butting, or overgrown teeth), feet should be well furred with no sores and all toenails(four nails on rear feet, five on front), legs should be straight, belly should have no sores or abscesses, genital area should have no sores or abscesses, tail should be carried straight; watch out for wry tail, dead tail, or broken tail. Finally, the fur should be clean and relatively stain free with a healthy luster.  (Unless the rabbit is molting) The rabbit should be of appropriate weight and flesh condition. When you feel the spine, the vertebrae should feel like gentle bumps, not bony spikes. Make sure the rabbit is of the appropriate weight for the breed and has no disqualifications either for its breed or in general.

As you breed your rabbits, one important thing to remember is, Keep the best and cull the rest. To cull means to remove a rabbit from your herd. Evaluating your rabbits is something that takes some time to master but is very important. If one rabbit doesn't follow the standard as well as others or simply doesn't follow the standard at all, cull it. I think it is best to get a second opinion when evaluating, even if you know what to look for. A fresh pair of eyes almost always helps.

This is all I can think of right now, but I will add more tips to this post as I go. Good luck with your rabbit raising adventure!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

WARNING: ALL RABBIT BREEDERS

I have an important announcement to make. Recently I went to a rabbit show, and it was a lot of fun. BUT really, a rabbit show is fraught with danger. Here's a list of things to watch out for.

  1. Cute bunnies. This is the most dangerous problem of all. SO MANY FLUFFIES! You will NOT be able to walk away. Resistance is futile. (I almost bought 3 rabbits that I had ABSOLUTELY no use for. I even tried to justify buying them 😂)
  2. Nice people. If I had stopped to chat with every nice breeder there, I would have been gone all day! 
  3. Bunny Supplies. TOO MUCH USEFUL STUFF. I bought a pedigree book, a nest box, rabbit carrier latches, a Standard of Perfection, and almost bought approximately 30,000 other items. 
  4. DID I MENTION THE BUNNIES???
Bottom line, is unless you want to leave with exactly ZERO DOLLARS in your wallet, don't go to a rabbit show.

(Actually what I'm saying here, is go to a rabbit show, have fun and buy ALL DA BUNNIES)

There ain't no such thing as too many rabbits. 

Diseases: Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a disease caused by the myxoma virus that affects rabbits. Myxomatosis causes skin tumors and sometimes blindness, followed by fatigue and fever. Affected rabbits usually die within 14 days of contracting the disease. Myxomatosis is spread by direct contact with an affected rabbit or by being bitten by fleas or mosquitoes that have fed on an affected rabbit. There is no treatment for rabbits suffering from myxomatosis and it is best to euthanize the rabbit to end its suffering. However, myxomatosis can be prevented by an annual vaccine.