Welcome everyone to our latest blog. I hope to cover a topic that has been on post after post over the last year or so in most of the groups that I follow. That topic is color.
I often see someone post a pic on social media asking "what color is my bunny?" and I tend to think that someone did not do their homework concerning that particular breed. Now please do not misunderstand me. I am not "hating" on anyone as the vernacular of the day implies. I am simply stating the obvious.
This becomes especially obvious when it applies to the New Zealand bunny. To date, there are only 5 recognized colors of the breed. They are white, red, black, blue and broken. There are no more. That's it. You can call a bunny anything you want but until it is recognized by the ARBA it cannot and will not be an official color.
I have several books in my possession that I use on a day to day basis for guidance and, as most of you know, I am not afraid to ask another breeder his or her opinion on a particular topic but as it relates to color there is never any need.
I will use the above picture as an example (one of my latest litters) of what I typically see when someone is trying to find out the color of their bunny. In that pic, only the 2 whites and the blue doe can truly meet the standard requirement as it relates to color.
The red bunny on the left that looks like it has been spray painted is very similar to a post I saw just a few weeks ago asking about color. While it is certainly "cute" there is no color that can be applied to it.
The three visible "black" bunnies also do not meet the standard because they are not solid black. That is not to say that there is no use in our rabbitry for such critters. They will make excellent pets for someone or perhaps could fit very well into someone's homestead as meat producers.
As a breeder it is our job to know, at the very minimum, what the breed is supposed to look like in relation to color. It is the simplest of all the things that we should show.
I have affectionately named the above pictured litter the "rainbow litter" because it has such a broad range of colors. These are healthy bunnies and are all doing well but if you were to inquire about purchasing a red, blue, or black bunny to breed for possible show quality and all I had available was this particular litter I would have to tell you that I did not have anything. Some people, though unintentional, would tell you that they had 1 red and at least 3 blacks in this litter but, not only would that be unfair to the potential buyer, it would also be untrue.
Any reputable breeder will be upfront and honest with you and that has to begin with the easiest of all things to know - the color. So to all that are currently doing the right things, I salute you. To all the rest, please stop feeding us rainbow stew.
It has been a little longer than usual since my last blog but we have been traveling and upon our return have been super busy. We are in the middle of expanding our facilities which requires a lot of thought and hard work. We will update you on that later.
Today I want to discuss a topic that has been on my mind for quite some time and it affects every breeder in some form or another - the pedigree.
I have purchased many bunnies over the years, some with pedigrees and some without, and oftentimes I find that there was not a distinct advantage either way. Before you get too upset over that statement let me explain.
In my opinion, an incomplete pedigree is just as bad as not having one at all. There are several pieces of valuable information that should be on a pedigree but the one piece that is most of the time missing is the weight of the animal. It is such an easy thing to do and yet, after all these years, I have failed to see a single pedigree that was complete in regards to weight. Not a single one...ever. That is a lot of years and a lot of pedigrees.
If you are a breeder, whether it be for show or meat, I believe that you need to know the weight of the ancestors to at least have some idea if the line has a propensity for good growth. I see a lot of ear numbers on pedigrees which tells me that someone took time to tattoo these animals, when on a scale of importance as related to weight, does not even register.
If you are starting to think I have lost my mind today, just take a look at the number of inquiries in various Facebook groups asking about the growth rate of bunnies. They want to know that the bunny will reach a good weight at a specific age. Let's say that I just bought two bunnies in hopes of breeding them. They both have pedigrees but the weight is missing on nearly every animal. How can I, in good conscience, tell the prospective buyer that this pairing is going to produce the adequate weight when I have little or no information on the pedigree to even guess at it? All I can do is give the generic answer that we all know which is NOT what the buyer wants to hear.
As a breeder it is vitally important that we breed in such a way to meet or exceed the standard in every way and while most all are only focused on color, the weight of the animal should not be excluded. It is every bit as important, if not more, than anything else on the pedigree so please, if you are a breeder, take time to put the critter on a set of scales. I think you will find that it will help you as well.
Do not let the title of this blog fool you. You may very well find yourself using that phrase over and over again when trying to decide which bunny stays and which one goes. It can become quite difficult to decide, even for me.
It is very easy to become attached to a specific bunny and not want it to leave but unless you are planning on building a warehouse and have a never ending supply of both money and feed it is not very practical. One of the things that I oftentimes find odd is that sellers expect you to keep "their" bunny forever and never get rid of it. That is like selling someone a car and then telling them where and when they can drive it. I will admit that I have my "favorites" who will probably never leave purely for sentimental reasons but I am no fool.
I would much rather see a rabbit go to another breeder when it can still be of some use to their program than to hang on to it until it no longer benefits anyone. I am very adamant about preserving specific bloodlines as in the case of my original blue whose line continues to be very dominant. I do not, however, have to keep every kit from the line to do so. I do so love seeing all the new little ones but I know that most, if not all, of them will have to say their goodbyes as we make room for others along the way.
So how do I decide whether to keep any new kits? It is a simple matter that can be answered with a few questions:
1. Did I get the colors I was expecting from the pairing?
This may not seem like much of a big deal but it is important that if I bred two reds
that I get reds, not some unrecognizable color.
2. Do any of the kits "stand out" in comparison to the rest of the litter?
Is one clearly larger than the rest or is one's color more uniform?
3. Is the "stand out" a buck or a doe?
What does your breeding program need from this pairing?
These are the first three questions that I normally ask myself when making a selection. Though there are a lot of variables to consider as well these are the basics.
It sounds a lot better than eenie, meenie, miney moe, one of you has got to go. lol
Well, the wait is finally over! I am pleased to announce that we have 2 new litters over here. One is a red/broken red litter and the other is a blue/broken blue litter. In my last blog I wrote that we were expecting 3 litters but our white doe, Clara Belle, did not take. It was her first breeding and we were not at all concerned that she did not have any kits. We also had another litter from our very experienced black doe, Darcy, but she decided to have them on the wire for the first time ever and we were not home to catch it in time so, of course, we lost them.
I wanted to share both our successes and our losses with you to show that it even happens to those of us who have been doing this a long time. Even with all the planning we are really at the mercy of the does but we still do all the necessary things to get ready.
These things happen from time to time and we choose not to lose sleep over it. We continue on with the program as if nothing happened. To do anything else would not make us very successful. We are constantly "studying" our stock and trying to learn their behavior in hopes that we can better prepare for the future but there are no "fool-proof" guarantees.
We have simply learned to try to adapt and overcome. I hope you guys are getting something from these blogs. Drop us a line and let us know. Until next time....
Today I began making preparations for 3 litters that are scheduled to be born on January 17th. In doing so, I wanted to share what we do to get ready for that much anticipated day.
We begin by preparing the nestbox itself. While there are many different options when choosing a nestbox, from plastic buckets and cardboard boxes to the store bought options from your local feed store on online shop, we choose to build our own boxes. We use 3/4" plywood for our boxes and they are put together with screws. We keep several on-hand but we also have precut patterns should we find ourselves in a bind and have to build one pretty quick. Trust me, at some point you will forget to do the bunny math and find yourself a box short so it is best to plan ahead. Some folks frown on using wooden boxes but I feel that as long as they are cleaned and disinfected after each use they are perfectly fine. Cleanliness should always be a top priority regardless of what type of box you use.
The bottom of our box is lined with cardboard for easy cleaning when it is time to remove the box and if mom happens to chew it up it is no biggie. We then place 1 to 2 inches of pine shavings on top of that for added cushion and to help keep heat in the box. That is followed up by a layer of hay. We also place a substantial amount of hay in the cage with mom for her to use as she sees fit. If she begins to use it for the box it is a sure bet she is definitely ready to kindle.
When placing the nestbox in the cage be sure to consider where best to put it. Do not place it on the side that mom has chosen for her bathroom as this may lead to a very dirty box well before the kits are scheduled to arrive.
I also try to position the box in such a way that I can "observe" activity inside the box without having to get too hands-on. Remember, that we see with our eyes and not with our hands. The most I will do once the kits have delivered and mom is out of the box is to do a quick count just by feeling around in the box. As tempted as I am to want to see the color, I usually wait at least one day before further invading mom's space, especially if she is a first-time mom. She does not know what to expect from me and I do not know what to expect from her. I am a little more confident with my experienced moms but I tend to give first-timers their space.
At any rate try to keep mom as comfortable and as calm as possible. She is about to work very hard for you and you should do everything you can to make sure is treated very well.
That is all for now. See ya in about 3 days...
In Part 1 of this topic we discussed where to acquire breeding stock. Now let's talk about what factors should be considered when selecting your stock. I prefer to think of it in a lot of ways like purchasing a new vehicle. First, you decide on a brand. In this case, our brand in the New Zealand which is now considered the number one meat breed in the country and quite versatile.
The next thing we decide is color. Do we want red, blue, black, white or broken? Maybe you just want to focus on one color when getting started until you get a better understanding of how it all works. One mistake I see with newcomers is trying to do too much too fast and then they become overwhelmed. This usually leads to frustration and discouragement and they get out before they have barely gotten started. If you decide, however, to go all out and start several color lines then, by all means, be my guest. Of course, you are probably going to need a crash course in color genetics.
After you have settled on a color, next comes body style. For a better understanding on that subject I would suggest you obtain a copy of the ARBA Standard of Perfection. You can order a paper copy or you can download a digital copy onto your device. You might also want to, again, talk to some experienced breeders and attend a few shows so you can get a clearer picture of what is desired. Some of you may be thinking that you only want to breed for meat purposes so why would it matter what the bunny looks like. I personally think that it is especially important if your purpose is meat. When you go to the store for meat, do you pick just any old cut of beef or do you sort through each pack until you get what you consider to be the best looking piece for the price and take it home to feed your family? I think the answer is clear. We all want the best quality we can get for a reasonable price. At any rate the goal should be to produce good quality stock no matter what the intended purpose might be.
Well, it finally happened. We received snow, and only snow, here at the rabbitry. That may not seem like a big deal to some but for those of us here in eastern North Carolina it is pretty remarkable when we actually get a measurable amount of snow and it is not accompanied by sleet or freezing rain.
We spent the last couple of days trying to get ready for the blizzard of 2018...lol which was only about 2 to 4 inches of snow. We have 2 barns here at the rabbitry but we noticed that one was significantly warmer than the other. This is probably due to location and design. Since we had recently sold all of our available bunnies and had more room than normal we elected to move all of our bucks into the doe barn where it is warmer. You can imagine the excitement that created when bucks who had never had any interaction were placed side by side for the very first time. It was a fun scene! The rest of our time was spent filling cracks and stuffing holes to stop any drafts we found. I have learned that feed bags serve more and more purposes everyday. I am very happy and somewhat relieved to say that the "warmer" barn never dropped below freezing which meant no frozen bottles or crocks and no hauling water from the house. I call that a win!!
I get asked often about the breeding process so I decided to take a minute and share my thoughts on the subject.
I see a lot of people that get involved in raising rabbits thinking that it will be a cake walk and there will be no difficulties because, after all, we all know that they "breed like rabbits". While this may be true to some extent when rabbits are in the wild, the same cannot be said when raising them in a controlled environment. We have to consider a host of things before even beginning to breed such as temperature, location, time of day (or night), spacing, and even their feedings. I have even read articles on considering the phases of the moon when breeding (maybe more on that later).
I think the number one thing to consider when starting a breeding program for any animal should be its source. Where did it come from? Does it have a proven ancestry? I find it always best to start with an established breeder, one who is knowledgeable and willing to help you get started on the right path and, above all else, honest. This may include driving several hours to acquire or you might be fortunate to have someone right down the street. Is that to say you cannot buy a rabbit at the local auction barn and produce rabbits? Of course not, but I highly doubt that you will know anything about that bunny except its color and the price you paid for it. I have had a number of conversations with newcomers that always start with "well, they told me it was a New Zealand" or "it is white with pink eyes" so it must be a New Zealand. I generally ask the person if they know what a Californian/New Zealand cross looks like or what a Florida White looks like. They are usually astonished to find that they can, and oftentimes do, look exactly like a purebred New Zealand but we all know that looks can be deceiving. I can say, as a breeder, that if I were to take bunnies to the auction barn they would definitely not be what I considered high quality. It would simply be a way of discarding what I either could not sell or just did not meet the standards for the breed. The other reason for buying from an established breeder is the wealth of information they can provide to you. I personally know that if it had not been for my mentors I would not be nearly as successful as we have been over the years. One thing I know for sure is that "Google" has never raised or bred a single rabbit.