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New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Ferra » Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:49 pm


Hello!

I'm just getting started with my first little rabbitry. I've got a breeding trio, in a stacked caging system with trays, in a shed behind our house. They're still growing up, the does are ~4 months, the buck is ~6 months. I'm primarily going to be breeding for meat and pelts (for my own use only), but might expand someday into pure-bred stock. (I like Satin and French Angoras, but Silver Fox also caught my eye.)

I was originally looking into starting a dual-purpose Angora and meat rabbitry: I've been hand-spinning and weaving for well over 7 years now, so having my own fibre-herd was appealing. But in the research phase I hit a snag; I couldn't find anyone locally breeding French or Satin Angoras. I had one local lady with a pair that, after inquiring, I was told was too closely related to consider as breeding stock. Given that and a few other points about that keeper which came up in conversation, I decided it was best not to purchase her stock, and had to look elsewhere.

So I asked a wider selection of breeders across Canada, and found some really nice Angora rabbits... but they would all need to be air-shipped to me, which is rather costly. While discussing this with my husband, (eg, the cost-discussion either of us tend to have before a big hobby purchase), he persuaded me not to start with $500 per pair, including shipping rabbits, as I'd never kept any rabbits before. He was deeply concerned that with my inexperience, and the stress of shipping, I might just pay $500 for rabbits that would die on me in the first month. He suggested caring for and breeding some "meat" (i.e. non-pedigreed, "cheap") rabbits first, and if that went well, move into the Angoras later. (Retrospectively, this could have been a good way for me to end up with sick, unthrifty rabbits, but I seem to have come out alright in the end. I might not recommend this approach to another newcomer to rabbits, but I thankfully ended up buying from an excellent rabbit-rancher).

So I started looking around locally and found a breeder to the north of me who was friendly and well informed (We sat around chatting rabbits after my purchase, where she pointed me at this site, so she may be lurking or might even be a member, I don't know. If so, Hi Heather!). She's focused on meat production and rears meat-mutt rabbits while subscribing to the "cull hard" philosophy rabbit rearing. She had a diverse group of rabbits, some of whom were bred on farm and some were auction buys.

I guess somewhat conveniently for me she'd bought a buck at auction who was listed an an "Argent Brun", but he'd started to throw some occasional VERY fluffy kits. Fluffy wasn't part of her breeding goals, so that buck went. But I arrived in time to snag two of his daughters as my starter does. They're half sisters, and both look like they might have inherited some Lionhead from their father somehow? (In theory, though, he shouldn't have been able to pass for an Argent Brun then... I was pretty sure the Lionhead gene was dominant. I'm still not completely sure how this works and where the insane fluffyness came from in their mysterious lineage.)

So this is the stock I'm starting with for my rabbitry.

Onyx: "Argent Brun" sire. Mom apparently raised two litters of 9 and 11 without losing kits. Mom was sleek, silky and had a black otter coloration. Her mom is apparently of Satin x Californian origin? When I bought onyx, she was a little ball of fluff at 5 weeks old. (the photo is well after that point, though :) ) She seems to be a black-otter like her mom. Under the fluff-mane, she has the tell-tale tawny patch on her neck.

Onyx.jpg
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Mithril: Same "Argent Brun" sire. Her mom was exceptionally fluffy, but earned an exemption from freezer camp for milk-fostering a litter of orphan kits while successfully raising her own litter of 9 kits as well. Mom was predominantly white with a couple black spots, (?broken pattern), and is of unknown heritage. I think she may have come from auction around the same time as the sire. Mithril was about 7 weeks when I took her home. She's going walk-about in the photo, and is just post-haircut, and so looks much sleeker than normal.

Mithril.png
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I was also told when I arrived at Heather's farm that she had just the buck for me: One of the NZW bucks they had in the shed, just about to head off to freezer-camp, was abberantly friendly. All the rest would scatter when someone entered the shed and he'd just hop right up to your feet and sit there, waiting for something tasty. I took him home, and he's warmed up to me thoroughly. He's learned how to open his inward-swinging cage door, taken to begging for head-pats, and is pretty fearless comparatively speaking. He's won me over, as originally I wasn't taken with REW in general, but his personality is fantastic. He was named Dolomite, and was 4 months old at purchase.

Dolomite.jpg
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So everyone's been growing well, the two girls were putting on 1/2lb a week for a while there, and my buck just reached 8lbs now, at just before 6 months old. Everyone's been really healthy, except for an instance of weepy-eye for each of the does that resolved itself in a day or two (I think they were getting hay from their rack in their eye, perhaps?). For now, I'm just going to keep growing the ladies out, and giving them ridiculous looking haircuts as necessary, but plan to start breeding sometime between January and February this year, when the does reach between 5 and 7 months.

I'm getting very small quantities of faux-angora off my does, which is nice and has made a fantastic yarn when blended with alpaca. They're certainly no angoras, but at least I'm getting some wool harvest. Hopefully I will get a reasonable output of meat and hides (for tanning) come early 2017. And if nothing else, my houseplants could not be happier. My rabbits may have saved my little coffee tree, who is now back from the brink of death due to an infusion of bunny-berries.

I agreed to let myself make pets out of my breeders, so these little guys get to play in the shed with me, and get the odd treat-foods, and some grooming/petting time in. I've found them quite enjoyable, even while they're still a bit too young/small for breeding, so that's been lovely. My only issue for now is that I built my caging stack a bit too deep for my short stature, so picking my rabbits up out of their cage securely has been challenging. Though it's a bit easier when I cover the rabbit with a towel first, move it to the front of the cage, and then lift. That process seems less stressful for everyone involved, and leads to less suspicious looking wrist gouges on me.

I also built them a ridiculous winter-watering system that I posted over in the DIY area. It's a bit of a monstrosity, but I was trying to see if I could make a watering system that could keep at least some water ice-free, even if hell froze over, which it sometimes does in Western Canda. :D

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#2  Unread postby KenoshaRabbits » Fri Nov 18, 2016 11:34 pm


Welcome. Sounds like you are off to a great start.
By the way, I love the names Dolomite and Mithril. Those are some strong names.

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#3  Unread postby Marinea » Sat Nov 19, 2016 12:38 am


Welcome!
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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Nymphadora » Sat Nov 19, 2016 12:08 pm


Welcome! I hope to have as fortuitous a start in rabbits as you one day! :D
The names you choose are fantastic, by the way :)

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#5  Unread postby SixGun » Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:50 pm


So glad you're here.

I'm a French Angora lover as well and had to search high and low to get my little rabbit escapade started.

You've made some good decisions. Welcome to the illness.

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Ferra » Sat Nov 19, 2016 4:13 pm


*laughs*. Thanks everyone! This forum was a fantastic place to lurk for info, so I at least had some good info going into this little project.

I am a little surprised that everyone's enjoying the names! I thought it was a bit of a cop-out naming them after their fur colors. (Picked rocks or minerals, real or fictional, the same color as the rabbit in question. If I ever get a supremely fantastic, hold back kit I just might name it Unobtanium for kicks.)

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Nymphadora » Sat Nov 19, 2016 5:14 pm


Ferra wrote: If I ever get a supremely fantastic, hold back kit I just might name it Unobtanium for kicks.)


Please do! And then tell everyone it's not for sale and watch them figure it out :lol:

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#8  Unread postby SixGun » Sun Nov 20, 2016 6:55 pm


Nymphadora wrote:
Ferra wrote: If I ever get a supremely fantastic, hold back kit I just might name it Unobtanium for kicks.)


Please do! And then tell everyone it's not for sale and watch them figure it out :lol:



Yes Yes Yes!!!

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Ferra » Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:14 pm


Well, I might end up naming kits sooner than I thought...

The short version of my story is that my elder doe, Mithril, volunteered for breeding today. (got out of her cage while my buck was taking his exercise in the shed. Apparently ALL my rabbits are learning how "pull" doors work, and I can't get away with half-latching cages anymore... *grump-grump*)

I figured since I was there to break up any fighting, and she had a clear line to flee back to the safely of her cage (bottom cage in the stack), that I'd see what happened. I'd assumed she'd just run back into her cage immediately, as she's done that in the past any time she's displeased or frightened, but she actually seemed determined to rendevous. I guess this makes sense, given her behavior lately. She'd been chinning anything my buck was near during "exercise hour" for the past week or so, and had some colorful anatomy at toenail clipping earlier in the week.

My buck was willing to indulge her, but kept getting confused about which end of the rabbit he was supposed to climb up on. Thankfully, she was patient with him, and no one was injured. I considered breaking it up at that point, as I had some concerns about her getting annoyed and inflicting wounds on him, but it didn't come to that, thankfully. She hopped back into her cage after about 3 normal, right-side attempts with him, lifted for him and everything. He made about 5 other "wrong side" attempts, which she mostly took in good humor. Which I guess isn't too bad for a pair of first-timers either.

So I may, or may not, have kits just before Christmas... I'm looking at it from the angle that if I do have kits, and also assuming any live, that's a bit of a bonus. I was planning on deferring breeding until about 1-2 months from now, but if my doe has other plans, well, I'll just play along. :) I'll just make sure she's getting enough chow to support both her remaining growth, and any that of any kits she may have.

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#10  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Mon Nov 21, 2016 10:30 am


Congrats and Welcome!

Start hunting for grow-out cages now.... you're going to need them.
Rabbit keeping is fairly addictive and I can see you have the same self control as I do. :lol:

I'm not sure how close to the boarder you are, but check in the US... they have a stronger breeder groups over there and you might be able to find the rabbits you are looking for.

(I go with a friend to show over in Michigan quite often. There isn't problems bringing rabbits back and forth.)

Good Luck
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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Ferra » Wed Dec 14, 2016 9:55 pm


In today's news: I can't palpate worth a hill of beans. Not shocking given my inexperience.

But Mithril feels slightly(?) more rotund of belly than normal, and has been showing rather dramatic behavior and personality changes so I've either got kits on the way, or my doe has her false pregnancy routine down pat.

She's started snarling and defending her cage when the buck is out exercising. Since that seemed a bit stressful for her, I've started covering her hole (ground level cage) when "walking" the other two.

She also launched her first real attack today, and I'm still trying to figure out what prompted it. I went to take her out for the palpating/petting/walking session today, and grabbed my bun-handling towel. I usually drag this over their head so they can't see, which tends to calm them, then I can usually lift them out of the cage without an issue. I think if my cages weren't too deep for me, and less poorly placed from an ergonomics perspective, I think they'd be okay with being lifted sans-towel. But given the current arrangement, it's easiest for me handle a calmed, towel draped rabbit while hunched over half into a cage at floor level. ;)

As soon as that towel came out, Mithril went berserk. I'm trying to decide if it was her associations with the towel, and her disinclination to be lifted, or if maybe the towel smells like my other rabbits? I'm suspicious in particular that it smells like my buck... He's... sniffy. Either way, she was not pulling her punches! She was growling, boxing and biting this thing viciously. I'm actually a little glad that I started using the towel: If it's her associations with being lifted, rather than scent, I do NOT want that kind of association directed at my hands! They would have ended up being hamburger, even with my jacket on.

In the end, I made it work. The towel pinned her and reasserted it's position as the dominant bunny, she then calmed down. Once removed she enjoyed a nice long pet (with fur inspection: trying to suss out her color genetics), was felt for kits unsuccessfully, and left to binky on the shed floor for an hour. So not all bad in the end.

Here's the potential mom-to-be playing in the nest boxes I left out on the shed shelves.

2016-12-03 Mithril.jpg
2016-12-03 Mithril.jpg (62.21 KiB) Viewed 247 times


__________Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:55 pm ___________

Seven days until the tentative due-date.

I'm reasonably certain Mithril's either pregnant or the best faker ever. Leaning towards pregnant because I think she's looking more roundular in the flanks lately. She gets her nest box this weekend, and hypothetically should kindle on the 21st.

She's also grumpy as heck and clawed at my hand during feeding time today. Poor grumpy bun. But on the bright side, at least I have her beau, Dolomite. He was being a total cuddle-bun today. Nuzzling me and begging for head-strokes. That chap has seriously grown on me. Apart from his reluctance to be picked up, he's just a downright friendly rabbit.

His lady-friend could learn a thing or two from him... but I'll give her a pass if she delivers on the bun-lets.

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#12  Unread postby SixGun » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:33 pm


There's probably no harm in giving her the nest box a little early. It may give her something to do instead of being overly dramatic.

I hope she kindles.... Crossing fingers...

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#13  Unread postby AnnClaire » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:42 am


I am thinking that your stacker setup might be a big part of her problem.

Since it is difficult for you to lift from them, is there any way you could separate the cages and get them at a more accessible height? I sincerely recommend getting away from the stackers ... they are clearly not for you!

If not, try moving the doe up in the stack away from the buck? Yeah, winter time is not the right time to be rearranging cages :x
cheers - AnnClaire

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#14  Unread postby Ferra » Wed Dec 21, 2016 8:31 pm


I'll give that a shot in the morning. There isn't much harm in it, since I have two spares in case she decides to befoul this one in some creative way before her kindle-date. :)

I am hoping that "overly dramatic" doesn't become her M.O. I am told her mom was a fantastic mother and fostering bunny, so I hope Mithril learns to chill out and takes after her mom's side of the family.

Either way, I'll pop in next week here with the outcome. And if it's kits, will show off photos.

__________Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:58 pm ___________

AnnClaire: I think the best I can do for now is switch her cage and my other doe's. This would put her at the top of the stack, away from the buck at least. (And at eye level with me) Getting every cage to a good height would take some serious rearranging and building a new frame, so that might be a spring/summer project. I am seriously considering it though.

__________Wed Dec 21, 2016 6:31 pm ___________

A wizard is never late! Frodo Baggins. ... Nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.


Right on time... Day 31

2016-12-21 NEST.jpg
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And I put my hand in it and felt warm, squirmy squeaky things!

I took them inside, weighed them, and photographed them. I'll make a thread over in the kindling section, I suppose, to show of my five itty-bitty bunlets!


Happy Solstice, everybunny!

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Re: New Member - New mini-rabbitry

Post Number:#15  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:42 am


Beautiful nest Ferra
Congrats!
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