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Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Understand why your rabbits behave the way they do - and what you can do about it.
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Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#1  Unread postby EnglishSpot » Wed Nov 16, 2016 1:09 pm


I am trying to determine the "normals" for a genetic charlie (too white) and the best way to help them cope with their health issues.

My experience with charlies is a whopping three rabbits, so I thought I'd tap into the RT metamind for more information. I have had a NZR charlie doe (Chili), a NZR charlie buck (Tino), and a NZR charlie buckling (Snow Golem). I have heard that 7 out of 10 charlies do not live past 6 months due to genetic compromise.

Charlies have super soft poop issues stemming from a gene compromised gut issue. Both the doe and the buck had poops that are best described as 'spackle-like' consistency. It cakes the floor wire and needs to be scraped off every other day. The content of the spackle poop has the requisite fiber of a normal bunny berry, but is extremely wet and pasty.

The doe Chili lived to be two years old and produced many litters before perishing of unknown causes. As a kit she didn't have bloat issues or noticable spackle poop. By the time of her death, she was at my sister's rabbitry and I saw her only every few months. My sister and I talked about the spackle poop and how it never firmed up. Chili was a very grumpy rabbit when kept in a full roofed hutch with no direct light, but when she was moved to a cage that exposed her to sunlight most of the day, her temperment improved considerably and became a pleasant rabbit. (Do they have problems regulating body temp?) As an adult she was fed pellet when having kits and otherwise on forage.

The buckling, Snow Golem, was a nephew of the above doe. His intestines were sloshy and he struggled with bloating and spackle poo. He gained weight up to a certain point and then became very bony and wasted looking, except for his giant swollen belly. He was culled at ten weeks due to being the wrong shade of red and his ongoing health issues. The buckling was fed hay, 16% pellet, and forage.

The buck, Tino, is nine months old and came from a NZR breeder with the understanding that Tino may not make it to six months old. Tino had been fed a very high protein pellet as a kit with no hay or forage in his diet. When he came to me at 11 weeks old, I switched him to my 16% pellet and started him on hay and forage. As summer progressed he grew slowly and had a tendency to become bloated. I experimented with taking away the hay, the pellet, putting him on just forage to see which affected him adversely the most. Tino is now on an oat and BOSS mix, supplemented with canned pumpkin, and a twice weekly probiotic of Bene-Bac plus. He does have access to timothy hay and pellet as desired. The bloating is gone except when I am late getting the probiotic into his food. He put on weight and filled out with the oat, BOSS, and pumpkin diet in the last two months. The spackle poo almost firms into a ball shape with the probiotic but has a tendency to be more turd-like. I leave straw on the bottom of his cage which makes the poops less likely to smear all over the wire, drains the fluid away, and protects him from becoming feces encrusted. And he eats the straw. Tino also likes to be in the sunlight. He has a voracious appetite for any green forage I will give him, so I worry the diet I'm giving him is not complete. The reason I have him is because I need his genes to make better broken NZRs.

Does anyone else have experiences with charlies? The gut issue is a given because it's genetic, but I wonder if being too white affects their ability to regulate body temperature. What have you done to help manage the genetic issues?
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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#2  Unread postby SableSteel » Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:02 pm


Being a Charlie can also affect their thyroid glands. Without being able to extract as much energy as quickly from feed, it is harder for charlies to warm themselves up, though they don't, from my experience, seem to have problems staying cool. I see this in very lightly marked false charlies as well, and some charlies don't have problems with megacolon - for example, many lines of hotots & dwarf hotots are genetically EnEn, but they do not have nearly as many problems as, say, Charlie English spots. Also, with the body type of the English spot, as opposed to the other breed, with a naturally higher metabolism and less mass, it may be harder for the English spot to cope with growing up with less energy. It makes sense when you think about what causes charlies to have their pattern. As the rabbits are developing, color & other developmental features (melanocyte neuron-precursor cells) spread out, usually from along the spine and places with sensory organs (nose, eyes, ears). The En gene slows down the spread of that, so that the pigment (& other features) never reach the end - with broken and Charlie rabbits you can visually see where it reached, because that's where the spots are. But this gene is used for more than just coloring - take, for example, horses and dogs (I have not seen this observed in rabbits), if you have an animal with white spotting that extends into the ear, the animal has a good chance of being deaf, because the cells weren't able to spread to the ear. In horses, LWO is similar to rabbit's charlies, where extreme white spotting prevents the digestive system from developing fully (though in horses it has a much greater extent - and LWO has some other problems to contend with). So Charlie's *may* have problems affecting almost every system of their body, they're just not as visible as, say, megacolon. From another website: "Not all "charlies" have the congenital failure of their melanocyte neuron-precursor cells to properly migrate and innervate the gut. It's a polygenic condition, and also possibly influenced by in utero environment. In short, the actual developmental mechanism isn't fully understood. I would say the vast majority of "charlie" rabbits do NOT have the condition, though. It's not all that common. But it's awful when it does show up." The likelihood to develop problems is often different in between lines - which is why I'd never buy a Charlie English spot, but I might consider a Charlie, lop for example, since from my experience they have less problems.

With these charlies you have to balance out the fact that they can't absorb as much nutrients as they need, and that they seem to be more likely to bloat. If I were in your situation, I'd feed easily digestible (high energy, high protein pelleted feed), unlimited hay, no greens, and to always keep infant gas drops on hand. There's no cure for megacolon, and there doesn't even seem to be a consensus on how to treat it. Good luck.

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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#3  Unread postby EnglishSpot » Tue Nov 22, 2016 3:34 pm


How interesting!!! I didn't know that about the genetic cell spread, SS!!

I wonder what it is about different rabbit lines that foster or inhibit the condition. Is it something that the ES or NZs have a tendency towards that is not turned on in the Lop? It would be interesting to have the time and money to make a chemical and genetic analysis of what make it tick. Ah, to be independently rich and be Bruce Wayne.

I find that adding the canned pumpkin to his diet adds a firmness to his poops that just flake oatmeal and pellets don't, so I don't know if it's the added fiber or perhaps a nutritional gut deficiency that is being activated. He's not a big hay eater, so that been one of my problems in firming him up. You're suggesting I put him on an 18% or higher protein pellet?

Yesterday his first litter was born to one of my solid does so the goods are working down below, LOL.
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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#4  Unread postby ladysown » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:18 pm


my philosophy toward charlies is very simple. I cull any that I get.

They are fairly easy to figure out... they are unthirfty starting at about four weeks. I get them to snake food size (one lb) and then I cull them.

I used to fuss with them until I realized this truth... they need specialized care and have particular needs, and since my goal is to breed healthy, trouble free rabbits, charlies simply didn't fit into that requirement. If I have any uncertainties about a bun if it's a charlie then I stress it as much as I can and see how it handles that.
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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#5  Unread postby EnglishSpot » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:56 pm


We are rather new at the charlie game and Tino is here for his genes. OMG his fur is like silk, I hope that is passed on! Circustances being what they are, I need him currently, and am looking for more ways to make him comfortable.

Charlie farm isn't my goal and, boy, would I love to break into the snake food side! I can't seem to find contacts in this (understandably) low key world.

Thanks for replying and if anyone can think of other ways to benefit the quality of life for charlies, please post.
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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#6  Unread postby ladysown » Fri Nov 25, 2016 9:34 am


best results for feeding charlies?

Feed BOSS and hay, oatmeal with probiotics. Low on the pellets.

Thats how I maintain them to 1 lb. in weight.
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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#7  Unread postby LittleFluffyBunnies » Fri Nov 25, 2016 11:16 am


I have a rabbit that looks like a Charlie, but I haven't bred her yet so I don't know if she is false or not.
She had a potbelly as a kit but grew out of it. I bought her at 4 weeks when she was a good size. She is supposed to be an adult weight of 5-6 pounds, but at 4 months old is just slightly bigger than my Dwarf of the same age, who will be 3 pounds. She has grown very slowly. She sometimes has soft poos but not too bad. Besides for not growing very fast she seems healthy.
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Re: Tell Me About Your Genetic Charlie Rabbits Habits

Post Number:#8  Unread postby ladysown » Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:31 pm


and those are all warning signs to me to not use in a breeding program. :)
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