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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dealing with the Heat Wave

It's hot here in the South- it's hot all over the country right now.  In my little corner of North Carolina, we hit 104 yesterday.  Yeah.

My barn has had many modifications made since last year.  I put in a quality insulation, I reduced the number of rabbits and cages I maintain.  I also have the better AC and I blocked my windows to keep the sun from shining in and heating up the barn.

Some people don't have AC. So what can you do to help keep your rabbits cool?

Fresh, cool water.  They can't be without water in this heat.  Make sure it's fresh and cool.  You can even put ice in the bottles for longer relief.  I bought a little tube-shaped ice maker- you fill it up with water, stick it in the freezer and you get 24 round sticks of ice that fit perfectly in the bottles.  That really helps cool off the bottles.

Frozen Tiles/Frozen water bottles.  If you have the space, I like to keep one set of water bottles freezing and one set of frozen ceramic tiles at any point in time.  The tiles take up less space, so they are great for those with little freezer room. It gives the rabbits something to lay on or near to cool off and some even lick the frozen items.

Frozen Banana/Carrot.  These frozen treats help cool them down and put moisture in to the bunnies.  It can get so hot they don't want to drink, but they love their treats! I freeze the bananas whole then cut an inch hunk out of them, peel and all.  (Yes, this was a tidbit I submitted to the  NJWRC newsletter, so it may sound familiar). 

Spray them with a hose.  This will make their wool or fur kinky.  What's worse- extra grooming or dead bunnies?  That's what I thought.  Don't be afraid to soak them.

Cut down the wool.  Same situation as with the hose- you won't be able to show them a while, but don't be afraid to shave those wooled breeds down because of that.

Ice the ears.  If anyone seems to be particularly struggling, rub ice on their ears.  Rabbits use their ears for circulation, cooling the ears down cools down the rabbit.

Remove excess hair from nestboxes.  If it's really hot and your does are generous pullers, don't be afraid to take the largest part of the hair out.  You do have to worry about the littles overheating.

Bags of ice in front of any fans you have can really help cool the temps down.  However, with fans there is always a risk of fire unless the motors are totally enclosed. Make sure to keep them clean!

Bring them in.  If push comes to shove, bring your rabbits in the house with you. You can return them to the barn at nights when it cools down (as long as your house isn't kept too cool).  I've gone this route before and it's a pain, but it's worth it.

Good luck to everyone! I've read about too many losses already, my thoughts are with everyone!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Snickers does it just to freak me out.

I wrote on the calendar that Snickers (who is on loan from Joni) was due on Tuesday, June 26th.  Joni couldn't figure out how that was possible based on the show I picked her up from.  I always mark on the calendar that they are due a day early, just to make sure I have a nestbox in place and that made a little sense to both of us.

Then I find on my notepad file on the computer that I typed in she was due next Tuesday, July 3rd.  That made a whole lot more sense to both of us, especially since I remembered waiting a few days to breed her.  Regardless, she's had her nestbox since Saturday, June 22nd. She pulled a hunk of hair or two to show she was willing to use it, but only when she was ready.

I go out to feed today and find a lucky four leaf clover. As I was marveling over it and showing Tim, I glanced up to see Snickers had completely filled her nestbox with wool!  I stuck a hand in and sure enough- three babies! Two perfects and a peanut. 

She went either two days late of the least likely due date or three days before the most likely due date.  I guess we'll never know. The perfects are a black and a shaded baby, both will carry nonextension because Snickers is a tort.  Squee :).

I went on and gave the other three does due the first few days of July their nestboxes.  I don't want anyone else going early and catching me unprepared! Thankfully she got her box so early, otherwise I'd have found babies on the wire and that would have definitely ruined my day.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Babies in the Barn

Keep's Harmony kindled three kits, though ultimately the only one born alive did pass away.  This is her second attempt, the first time she kindled all kits were born DOA.  I hope she gets it figured out soon!

Erb's Indiana kindled FIVE beautiful babies.  She scattered her first litter of seven, but this time around she did everything perfectly!  Four of the kits are black, one is a fun color- dare I hope it's blue or smoke pearl? I do dare! I am trying not to get my hopes up, however.

It's nice to have babies in the barn again.  I am going to try sexing them as babies and see how accurate it is.  It would be nice to know what to expect, even though I am still not making any babies available until at least 8 weeks old.

I'm planning on doing some junior evaluation soon.  I need to move out some rabbits- well I don't need to, I still have five empty cages, but with Indiana's awesome sized litter, I know space will be at a premium soon.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Anniversary

One year ago today, my heart was breaking.  Because of a mistake with the AC in my rabbitry, I walked in to find a horror that I still can't talk about without tears.  The biggest tragedy was losing Tryon.

It's hard for me to believe it has been a year.  The pain is fresh, like it happened only a week ago.  I've had friends tease me that they believed I loved Tryon more than my husband- and while that's not quite true, I have never bonded with an animal the way I did with him.

To be honest, a year ago I didn't think I'd still be in rabbits.  Actually, I had my sell out list drawn up. I privately posted on facebook a sell out announcement (that no one could see) to see how that would make me feel. I sold animals I should have kept because I found it hard to care.  It was a punch to the gut every time I walked in to the barn to feed and water the rabbits.  I stood in the driveway and cried because I couldn't stand the thought of going to a show, even after we had entered and loaded the car with rabbits.  I ended up letting Tim talk me in to going and Keep's Panda gave me a Reserve in Show.

Slowly, I started to heal.  I say slowly because I'm still healing.  I somehow bonded with Keep's Tribute- named after his father, the last Tryon son ever to be born.  He started out as a touch-me-not, but I think somehow he knew I needed him.

I stayed in rabbits, though I have considerably cut down the number of the herd and I've hit goals I never thought I would acheive- notably BOSG at Convention last year.

Yet through it all, I can't help but think of Tryon and Cupid- of the 11 babies that passed away.  The hope for the future of the rabbitry.  I think I'll never reach the enjoyment of the hobby I had before June 21, 2011. It changed everything for me.

The one bright spot in the month following "the Incident" was Keep's Fiona, who has made a miraculous recovery.  Not only has she shown again, which I never dreamed would happen, she has successfully kindled- only once, but it was still a success.  She fought to live like I have never seen a rabbit fight before- she too knew I needed her.

I needed my friends too.  Through the weeks and months after this, so many of you have continued to encourage me. Joni presented me with a beautiful picture frame that sports an engraved plate- Keep's Tryon, 26 legs, Forever in our hearts.  It sits on the mantle with our family pictures.  I can't go out the door to the rabbitry without seeing him.  Strangers have sent me the most beautiful messages of sympathy and encouragement.  Another friend, Michelle, purchased a new AC for the barn- a bigger, better unit- an amazing gesture because we had only recently met at that point.

So in the end- thank you all.  If you are reading this, you are probably one of the reasons Keep's Rabbitry is still here.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

We will miss you Judy.

On June 9th, 2012, Judy Bustle lost her battle with cancer.   For those of you that didn't know her, Judy was an incredible show secretary- I often joked that her show reports would beat me home from the show.

She was more than that though- she was funny and sweet, with just the right amount of sassypants thrown in.

For the longest time, I went through a period where I kept forgetting to write "Open or Youth" on my show entries- and Judy couldn't remember how old I was! It became a running joke between us- either I'd put OPEN big and in bold, or she'd tell me not to worry, she thought she'd finally figured out I wasn't young enough for youth.  We'd share a grin at the check-in table as she sorted the OPEN pile to find my entry.

Once, I forgot to send in my entries to a huge show.  Of course, I figured it out the next day, thankfully and sent her an email asking her to let me enter late.  We joked and bantered a little back and forth and I ended up bribing her with a Doves chocolate bar.  I'll never forget her smile when I slid it across the table at check-in like we were in the middle of a drug deal.

Many of us didn't know she was sick.  She was such a vibrant lady, I prefer to remember her this way, rather than after cancer had taken it's toll.  Such a proud lady, I think she'd prefer we all remember her this way as well.

I emailed her once, just to thank her for being such an incredible show secretary and for all of her hard work on our behalf.  This is part of what she emailed back to me: "...It takes more than just me.  We have the BEST exhibitors and writers.  Without them, my job would be much more difficult for sure.

I hope that she knows that we are going to miss her terribly. It's going to be sad to not see her again- this side of the world, anyway.  Without her, rabbit shows aren't going to be the same.


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Problem with Peanuts

 Peanuts are a sad case that pops up in any dwarf breed.  As a quick genetics review, a dwarf rabbit has one dwarfing gene and one normal gene- Dd.  What we call "Big Uglies", or non-dwarfed animals, have two normal genes, defined here as DD.  These animals are perfectly healthy and can still be valuable assets to a herd.

On the other end of that spectrum is the "double dwarf" kit, aka a peanut, genetically represented as dd. Unfortunately, two dwarf genes is a lethal combination. 999 times out of 1,000 a peanut will die within three days of being born.  When born, peanuts are often much smaller than healthy Dd or DD littermates and are characterized by pinched hindquarters that seem to curl around and "alienesque" heads with bulbous eyes.

Like many things in life, there is much debate about what to do when you find a peanut in your nestbox.  Some people cull them instantly.  Some people leave them to die naturally.  Others leave them a day or two to make sure they are peanuts, then remove them from the nestbox.

There are benefits and pitfalls to each approach. 

1.) Cull them instantly.  I used to be in this camp. I felt it was more humane to give the poor baby a quick death than to let it starve over the course of several days.  Then I nearly culled a "peanut" once in a Holland Lop litter. Something told me not to cull it because it didn't look exactly right- sure enough the "peanut" grew in to a healthy (albeit small) adult.  That was the end of my culling instantly.

2.) Let them die naturally.  This one has a lot of problems.  Now, you don't have to worry about mistakenly culling a runt this way, it's true.  Peanuts can also help provide warmth to healthy siblings for their first few days of life.  However, if you forget to remove the body (or are unable to find it- it happens!), several things can happen depending on the season.  In the summer, a dead kit can contaminate the nestbox by decomposing, sickening or even killing the healthy litter mates, not to mention drawing in flies.   In the winter, a dead kit can chill the healthy litter mates, again killing them.  Letting peanuts die naturally requires that you check on them several times a day until they pass.

As a word of caution, I have heard of peanuts living slightly longer lives- I myself had one that made it to 10 days old.  In these cases, I have to wonder if it is a "true" peanut (dd) or some other issue entirely.  Regardless, these kits will have problems, often being very, very small and having odd fur/wool, etc.   They may have trouble walking as well- my little guy seemed like he was always hanging on to life by the barest of threads.

3.) Leave them a day or two, then remove them.  This is my current plan of action.  By leaving the peanuts a day or two I am able to monitor their growth- or lack thereof.  Peanuts don't gain weight or grow, so they stay thin while their siblings fatten up.  Often before they die they resemble tiny little living skeletons- it's a terribly sad thing to see.  Once I notice that the kit is not gaining weight at all and has no milk in it's belly, it confirms for me it is a peanut and I humanely put it down to end it's suffering.   Leaving them in an extra day or two gives them that chance- it ensures I don't accidentally put down a runt like I mentioned in my Holland litter.  It gives the benefit of extra warmth to the siblings for the first day, but I don't worry about "losing" the kit when it passes away, nor do I worry about it decomposing or chilling the rest in the litter.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with peanuts, it is up to each individual dwarf breeder to decide the best course for themselves.  One thing we can all agree on is that peanuts are such a sad little case.

I suppose peanuts are on my mind lately because Nova had a litter of three that contained two peanuts.  One passed away less than a day after it was born.  The other is still in with it's healthy sibling, but I do so dread having to go out there today and see it withering away.  If only they could all be born healthy- but then, that's nature.