Yesterday was national pet memorial Day and along with the many pets I've lost over the years I payed tribute to my little Maximilian whom we lost all too soon in his life. In those few short months he was with us he touched the lives of many people and changed my life. #miloandme #frenchlop #memorial #petmemorial
All across America, the national 4-H project is helping young rabbit owners grow into responsible adults. There are currently over 6.5 million members enrolled in this youth program. Established in 1914, 4-H helps members develop skills in agriculture, horticulture, homemaking, and the arts; and then offers them the chance to show off those skills through fairs and competitions. The rabbit program is an important part of the 4-H curriculum, and if you or your child would like to be successful in raising rabbits for 4-H, here are some pointers to help you get started.
Do you need purebred rabbits to show in 4-H?
The answer to this question is yes and no. It depends on what type of classes you want to enter, as well as the regulations for your area. 4-H is managed on county-wide and state-wide levels, and each region has its own way of doing things. In general, breed competitions are usually judged by the ARBA Standard of Perfection, so to compete in these classes, you need to have a purebred rabbit recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. However, some fairs may have a mixed breed class in addition to the purebred classes. Also, you may be able to use mixed or crossbreed rabbits in meat pen (market pen) or showmanship competitions. Check with your local club leader or extension office to learn the regulations for your region. Remember though, that whether or not your area will allow mixed breed rabbits, you will probably have better success by buying purebreds.
Where to Buy Rabbits to Show in 4-H.
If you are beginning a 4-H rabbit project, the best place to buy rabbits is from a local breeder. If possible, buy bunnies from a breeder in your immediate area. That way you can develop a relationship with the breeder and he or she can be there to help if you run into problems down the road. Also, this gives you a chance to visit their farm (if they invite you over) and see how they manage their rabbitry, which can give you ideas on how to start your own project. Finally, there's a good chance that a breeder in your county is familiar with the fair you plan to show at, and will know the classes they accept. One of the best places to get in touch with local breeders is through online Rabbit Breeder Directories.
Most fairs have their own regulations when it comes to dividing rabbits for judging. It's important to know what classes they offer so you can know how to buy and breed your stock. Some fairs divide rabbit classes by fancy (small) and commercial (large) breeds. Others judge each breed separately like an ARBA sanctioned show. In fact, some fair shows are also ARBA sanctioned. Some allow mixed breed rabbits and others do not. Some fairs have "get of sire" or "get of dam" classes, where you can show a senior rabbit with its junior offspring. Almost all fairs offer market classes such asmeat pens, single fryers, and commercial fur. Most have rabbit showmanship competitions, and some have extra contests for youth participants such as judging, quiz bowl, skill-a-thon, or royalty.
Narrow down which classes you would like to enter before you purchase your stock. Then look for a respected breeder in your area that raises the type of rabbits you would like to show. Start looking for a breeder as soon as possible; don't delay even for a few weeks. Some breeders have waiting lists of customers and it might take several months before you can get stock from them. Contact them early to get on their list early, and also to make sure you don't miss the fair's deadline. Many fairs require exhibitors to have their rabbits on their own premises a couple of months before show day. That way they can be sure that the showman is responsible for the rabbit's current health and condition.
Never purchase a rabbit if you detect any red flags about the bunny or the breeder. Don't be afraid to ask the breeder questions: if they won't help you with your questions, they are not someone you want to buy from. Check the rabbit over thoroughly for health issues or disqualifications. Always, always check its teeth, toenails, and sex before agreeing to bring it home. Even well-meaning breeders can make mistakes when sexing a rabbit or looking it over for disqualifications, and you don't want to find out too late. If it's your first time buying rabbits, bring your 4-H leader or other mentor along with you to get their opinion about the bunnies.
Care of a 4-H Rabbit Project
Once you have your rabbits home, your only job is to keep them in top condition until show day. Here are the five top rules for preparing your rabbit for fair:
1. Use the proper equipment. Only use all-wire cages. These are much less likely to cause urine stains on your rabbit than solid bottomed cages. They also keep your rabbit's environment cleaner and reduce ammonia. If you plan to breed your rabbits, make sure you have a nest box ready at least a week before your doe is due to deliver.
2. Feed a healthy and consistent diet. People will spend a long time looking at feed bag labels trying to determine the healthiest diet for their rabbits. While that is admirable, sometimes the freshness of the feed and the consistency of the nutrition are more important than the brand of pellets. Ideally, show rabbits should have a diet low in protein and fat and high in fiber. Free-choice timothy hay is an excellent addition to any rabbit's meal. Always make sure the feed is fresh; rabbits will not condition well on stale pellets. A healthy base diet is more effective at getting your rabbit in top condition than any supplements you could throw in.
3. Provide the proper environment. Proper housing doesn't stop at a well-made cage. The cage must be located in an area with excellent ventilation. The surrounding temperature should not get above 85 degrees at any time of the year, at least unless you take measures to keep your rabbit cool and hydrated in hot weather. The cage can be kept outside, but must be protected from predators and precipitation. It must be kept in a quiet area so your rabbit will not be stressed. All these factors, if the rabbit is not protected from them, can compromise your bunny's immune system. It's also very important to keep the cage clean. Not only will this help prevent disease such as coccidiosis, but it will you're your rabbit's coat from getting stained.
4. Handle your rabbit often. This step must not be neglected if you want to be successful showing rabbits in 4-H. You must train your rabbit to pose, so it will look good for the judges. Rabbits can learn to pose themselves as soon as they are touched if you work long enough with them. If you are competing in rabbit showmanship, you should get your rabbit used to the routine, so it will cooperate with you on show day. Handling your rabbit is also very important because it allows you to check its health and condition daily. That way if your rabbit has any health problems, you can catch them early on.
5. Keep good records. Some 4-H leaders or county fairs will require you to show your project record book along with your rabbit. You might even win a prize for keeping good records! Even if record keeping is not a requirement, it's an excellent management practice and will help you raise better rabbits in the end. At bare minimum, you should keep pedigrees and breeding records for every rabbit you raise. Hint: grab some rabbitry management software to make your job easier.
Beyond the Show Day
Many 4-H members are "in it to win it" - and that's fine. It makes for healthy competition. But 4-H is about much more than winning Grand Champion. Even if you start because you want to compete, you will find that you learn many skills in 4-H that will help you your whole life. So even if you don't win first prize, take time to enjoy learning how to care for animals, enjoy the friendships you build with others in your club, and enjoy being a benefit to your community as you pledge your "hands to larger service."
If you'd like more information on how to show rabbits in 4-H clubs, check out the Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide and Raising Meat Pen Rabbits Guide by Aaron Webster. Updated for 2013, this book gives expert tips about how to show your rabbit in Showmanship and compete in Breed ID and other 4-H competitions. Written by a two-time runner up for ARBA National Rabbit Queen.
Originally shared by Rabbit Breeders
When people start showing rabbits (I mean REALLY showing) they all want the same thing, to "win". No, it is not everything but I can imagine it is a very rewarding feeling after the excruciating hard work and money you have put in to get your lines started and established.
I have only actually taken a BOB with a rabbit out of MY lines once and it was joyous beyond anything I had felt before, not because she had taken BOB but because of the rabbit itself that had taken it. That rabbit had been dubbed "pet" quality the year before and no one ever imagined she would have taken BOB in her life, not even me for that matter, until I decided to bring her along for the numbers. She was my bottle baby, my pride and joy and for her out of any of the others I had in my barn to have taken a BOB really made my heart soar.
Some people only buy rabbits expecting to win with them at shows when the fact is, Breeders are usually not selling their best rabbits. That does not mean they are selling bad rabbits, only that they have worked hard to get the best and are going to keep the best to continue improving their lines.
A beautiful, fluffy nest with warm bundles of healthy babies in it, it's what every breeder wants to see right? So what happens if that is not the case?
Recently myself and other breeders have had problems with getting and keeping litters. From not getting any litters, getting a beautiful nest but no babies in it and getting babies and losing them it has been a frustrating battle!
In MY battle to get litters I found that my feed may have been the culprit. Slowly I transitioned my herd over to another feed to see if it would help. Whalla! I got my first two litters and large ones at that!
I wish it had been as simple as just switching the feed. Shortly after the birth of litter number two we started losing them. I found that my female had not gotten any milk in to feed the babies. Only 2.5 weeks after the birth my other female dried up leaving 5 orphaned baby bunnies for me to step in and care for. After the third litter and the mom not having any milk supply, I gave all types of supplemental foods such as veggies and oatmeal to try and boost milk production for the first 9 days with no success. As a last ditch effort I started sprinkling a calcium supplement on her feed and Oatmeal. Within the day her milk had come in full force and the three remaining babies survived.
I started sprinkling the calcium supplement on all of the lactating moms as well as all females and babies and since have noticed a huge difference in their health, activity levels, milk production and the overall health and size of babies in the litters they are now finally having.
I decided to start adding in some whole grains and more natural items for their diet such as Fodder, veggies, plants and grasses that are safe and good for them.
With this new diet they have been doing much better and I have been able to keep weight on them more so than before.
My conclusion is that there is something lacking in the feed or an ingredient in the feed that is not doing what it used to anymore and that was what was causing so many of my issues since with this new diet I have not have the issues I had had pre-diet.
Every year Milo & Me teams up with local breeders to head to the local Central Square Mall for the day before Easter Carnival with some of our rabbits in the campaign against buying rabbits for basket stuffer's at Easter. With every year, more and more people come to meet the live rabbits and have their picture taken with them. This year, the turn out for the Milo & Me meet and greet was astronomical! We had people lined up well before the gates opened at 11 o'clock Saturday morning and it was supposed to end at 1 o'clock but we didn't get the gates closed again until 2:30 due to the extreme number of people who came out to visit us at the Easter Carnival! Pictured inset are from the left, Nash and Tucker, who were two of our biggest stars. They just hung out all day for pictures with the kids and did wonderfully.
3/26/14 we welcomed a litter of 12 babies from Lilly and TJ. As of this morning 9 had some milk in their bellies so we are hoping that's a good sign moms milk has come in or is coming in. Her last litter we sadly lost 9 of the ten due to her milk not coming in.
First and foremost, you should always pick a feed and stick with it. The constant change is hard on their guts. If your rabbits are doing well on something don't switch because something is cheaper. If you are going to switch, switch because it is a better feed or because you can't get the other one anymore.
Fiber is an extremely important factor. Anything below 18 is really too low. Rabbits can do fine on lower but for the larger breeds many think they do better on the higher. Fat is also important. A minimum of 2.5- 3 is better.
Protein is another extremely important piece of the nutrition puzzle. A giant breed such as the French Lop should be on an 18% protein blend. In some areas this can be hard to find in a quality feed but for their development and overall health of your giant breed rabbit.
I personally struggled with finding a feed that worked best for my rabbits. It was a nightmare for a while. My two French lops started losing weight and there was nothing I could do to fix it. They were eating fine, getting treats and exercise and still, dropping weight and deteriorating. I found out that they needed a feed with 18% protein in it and most feeds only contain 15-16%. I was feeding a feed with 15% and it just wasn't enough even with treats and fresh veggies daily. Once I started learning more about it from experienced breeders they turned a major corner and started gaining their weight back and becoming my healthy and happy rabbits they were before. Most people are unaware that not all feed is equal for each breed. Their size, activity level and portions all determine which feed to choose for your rabbit. The issue is how do you know what your breed needs? If you are buying from a breeder, they should inform you what to look for in a feed for that specific breed as well as send you a small bag of feed to help transition your new rabbit over to what ever feed you decide to put him on.
A friend of mine forwarded me this in an email and I thought it was very interesting
Five Fun Facts about the Color Chestnut Agouti
By Ellyn Eddy
The study of coat color genetics has taken the rabbit world by a storm. Breeders remain extremely interested in this important subject. Not only do you need to know color genetics to be able to choose your breeding pairs wisely, but the study is fascinating in itself. Here five fun facts that you might not have heard before about an important rabbit color.
Fact 1. The color we call "chestnut agouti" is the original rabbit color. It shows the "normal" gene in every category. As you may notice, wild rabbits appear chestnut agouti.
Fact 2. Every other color results from a mutation of one of the genes that makes chestnut agouti. A mutation happens when some genetic information is lost in the process of transferring a gene from a parent to its offspring. As a result, almost all other colors are less dominant than chestnut agouti. If you breed a pure chestnut agouti to almost any other color, the resulting babies will be 100% chestnut agouti.
Fact 3. Chestnut agouti shows a beautiful blend of pigments. If you look at a chestnut, you'll see a brilliant blend of black and red pigments. The top of the rabbit looks brindled with the two colors, and if you blow into the coat, you'll see black and red/orange form concentric rings on the hair shaft. All recessive mutations of the chestnut genes limit this pattern, either by reducing the color intensity (so the black hairs would become blue or chocolate) or by preventing the two pigments from interacting properly. (For example, a solid black rabbit has the potential to produce red pigments, but it doesn't because the self pattern geneisn't giving the red pigment a place to show up.)
Fact 4. Chestnut shows the normal dominant gene in every main category. So a pure chestnut - one that didn't carry any other colors - would have the genotypeAA BB CC DD EE. A rabbit that had the most recessive gene in every category - the genotype aa bb cc dd ee - would be albino. Another highly recessive color is lilac tortoise - the genotype aa bb CC dd ee.
Fact 5. There are a couple mutations that produce a color pattern that's actually more dominant than AA BB CC DD EE. These are in the "E" series, and the names of them are Steel and Dominant Black. The steel gene will cause the black pigment to over-produce, so it covers up some of the orange pigment in a chestnut, and only lets the light tips of the hairs show. You can see that illustrated in the picture below.
With a rocky start to their life, my Lucky seven litter beat the odds and pulled through with an amazing mom/foster mom. For reasons we are unsure of, the moms milk dried up when they hit three weeks old. Losing two of the seven babies from internal damage caused by mom. Friday morning the remaining five babies (The Fab Five) were all listless and weak. Due to the horrible odds baby bunnies face when bottle fed I was not sure they would pull through. They can over eat and actually cause themselves internal issues if you let them over eat so I started with many small feedings throughout the day Friday to get them hydrated and full again. Slowly I started fazing out feedings and increasing the amount they got in them. By Monday night, they no longer needed my to feed them through the night (THANK GOODNESS). as of today, Tuesday, they will be on two feedings a day and by Friday, I hope to have them on their usual one feeding per day of milk like their mother would give to encourage them to start eating more solids and develop their digestive system. Rabbits are a very hands-off mother to begin with only feeding the babies twice daily for the first couple of weeks then moving to only once daily when they are old enough to come out of the nest box and nibble solids. They do not need to be spoiled and should not be treated like most other baby animals for this reason. Over feeding is the number one cause of death in hand raised baby bunnies. I fed many small feedings until they were going to the bathroom regularly and then started cutting back slowly due to the poor nature of their health. Even new born baby bunnies should not be fed more than 2 times a day (unless difficult circumstances such as the one my babies faced arise) then they should only be small feedings not full feedings to prevent over expansion of their tummy. My babies are not out of the woods yet at 3.5 weeks old and day 4 of bottle feeding, but with each day their odds increase greatly.
Yes, I breed quality, healthy and show quality, papered rabbits. That does not make me a bad person or mean that I am over populating or causing more unwanted rabbits in the shelters. Nor am I taking homes away from a shelter rabbit. First off, we do NOT have a shelter near me, nor do most people. Second, my rabbits are loved and if they are going as pets, placed in homes that I feel are good. This does not mean a shelter rabbit is losing out on a home. Yes, adopting from a shelter is good but for those who want a giant breed rabbit, even in a city that has a shelter for rabbits, it is hard to find one. The ones that don't go to homes as pets stay in the show circuit. Other responsible breeders who are making sure they are producing HEALTHY and quality rabbits to continue on the breed will get them. If everyone only rescued, many many breeds would die out.
I raise on a variety of different surfaces. Any with white feet are on wire bottom cages with a resting mat, not one has ever gotten sore hocks in my care on the proper gauged wire for the breed, and some are on solid bottoms with litter pans. The only rabbit I have EVER had get sore hocks had never been in a wire bottomed cage in her life. At three years old she had lived her life with me in a dog Kennel and a litter pan that was always clean and she developed sore hawks. After getting her in a wire bottomed cage, she finally cleared up. She is now back in a dog kennel until she has any other issues. Wire bottomed cages are not bad like people will lead you to think either, They keep them clean and out of their own filth, they give proper ventilation and so many more pro's than con's if used correctly. Plus, no one wants to see yellow footed rabbits, it just makes them look dirty and does not look good while showing.
A breeder has to keep their animals healthy for showing and, well, breeding. You can't show, breed or sell unhealthy animals nor do you want one in your barn. A breeder, not a back yard breeder who will produce mutts and focus sales towards holidays and gifts, cares about the breed, the standards and the well being of their animals. We give the females proper spacing between litters and do not over breed them. The stereotype breeders have is thanks to those who do not care.
I may be a breeder but at my place we rescue just as many if not more animals than we sell. I educate my community on why animals do not make good gifts, refuse to sell at any holiday or as gifts and I will take any animal I have sold or re homed back if it didn't work out for them. We take in rescue rabbits, cats and wildlife and we rehab them and find them new homes or release them in the case of wildlife. I have been an active member of rescues since I was a child with nearly every animal in my care having been a rescue. Yes, even some of my prize rabbits came from bad homes/breeders. The very rabbit this site is based off of, Milo, came from a horrible place. The people thought that it was OK to carry him by his ears, he was not fed enough for his size and he was scared and mean towards people due to it. I worked with him and he turned out to be an amazing member of my family and barn. Mailey, my very first French Lop came from a farm where she over powered them and she thought if she could them then she could anyone. She is now one of the best rabbits and trusted around the smallest of kids. No more attitude issues, nothing. I have stories like this for several other rabbits in my barn now but my point is not to tell stories of how they have been miss treated but to show that an animal does not have to come from a rescue to be rescued nor are all breeders bad. In fact most breeders I know, or at least the ones who care about the breed standards and are not raising animals as a profit but to improve and carry on the breed, refuse to sell as gifts or Easter and other holidays and have similar views as myself.
As a breeder and a person who's heart is animal welfare and rescue I can tell you that BREEDERS are not the bad ones in all of this, most of it is the uneducated people who are buying from pet stores, fairs and back yard breeders who are raising no particular breed or for standards and are breeding too close together so they can have more to sell as gifts or a novelty item not knowing that a rabbit can live well into its teens not just a couple months/years. They are a long term commitment and social animals. They need interaction not just to be in a cage in a child's room to be played with when remembered about.
If you are going to rescue, I applaud you! It takes a special person to take on the baggage most rescue animals carry from previous homes. But if you are going to purchase, please do so from a responsible breeder who has quality animals and purebreds. Someone who will answer your questions and be there to help you through any hurdles you encounter in your rabbit owning journey.
The French Lop Rabbit Breed is a native of France developed in the 19th century by Mr. Cordonnier, a book binder. In 1853, Mr. Cordonnier started by breeding English Lops with some of the larger French breeds of the era, the Normand (also known as the Picard) and the Rouennais which is now extinct. This breed was originally developed as a meat producer not a show rabbit. Though it existed in France for many years, the French Lop was not recognized and given a standard until March 25, 1922.
It is thought that the French Lop was imported to American sometime during the early part of the 20th century because it was one of the first breeds recognized by the National Pet Stock Association (now known as the ARBA). The early standards were much the same as the English Lop, but with shorter ears.
Though shorter in body length, the French Lop has a shape similar to the Flemish Giant. When sitting erect, the ears of this breed should hang at least 1 1/2 inches below the jaw line. The ideal coat length for this rabbit is 1 1/4 inches with colors and markings conforming to the Lop Color Guide:
• The Agouti group in chestnut, chinchilla, lynx, or opal coloring
• The Broken group which is white combined with black and golden orange, white with lavender blue and golden fawn, white with chocolate and golden orange, or white with lilac and golden fawn
• The Self Shaded group, which consists of frosted pearl, sable, sable point, seal, smoke pearl, or tortoise (in blue, black, chocolate, or lilac)
• The Ticked group, which includes the silver / silver fox (in black, blue, brown or fawn), steel (black, silver, gold, chocolate, smoke pearl, blue, or lilac tipped steel)
• The Wide Band group, which includes the colors cream, fawn, orange, or red
Senior Bucks 8 months and older should weigh 10 1/2 pounds or more. Senior Does should weigh 11 pounds or more. Intermediate Bucks 6 to 8 months old should not be over 11 1/2 pounds and Intermediate Does should not be over 12 pounds. Junior Bucks and Does under 6 months old have a minimum weight of 5 1/4 pounds and maximum weight of 10 1/2 pounds.
Information found at http://www.examiner.com/
For every show I bring a minimum of 9 rabbits. You usually can't just have rabbits and NOT groom them before a show if you want to impress the judges, SO, The week before usually consists of packing supplies-feed for the trip, water, treats, grooming items and so on- grooming them, getting carriers filled with fresh bedding, food containers installed for each as well as a water dish as you think of it all. THEN you usually get up very early or leave very late to get to the show on time the next morning so you get everything packed in the car and then at the last minute load the rabbits in their carriers and into the car and if all goes to plan you are on the road shortly after, usually it does not.
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I currently Volunteer through Dark Star Wildlife Nursery wildlife rescue to aid in saving the lives of wildlife who would otherwise be left motherless or worse.