Free Rabbit Food (and People Food): Oxeye Daisy

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Leucanthemum vulgare is an iconic perennial flowering herb that is native to Europe but can be found all over the world. It’s also called the dog daisy, common daisy or moon daisy and can be seen in fields, woodlands and along roadsides. It has serrated to dentated dark green leaves and spreads via rhizomes.

I have a large patch of this in my rabbit forage field and the bunnies always go for these juicy stalks first when they get their daily bundle of wild grasses. The dead nettle has died down for the most part and so the oxeye daisy makes for much of their non-grassy forage this time of year, now that it is getting hotter.

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The young leaves of this herb can also be used in salads, and the dried leaves have a bitter and tingling flavor similar to that of valerian. The immature flower buds can be marinated and used like capers, which is what I’m preparing today. They have a unique, delicate sweet and spicy flavor that complements many dishes such as smoked fish, salads, pates and sauces.

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You must select tightly closed flower buds to ensure the best flavor and that no bugs have made their way in. Then take 1/2 cup apple cider or wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon sea salt and use to cover your flower buds in a glass jar or ceramic crock. Refrigerate and they will be ready to use after three days but will keep in the fridge much longer than that.

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Easter Sunday Rabbit Road Trip (Plus Tiny Chicken)

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We were contacted last week by a local retirement home that desperately needed some bunnies for their Easter party, since they had advertised it everywhere and their previous bunny wrangler had backed out.

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We agreed, and spent a few hours today introducing some of our rabbits to a very enthusiastic bunch of seniors and their grandkids. As a special treat, Tiny Chicken the Old English Game hen came along as well.

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The bunnies did very well and were very well-behaved being placed on so many strange laps for photographs. They enjoyed their spacious box filled with treats while the kids gave them lots of love and attention.

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Tiny Chicken surprised me by being the best behaved little chicken I have ever seen. She sat quietly while being petted, picked up, loved and hugged by dozens of kids. She never once tried to fly off even though she is an excellent flier, and just calmly trusted that I would not put her into a dangerous situation. I’m very proud of her and now I know I can bring her to events with no problems. She was a huge hit.

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We couldn’t have done it without the help of our lovely Miss Nanaimo contestant who was stationed at the bunny pen making sure everyone was gentle with the animals. Thanks for a great day!

 

Meat Hybrid Bunnies for Sale

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Our latest litter of adorable meat hybrid bunnies are now six weeks old and ready for new homes. They’re a triple F1 mix of 1/4 Creme d’Argent, 1/4 Standard Rex and 1/2 Champagne d’Argent.

These hybrids are part of a breeding program we’ve been working on for years now. They have better grow out rates, improved health, large litters and calm, friendly temperaments. If you’re tanning the pelts, they are easier to flesh and produce a better quality end product. Of course, they make great pet rabbits as well!

There are 11 kits available, with half of them being silvered black and the other half agouti which will likely also develop some silvering. Get in touch if interested!

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First Champagne d’Argent Litter

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After almost two years of failure, first with a doe who just wouldn’t take and was later diagnosed with a very unusual amount of internal body fat despite a lean diet; then with our current doe who stubbornly refused to breed for nearly six months, we finally have our first purebred Champagne d’Argent litter!

I’m so relieved! This litter has been such a long time coming that I started to wonder if we would ever get any kits at all. In the meantime, our Champagne buck Gonzague has already sired at least half a dozen hybrid litters. I knew the issue definitely wasn’t with him.

Mathurine’s first litter went as smoothly as can be. Although she was a couple of days late, she pulled fur like a wild woman and gave birth to nine healthy kits, a very respectable first try. Champagne d’Argent kits are all black at birth and slowly develop their silvering with time. I’m looking forward to observing their progression!

If you’d like to reserve a Champagne d’Argent rabbit, please get in touch with us ASAP to get on the waiting list. They are purebred and pedigreed from an excellent lineage.

 

New Standard Rex Litter – Spring 2017

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We have our first Standard Rex litter of 2017. After one false pregnancy where I think the problem was too much winter weight, Fire Opal has kindled a modest litter of six healthy kits.  There are five solids and one little broken. Two light coated and four dark. Not sure what colors these will end up as, but likely some opals and castors as per usual.

There’s already a waiting list started for this litter, so if you’re looking for a purebred Standard Rex bunny, please get in touch with us ASAP.

 

Introducing Butternut

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Butternut is a triple hybrid F1 doe who is the latest addition to our meat breeding program. Her mother is Caraway, who is a Creme d’Argent/Standard Rex cross, and her sire was Scorch, a Californian buck that I have since sold. She was the largest in her litter and has matured into a beautiful young rabbit with lovely markings.

She has been bred for the first time to Gonzague, my Champagne d’Argent buck and is due mid-April. Her litter, if it’s successful, will be our first quadruple hybrid F1 meat rabbits.

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Naturally Treating Coccidiosis in Rabbits

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I’ve had this very contagious disease pop up a couple of times in my meat herd, usually as a result of pasturing my young rabbits. You can very easily tell if you have sick bunnies: they lose their appetites, their backbones become visible and noticeably palpable, they act listless and they develop chronic diarrhea. Don’t lose hope though, you can almost always bring sick rabbits back to perfect health without resorting to pharmaceuticals if you catch it early enough.

I was given a bottle of some foul brown liquid from a breeder when I acquired my first rabbit pair, and was instructed to add it to the water for five days on, five days off and five days on again as a coccidia preventative. I dutifully did so at first, and my bunnies hated it. I didn’t know any better. The bottle still sits half full on the shelf almost four years later and I will likely never use it again. Instead I’ve developed a natural method for treating this often deadly disease. Of course now my main focus is prevention and it hasn’t been an issue since then.

Coccidia is a parasite that is found pretty much everywhere in the soil. Young rabbits are more susceptible to it than adults. If you have rabbits on pasture or feed fresh greens there is always the possibility of infestation. It’s passed on through rabbit feces via cysts. If one young bunny in a colony has it, they probably all do. The best prevention is to keep rabbit environments clean, raise rabbits on wire-bottomed cages, move pastured rabbits to fresh ground frequently, dry or thoroughly wash fresh greens and keep bunnies away from soil that has recently been occupied by other types of livestock or pets, especially chickens and dogs.

All right, so the worst has happened, your bunnies are sick. If they have the symptoms listed above and have been exposed to pasture/greens, they probably have coccidiosis. Here are the immediate steps to take:

Clean. You must disinfect the environment or get your rabbits to fresh pasture immediately. I recommend getting them off the ground completely if they become sick and putting them into a wire-bottomed cage where feces can drop away and not recontaminate them. You can either use bleach or white vinegar to thoroughly clean all cages, water vessels and toys. Be sure to rinse well in fresh water after disinfection. Wire-bottomed cages with appropriately-sized spacing (1/2″ by 1″) are not cruel. Rabbits have well-furred feet that are adapted to rough surfaces and their nails hang down naturally through the wire adding to their comfort.

Water. If you don’t already do this, begin adding apple cider vinegar to the water. One tablespoon per 32 oz. water bottle is sufficient, but you may add as much as you want as long as your rabbits will still drink. This acidifies the gut, adds trace minerals and is excellent for overall gastrointestinal health. I use small amounts of ACV in my rabbit water all year round. It helps prevent algae growth, promotes good health and if you take your rabbits to a show in a different town, the drinking water there will still taste familiar to them. I’ve also noticed increased vigor in all my bunnies once I made this permanent addition.

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Blackberry. This is the most vital element to combating the parasite. Blackberry leaves and vines are one of the most important medicinal plants for rabbits and luckily they grow as invasive weeds in most places in the world. You’ll likely never have to drive far to find some, even in the dead of winter. Provide your rabbit with as much fresh or dried leaves and vines as they can eat. Don’t worry about the thorns, your rabbit will likely eat them first. Avoid giving the blackberry drupes (fruit) themselves if possible, although a few here or there will not hurt. Blackberry is a powerful anti-diarrhea herb for rabbits and in many cases, prolonged loose stools are the real reason your rabbit will lose the battle with coccidia. Also be sure to provide plentiful dry grass hay and clean pelleted food. Stop feeding any other vegetable or fruit treats. Promptly remove any food that becomes soiled or contaminated with feces.

With this regimen initiated at the very first signs of sickness, I have rarely lost a bun to the disease. Your rabbit may sustain some level of liver or intestinal damage from the parasite, but in most cases they go on to live perfectly normal and healthy lives. If you butcher meat rabbits that have been infected, you may notice yellow or white spots on the liver as a result. Affected livers like these should not be consumed by humans. To see photos of an infected liver, you can check out my previous post on hepatic coccidiosis here.

Keep those bunnies healthy! 🙂

We Like Packages

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I always leave boxes and packaging out for shipments I’ve received so the cats can fully exhaust their “usefulness”. They loved this fancy shredded paper from Scotland! It will be destined for the compost pile after hanging out under some rabbit cages for a bit.

Of course it means waking up to this scene every day for a week. Totally worth it.

Opal’s Latest Litter

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This little litter of five are just over three weeks old now. They are one of those exceptionally calm litters of bunnies we occasionally get, and we even had a couple of rare colors show up.

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Blue otter

I think we might have our very first broken blue otter, I believe all the others turned out to be broken opals in past litters. There is also another stunning solid blue otter, the color that a few families were fighting over last time. The photo makes him/her look a bit washed out but he/she is definitely a blue.

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Broken blue otter

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Broken black otter

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Opal #1

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Opal #2

I really like the broken black otters, and we got another one this time as well as two opals, one much lighter than the other. If you can believe it, I even noticed the broken blue trying to hump his or her siblings between takes! Three weeks is now officially the youngest I’ve ever seen that happen, by a long shot. I flipped him/her over for a quick check, looks like a doe but a bit early to know for sure. Hopefully!

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Look at that little face!

These cuties were a pleasure to work with today and enjoyed their first nibbles of fresh greens while waiting to have their pictures taken. This litter will be ready for new homes on November 12th and will make excellent pets.

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