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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Downsizing the Rabbitry

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Scorch

I’ve decided that I have a few more rabbits than I really need, and I’d like to concentrate my efforts on just a couple of breeds. Therefore, I have some really nice breeding stock for sale!

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Samphire

Although I love them, I will be getting out of Californians. They are superb bunnies for beginners, gentle and easy to handle and great breeders and mothers. My young breeding pair, Samphire and Scorch, never let me down. They are purebred bunnies but do not come with pedigrees because I was never able to get them from the seller. Breed them for four generations and you will be able to create your own pedigrees though. They are both 11.5 pounds and about two years old. They are unrelated.

I also have two beautiful 12 week old does from their latest litter ready to go. Breed them pure to sell as breeding stock or cross them with another commercial breed for fast growing meat hybrids.

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12 week old doe

If you’re interested in any of these superb bunnies, please get in touch! I will be selling Sam and Scorch for $40 each and the two young does are $30 each. I’ll sell you all four together for $120.

 

Rex Litters at Four Weeks

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Enjoying bamboo and blackberry today

The babies are currently at their cutest stage where they become quite active and look like miniature versions of their parents.

Running around eating everything is their greatest joy so I keep them all well stocked with organic forage from the gardens.

These litters have developed a special fondness for arugula and Red Russian kale, which has self seeded everywhere this year and is in particular abundance right now.

There are three broken opals from Fire Opal’s litter:

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And there is one little broken castor and a solid castor:

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There is also a lovely blue otter with a nice, deep colored coat. This bunny is really blue!:

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Then we have two solid opals and a broken black otter:

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Five Spice’s litter consists of two solid castors, two broken castors and a solid opal. I don’t have individual photos of absolutely everyone but you get the idea!:

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Five Spice with her kits

Hybrid Bunnies at 10 Weeks

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Triple hybrid buck still silvering out

The meat cross bunnies are now a little over ten weeks old. Many have been sold, but I still have chestnut agoutis of both sexes in various stages of silvering.

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A close up of his color layering

Some have turned really white, mostly the bucks, although there are a couple true agoutis with a few errant white hairs and the triple crosses also have some black guard hairs mixed in with their overall white. Many of them resemble Argente Bruns to me.

The one double hybrid Creme/Champagne doe left has developed the most amazing silvered pelt with a bright caramel undercoat and no black guard hairs.

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Creme/Champagne doe

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Creme/Champagne doe top view

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Creme/Champagne doe caramel undercoat

As for weigh ins, we have again broken our previous record and these are now the largest meat bunnies we have ever produced here at Abernathy’s! I only weighed two does today, but they came in at 2286g (5.04lbs) and 2543g (5.6lbs).

5.6 pounds at ten weeks! That’s a new record, and I still have at least a dozen more bunnies to put on the scale. Many that appear to be of a similar size or even larger. Not bad!

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Triple hybrid doe

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Triple hybrid doe top view

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You can just barely see some of the black guard hairs if you look closely

 

Latest Rex Litters

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Opal’s litter

We have two new Rex litters that are about a week old now. Opal kindled ten kits, and her daughter Five Spice kindled for the first time, and produced six. All born in the nest on day 32, like mother like daughter.

Five Spice nearly tricked me with her first litter, I was checking nests every day to see if kits had arrived, and on day 32 her nest still looked undisturbed. Unusual for a first timer, usually they make quite a mess. I assumed she had not taken this time… I even put my hand in the nest and felt no warm, squirmy rabbit bodies.

When I went in and stroked her, she flattened out and stuck her hind end in the air, very evidently keen to breed. That was the clincher, I assumed no way would anyone want to breed if they were about to give birth, so I figured I would waste no time and put her back in with the buck.

While they were cavorting, I tidied up her cage and refreshed her food and water. I was removing the nestbox when I saw that there was a tiny bit of fluff in the back corner. Fur in the nest? Sure enough, six perfect little kits were all scrunched up in the far corner.

We have quite a nice color assortment this time, there are many brokens and solids to choose from. Five Spice produced two solid castors, two broken castors and a couple of opals. Five Spice is a solid castor and the sire is a broken castor, so no real surprise there.

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Five Spice’s litter

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Broken castor

Opal has a broken black otter, a few broken opals, a broken castor, a solid castor, some solid opals and what looks like a blue otter.

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Broken black otter

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Broken opal

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Solid castor

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Blue otter