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

 

Easter Bunnies Update

The first spring litters are now almost three weeks old and everyone is doing great. All kits are fat and happy and just starting to foray out of the nest boxes. Soon they’ll be munching fresh greens alongside their moms.

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This first litter is out of Caraway and they are half Champagne d’Agent, a quarter Standard Rex and a quarter Creme d’Argent. Half the kits came out agouti with a little white spot on their foreheads, and the other half came out looking like black otter Rexes (which is what their grandsire was), with some frosting on their bums that is very similar to Silver Marten markings.

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The next litter is out of Esther, and they are the Creme d’Argent/Champagne d’Argent crosses. They all came out agouti colored but I’ll be interested to see if they develop any white frosting as they mature. The one white kit in the nest is a Californian baby that was transferred as a day old to even out the litter sizes.

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Litter three is out of Samphire, and are our pure Californian bunnies. These little guys are just starting to get their dark points coming in.

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And finally, litter number four is out of Fire Opal and are the purebred Standard Rex buns. She only threw three bunnies this time, so I took four bunnies away from Caraway (she had 11) on day one and transferred them to Opal’s nest. They are the agouti and solid black colored ones.

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It looks like the solid Rex kit is an opal like mom, which is a blue coat with a reddish undertone and cream belly. Very pretty.

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Kit number two is either a broken blue otter, or a broken opal. Also very pretty with a nice pattern.

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And lastly, the third Rex kit appears to be a broken black otter. You can see the snips of tan around the nostrils, eyes and ears that give it away.

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DSC_0069.JPGHappy Easter everyone!

The Creme Kits, Rabbit Attack, Wasp Attack!

DSC_0008Here are some shots of the Rex/Creme litter kits at about three weeks old. I don’t see any silvering yet but it would be harder to see on these lighter toned kits. I’ll be interested to see if the high-strung nature of the Rexes infiltrates these little guys, or if their mom’s calmness will win out.

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DSC_0011I sold five rabbits today, which was awesome since I’ll need my grow-out cages very soon. I usually bring my rabbits out for customers in the little two-hole traveling cage I made which opens from the top. I’ve never had an issue before, but I think today the sheer number of kids around spooked the Rex kits and one of them jumped out. While I struggled to wrangle the little blue doe back into her cage I was slashed on both hands and wrists, stomach and legs. Not only that, but the little stinker screamed the entire time. I don’t often hear rabbit screams around here, but let me tell you they are not pleasant. So here I am now, covered in Polysporin, hoping these bloody scratches and welts heal fast. I have gardening to do!

I finally bought a bunch of tomato cages today, which were sorely needed in the container garden. When I returned from the garden shop and had emptied the car, I noticed a threesome of wasps building a tiny nest on the overhang near my back trunk handle.

This isn’t the first time wasps have tried nesting on my car, I don’t know why they choose to do this. There must be a hundred better places around here. They must have been wondering where their nest went today and weren’t too happy with me for running off with it. When I tried to lock my trunk I was swiftly attacked and stung on the hand. They wouldn’t let me get my key anywhere near it.

I stormed back inside nursing my painful hand and did a quick online search. Then, armed with a container full of hot water and dish soap, I went right back outside, took a deep breath, sloshed it at them as fast and hard as I could and then retreated, quickly. When I inched back to check, the nest had been dislodged and the wasps were nowhere to be seen. I hope they’re either dead or don’t have good memories.

The Creme d’Argent/Standard Rex Litter

DSC_0031These little guys are four days old now and their colors are coming in. This is my first time breeding Esther to Timmy, and I’m a little surprised with the results. Four of the nine kits are a dark agouti or wild type, which is not a shock. The other five look for all the world like purebred Creme d’Argents!
DSC_0030DSC_0032Although his phenotype is black otter, I know that Timmy carries some light genes because he produces a lot of blues and has even sired a tort. This breeding confirms that even further. I’m not sure if these fawn kits will show silvering like their mom, though I do know it’s a dominant trait and almost always shows up when she throws blacks, although does not appear on the agoutis.

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DSC_0034If the fawn kits do grow up to look like purebred Cremes, I might hold on to a couple. It’s not an ideal situation, but there’s nowhere else to get a Creme d’Argent around here and my first effort to breed pure Cremes failed, with two kits that were both ultimately infertile and no further access to the buck who was owned by another breeder.

Of course breeding these kits would likely have some recessive traits show up like Rex fur, but I can weed those out. I’d be interested to see what a sibling breeding would produce. Maybe I can create my own Creme d’Argents?

Every commercial rabbit breed today began as a mix of breeds. Occasionally people will toss a different breed of rabbit into their purebred program to improve some trait or reduce another. As long as everything is recorded on the pedigree I don’t see a problem.

I wish I had more cages so I could do more breeding experiments. It’s a great, first-hand way of understanding rabbit coat color genetics, and I like being surprised by interesting kits. With solely purebred bunnies, you pretty much get the same thing every time.

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Look at those cute little teeth!

DIY Rabbit Nesting Boxes – Trial and Error

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Esther with a moustache of the new bedding we’re trying. I think she approves

When I started researching meat rabbits, way before I ever had any, I wondered what I would use for nesting boxes. The traditional sheet metal boxes that I see used most often are hard to find where I live and very expensive when located. There’s one on a shelf at the local feed store that I think is around $40 and looks from the thick coat of dust on it like it’s been sitting unsold for many years. I wonder why…

I’ve also seen many wooden nesting boxes used. To me, that seems like a lot of work for a heavy nesting box that will absorb urine and is difficult to disinfect. I know the importance of disinfecting nesting boxes after each use as I had to deal with a couple of cases of mastitis last year. My rabbit recovered both times but it’s not something I’d like to repeat.

A nice solution would be if there was something cheap and plastic I could buy at a hardware store that would fit the bill, sort of like a squat planter box maybe. Something like that may exist, but I haven’t found it yet. I have wondered if a plastic dishpan might work, but I have yet to try this out.

So my solution was to follow guidelines in the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits and build wire mesh nestboxes. I had already built all my rabbit cages, so I already had the mesh and tools. Despite the popularity of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else ever use a box like this, for whatever reason. I know once I posted a Youtube video which showed the box in use, a local rabbit breeder I know commented to me that she noticed I was using wire boxes and to not be surprised if I lost most of my kits. That scared me a bit. I asked her why, and she said the kits would either get too cold or the mother would flip the lightweight nest over. Well, I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen.

At first I would cut out a fresh cardboard liner for each new litter, then fill the box with woodchips and straw. The cardboard had to be in one single piece or the does would pull out each side and toss them. Well, turns out you actually go through a lot of cardboard that way and measuring out and cutting the liners is tedious. I hated it. I also need my used cardboard to make packaging for my other business and there’s no way I’m going to go and buy new cardboard. Do you know how expensive it is?

I experimented once without the liner and all the woodchips fell out through the mesh in just a few days. Thankfully the kits survived but I needed to add new bedding each day and they were obviously struggling to stay warm in the depleted nest.

Now I think I’ve found a better solution. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but this time I shoved a whole bunch of shredded newspapers into the bottom of the nests and topped them off with the straw. The problem with straw is that my rabbits like to eat it. Generally though enough is left in the nest for it to work. They won’t be eating the paper I bet. So far, it looks like the shreds make a nice soft and yet solid base to the nest, and it doesn’t seem to want to fall out the holes. The rabbits seem happy with it and it’s absorbent, practically free and should insulate well. I keep the does from moving or flipping over their nests by attaching the back to the cage wall with a dog leash clip.

These wire mesh nests are nice and light when removing them to inspect kits, they can be very easily sanitized in a container with some bleach and water, they were cheap and easy to make, and they’ll last a very long time. I worried a bit about the sharp front corners at first, but I smoothed everything off well with a grinder when I made them and the rabbits seem to have no problems. I’ve seen enough wild rabbits deep in bramble bushes to know that they know how to avoid being impaled on sharp objects.

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Very pregnant Creme d’Argent doe and nest box

My nestboxes are made of 1/2 inch by 1 inch rabbit cage flooring wire, and measure 18 inches long by 10 inches wide by 8 inches tall with a 5 inch tall front lip. They are held together with hog rings or c-clips.

 

 

Back to the Rabbits

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Hybrid meat bunnies

I haven’t posted about rabbits for awhile, especially considering the name of this site. There have been a lot of changes in the past few months.

The biggest and best change is that I finally replaced the roof on my barn. For two years whenever it rained the poor bunnies had to live with the occasional drip which slowly turned into a constant drizzle as the tarp I put up weathered away. I even lost a whole litter once when they were drowned by accident. That was a horrible experience. Now I’ve installed a nice new metal roof that I’m proud to say I built myself and learned a lot in the process. I still have work to do on it yet like fascia boards but at least things are now watertight. You wouldn’t believe the constant anxiety it was causing me knowing the rabbits were living without a proper roof! Summers were fine but spring and fall are very wet here. Soon I will be replacing the old falling-off, flip-up garage door with some nice dutch barn doors. To these I would also like to add a dog/cat door so my team can maintain a constant mouse vigil.

I also went through a paring down process with the rabbits themselves. My first purebred rabbits here were Silver Martens, as that was all I could get at the time. While they were nice rabbits, they just didn’t grow fast enough or large enough for me to be viable as meat rabbits. So I got rid of them.

Now I’m down to four does and two bucks. I have Esther, my reliable Creme d’Argent doe, Samphire, my Californian doe, Tuna, my Black Otter Standard Rex doe and Bluefin, her daughter, a Blue Otter Standard Rex. My bucks are Scorch, the Californian and Timmy the Black Otter Rex. It’s a nice variety and a good number for me right now I think.

As of this moment all of my does are (fingers-crossed) bred. I’m expecting a litter of Cal/Creme meat hybrids, a litter of pure Cals, and hopefully two litters of Standard Rex. Three of those litters are due this Wednesday. Nest boxes go in tomorrow.

I resisted getting Californian rabbits at first. Not sure why, I guess they looked kind of boring to me as predominantly white rabbits. Now I’ve changed my mind, and I really like my Cal pair. They were skittish at first, but have calmed down a lot as adults and seem to enjoy petting. They are never, ever aggressive. I also love Esther, my Creme doe. She’s been with me from the beginning and was a gift from a local rabbit breeder. She’s a big, beautiful, sweet girl who is a fantastic mother, does excellent on forage and has never shown a hint of aggression, ever.

Then there are the Rexes. While Timmy, who is an ex-pet rabbit would never think of being mean (he is also the only rabbit who I can free range in the yard and trust to return to his cage), the girls have had their moments. Both Rex does have stomped, growled, boxed and lunged at me, although I’ve never been bitten. I’m kind of split on the issue because I really like both of them as breeders (not that they’ve proven to be reliable mothers yet at this point), but I also don’t see the point of having aggressive rabbits here at all. It’s possible they act out primarily when hormonal, so I’ll have to be mindful of that. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves as moms in the next few weeks and that will help my decision, I’m sure. At least I hope it does.

They’ve been very good lately, but that may be because spring brings lots of fresh treats. If they continue to be aggressive with me once they have kits, I think I’ll have no choice but to cull once the kits are weaned. I do not want to be bitten by a rabbit.

Check back soon for baby bunnies!