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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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

Bunny Update

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Broken blue otter Rex buck

The babies are now a little over a month old and looking very cute. They are eating piles of fresh wild forage each day from our little organic field, which has really been taking off. They hardly eat any pellets at all, and I find this makes them extra healthy and friendly as they look forward to their daily greens.

I did a quick once over and so far it seems like all the bunnies I picked out for the shoot today are bucks except for the little Californian at the end. The photos represent all the colors we have in the current four litters. I have multiple chestnut agouti kits as well as the ticked black. Enjoy!

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Broken blue otter Rex buck, right side

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Broken black otter Rex buck

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Broken black otter Rex, left side

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Opal Rex buck

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Opal Rex buck, left side

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Creme/Rex/Champagne buck

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Creme/Rex/Champagne buck, left side

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Chestnut agouti Creme/Champagne buck

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Chestnut agouti Creme/Champagne buck, right side

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Californian doe

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Californian doe, right side

 

 

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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Deep Litter Method for Rabbits

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Mathurine in her deceptively empty cage. She has just demolished a pound of wild greens and the remnants have been folded into the bedding

Lately I’ve been trying something new in my rabbitry, the deep litter method.

Many people use this method with chickens, pigs or cattle; but it isn’t something you would normally think to use with rabbits, unless they’re conveniently on wire like mine.

My cages used to be about a foot off the ground, and this meant I needed to do a thorough cleaning every week. More often if there were growing litters. Most of my bunnies are currently housed over a concrete floor, and I use pine pellet bedding underneath to absorb the urine. This works great because wood pellets require a good nitrogen source to start breaking down properly, and the urine provides that. It creates amazing compost in a very short time.

Not long ago however, I raised my cages up another foot. Not only did this make it easier to clean underneath them, but I noticed that if I just stirred up the litter daily with my garden hoe and kept adding more pellets to wetter areas as needed, that the bedding was beginning to compost under the cages. There was a lovely earthy smell in the barn and pellet use was cut down to about one tenth of what I was using before. The 6″ to 12″ thick layer is also much better at absorbing urine and water spills.

Another added benefit is it’s pretty much ready to go right into the garden once you do finally clean it out. I plan to leave a 2″ layer of old material underneath once I do this, in order to reinoculate the new bedding. I’ve read that commercial chicken farmers actually have a lower mortality rate for new chicks if they are introduced to well-aged deep litter bedding as opposed to a freshly sanitized clean environment, because the good bugs establish slowly and fight off the bad bugs, which establish more quickly. It makes sense to me.

Everything that falls into the bedding gets mixed in and helps the breakdown process along. Hay, straw, bits of vegetation that the rabbits drop, feed pellets, shredded paper and fur. Since I get a lot of free used coffee grounds from the local Starbucks, I sometimes sprinkle a few cups over the top.

In some areas, when I fluff up the bedding I find colonies of maggots. These spots have the blackest and richest looking compost in them, and I will sometimes scoop a bunch of it out and toss it into the chicken coop for the girls to pick through. The maggots are a great and free high protein treat for them.