Better, Cheaper Rabbit Pellets

DSC_0004There’s just one thing I like better than finding cheaper alternatives to necessary purchases, and that’s finding BETTER quality products for cheaper!

While picking up little MR16 last week, the topic of rabbit pellets came up and I was informed of a source of locally-made pellets that were non-gmo, animal product free, 1% higher in protein than my current brand, and $2 cheaper per 20kg bag. The breeder told me that her rabbit herd had made a dramatic change when she switched to these pellets; they were having larger litters, growing out faster and had better immunity. I was sold.

Today I checked it out. This magical place is Top Shelf Feeds in Duncan BC. Boy, what a fantastic store! It might be a 40 minute drive away, but this is definitely where I’m going to be buying all my livestock feed from now on. I was told they work closely with rabbit breeders to formulate their rabbit pellets, and almost everything they sell is a little, if not a lot cheaper than in Nanaimo.

For instance, for Coturnix Quail rations I normally buy 26% Gamebird Starter from Share-Kare, a shop near me, for $22.50 a bag. Compare that to 26% Quail Diet from Top Shelf at $14.50 a bag! Just one bag pretty much pays for the whole trip. I can also buy their original non-gmo layer pellets for about $0.75 more per bag, which is a very good deal. I may even switch to their organic layer pellets since I’ll be saving so much money on everything else.

They also have cool, real farmer stuff like replacement tattoo clamp numbers, stethoscopes (I bought one), scalpels, bulk bins of milk replacement powder, 20kg bags of baking soda, vials of medication that say for veterinary use only… As well as blocks of exotic frozen raw pet foods.

And when available they sell heritage, sexed chicks for a reasonable $3 or so instead of $10-15 at my local Buckerfield’s. I also bought a 50 foot roll of 3′ wide, 1/4″ hardware cloth for about $30 cheaper than I could find anywhere else. This will be used for my new pigeon loft/aviary. A bale of straw is currently about $12.50 there, but it’s $20 in Nanaimo. These are fairly significant discrepancies, especially if you buy in quantity.

To top it all off, you get to pull into a covered loading area and they pack all your feed into your vehicle for you. Love it!

Introducing My New Rex Herd Sire

DSC_0003Up until now my Standard Rex herd sire has been Timmy. I got Timmy a year or so ago from a couple that had him as a pet rabbit and couldn’t care for him anymore. He didn’t like being handled and they wanted to concentrate on their friendlier bunnies. While he is a very nice rabbit, type-wise he is terrible. He also has no pedigree and no tattoo. Since there are only a few Rex breeders on the Island, and most of their stock came from the USA, I think it’s safe to assume that Timmy was someone’s cull and it’s easy to see why.

It was time for me to get a proper Rex herd sire. After one debacle with a disreputable local rabbit breeder (who has since had all her rabbits seized by the SPCA), I located a breeder who seemed to be doing everything right. She was extremely kind and helpful and has a herd of the most beautiful and happy rabbits.

Yesterday I drove to her little farm and picked up the most gorgeous 13 week old Broken Castor buck: Moonstruck’s MR16. Once we get to know each other a little better I’ll give him a proper name. A big thank you to Jody Mitchell and Moonstruck Meadows!

DSC_0005This little guy is just the most handsome little buck I have ever seen. He has beautiful fur and body type and a full pedigree. This means that with Tuna’s full pedigree, I am on my way to producing fully pedigreed Rexes. Since he is a broken, this also means that I can start producing broken kits, which is a very fun prospect. Timmy will be retired and probably Bluefin will be also, as she is Timmy’s daughter and not very easy to work with. Unfortunately with limited space and cages I have to trim my herd aggressively.

DSC_0007Just look at that cute little face!

More New Bunnies

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Esther’s kits next to my lupines and mint

Well my girls came through. Esther kindled nine bunnies and Tuna kindled ten. That’s what you call a twenty-nine rabbit long weekend.

Esther’s kits had already arrived when I went in to check this morning. She had a combination of half light ginger kits and half what looks to me like black otter. I can’t wait to see how they turn out. As usual she pulled enough fur to line a hot tub.

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One of Esther’s ginger kits

I was so busy getting excited over Esther’s kits that I barely noticed that Tuna was in labor. She ignored her fresh bunch of grass so that should have been the first indication. As I watched her over about a half hour period, she methodically gave birth to her large litter of healthy kits. Here they are just moments after being born, you can still see some placenta that hasn’t been cleaned out yet. These are some big litters so I’m hoping the predominantly fresh diet will keep all the kits alive. We shall see.

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Tuna’s litter

New Bunnies Day

DSC_0044 Today was the due date for Esther, Samphire and Tuna; but when I went out to the barn for chores this evening, only one nest was furry and that was Sam’s. She kindled ten pink and healthy purebred Californian kits. Here they are next to my purple and orange cauliflower starts that need to get put in the ground ASAP.

As for Tuna, nothing. She just wanted her grass and treats and that’s that. I was a little surprised because I remember the breeding going very well. She hasn’t used her nestbox as a toilet yet though, so I’m still hopeful. Maybe tomorrow.

Esther sometimes kindles on day 32, so it’s not that unusual that her box was still empty. Once I had just about finished my barn chores, around dusk, I noticed her going into birthing mode. She was acting restless and breathing very rapidly and heavily. Then she started pulling fur. I sat down and watched her for awhile since it’s not something I usually see. She pulled it rhythmically from her dewlap and also from down both her sides. Then she gathered it all up and put it into the nest box. It’s nice that my rabbits have become comfortable enough with me that I get to witness these private moments more and more.

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Resting in between fur-pulling sessions

It’s been a few hours since then so I’ll bet she has a litter out there right now. I’m very excited to see what she’ll throw since this is my first Standard Rex/Creme d’Argent litter. I don’t think we’ll have any Rex-furred kits this generation, but I’m hoping for some interesting colors. I’m also interested in finding out how this hybrid combo compares to the others as far as grow out is concerned.

Here’s an idea of the amount of greens the bunnies get fed every day during this time of year. The grass is growing so fast they can scarcely keep up. I have one tractor of four bunnies who have a low roof and a huge bundle of grass placed on top for them every day where they can pull it down and eat it. These particular bunnies have eaten almost no pellets and have only made it through one quarter of a 32 oz water bottle in ONE WHOLE WEEK. I will be constructing more low-roof tractors so that I can capitalize on this. I love the more natural diet, the fact that it’s free, and the added health benefits both for the rabbits and for the eventual consumer of the rabbits. Me.

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Update on Rabbits for Sale – Plus Rant

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Californian bunnies

We have lots of cute baby rabbits for sale right now, here’s an update of what we have left:

There were only two Californian does this litter, so they sold quite quickly. (It would have been quicker if I hadn’t been stood up by an RPN from Gabriola Island. No email, no phone call, nothing. So that was a good couple of hours of my life wasted. For those of you reading, if you ever stand me up without giving me some notice, consider yourself ineligible for future sales. It is stressful for the bunnies, and it is disrespectful of my time. Thank you!)

There are now only four Californian bucks remaining. They are nine weeks old, eating lots of fresh forage and very friendly and sweet buns, easy to handle. They are $25 each. They will probably be here until mid-May, and then if not sold will be going to freezer camp. They’d make great herd sires for a meat operation.

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Hybrid meat bunnies

Two of the Creme d’Argent/Californian hybrid does are sold, and there are three nice does left. They are nine weeks old. One agouti and the rest variations on steel or white tipped black. Very attractive coats this litter, almost like a Silver Fox. There are also two nice big bucks, both tipped blacks. These are excellent forage rabbits and are out on fresh pasture 24-7 now. They are also always my friendliest rabbits. Does are $30, bucks are $25.

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Standard Rex bucks

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Standard Rex does

The first Standard Rex litter is now almost eight weeks old. One blue otter buck has been reserved, and there is a self black and two black otter bucks available. There is one blue otter doe, a self black doe and a black otter doe. The Rexes are a little more high-strung rabbits, but if you treat them right and earn their trust they make fantastic pets. They all get a big bunch of fresh forage each day but only the does have been moved to pasture at this time. Does are $30, bucks are $25.

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The younger Rex litter

The second litter of Standard Rex will be ready to go in about a week. The little tort is a doe and has been reserved. There are blues and black otters left, but I haven’t sexed everyone yet. Does are $30, bucks are $25.

Thanks for reading!

Bluefin’s Litter

DSC_0031These little Standard Rex bunnies are nearly five weeks old. I am feeding all the rabbits a primarily fresh grass and forage diet right now as there is so much lush growth in my yard. Every day I go out with my little scythe and mow down fresh bunches of greens for them which they happily dive into. They all eat a lot less pellets this way and they all love it. Plus it’s free!

DSC_0050I took a little look at the tort baby and it seems to be a doe. I’ll know for sure next time once I’m able to do everyone. She is the runt of the litter but still doing very well and very friendly. Bluefin has done a great job raising everyone and soon they’ll be out in their own tractor, on lawn mowing duty with the other kits.

DSC_0032In other news I finally got myself a tattoo machine for doing rabbit ear numbers. I decided on the KBTatt pen which I ordered through Martin’s Cages. I’m excited to try it out on these little guys, it’s a skill I’ve been wanting to learn since I got into rabbits a couple of years ago. More info on that to come!

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Hybrid Kit Update

DSC_0080I couldn’t leave these little guys out. Although they are the same age as the Californian kits, these little buns have decided to hang out in the nestbox longer. They also appear to be a bit bigger than their purebred half-siblings, but that’s no longer a surprise.

DSC_0073We have two agouti kits and the rest are black with varying degrees of lighter brown ticking. So far this has been the standard for these crossbreeds. I just love the agouti-colored rabbits with their little black ear tips and black eyelashes. I think I’ve always liked brown birds and animals, not sure why.

Californian Kits are so Cute

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Of course while I was shooting the Rexes, I had to get some shots of the fluffy white puffball, three week old Cal kits. These bunnies are just so tiny and sweet. I’m going back on the barley fodder system now, and I think that will make for even healthier and happier rabbits. I’d say the new nesting material is a big winner, based on how fat, healthy and issue-free both these litters of kits turned out.

DSC_0066For at least the past week, these kits have refused to go into the nestbox at all, instead mom uses it to escape from them when required. I’ll be taking it out soon.

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Standard Rex Kits are Here

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Blue otter kit from last year

On schedule, Tuna kindled seven kits this morning. This is her second litter, and I was expecting mostly black otters with maybe a couple of blues, since Tuna and Timmy are both black otter. That’s what happened the first time around. This time however, she gave me all blue/grey kits. They all look healthy and I expect them to do very well. Now I’m extra curious to see what Bluefin kindles at the end of the month since she’s a blue otter too. Will there be blacks? Brokens? To those who don’t know, broken is a mottled coat pattern.

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Black otter kit from last year

 

Baby Rabbit Update – Week 1

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Californian X Creme d’Argent agouti kit

The kits are a little over a week old, and I’m happy to say that my new DIY nest bedding method is working very well. Everyone has been warm and happy with no issues at all. I’m so pleased to have finally figured out the nest box situation here.

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Californian X Creme d’Argent black steel kit

Tuna my Standard Rex is due to kindle tomorrow morning. Her nest is well trampled and she hasn’t pooped in it, so I fully expect a nice little litter when I wake up on Saturday. Her daughter Bluefin is due on the 23rd. It will be Blue’s first litter so anything could happen. It will be nice to have some more Rex litters in the barn, they’re so soft and exotic even though they often have a lot of attitude.

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Californian kit, 1 week

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Californian kits in the nest

I actually also really like that the shredded paper adds great color! So cute.