Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Rabbits, Chickens & Four Year Old Bargaining Expertise

Sassy's three kits have full round bellies, they are warm and cozy in their nest and yet I feel a bit of loss this morning, because they are the only three remaining out of five kits.  One kit mama culled herself and I have to assume it wouldn't have survived. The other one my daughter and I found 8-10 ft away from the hutch yesterday evening cold and dusty. Somehow it had ended up outside the cage and rolled or crawled far enough away that when I checked on them the first day I didn't see it. And I didn't see it until two days later when we were doing our tray and cage cleaning and I moved a tarp that was laying off to the side out of the way to sweep up stray hay and dust.

My mother's ears could hear my four year old's voice coming closer as she headed for the barn to help with rabbit chores and as Seriah and I looked at each other with worry on our faces for how she would react my quick acting daughter wrapped the little bundle in one of the clean towels we keep on hand for rabbit care and left by the side door to go dispose of and take care of our unfortunate babe before the youngest in our family was traumatized any further.

Kyrilene is already using our homestead as her personal mother blackmail and torture device and it is working well in her favor I am sorry to admit.  Why just the other day as we were walking into IHOP for dinner my four year old turns to me with all her sweetness and her eyes grow big and the fat tears start to fall and she crumples into my arms.  When I ask her whatever is the matter she begins:

"Why did you sell my bunny Shadow?  That was my bunny, and she was the best bunny ever and now I miss her.  Why mom?"

Now mind you this is the same mixed breed new zealand doe that she agreed we could sell several weeks ago because she was going to get to pick one of the new babies to be her new bunny.  And it would have a pedigree and could go to the shows with us.  But today none of that mattered.  The next thing out of her mouth would have convicted anyone especially if you didn't know the whole story.

"Why did you kill my chicken mom, I loved Calee.  She was the smallest and the sweetest and the best chicken ever, because she didn't run away and she let me hold her and pet her and everything.  Why is she dead?  Is she in Heaven?  I need to see my chicken again mom."

At this point I my heart sunk into my chest and I was grateful that as a family of seven they have to combine tables to seat us so we were in an out of the way corner in a not too busy restaurant.  Because you see her chicken had been born with a bugling eye defect.  We had cared for it and watched it for infection.  She was blind and stunted in growth but she compensated by buddying up with a young rooster who hatched in the same group of eggs as her and he watched out for her stuck to her side and guided her everywhere.  Trust me we were fine with this and would never have worried a wit about it until the eye became infected and even with ointment daily and careful flushing it was so badly infected that it was inhumane to left the poor thing suffer.  So we talked to the kids about why we had to put the chicken down and that it was the best thing for her and we did that evening after they had said goodbye and gone to bed.  But this day sitting at this table none of that mattered to my four year old.  In her eyes her mother had become a chicken killer and a rabbit seller and there was no coming back from that, or was there.  I fell for it and asked her the magic question.

"What can I do to help you feel better sweetheart?"

Immediately her eyes brightened and she smiled and looked at me ever so sweetly with a sly grin on her face that clearly read I have you now and she responded with:

"I need two bunnies of my very own that you can never never sell, and two chickens too."

Not only did she want to double the number of pets that she got to call her own but she had already picked them out.  So now she is the proud owner of our black buck Swift, our black new zealand doe Baccara Rose, and a couple of chickens named Stormy a mixed breed black hen and Crystal a black australorp hen.  And yesterday I could hear her talking to her sister about when she gets to pick out her very own baby bunny.  So apparently that offer is still on the table in her mind.  The workings and bargaining expertise of my four year old astound me.  And I admit that the future intimidates me just a little bit if she is this good already.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

First Litter of Fall Kits Arrive

Early morning and busy day planned for us today.  I had a couple hour drive to pick up a new buck for our herd and when I went out to the barn early this morning to prep the transport cage and get things ready to go I saw our doe Sassy pulling fur.  Peeking into her nesting box, there was no sign of kits so I let her be excited at the prospect of coming home from my trip to a nest full of baby bunnies.

My drive was uneventful and we have a new rabbit who you will meet soon, travel is always a bit hard on them so I want to give him a couple days to take in his new surroundings before handling him too much or asking him to pose for the camera.  So more about him another day.

During that drive however I got an extremely excited call from my kids. "We have babies mom! We have babies!"  It was hard to understand them they were so excited.  They told me that we had three broken colored babies and they hadn't opened the cage just looked at them through the bars.  I worried about them disturbing her, but it was too late now and at least they hadn't put their hands in the cage.

When I got home I checked on her and discovered three kits.  However my discovery was not the same as my daughters.  Because after cleaning up the bloody straw and checking that all the kits were alive I counted two broken colored kits and one solid black kit.  This completely upset my poor teenage daughter who insisted that one was missing and then shoved her phone into my hand as proof and sure enough on the video there was another broken colored kit.

We searched everywhere.  In around, under and through out the nest, nothing and I have come to the conclusion that for whatever reason mama rabbit culled that kit and cleaned up the mess herself.  This lead to a very frank discussion about instincts in rabbits with my kids and how they shouldn't get so hyper, loud and excited when we have a doe kindle because it can make mama freak out.  Hard life lessons learned for my kids today I am afraid.

On an up note though we have three very cute wiggling balls of baby bunny in a nest in here at the bowery and we are so excited to watch them grow and develop over the next few weeks.  This is also the first litter that Swift has sired and we are very excited to see how they develop in that regard as well.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Tucker Wins His First Leg!

The day after the Tulsa State Fair competition happens the Tulsa RBA (rabbit breeders association) holds a Sunday Open competition.  It is optional and you don't have to enter all or any of the rabbits you enter at the fair if you don't want to.  It was also on a Sunday so I had planned to pack my rabbits up at the end of the day Saturday and head home and not worry about the next day or the two and a half hour drive back to the fair grounds.

Being brand new to showing rabbits, I learned a few things at this event the hard way.  First Tulsa State Fair tries to keep things more secure so that animals theft can't happen.  Part of this is making it a coop show.  All rabbits have to be checked in and on the table in a provided and connected coop by a certain time.  Then whether the competition is over or not they are on display for the public and must remain until the end of the contracted days.  In this case it meant both Saturday and Sunday and a trip back to the fair for me whether I had planned on it or not.

It also meant I needed a few things I hadn't brought with me like extra food and water and something to help secure doors for the night while I wasn't there.  Trust me every rabbit breeder at the fair was doing something to either prevent fingers from getting into the cage entirely or to prevent people from opening the cage doors.  It also meant needing to clean cages the next morning.  After some quick thinking and my dear husband running errands for me, we got things settled for the night.

My daughter decided she didn't want to come back on Sunday so that left me with the opportunity to show all of our rabbits in the Open category of Sunday competition.  After all I was going to be there anyway right and they were going to be doing comment cards, which as a new breeder I really wanted as I hoped it would help me learn a bit more.  Turns out it was a lot of fun.

Our red NZ (New Zealand) buck Carrots took Best of Variety.

Our red NZ doe Scarlett took Best Opposite of Variety.

And our broken red NZ buck Tucker took First in Class and won his first Leg.  For those who don't know what that is: it is 1/3 of what you need in order to apply to have your registered rabbit grand Champion certificate.  Tucker needs to win two more legs and be registered with ARBA before he would be eligible.  A long ways to go yet but it is a good start and a super fun surprise.

It has also reminded me that I need to be asking more questions beforehand and making sure I take extra things to the show.  That I am prepared for everything.  Okay maybe not prepared for everything but at least prepared for a little bit more then that just the next few hours at a time.  But prepping for a show sounds like a whole different blog post to me.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

I processed my first meat rabbits today.

Okay so I know what you are all thinking, I raise show rabbits, so why am I talking about processing my first meat rabbits?  Well it's time to get real for a minute.  First: the whole reason I got into rabbits to begin with was to provide an homegrown food source for myself and my family, and to teach my kids a little bit of responsibility.  Second: not every rabbit from every litter your does kindle is going to have the high quality show potential you are looking for. Those that don't make the breeding or showing program do get to grow up and feed our family.  Now back to my morning.

So my kids being early risers even on the weekends and especially when mom wants to stay in bed, woke me this morning bright and early.  Since my brain went from asleep to full speed in a instant I figured I had better get up and start the day.  So I worked my way through the morning farm chores and then set up my processing station.

Honestly I had very little to do with it.  My husband had butchered our extra roosters for the freezer a couple of weeks ago so I just grabbed the stand he previously made and carried it over the back porch.  Then I added the main tools I was going to need for the operation of the day my Hopper Popper Kit that came in the mail earlier this week.  The kit is designed to make things quick and painless for the rabbit and nice and easier for the human.  You can check it out by clicking on the link.above.

My list of suggested tools:
1 stand or other mount for your Hopper Popper kit
1 Hopper Popper kit
1 trash bag if you want to save the pelt
1 container and trash bag for rabbit parts disposal
easy access to a hose with a sprayer attachment
1 container of ice water for soaking the meat after processing

Once I was all set up I watched this you tube video.  She goes through the entire process and it was very helpful.  So if you want an informative video I recommend this one.  It was enough I didn't have any problems or questions as I processed my own rabbits today.  However if you are sensitive at all I would skip the video because she shows you the whole process.

I have to be the first to admit that while the process was made much easier because I had the right tools with me it was also a bit emotional.  And maybe this is where you will all think I am a bit crazy because I admit that I prayed for each bunny; that things would be quick and painless.  I talked to them on our walk across the yard.  Thanking them for the lessons they taught our family and for their love and the sacrifice to feed our family.  When it was all over I even sat for a moment of silence and shed a tear over the loss of life.

Yet this is what it is all about isn't it.  This is the part most of us don't understand and miss out on or never experience and can't grasp because our meat and groceries all come from the corner market or the super grocery store down the street.  And hey I am not complaining I shop there too just like everybody else.  But I am grateful to have a little more gratitude for the blessings in my life.  Especially the simple ones like the meals on our plates around the dinner table and all the beautiful bunny rabbits in the barn.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tulsa State Fair Results Are In

We are home from our second state fair and the show reports are in and we had a great time.

Tucker our broken red senior buck took First in Class in the Youth division.

Carrots our red intermediate buck took Best of Variety.

 And Scarlett our red intermediate doe took Best Opposite of Variety.

We are happy to have everybody home, and pleased to announce that Scarlett will be taking a break from the show circuit to have a couple litters of kit for us.  She has been paired with Tucker for her first litter and the nesting box goes into her hutch the week of October 22nd.  We are excited and looking forward to a nest of little bunnies soon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

And It was Bunny LOVE at First Sight

Who would have thought that having my sister visit last week while her son was on fall break from school would allow her to check off one of the items from her bucket list.

Hold and snuggle a giant and cute bunny rabbit. CHECK

My sister Jenelle had a wonderful time with me at the Tulsa State Fair just letting our buck Carrots lounge and dose in her lap as she petted and loved on a soft ten pound snuggle bunny.

Not to be out done or maybe the other bunnies at the fair just had a bigger arsenal up their furry sleeve because my other sister Heather spent time holding and snuggling our buck Tucker; after which we wandered up and down the isles admiring all the different breeds of rabbits from the great big ones to the itty-bitty ones. Then it happened and my sister spied one of the may for sale tags. I think I would have had to pull teeth to talk her out of buying the rabbit she was so certain that this was the one she wanted. And again it was Bunny Love at first sight.

Meet Ajax Heather's new Mini-Rex Black Otter Buck. He is hyper and energetic, he loves to explore looking at everything and smelling everything. He will try to escape his cage the minute the door is open for him by using my sister's leg as a step stool to get out. And he will eat parsley faster then you can feed it him so we lovingly call him the parsley fiend.

I wonder what my dad will say when my sister comes home with a new pet bunny?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Swift Jump from a Tattoo Table, a Bloody Nose and a Worried Bunny Breeder

I had my first attempts at tattooing some of my rabbits pedigree numbers into their ears recently and it didn't go as expected or well at all.  First I ordered a kit for ear tattoos online.

This kit to be precise.  It had great reviews and came with everything I would need to begin my rabbit ear marking career.  Well everything except experience that is.  I read through the directions, and brought my first rabbit into the house.  Then I had my 13 year old daughter hold the rabbit while I attempted to punch the first number.  Maybe I pressed too long and too hard, or maybe it wasn't long enough or hard enough but when I rubbed the ink into the punctures only a few of them picked up the ink at all and the rabbit had squirmed and flipped around so much I worried about whether my daughter could handle holding any of the other rabbits.

Next came the you tube video.  Because when something doesn't go as expected we all turn to you tube for advise right?  Turns out I should have wrapped the rabbit in a towel and then had my daughter hold it.  And I did press the clamp for too long and not hard enough.  So okay I am thinking I have got this now.  The clamp works great.  You pick the letters you want slip them into the holder at the top add any numbers you need and flip the top bar over them to hold them in place and tighten the screw.  Then you do a test press into a scrap of paper to make sure they are right side up and in the right order and you are good to go.

So in comes the second rabbit and my 14 year old daughter to help as well.  We followed the video and I pressed harder and not for as long.  The rabbit didn't squirm as much and when I rubbed the ink into her tattoo it was clear and readable but very red and angry as well.  So two rabbits down and two more to go.  I reset the clamp for the next doe while my girls are bringing her in and that is when everything goes wrong.  First she freaks out and doesn't want to be caught so they come in upset with scratches on their arms.  Then even after wrapping her in a towel and holding her it is like we have a free agent with a license to kill on the table and she in not happy.  I should have known better and stopped there, but of coarse I was ignorant and continued with my mission.  The minute the plier clamped down on her ear she was flipped over backwards and twisted around and in the shock of it all I must have loosened the clamp enough that it released and reset because I managed to double stamp this poor doe's ear.  When the ink was rubbed into the ear among growls and begrudged stillness I had a bunch of puncture marks and not a single readable anything.  I now also had to traumatized teenage girls and one Mom who was shaky and absolutely all done doing ear tattoo's forever.  Or at least for that day.  The last bunny had been given a reprieve because there had to be a better way.  I must have missed something in all of my newbie book learning.

Fast forward a couple of weeks through more reading, facebook group searching and website shopping and I am now the owner of a battery operated handheld tattoo machine called the kbtatt.
This tattoo pen came in a zipper case with an instruction booklet and a couple of ink wells.  I also ordered a skin marker pen and a cleaning bristle brush set.  I figured I had gloves and ink from my clamp kit and looking back I only wish I would have ordered a couple of extra needles.  The other item that I ordered that came recommended to me was Gigi Anesthetic Numbing Spray.

When all of it arrived I felt ready to begin and as a bonus I had a sister in town visiting so she could help me instead of my teenage daughters.  We set up the grooming table in the workshop where we have moved our rabbits to for their winter quarters and pulled my first doe.  Cleaned her ears.  wrapped her in a towel and sprayed her with numbing spray.  After giving it a minute I wrote on her ear to connect the dots from the clamp tattoo that was hard to read, wiped it with a smidge of vaseline so I wouldn't get ink everywhere and started.  Except for a small jerk or two she did get and her new hand done tattoo is readable.  Ear cleaning is tomorrow to see how the ink held and the ears healed.  Both my second, and third does went just as smoothly.

Now came my fourth doe.  The one I put off because of her double stamped ear and the trauma she put us through the last time I had tried to tattoo her.  She was a champ.  Easy to catch, enjoyed being groomed, didn't fuss on the table, I had a couple small jerks in the spots I had to go over twice but otherwise she did great.  What a relief it was at that moment to be in the home stretch.  Or so I thought.

My black buck Swift would be our final tattoo of the day and our first injury in the rabbitry as well.  I followed the same steps as before and we started the tattoo, but we instantly had the same fight as I had with my doe and the clamp a few weeks before.  I wondered if I hadn't waited long enough for Gigi's to kick in and work so I wiped his ear completely clean and sprayed it again.  Giving it some extra time to start working.  We re-prepped the ear and started.  Again with no seeming affect.  We had a volatile rabbit who wrenched out of my sisters grasp flipped himself over and kicked himself backwards and completely off the table landing head first on the concrete floor of the workshop.  We scooped him up and checked his pupils, which reacted normally.  So we quickly wrapped him up and I held him while my sister tried to finish the tattoo.  It isn't complete because we quickly noticed that he was bleeding and realized that he had a bloody nose.  So I held him until the bleeding stopped.  Fortunately it did fairly quickly and checked him for swelling.  There was none.  Then we put him back in his hutch and watched him carefully for the next 24 hours.  We got lucky that it was nothing more than a knock to the head and bloody nose.  He had a head tilt for a day, but ate normally and still wanted all the loves and pets he could get.  And now a couple weeks after you would never know it had ever happened he has totally recovered, except I still have an ear tattoo to finish and it is one I am not looking forward to because this is one of my bucks that has crept into my heart and he is going to be around this rabbitry a long, long time.

Long story short, I now have an ear tattoo clamp set that is almost new for sale, as I don't think I can ever bring myself to use it again.  Even though I know it works well for some people it just didn't work out for me.  And I am open to ideas or suggestions for how to finish one guys ear number without him falling off the table.  Advise?  Leave it in the comments below.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Oklahoma State Fair Results are In and We Couldn't Be Happier!

Okay so I know this has been a long time coming since the fair was September 22nd and I am just now posting results but the results are in and we are so excited to share with you how our very first fair experience went.

We arrived at 7:30 am and spent a wonderful day meeting a couple of new rabbit breeders and admiring many rabbit breeds that until then I had only seen pictures of.  My daughter Clarissa is now positive that she wants a Magpie Harlequin Rabbit of her very own.  The thought makes me smile.  But little does she know yet, she will have to earn everything needed to house and care for the said rabbit before she can find a breeder to purchase one.  She has already purchased a cage, so she is well on her way.

Clarissa handled getting our New Zealands to and from the show table like a champ and all three of them placed and did well.  These three bunnies will be headed to the Tulsa State Fair this Saturday so come find us and say hello.  We would love to meet other rabbit breeders and enthusiasts.
Red New Zealand Buck: Carrots Best Opposite of Variety
Red New Zealand Doe: Scarlett Best of Breed and Best of Variety
Broken Red New Zealand Buck: Tucker Best of Variety and Best Opposite of Breed