Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I decided to snap a couple of baby pictures today just for fun. There are currently lots of litters in the barn ranging in age from 3-6 weeks. The youngest were moved in just last weekend, and the oldest are due to start weaning tomorrow (as I frantically clear cages to make room for them all, LOL).

This first bunch is Pascha's litter, with a few of Neva's babies fostered in (the REW and Sable are Pascha's, and the Fawn is Neva's). There are more babies in this litter hiding on the other side of the cage, but they did not see fit to squeeze into the picture:).

This is a close-up picture of one of the Fawns scratching itself:)

This is Evariste lounging with some of the babies from her litter. Shown here are 2 REWs, but there is also a Sable and Pearl in the bunch (sired by Pierre).

This is a (3 week old) Pearl from Juno's litter. Another very dark bunny. It will probably be very nicely shaded when the wool comes in.

And this is a close-up of 2 of the babies in Oomi's litter (with Oomi's nose stuck in on the left). A Pearl and a REW--again:).

And this is Echo's big litter, with 9 remaining from the original 13. Needless to say this cage is CRAMMED with that many babies and one doe in a 30 X36 inch space, but tomorrow is the 6 week birthday mark, so three of them will be removed first thing tomorrow morning. This is one of the Pearls in the batch. There are also 4 Sables, and a REW.

And this is a shot I tried to take of the Sable bunnies from the same litter, but Mom (who doesn't like me much even on her best day, LOL) has decided that there is NO way I will be taking any unauthorized photographs of her babies today or anyday, as long as she has even one thing to say about it. Look at that expression! This is Echo in a nutshell:).

And finally, here are 2 pics of Giacomo and Arcadia just before their haircuts last week. At only 5 months it was a little early to clip the babies out of Juno's litter, but given the weather lately and the fact that they were starting to look miserable, I decided not to wait. With a little luck all of the babies from this litter will be in coat and ready for the PA Convention.

More again next time, and have a great week!:-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Color Black

Another old post revisited:)

In addition to my favorite FA color, REW, I am also in love with all the Self colors:). Since I am not a spinner and don't get to see the effect of each color in yarn (which might make me prefer different ones, LOL), I breed for the colors that I think will make the biggest impact on the showtable OR are easiest to breed for uniformity and intensity of color. REW is an obvious choice for showing simply because there are very few DQs that a white rabbit can have (aside from crooked tails, teeth and actual physical deformities). Also, a White rabbit of almost any breed will always have greater wool/fur quality, yield, and density (for reasons that are not entirely clear but that seem consistent).

Self colors (IMO) are wonderful simply because they are stunning when bred for good intensity and there is nothing that distracts your eye away from the whole rabbit when it is on the showtable. A rabbit with a Broken pattern can sometimes appear to be "broken up" or "unbalanced" when posed, and your eye is likely to be drawn away from the type and coat to focus more strongly on the pattern instead, which tends not to happen with solid colors (I am not criticizing the broken variety in any way, this is just a personal observation I have made:) ).

The most dramatic Self color of all tends to be Black, for obvious reasons:). I have bred huge numbers of this color over the last several years but have kept very few because while they are stunning to behold in full coat, they can also be a nightmare to breed in terms of scattered white hairs/silvering, and other problems that occur. It is not that these problems emerge with less frequency in every other Self color (or any other variety for that matter), it's just that the Black variety is the opposite of White in that EVERY, TINY, little imperfection, spot, hair, and inconsistency shows up dramatically, and you see judges scrutinize this variety to no end simply because everything there is so obvious :(.

According to Glenna Huffmon's book, "Rabbit Coat Color Genetics" intensity of Color primarily has to do with Plus and Minus modifiers. On pg. 99 she says,

"The plus modifiers will produce larger areas of color, while the minus modifiers will enlarge and extend the areas of white. It all depends on the balance between the two factors. On a self-colored animal, no white is usually the ideal coloration-that is no small white spots and no scattered white hairs in the coat. However, with the presence of too many of the minus modifiers, the solid colored animal may show some white hairs or small white spots in the normally colored coat."

"The self-colored animal with 80% plus modifiers and 20% minus modifiers should still have a solid colored coat. Even 50% of each will usually result in a colored coat with no white. However, when the percentage of minus modifiers outnumbers the plus modifiers, such as 20% plus modifiers and 80% minus modifiers, those annoying white spots and hairs can show up. These white spots usually appear on the head, belly, chest, toes, and feet."

To correct white spots and hairs, she says,

"Breeders of rabbits with lilac and/or blue varieties are no doubt already aware of the modifiers that can result in more intense and darker coloration as opposed to those that lighten the basic color to a lighter shade. It takes a great deal of careful selective breeding on the rabbit breeder's part to get and keep the desired shade. These color intensifiers are not the result of just one gene. There needs to be a large number of them accumulated for them to have the desired affect on the final coat color. They cannot change the blue to black, but they can control the darkness or lightness of the blue color. It all depends on the ratio of dark to light modifiers present."

So in other words, each color is subjected to the effect of modifiers (most notably the Self varieties), but certain Selfs will more clearly express differences in intensity because they are a lighter color in general (Lilacs and Blues for ex.). Blacks and Chocolates will not necessarily get darker in overall body color, but you will see less of the stray white hairs and spots that plague these varieties and stand out so clearly.

I spoke with a number of breeders and looked at info. from a variety of sources, and it appears that the best way to improve Self colors and eliminate white hairs and spots is simply to cull out the rabbits who express them and breed only the best colored offspring, breeding like color to like color for as long as it takes to increase plus modifiers to the point where any trace of white in a rabbit's coat is eliminated. What I have done lately is to keep the best Blacks in my breedings that express few if any white hairs, and this year I will begin breeding them to each other in order to produce better bunnies of this variety and repeat the same color combination for approx. 3 generations to see what I come up with.

* Quick note* A judge who didn't have much experience with Angoras recently told me that he thought most Angoras looked as though they had snips of white on their front feet. What I believe he was referring to was the fact that the footpads on a dark Angora variety like Black are light gray underneath and often 'push up between' the toes when the bunny is sitting, making it seem as though the feet have silver or white hairs on them. ALWAYS make certain that the color you are seeing is not really coming up from underneath a bunny's foot----remember that to qualify as a DQ, the snip/hairs/ spot must be on top of the feet and clearly be white. Check your little toes carefully:).

*Also--the same principle applies to 'silvering' that can appear right beneath the bunny's nose (silver color, not white). White on TOP or anywhere around the nose can be a DQ but a 'silvery' (kind of faded black color) is normal on the upper lip of some darker color varieties (I see it regularly in my Blacks and Sables but they are never penalized for it at shows).

Also, I just wanted to mention in closing that there are other factors that can cause white spots/hairs in rabbits, and one of these is the Steel gene. Since I have quite a bit of Steel floating around in my lines it is entirely possible that the snips/hairs on some of the rabbits I had in the past may be due in part to the presence of Steel, but for now I have chosen to treat this as a modifier problem and breed accordingly while I tackle the Steel gene using Torts and Pearls on the other end of my breeding program.

Anyhow, so this is a little bit about the color Black, one of my favorite colors aside from White, LOL. I may have missed info. here but will continue to do research as I go until I achieve the quality of color I am looking for:).

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Miracle of Bunny Manure

As all bunny people know (but not necessarily the normal population:)), rabbit manure is just about the best thing you can put on a garden. We have been using it for many years at our house now (in addition to other stuff donated by the chickens), and the fertility has just increased every year. The very best thing about bunny pellets is that they can be applied to a garden perfectly fresh without any aging whatsoever, and those breeders who do not use hay, (especially), are literally able to scrape it out of the cage pans and onto the garden beds. We use quite a bit of hay here because of the breed I raise, but that works too as long as there is a compost pile somewhere that gets turned fairly regularly in order to kill the weed seeds before they get applied. Since we only compost the garden once or twice a year, we need to have a central location to store manure from all those bunnies, and so there are 3 homemade bins in the back that get rotated from year to year, generously filled with a wheelbarrow of manure everytime I dump my pans:).

Below today I have posted a few pictures of this year's garden (just to illustrate the potency of this wonderful stuff), and there are herbs and vegetables followed by perennial garden flowers, all of which have positively thrived on the magic of bunny poop. See?:)

More next time as I try to come up with something interesting to talk about (since the well occasionally runs dry, LOL:-)). The babies are eating and growing, and I will try to get some pics of some of the youngest up and coming litters next time.
Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Shameless Election Pitch:)

I just wanted to take a moment and post a copy of this message that appeared on the Angora Rabbit List this morning in regard to the election campaign of Cindy Wickizer.

As many in ARBA already know, Cindy was a past President and did a very good job. She took a proactive approach against legislation that threatened our hobby and the work of countless breeders, and she was readily available to the membership. She addressed concerns that directly affected rabbit people on a day-to-day basis, and was extremely effective.

Our current president, Chris Hayhow, has done little if anything to combat (or even address) anti-breeder legislation in his terms of office. He is employed by the pharmaceutical industry which benefitted from his recent support of the MUMs legislation, but the act has done little if anything for the breeders that comprise the ARBA, and issues that directly affect us continue to be ignored.

I support Cindy Wickizer in her campaign for ARBA President, and I also support Eric Stewart in his bid for Vice President. Eric is a caring, brilliant judge, breeder, and current officer of the BOD who will do an excellent job in the position of VP. His talents combined with Cindy's will make for a proactive and effective organization in which our officers work for us, not against us. VOTE CINDY AND ERIC FOR 2008!


On July 15th ARBA ballots will be mailed to each voting member for a very important election. When you review the past two years of ARBA leadership, have your concerns been addressed with campaign promises that have been met over that time? Have you been able to directly phone the ARBA President and discuss those issues? Are you noticing a decline in the number of ARBA clubs, membership and show entries in your area? Have your concerns about our ARBA youth contests been addressed? Has the ARBA leadership provided you with positive solutions which will help you? Are you concerned with training new registrars and judges to have the skills to judge your rabbits and cavies? Are you concerned with national, state and local regulations that hinder our industry? Are you concerned about being able to fly your animals to the national convention or your national shows? Are you concerned that options may exist to promote the growth of the rabbit and cavy industry? Are you concerned that an open line of communication must exist between all officers and directors and the membership? Are you concerned about the financial stability of the ARBA at the present time? Are you concerned that the ARBA Constitution and By-Laws are being followed?

If your answer to any of these questions is YES, then perhaps it is time that you consider a vote in a positive direction for our association where people work together for our common goals. Let’s make a change with the only person that is running for the position of ARBA President who has proven their record at a local, state and national level. Let’s make a change with a President who believes in finding positive solutions for the benefit of all of our members. Several years ago, she had a network in place with other small stock breeders who are faced with the same common cause that face us in these changing times.

The person we are speaking about is of course CINDY WICKIZER, Washington for your next ARBA President.

Cindy has been a proven leader in the ARBA for a number of years as the only woman president. Her track record certainly speaks for itself. Please refer to her two full page ads in the May-June, 2008 issue of Domestic Rabbits magazine. We encourage you to also re-read her candidate profile in the same issue.

Cindy Wickizer is a proven leader that is not afraid to explore and try a new idea to strengthen the ARBA in these difficult times.

Cindy has been a proven leader in the ARBA in a variety of positions over the years. She has served as ARBA President. For the past two years, Cindy has traveled gathering ideas which might help us as an association. She continues to raise rabbits. She is not afraid to try new ideas which will help strengthen the association. She knows that our association can make a difference in passing or defeating legislation. We all know that she does not have the power to reduce our fuel bills etc….

Please don’t set your ballot aside, spend that 42 cent stamp and make a change for the betterment of the American Rabbit Breeders Association.


We also ask you to pass this message on to all your rabbit and cavy friends in your address book.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Neat Link

This is an interesting link I just stumbled across about the US Angora industry as it existed during WWII, explaining how commercial farms were a possible means of income for those returning after the war.

As most people know by now, the US Angora industry pretty much petered out after this memo was written, and was replaced in time by the Chinese market which currently supplies and dominates world commercial production of Angora. France, which has managed to remain viable longer than other European industries because of the way it retains control of it's product from the raw through to the yarn stage, is nonetheless declining as well with the number of national wool operations dwindling. The French Angora of France is a different animal from the 'American' French Angora, of course, but it's loss is equally disturbing, and the Angora industry will hopefully invigorate itself at some point in favor of the superior product that these animals were capable of producing vs. the poor quality imitation being sold in stores now.

In other news, there is not much happening here other than the fact that cages are filling, babies are growing, and I am going through feed and hay like nobody's business:). I have pictures of 2 more bunnies to post too that were never mentioned before. One is out of Pascha and Dijon and started out as something of an ugly duckling that I had an inexplicable urge to keep (LOL), and the other was actually set aside as a cull until I checked her at the last minute and saw that she had an (extremely) late bloom, and is now a magnificent rabbit, LOL.

Below is the newly named Spang's Zaidy (the Black doe out of Pascha), and below her are two pictures of the newly added REW, Spang's Yvonne (out of Echo and Pierre):

More again next time and have a great week!:^)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Separating Lines Within a Herd

One of the more frustrating things about rabbit raising is trying to find new stock to bring into your herd that is compatible with what you already have. Linebreeding (and inbreeding) is a very important practice in good breeding programs, but occasionally outside stock may need to be brought in for various reasons, and this prospect can be intimidating because you never know exactly what genes are being introduced and what the overall effects will be.

One way to prevent having to bring new animals into your herd too often is to take your own stock and separate it into more than one 'line'. Breeders of other breeds routinely separate their animals into pools according to color variety, and when fresh blood is needed they simply cross rabbits from the two lines they already have and get the necessary 'refreshment'. By using stock that exists in your barn already you do not experience the setbacks that typically occur when new animals are brought in, and the results in the nestbox are typically better since the parents involved are related, even if only distantly.

In my own barn I have had an ongoing plan to separate my herd into several groups consisting of 10-15 individuals each, based on color variety. I intend to focus on Sable/Sable Pearl, Tort, Black, REW, and possibly Fawn, so I will be separating my herd into various groups over the next year and then working within 'lines' to create a diverse breeding pool that should last quite a long time. Of course, 5 varieties is ambitious and friends of mine who raise other, short-furred breeds tell me it is way too much and I will sorely regret it (LOL), but we will see how it goes and I am sure that my plans will change and revise themselves as time goes by.

Even if you do not decide to divide your herd up according to color, it is still a good idea to choose some criteria/means of separation to keep alternate lines of rabbits breeding, showing, and producing at the same time. Everyone has different goals to pursue and it is important to know what those are before launching any breeding program, but maintaining a structured herd is an excellent way of keeping qualities you have worked hard to set for a longer period of time.

More again next time as we live through the end of this heat wave (I hope:)) and keep our bunnies as comfortable as possible. This week the last two litters of the summer here were born to Juno and Morwenna (both sired by Spang's Oberon). Juno gave birth to 6 kits---Pearls and Torts, and Morwenna had a litter of 5 REWs, Torts, and Fawns. This will be the end of the breeding season now until October and everyone will get a well-deserved break. Here is a picture of 4 of the nestboxes lined up in my living room (LOL). Pascha's, Neva's, and Echo's babies went outside to be with their moms permanently today, but Evariste's, Oomi's, Morwenna's, and Juno's litters will remain in the house a bit longer---for at least another 2 weeks:)

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bunny Type and Wool Test

Another repost from the old blog:-)

A judge recently offered a wonderful way of evaluating your own rabbits at home. He suggested using a Show Remark Card to "grade" each rabbit individually to get an idea of where each stands in comparison with the others, and then store that card in your rabbit's file either on computer or in some sort of binder. He suggested using this method mostly to gauge Type, but I quickly realized that this would be a fabulous way to assess the Wool on our animals as well!:)

Here are a few sample Type categories for use on a hypothetical "scoresheet". I took these characteristics from a variety of remark card styles/formats that I dug up out of my old show records:

Head VG (very good) G (good) F (fair) P (poor)___________________________
Ears VG G F P_________________________________
Bone VG G F P_________________________________
Shoulders VG G F P_________________________________
Midsection VG G F P_________________________________
Hindquarters VG G F P_________________________________
Color VG G F P_________________________________
Meat condition VG G F P_________________________________
Depth VG G F P_________________________________
Overall Type VG G F P_________________________________

Density VG G F P__________________________________
Texture VG G F P__________________________________
Length VG G F P__________________________________
Crimp VG G F P_________________________________
Overall Uniformity VG G F P_________________________
Uniformity of length VG G F P_________________________
Uniformity of density VG G F P_________________________
Uniformity of texture VG G F P_________________________
Coat Condition VG G F P_____________________
Ratio Guard Hair/Underwool VG G F P______________________

So what a breeder could do is print out several copies of these 'scorecards' for their rabbits, and then fill in the categories after a thorough evaluation of each animal. The lines at the end of each trait are for optional notes on each animal, and it would probably be a great idea to do evaluations at pre-determined ages for each rabbit in order to compare development of the animals in your line over time (for ex, do your rabbits tend to develop early or late, do they tend to lose "points" in certain categories at certain ages, do you notice trends of good or bad qualities emerging at certain stages of development, etc.). Be sure to place a date on each scorecard.

An evaluation system like this could really help to identify line characteristics that a breeder might never notice otherwise----and doing it ourselves at home gives us all the time in the world to inspect the minutest aspect of each bunny (unlike trying to get a rushed opinion from a judge at a show and hoping that the writer is able to get it all down on the remark card:)). On another note, something like this might be wonderful for Angora people to get together and do on a Saturday or Sunday at some central location or at someone's house----an informal "judging" of sorts of each other's animals with detailed remark cards that specifically pertain to the different breeds of Angora:). Something like this would be incredibly helpful to new breeders who are unsure of what qualities to look for but do not feel comfortable bringing their animals to shows, and it would give ALL breeders the second opinion that is so sorely needed to prevent unavoidable "barn blindness" on a regular basis, LOL.

Also, a personal rabbit "scoresheet" could be customized to fit specific problems in your barn that you are trying to fix. For ex, if you have trouble with fullness in the lower hindquarter in your herd, or density over the tops of your coats, you could certainly add categories that address and chart the progress of those particular traits.

There are books available that show diagrams illustrating good and bad type traits to help you determine the quality of your rabbits, and they are generally very helpful. The ARBA Standard of Perfection is one such resource available on the ARBA website for a reasonable price and it is invaluable as a resource for identifying type and color faults. It includes detailed descriptions of every recognized variety, and should be a part of every serious breeder's library.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Just Pics Again

I am spending most of this week doing lots of grooming, now that the oldest jrs. are getting bigger and needier in terms of frequent 'haircare'. The oldest babies are hitting the 4 month mark now and approaching junior prime, while the younger buns are still able to roam freely without having to worry about attacks from me with the grooming tools just yet:).

There was another litter born this week to Evariste (sired by Pierre this time), and Oomi is pulling wool in the nest as we speak, so there should be news to report for her soon, too. Eva had a litter of just 4, and I am guessing that Oomi will have a small one as well given the fact that she is also a day past her due date. Pierre (who is an old man now at 4 years old) was the sire of both these litters, and I think that his sperm count was starting to wane at the time that the last 2 does were bred since the breedings were done in 85 degree temps. AFTER these breedings we were hit with a 90-95 degree heat wave for approx. one week, so needless to say this boy is now retired until the fall and the younger bucks will come in and gladly take his place:).

Below are just a few pics that I snapped of some of the other guys after grooming (even though I know I posted pictures of them already, LOL). The first here is D'Artagnan, the second two below that are of Giacomo, and the last two are Arcadia.

Below now are three of the younger litters that were born 2 weeks ago. I temporarily deposited them into a laundry basket while I cleaned and replaced nestbox bedding, and they had a fun time exploring before they collapsed into their boxes afterward and took a long, replenishing nap:).
The first two pictures are of Echo's litter. In the mix you can see four Sables, 4 Pearls, and 1 REW.

And here is a combination of two litters fostered to one doe. Neva's (bred to Dijon) babies are 3 of the REWs and 2 Fawns, while Pascha's two consist of 1 REW and 1 Sable (seen here with ALOT of frosting which will clear up later and turn brown).

Anyway, so that's about it for today. We are gearing up for the 4th of July holiday and getting lots of garden work done around here, too. The other day I picked a little 'snack' bowl of black raspberries, yellow alpine strawberries, mignionette strawberries, (with large size honeoye thrown in), and this week we will start up with the snap peas, white currants, and (many,many) more raspberries:).
Have a great week!