Saturday, September 1, 2012

The new rabbit set up

Well here is a picture of the new rabbit set up, though it is still in progress.  As you can see, I have a nice piece of thick plastic sheeting from the fabric store, up the wall and down on the floor protecting against peepee accidents.  I now have casters on the bottom of the rabbit condos, making it super easy to roll the cages out of the way and clean any spills off the sheeting.  I also picked up this microwave cart at Walmart.  It has two adjustable shelves, which I positioned so that I could push the wheeled feed canister under it and there is a narrow shelf right at the top for the newspapers I use to line the trays.  There are also a few hooks on one side that are supposed to be for towels ro something, I am using them for brushes and a basket that holds toys and empty cardboard rolls to fill with hay.  I have two command hooks (those ones that don't damage the walls) on the wall you can't see, right next to the microwave cart, that hold my apron and a long sleeve button up that I wear under the apron to protect my arms from scratches.  The other hook holds my hair collection basket.  That keeps it off the table, out of the way, but easy to reach while I'm grooming.  I have a little shelf that I purchased from Ikea that I will be hanging above the microwave cart, now known as the grooming station, to hold the paper towels, clorox wipes and my rabbitry management binder.  This will keep these things off the table so that I don't have to clear it off every time I need to groom the rabbits.  The shelf also has a hanging shelf basket which I will use for storage of the tattoo clamp and supplies I will need to purchase once my rabbits start breeding.  Anybody want to get me a tattoo clamp for Christmas?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Grooming an Angora Rabbit

First off, I am in no way an expert at grooming my rabbits yet.  I haven't been doing it for very long and am still figuring out the best way to do it.  The system I am currently using involves putting a junky rag towel down on the grooming table (for easy clean up in case of accidents of the pee/poop variety) and hard sided very wide bowl or basket or container of some type.  When I first did this, I had two little bags sitting on the table - one labeled clean hair and one labeled mats.  But it was too hard to get my hand in and out of the bags while rabbit wrangling, so now I dump the clean hair into the bowl and the mats I just leave on the table next to the bowl and deposit them in the appropriate bags after the bunny is back in the cage.  I also wear an apron made of thick cotton to protect my clothes from being covered with hair and my body from excessive scratches.  I use mainly a stiff metal bristle comb, almost like a flea comb, but I also have a slicker brush, and a pair of school, round tipped scissors.
I mainly use the comb because it gets quite a bit of the hair out just fine.  I use my fingers to try to coax apart the mats that I find, or I treat them like my daughters' hair and grab the top, closest to the body and comb out the very bottom of the mat, then a bit higher, then higher, until the mat is gone.  Sometimes, I have to use the scissors to just cut the darn thing out.  Juliet seems to get terrible mats right behind her front legs that extend to her oval cornicopia of mattedness on either side of her body.  And for some reason, her white hair is so much harder for me to see and separate mats in than it is for me to do the same with Gnomeo.  I end up using the scissors more on Juliet than Gnomeo.  But I still save the mats...they can be used for all sorts of projects, just not spinning. 
I couldn't do it while taking this picture, since I needed a hand to hold the camera, but usually I keep one hand on the rabbit and one hand combing.  I hold the rabbit still and his coat firmly, while trying to gently go through his hair without pulling too much.  If I get snagged on a knot or mat, I stop and focus on that area until the tangle is clear. I try to do the entire rabbit in one sitting, but if there are a lot of mats, I will tackle about half of them and leave the rest for another grooming session.  The rabbits get tired of sitting there and while the brushing doesn't seem to bother them, I do think they have a limited amount of patience for it.  I keep the collection bowl nearby so I can easily dump the hair as it accumulates on my comb. 
After a grooming session is over, I give the bunnies some love.  I scratch their head and give them lots of pets and talk to them a lot.  I feel like talking to them during this time of positive interaction will help them associate my voice with safety and help them to be calm and relaxed if the need for me to do something out of their normal activities should every occur.  Then they go back in their cages and I sort and put away the collected hair into appropriate bags.  I am currently keeping a bag of mats and a bag of clean hair for each rabbit.  I may end up combining them once I spin it into yarn, but for now they are in their own bags. 
So that is it!  It takes me maybe 15 minutes per rabbit, depending on how tolerant they are and how matted their hair is...but 15 minutes is usually what I spend.  Any longer than that and they really don't want to be there anymore.  However I will spend longer than that in the cuddle time after the grooming.  Maybe someday I'll figure out how to post a video and show you just what it's like, wouldn't that be something?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: The Nervous New Owner's Guide...

The Nervous New Owners Guide to Angora Rabbits

The Nervous New Owner's Guide to Angora Rabbits by, Suzie Sugrue

I promised a review of this book, so here it is.  This is the only book I could find on that deals entirely with Angora rabbits and their care.  So of course, I felt the need to buy it imediately!  I read this book about a month before actually bringing my rabbits home and was glad to have it.  It really did give me a good amount of information on my specific breed and I appreciated her writing style as it is written in a friendly voice, not a technical manual. 

First off, it's only 126 pages including the resources section.  I was slightly distressed at the length, but after reading the book I will admit that it did cover a lot of what I needed to know.  There are really only three chapters in this book and then a resource section in the back.  The chapters are: First Things First, Life with Fiber Rabbits, and Working with Angora Wool. 

In First Things First, she gives a bit of information about finding breeders, picking the angora for you, how many and what gender would be good for what you want to get out of them and what age you should be looking for.  I found this section interesting, but not very helpful since I had already figured all of this out from my own research on-line.  I did really like the break down she has about each breed.  It is nice to have this information all in one place, but like I said, I had already looked all this stuff up.

In Life with Fiber Rabbits, she covers housing, feeding, handling, grooming, behaviors and has some health information as well.  I liked the feeding section, it had a nice amount of information about treats and healthy, safe foods that I can give the rabbits when I'd like to suppliment their diet.  The section about health issues was also nice, since there are a few (like wool block) that are kind of specific to long haired rabbits and so are not covered in books mainly dealing with meat rabbits (since they are all short haired).  She also gives the good advice to get in contact and involved with any rabbit or breed specific groups in your area to gain access to a network of people who probably know more about rabbits than you do and can help you diagnose and treat any problems with your rabbits. 

I was excited for the Working with Angora Wool section and am just counting down the months until I have enough fiber to actually start spinning my own yarn!  This section covers different ways to store and process your raw fiber.  There are tips and tricks hidden throughout the section and even discusses blending fibers.  This section was probably my favorite chapter of the entire book, since it is what I got the rabbits for to begin with. 

My other favorite part of the book was the resource section.  The back of the book has a few pages of books, websites/disscussion groups, and a fiber festival list that is a nice jumping off point for anyone getting into angora rabbits.  I have looked into a few of these and as I have time I will venture into others, but I really like having a place to start like this.  You can type "fiber festivals" in Google and wade through a million pages of garbage - or you can find a nice list of fiber festivals in a book like this.   Love that! 

Overall, I think this was a good book to have in the Library of any Angora owner.  I would suggest it to someone thinking about getting into Angoras before they actually purchase a rabbit, since it does tell about the daily requirements and grooming and things that people don't really think about if their looking at it as just a cute pet that will magically give them some yarn once in a while.  If you are an experienced angora rabbit owner however, I don't know that this book would be worth the $15 price tag.  So I guess I'm on the fence with this one.  Good book for beginners and those looking to get into Angoras, but not a requirement for those with experience.  All in all, I am glad to have it in my rabbit library.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sleeping like a rabbit

  You know how people say they slept "like a baby" to mean that they slept well?  My babies have never slept well, they toss and turn all night and wake at least once a night, calling for me.  I would much rather sleep like a rabbit.  When they first got here, they were pretty skittish and didn't sleep all the way.  They would lay down and relax, but not fully close their eyes...waiting for a predator or 6 year old to gobble them up at any moment.  Now that they have been here a while, they seem fairly sure that my kids won't eat them and that we do not also raise large birds of prey nor pumas.  So now they sleep, like really sleep.  They flop over on a side, very dramatically and with a loud thump.  They close their eyes, all the way and they sleep.  They sleep like they are dead...on a few of the hottest days, I have actually checked them to make sure they were just sleeping and had no succumbed to heat stroke before my very eyes.  They sleep so well in fact, they don't even bother to right themselves to "let go", if you will.

Sorry for the graphic nature of this picture, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought you should know.  Because they are so...fuzzy and because they like to lay with one leg slightly back and one slightly forward, they naturally have a little depression near their bum.  While sleeping, they poop and it just sits in this little depression which is quite annoying if you are the one who must groom the rabbit in question.  This fresh little poop, sits in this depression and "dries" to the fur.  Yuck.  So when I see this, I "accidentally" bump the cage so Poopy Butt wakes up and gets up, hopefully while the poop is still able to fall freely to the tray below.  Otherwise I have to pull the bunny out and clip the poop from the fur.  So if you ever decide to raise rabbits, this is just one of the interesting things you get to look for!  You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Bit About Juliet

Juliet.  My crazy Juliet.  I have been living with her for almost 2 months now and I think I've got her pegged.  But she, for sure, a dog trapped in a bunny body.  Really.

I just don't know where to start in trying to explain Juliet to you.  She hates her cage...well, she doesn't hate her cage.  She just wants to be out, all the time.  She will scratch at the door and pull at it with her teeth.  If I pass too close by her cage, she will jump up and run to the door and wait.  If I don't open the door, she will pull at it with her teeth.  When I do open the door, she stands right behind it (kind of in the way) and will grab it with her feet or her mouth and pull it open the rest of the way.  Then she will stick her head out of the cage as far as she can...terrifyingly far and even though I have read in a bunch of books that rabbits are fairly safe placed on a table because most won't try to jump off, I am certain Juliet does not fall into this category.  She is NOT a cautious bunny.  When I take her out to groom her, she practically jumps into my arms and scrambles to get down.  Once I get her to the table, I need at least eight more arms to hold her there and brush her at the same time.  Although once I get started, she seems to enjoy getting brushed and will tuck her head in close to my body and just sit, kind of cuddling with me while I brush her out.  Then when I'm done, she will put her feet up on my shoulders and sniff at my face and hair.  Like a little bunny hug.  Then it is impossible to get her back in the cage.  She really does not want to go back in once she is out.  Really.  Not a fan of being inside the cage.

Juliet loves to play.  She has a red whiffle ball that she likes to chase around the cage, but she doesn't like cardboard tubes like Gnomeo.  Since she enjoys being out so much, I did go to Petco and buy a small dog play yard that folds down flat.  It's just a little pop-up fence that's maybe 2 feet high that opens into a circle.  I put it in the garage and let Juliet play out there with Madison (the 6 year old).  This is great for two reasons.  One, Juliet gets out to play and wears herself out and Madison LOVES to be able to play with her.  Two, because the garage has cement floors, if she plays out there enough she should file her own nails by running around on the cement and I won't have to clip them!  We haven't tried this with Gnomeo yet...mainly because it has been over 100*F every day here and I really don't want them to over heat.  We have taken Juliet out only once, on an overcast day where it got down to 87*F, which was still dangerously hot for the bunnies.  Once it starts to cool down, I am hoping to make the garage or patio play time a regular thing.  I really think Juliet liked it and if it helps me with keeping their nails in check, all the better!

The other thing about Juliet is that she is LOUD.  How can a rabbit be loud?  Oh, they can.  She digs in her food bowl.  She scratches at the hay manger.  She bites the metal end of her water bottle.  She scratches at the door to the cage.  If my house is quiet, it means Juliet is sleeping.  It is really annoying trying to watch t.v. when Juliet is awake.  Really, really annoying.

A Bit About Gnomeo

This is Gnomeo.  I thought that since I now know him a little better, you might like to get to know him too. 

When I first brought him home, Gnomeo was painfully shy.  He would stay to the back of his cage all day, pressed flat against the back I suppose feeling safe because of the protection of the wall.  When I opened the cage to feed him, he would cower and wait until I was well back across the room before he would approach the food dish.  When I had to groom him, forget about it!  I had to get on my hands and knees and shove myself as far into the cage as I could to reach him back there.  He would plant his back feet and try to prevent me from getting him out, digging his little claws into the wire.  Once on the grooming table, he would sit petrified as I brushed him out and scramble to get back in the cage when I was putting him back.  I was afraid he would always be a frightened rabbit and might not even mate with Juliet if he were so frightened of everything, all the time.

Today, Gnomeo is still a shy rabbit.  However, he and I now have a bit of an understanding.  He still likes to stay to the back of his cage, close to the wall in the shadows.  When I open the door to feed him though, he comes right over to me and nudges my hand as I pour the pellets into his dish.  He runs over to the manger when I fill it with fresh hay.  When it's time to get a good brushing, he comes out with very little trouble as long as his hind legs are well supported and doesn't squirm to get back in his cage like he once did.  He actually seems to enjoy his grooming and after we are done, seems quite happy to explore a bit and get a good dose of head scratches and cuddles. 

He also really enjoys cardboard tubes (empty toilet paper or paper towel tubes) and his blue hard plastic whiffle ball.  It is hilarious to watch him jump around the ball trying to make it "jump" or pouncing on it and then flopping on his side.  He reminds me of a cat so very often.  My youngest Charlotte has claimed Gnomeo as her bunny.  He is very calm when she tries to pet him and since his cage is on the bottom of the set up, she gets to feed him sometimes.  He is also very quiet.  The only time he makes any noise at all is about 7 am when he does his laps.  He literally runs circles in his cage every morning, right about 7 am and his weight and speed make the entire cage set up shake.  A bunny's gotta stay in shape, you know?

I hope Gnomeo continues to be very happy here and I hope he can "do his job" come December when I plan on mating him to Juliet for the first time.  He is a beautiful rabbit with super soft wool and his offspring should be soft and sweet, just like him!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Oakland here I come!

Not normally words you would hear come out of my mouth with any excitement.  But thanks to the calender section in the back of the latest issue of Urban Farming magazine, I now know about the Rabbit Workshop occurring in this..."fair" in the month of October.  So if you are in the area and are interested in learning about butchering and tanning the hides of your fuzzy little ones, come on by and say hello!  I'll be the one looking squeemish in the back...
Oh!  And Sarah Cuthill of Frulingskabine Mico Farm will be there too!  So come say hi and learn how to get a rabbit from hoppy little cute thing to yummy stew in your belly and soft mocs on your feet!  Here is some more info for those of you brave souls interested.

Institute of Urban Homesteading
Rabbit Butchering and Tanning Demonstration
Saturday October 20, 12-4pm
K.Ruby Blume

Location: North Oakland
Cost: $40-65
Following a tour of the rabbitry and a brief discussion on the benefits of rabbits as urban livestock we will demonstrate humane slaughter and dressing. Also included will be ideas for preparation of both rabbit meat and organ meats. Then the instructor will take you through a step by step demonstration of the tanning process. Some hands-on will be possible. It is highly recommended to take Raising Rabbits as a compliment to this class.