Had someone ask me a question the other day. Have I seen improvements in my bunnies over the years. Thinking about it I have to say yes I have.
Some types of improvements are easily seen. Like BushTail from SplatterBush. Oh... I had forgotten Splatter was off Bane.... I'll have to breed Bush to one Moss' new babies (hoping for a buck) in about six months. MORE CHOCOLATE!!!! But can you see the improvement over time? Lily was a flat angular rabbit with a decent head. Splatter... I kept her for temperament and colour. :) and she has more bone to her than her momma had.
Some improvements are for how the bunny will naturally sit and hold position. Part of it Might by that Light is a more malleable doe than Cinder was. BrightSong (gramma) was a low sitting doe of tight build...couldn't/wouldn't sit up for nothing. Cinder inherited her dad's sweet personality (Song was a bit of a dumpy, don't touch me doe). Light has Cinder's personality AND a better build. Total win in my eyes.
Some are not quite as apparent, but Cookie is a smaller, more solid built doe than momma. Posing is NOT her thing to do. A strong improvement over gramma who came as a dutch/lop cross. I'm looking forward to seeing what Cookie will give me.
BrookAsh will not hold a pose when I set her up, unlike her daughter Pond. Pond has a flatter face as well so it will be interesting watching her mature. An improvement over gramma as well. Interesting to watch progression eh? I kept Pond back because she sets up nice, had nice ears and is a sweetheart of a bun.
Coal sits up better than his mamma, and has more depth to him. I kept him for his personality and colour. He's a step forward. :) He is definitely an improvement over his grandma! I am curious to see what he'll throw crossed with Pond and/or Light.
One of the things I often talk about with my rabbit buyers is think like a rabbit when feeding them greens.
Rabbits LOVE fresh food, but not all fresh food is the most rabbit friendly.
My rabbits eat a lot of weeds out of my garden, and to my sister's chagrin, I'll even grow weeds for the rabbits.
This morning I was struggling with finding the right name for a common weed the rabbits love so I went searching for what it was called and discovered this great site for ONTARIO weeds.
Seriously.. it's a great site.
What do I like about this site?
It gives common and Latin name, provides plenty of images, and has a search feature. It will be a great site for me to refer people to if they don't know what prickly lettuce is.
Mind.. people will still need to research if it's safe for bunnies, but if you know the true name, it makes it easier to do the research.
Take for instance one of my favourite weeds: Prickly Lettuce.
They have the write up, with black white drawings.
Then at the bottom they have pictures taken of different stages of the plants life.
Why do I love prickly lettuce?
1. It's a thistle type plant which rabbits love
2. it's great to give to bunnies who are starting to struggle with gut issues.
3. it grows REALLY easily. I started with one plant five years ago and now it crops up everywhere. :)
4. It keeps coming back when I cut it back for feeding.
There are as many ways to feed rabbits as there are ways to house them or breeds of bunnies in the world. It's amazing to me at how versatile rabbits are.
It must be mind boggling to the average pet rabbit owner to sort out what is best for their bunny.
Therefore I thought I would tell you what I do with my bunnies in an effort to help you make some wise decisions.
This is the basis of my feed regime.
As much as i would prefer to feed my rabbits a completely natural diet I have no room or time for such an endeavor. Figuring out the balance of salt and nutrients along with protein and fibre content is something I simply choose NOT to do, plus most of my bunnies move into pet homes where they will be fed pellets, so it makes the transition easier for them if I simply feed pellets.
What to look for in a pellet? Green colour, just pellets, no grains or colourful bits.
Why no grains?
It's like giving your rabbit main course plus dessert. Rabbits (with the temperament of many toddlers) will say DESSERT!!! I WANT DESSERT!!! and forget about eating their main course.
Why no fluffy colourful bits?
Well frankly who needs extra food colouring, fat, oil, and flour in their diet??? Honestly most rabbits DO NOT need that stuff.
I am not as driven as some about giving hay. I give it (in the winter every other day and daily during times of stress/change) and in the summer once a week (again daily during times of stress/change).
I only give a good solid handful and it changes depending on the rabbit involved. Some rabbits if I give too much hay won't eat their pellets, and others will eat ALL their hay and their pellets and act like starvation is just around the corner.
My reasoning is this...
1. Rabbits need fibre in their diet and a good quality pellet will provide that needed fibre.
2. Variety is the source of life, health and enjoyment. If I feed hay daily, how can I give other variety? How can my rabbits learn they can survive without hay (for those with a hay allergy who still want to own a bunny)?
3. hay is fed primarily for the enjoyment and stabilizing factor.
The type of hay does matter.. rabbits do best on a horse quality hay.. a grass hay. I buy mine by the bale, one slice last my herd for a day for the most part. Depends on who baled it.
I talk about the grain mix I use My Grain Mix and My grain mix part two.
I want my rabbits to be as balanced and capable of surviving regardless of how a person chooses to feed their rabbits. For those who feed a more natural diet, grains are an important part of the type of feeding regime. I've purchased rabbits who simply WON'T eat greens. They just say NOPE, never seen it, won't eat it.
I strongly desire rabbits who won't do that type of stuff as it's much less worrisome to the new owners.
In winter, every other day, in summer twice a week.
I find feeding grains really helpful in the heat of summer when the rabbits are too hot to really want to eat. They will eat oats if they are used to do so. Just a scoopful in the evening when it's cooler and they will do just fine.
Green Feed - also known as veggies, grasses, fresh food etc
I DO NOT buy greens for my rabbits.
In Ontario it is SO easy to find greens for your rabbits. It's the lawn to put up signs if uses sprays on your lawn, and most places it's rather restricted to businesses only to treat, so its usually not that difficult to find greens or even to grow them in your house/apartment.
I focus on GREEN feed, thinking like a rabbit as best I can.
REMEMBER>>> start slowly. Give their guts time to develop the proper flora needed. Mixing some fresh grass in with some hay to start and gradually increasing how much they get.
In the spring I'll feed dandelions, parsley, young leaves from GREEN leafed maple trees, young thistles, clovers, various grasses etc.
In the summer I'll add produce from my garden (lettuces, kale, swiss chard, turnip and radish greens etc). Along with plantain, prickly lettuce etc from my yard.
In the fall, maple leaves again are a favourite mixed with grasses, bean plants (without any dried beans on the plant), sunflower leaves, pumpkins or squashes I'm not using, etc. I'll pick up corn leaves and silk from vendors. Melon rinds are always a favourite.. water, honeydew, and cantelope.. YUM!
Every day they don't get grains or hay they get a big handful of greens, starting them off VERY slowly in the spring until their gut flora adjusts to having greens again until they are the full course.
What Don't I feed my rabbits?
Very little in the way of sweet food.. carrots, cucumber, apple, strawberries and the like. They will get the husk, tops or rinds, but rarely the fruit itself. Too much sugar is as bad (or worse) for rabbits as it is for people. Keep your rabbits gut healthy.. avoid foods it doesn't need.
I also feed very little in the way of cabbage family plants. Some rabbits will bloat from these plants and since I cannot predict by looking at them which ones might do that, and there are SO MANY other options out there.. feed the safe foods and leave the questionable ones behind.
If you've any questions.. just ask!
I'll do my best to answer them. :)
So let's say you have a rabbit, or two, that you want to get bred. You are having difficulty doing so. What tricks can you use to help them breed? This is a question often posed to me so I thought I'd take the time to answer it.
FIRST! Make sure your doe is in good health. No fat, no abscesses, or injuries to feet or anything like that.
Be checking for signs of readiness. A pale or white vent usually indicates no desire to breed. Red or purple...better sign.
Tricks others have used:
Things to note for your records:
1. difficult breeder and how you solved
2. if continues to be a difficult breeder consider this: do you want to add that tendency to your herd?
What methods have you used to get slow to breed does to breed?
One of my beefs with rabbit people is the calling of various behaviours as being aggressive.
In this day of political correctness and needing to be accurate with language this one bothers me… much as culling can mean a WHOLE host of things some with negative overtones.
Is the bunny aggressive OR is there other terminology that we can use?
An aggressive rabbit is not a pleasant rabbit to work with. It is a rabbit that when allowed to roam around chases its’ people, turns around and tries to bite them, when being handled flails madly even when held securely (though that also just might be a very frightened rabbit), bites with no apparent provocation, and such like. This type of rabbit will bite when you feed it, pet it, etc.
Train these rabbits if you can. This article may be of assistance. Also knowing more about the language of langomorphs may prove helpful.
Now… A normally pleasant rabbit that chooses to bite you might be responding to something in the environment…aka your perfume, deodorant etc.
Now.. lets say you have a rabbit, particularly female, that does not like you coming into HER space. Is this rabbit aggressive? OR is this rabbit reacting in a way that nature tells her that she should? Does that mean that she is being aggressive OR does it mean that she is being space protective? In the wild rabbits are known to defend their turf. They can act in an aggressive manner to do so, but the reasoning behind it is defensive not offensive. This rabbit wants to defend her area..it’s how she keeps her babies safe! Cage protective rabbits tend to be female though I’ve met the odd male that is like this as well. Those bucks don’t tend to stay around here long.
Now in reality in life… whether a rabbit is acting defensively or offensively doesn’t matter in the end result…no one wants to get bitten or scratched. BUT as a breeder my response is different.
You are being cage protective… I can live with that. I will teach you that I am good, that I am not going to hurt you or your littles, that I will give you treats, and pets and backrubs and be alert and give you time to adjust to me. I will breed those cage protective young does to give them something to do with those crazy hormones. My expectation is that you won’t hurt me and you will NOT hurt your littles. I won’t rush you, I will give you time to adjust.
I find that over time you know what happens??? These cage protective does tend to be make excellent mothers and they settle down once they realize that nothing bad happens. Their kits come back, they look and smell the same, and OH>>> I got a treat!!!!
You are being aggressive little rabbit??? Well… different attitude requires a different approach. I very strongly dislike aggressive, acting always on the offensive rabbits. You are fine in your space but not out of it? You want to bite and scratch and carry on as if the world is ending? ACH! Not good. These rabbits get more handling not less. They are towel wrapped and carried. They are trained. Rewarded for being nice using food and nose/back rubs. I work hard with them for three weeks and if there is no improvement over three weeks… then they get a death sentence if I can’t locate an appropriate home.
Though the odd aggressive rabbit to knowledgeable owners and sometimes… get this…sometimes they do better in a new home! It’s happened at least three times that I know that a crazy attitude rabbit here goes to a new home and becomes miss or mister sweetness personified. Go figure. Sometimes I do not understand rabbits as much as I love ‘em.
BUT there are way too many good nice rabbits in the world to fight with a nasty tempered rabbit for an extended period of time. Every rabbit can be useful in the world either as a companion animal, breed animal, fur animal, or food animal. All types of value are equal in my opinion. and not every rabbit can fill every role… so they fit the role they are best suited for.
Did you know that many rabbits respond really well to having pressure applied to their forehead? Works marvelously with many rabbits.. not all.. some simply can’t settle down for anything.. they have it so engrained within them to fight fight fight that they just can’t settle. But for those who are aggressive due to fear concerns pressure on the foreheads (which often results in eyes covered and head held down) helps to settle them down. Rather amazing to watch if you can stand back within yourself and observe it. :)
Pick your rabbit if you can, from a person who breeds for temperament as one of their main concerns. There is no sense purchasing a rabbit that by the time it is six months old is trying to chase you out of the house or won’t let you do anything with her/him at all.
The rabbit above is Biscuit. Miss Biscuit is a rabbit that I thoroughly enjoy. She is a very PROTECTIVE rabbit. She is not aggressive (as in being mean and targetting the people around her). But she is highly protective of her space and her youngsters. Do you see how carefully she is watching me? She is waiting to see if I am going to mess with her kits.
I put her kits in a large rubbermaid container that it light enough for me to lift out easily and quickly. Then I can check on her kits and put them back again without risking the wrath of a watchful parent. This girlie will accept pets from strangers as she has learned they come bearing treats, when she is unhappy with you her body language is clear.. she'll start to waggle her tail and her ears will lay flat against her back. She will growl and box at you with her feet. Biting is ALWAYS her last step. With an aggressive rabbit...biting is usually one of the first things that comes.
When Miss Biscuit was in a smaller cage surrounded by rabbits she was not happy. Being on her own, in a huge cage has made for a very contented girlie that I can let out to run and she'll come back when I call her. :) She is a space protective rabbit, NOT an aggressive one.
So do be clear... is your rabbit aggressive or space protective? Then handle it in a way that respects the rabbit that you have. :)
Pulling a post from my old blog on Training kits. I will modify the post a bit to add in what I've learned since writing the original post
About 90% of my young stock ends up going to pet homes. The remainder tends to go to breeder homes.
One of my pet peeves is getting rabbits from breeders that are a pain in the butt to handle. They kick and fight when you want to pose them, or clip their nails, or give them a brush out when they moult. ACK! Drives me nuts. No need for bunnies to be brain-dead when it comes to being handled for these necessary things.
To that end, I want to raise rock solid youngsters. Kits that can handle about anything that is thrown at them without freaking out.
1. dealing with people other than me
About the only thing I can't do reliably is introduce them to strangers a whole lot. But I can get them used to children (my son and his friends). I can do some introduction to strangers via children who aren't allowed to have one, they will often come over in the nice weather and play with bunnies on the grass. I get my hubby to come out to the rabbitry and just say hi to the babies and occasionally I'll bring some sensitive types into the house and plunk one down in his lap. :)
2. having nails trimmed.
I play with bunny feet. I turn them on their backs. I fiddle with their feet. I reward good behaviour. I do it at least once a day with the little ones until they are five weeks old, and then once a week until they are about 3 months old. That seems to do the trick with them. I used to do it a longer but have learned once they get the early training in, they are good to go.
3. being handled every which way.
Do you know what three year olds do with bunnies? They pick them up by their butts. They grab the fur and lift. Six year olds will make them dance. :) NOT always the best way to handle a rabbit, but KNOWING THIS, I get my bunnies used to the fact that sometimes their butt hair might get pulled, they might be held upside down, they might end up snuggled upside down in an arm, and such like. I try to handle them every which way I can. Gently, slightly roughly, tossed into a cage (MIND.. I do this in such a way that they are not harmed or scared). I want them used to a sensation, but in a safe, non-scary manner.
4. introduction to foods other than pellets
Do you know how very difficult it is to get a bunny that is stressed from a move to eat when it doesn't like the pellets you are offering it? and it's never had oatmeal or hay in its' life? Wow... MEGA difficult. ERGO.. I make sure that every rabbit I own is used to foods like greens (parsley, carrot greens, lettuce, etc), oatmeal (rolled kitchen oats, or horse oats), hay (either regular horse hay or hay cubes), apple branches, and the occasional snack of fruit (generally apples). They also get bread crusts, leftover carrots or peppers or whatever I happen to find in the house. Variety... it is the spice of life you know. :)
5. Movement from one cage to another
In the spring I put bunnies out on grass, in the winter I bring some into the house for a day or two, I'll move rabbits willy-nilly from one cage to another, from one tent to another. I want them to be used to the fact that life changes and they don't need to stress over it. Rabbits that stress are rabbits that don't stay in my rabbitry.
I want bomb proof easy to work with rabbits.
NOTE: I cannot guarantee what any rabbit will do in your rabbitry, or in your pet home, but I will certainly do my best to give you a level headed rabbit that is a pleasure to handle and work with. How you handle your rabbit (s) and the environment you raise them in will also have an effect on them. But at least I want to do my best to give you a good start.
What do you do to get your rabbits used to life outside YOUR rabbitry?
I've had a few people this year asking me questions about raising rabbits out of doors. Some seem surprised that this is possible, others were planning to do it all along. They all ask how I do it and what to watch for.
I will tell you what I do, and what I've done in the past as well.
In the past I had a 4 x 2 x 2 deep, three level cage that I kept rabbits in.
On cold blustery days (and overnight) I tarped the whole thing, on nice days I left it open.
It was wood on three sides, with wire bottoms with pull out trays, and wire on the front. The rabbits did really well in this.
I also made some wood pens out of old pallets. They were wire bottomed and two sides were wire as well. the rest was wood. I would also tarp these when the weather was very cold and blustery.
For the most part I know longer use these cages. They are emergency use only (for sick rescues and the like). I now keep my rabbits in wire cages (good for keeping them clean and safe). They are housed inside a car port.
In the winter I throw an additional tarp overtop.
I do this for a couple of different reasons.
First to protect my car ports from snow load.
Second to provide an extra layer to help maintain heat.
and third, to provide shelter for me going to the feed and hay sheds. (might as well keep myself comfortable).
I am not sure why people are often surprised that I keep my rabbits outside 24/7. Even in the winter. Rabbits come with fur coats. Keeping themselves warm is not an issue. I have a harder time in the summer keeping them cool, than I do to keep them healthy in the winter.
I do have to deal with frozen water bottles, so in the winter I switch to crocks (bowls)...which surprisingly often don't freeze solid until into January, and during warmish winter days, often don't freeze at all.
My Biggest rabbit Biscuit has her very own cage. We built it because biscuit isn't real keen on being near other rabbits. She really likes having her own space. She is litter boxed trained, the cage is 4 x 4, wired on three sides. In the winter I put plywood on two sides and leave the wire side open with a piece of plywood I can place in front during inclement weather. She is VERY happy/content in this cage. It is just high enough that I can leave the top open and she can jump out and visit me while I am gardening. She's a good bun who comes when called.
Most people who want to keep their rabbits out of doors I tell them the following.
People who take my advice have rabbits that do just fine for them. And that's just the way it should be. :)
had a first for me today, someone called asking about what to do with a guinea pig that bites. Conversation told me that the guinea pig is NOT biting (biting means breaking the skin), the guinea pig is nipping. Nipping is DIFFERENT than biting.
Nipping means... I don't like that, you aren't understanding me, and I want you to stop it.
Biting is "I'm upset and angry and I'm going to tell you that in plain guinea pig language".
This is Billie. She is the ONLY guinea pig I have had that ever bite me, I've had guinea pigs for over 12 years. She didn't want me messing with her newborn pups and was very clear about what she wanted. ME out of the cage and away from her pups.
Billie and all her progeny were removed from my herd. I don't do biting animals regardless of the reason. None of my other females bite or nip so why would I keep one that does? Not something I want to encourage.
This is Eric. He was the nicest guinea pig in the world and most of my guinea pig have him somewhere in their background. His personality was a dominant one when it came to passing along personality traits. Very nice pig, I was very happy with him. I still see him in many of my pigs.
ANYWAYS some more delving into the situation that I was called about.
1. guinea pig being held for more than an hour, guinea pig is being petted behind the head and nips.
2. guinea pig disciplining another pig, someone reaches in to stop it and gets their hand nipped.
Nipping is not biting. It's a deliberate act of stop what you are doing, I don't much like it but I'm not upset with you. Rather along the lines of a child whining and possibly hitting out.
So how does one deal with this?
1. Don't hold your guinea pig so long without letting it get around and start exploring and just being a guinea pig. Yes it's a small animal, yes it is easy to hold, but you need to let it be what it is... an animal with a need and will to explore and pee and poo. If you aren't letting it do that, then it will complain.
2. Guinea pigs, just like any other animal, will sometimes want to be left alone or want their own space. Just as most folks won't holler at their children for every disagreement they utter but will let their children sort it out...the best thing to do is to let your guinea pigs sort it out. You don't need to intervene unless there is blood drawn.
3. Don't reward the nipping. Calmly pick your guinea pig up, move around with it, get it settled and then place guinea pig back in it's area OR release it to run around a bit. If you immediately release it, you are telling the guinea pig that it's okay to nip and now you get your freedom (reward).
NOW... if you have been less than thoughtful and have kept your guinea pig in your lap too long without giving it regular potty breaks...then by all means, pay immediate attention to your guinea pigs needs. They do need to go pee and potty, so give them regular breaks and let them do that.
What is a pedigree?
A pedigree is simply a piece of paper that shows you the heritage of the bunny.
Most pedigrees are three generations, but you can always start with one generation and then work yourself up from there.
Three generations gives you a purebred rabbit (as long as the breed itself is recognized). The pedigree just helps you to know what is in their background.
Pedigrees should list colour, weight and any awards.
Programs and how to's
There's the old stand by of doing them by hand.
Do you know what a pain that is? and reading the writing of some folks is a bit of a challenge!
There are free ones : sit/stay has one. Each pedigree has to be manually entered but you can email it to yourself. Useful only if you have a few rabbits that you need pedigrees for OR are waiting to get a paid system and don't want to handwrite out a litter as you can print off more than one copy of a given pedigree.
and there are ones that you can purchase
Kintraks is what I use. LOVE this program. It's affordable. Does what I want it to. The owner is quick to respond. It changes and grows. ONE program handles all my livestock needs. I have it for rabbits and guinea pigs and if I wanted to add cattle, sheep, goats, spiders and what have you I could do that! All for one measly $20! It has on-line storage and such like as well.
Global Pedigree. This is a new program to me. I haven't really looked at it a whole lot.
Breeders's assistant. Tried it, was unimpressed. Removed it from the computer since it was a pain to work with. I know other breeders love it though so.. depends on your needs. It may have changed in the last four years though.
Evans. This one is highly popular among the rabbit folk. Too pricey for my blood though. A lot of people swear by it though. Has a genetics component for extra dollars as well.
Cunitec. I actually have this on my computer. I can't recall what my thoughts were on it. I just love kintraks though so I haven't really needed to use it. :)
Homestead Apps Homestead Apps released an app to help hobby and urban farmers manage their animals - My Animal Manager. Here is a post that talks about this program as I've never seen/heard of it before.
So am I missing any? If so let me know please.
Okay are some that I found that I know nothing about
the breeders program. seems oriented to cats. dogs. horses.
various genealogy apps work as well. :)
Nearly two years have passed since this article was written. It never, as far as I know, made it to the Domestic Rabbit despite its submission, which was requested by our ARBA chief. :(
Last month, one of the foremost Mini Rex breeders was taken down by odor complaints and an inflexible animal control in Indiana. Nearly four hundred prime show animals were taken without compensation, spayed and neutered, and dumped into the rescue system.
Could this article have helped the owner prevent the seizure? Read on, and you tell me.
Crossposting permission granted with proper citation/credit as below. Hope it helps! :) PA
UNDER ATTACK: Are You Ready?
Copyright 2011, rev.2013 Pamela Alley, Director,
Rabbit Industry Council RIC@cncnet.com
The business and hobby of rabbits and cavies is under attack.
Daily we hear of more visits from animal control agencies based on complaints from neighbors, other breeders, even passers-by (and sometimes, people who have never been to our places!).
What can be done? How will we continue to raise and love our rabbits and cavies with more legislation aimed at eliminating breeding of all kinds? Laws which enable animal agencies to confiscate our animals and immediately charge us huge up-front amounts to retain title until we are proven innocent in a court of law?
There are three main groups working on the rabbit end of things: ARBA, the Rabbit Industry Council (RIC), and the Rabbit Education Society (RES). Other groups, such as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the Grange, and the Farm Bureau, are also working to deflect the impact of such legislation upon animal trade and enterprise of all kinds.
Despite this, there was a recent case in Colorado where a breeder’s establishment was entered and the animals immediately confiscated in defiance of all apparently applicable state and local laws. Due to this incident, a Responsible Animal Owner Legal Defense Trust* was established,
and I recommend you donate to it...it might just be there for you, one day.
(Note: the status of this trust is unknown at this time--7-2013. If you have an update, please contact me as above!)
Do you know your local laws? State laws? How about your county’s ordinances regarding rabbits as food, or pets, or both?
When was the last time you walked out your driveway, turned around, and played Animal Control or Code Enforcement Officer? I’m serious! Do it one day every few months, and pretend that you are the hardest-nosed inspection officer on the entire planet. Take a notebook and pen, and do this:
Stand in front of your property, as if you were a passerby. What do you see? What do you smell? Hear? Write down every negative thing you see, smell, or hear, and BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. This isn’t for the record, this is for your information so you can fix the issues most likely to cause you problems should an inspector appear.
Walk to your gate or front door, just as an inspector would. Observe. Are your plants reasonably tidy? Toys and equipment visible or put away? Any fire hazards or trash lying around? What about visible animals, like your dogs? Good health makes a nice first impression, as does tidiness.
Once at the door or gate, proceed around the house and barn completely. Give it a score on how tidy it is (or not!), and make notes about things like trash, clutter, equipment storage, mud, overall impression, smell, sight, and hearing. Don’t fool yourself; you are THE INSPECTOR and it has to be PERFECT! (Seriously. Some people are like that, and it’s a lot better to be
safe than sorry on this stuff.)
Evaluate EVERYTHING. Footing. Paint on the buildings. Trimming of the trees. Make note of things that you find frustrating day to day that might be fixed to make life easier. Doesn’t matter if it’s likely to happen, just write it down.
Now enter the rabbit area. How does it look? Is it tidy? Cages clean and clear of things like corner piles, fur mats, old hay, chewed-to-death toys?
Any dead stock? Are all the feeders clean, filled as required by the rabbit, and waterers sparkling clean and full? Again, think like an inspector who's just ITCHING to find things wrong. One of the things in Indiana cited was 'black water'; 'feces in water'; 'empty dishes'. So if you have a rabbit who fouls their food/water or dumps it regularly, it's time to find another way or tie that dish down!
Are cages marked clearly with who’s in them? How can you make it better? It’s recommended that you mark rabbits with known health issues, perhaps with a card that gives the basics of what’s going on, what’s been done, and what’s planned to fix the problem.
An example might be: A rex with sore hocks. You’ve put a resting board in and it was last cleaned two days before, and is due again tomorrow. The card might read something like: SHRBCx3d (Sore Hocks, Resting Board, Clean every 3 days). You know what it means, and unless a real inspector sees the problem, there’s no need to explain....but if your inspector *does* catch the problem, you can show that you know, you are doing something about it, and there’s a plan for treatment.
Same goes for medications. Have a specific card, have the dose and schedule marked, and checkboxes for done doses if multiples are required. Colors work well to differentiate various cards.
Back to cages and appearance, now...how many spiderwebs are up in the cage corners? Along the ceiling, or on the fans? Are the fans, if any, clear of fur, hay, and dust? Are the feeders clean and water dishes/bottles/nozzles clean and dispensing cool clean water easily? In winter, what are you doing for water, and how often? In summer, what about cooling?
Under the cages, you must make sure that there are no rabbits with any direct contact with fecal material. In the case in Colorado, fecal matter under the cages in the trays was cited as being a sign that the cages were filthy! Yet there was no contact between rabbit and fecal material. So how clean can you keep it? Are you keeping it clean, or just clean enough? Is it reasonable to expect better? Remember, you are THE INSPECTOR. Nitpick!
How do you deal with your manure? With odor? Check what you do, and find ways to improve if you can. Pest control, vermin prevention, all of these are important things to take into account as you go through.
Remember...write it ALL DOWN, so you can go back over it and work on the problem areas. Dead animal management is a major issue when an inspector comes with a warrant to see everything, including your freezer, for instance. To them, a dead animal there is a sign of something very wrong, not of proper storage for later use or disposal! Double bag or wrap every dead animal that you opt to freeze, and clearly mark it for its destination: ZOO FOOD. DOG FOOD. HUMAN CONSUMPTION. CREMATION.
Don’t forget the date–and make a note somewhere of why it died (died-heat, died-cold, euthanized, etc.) so that in case of need, you can show your records to the court proving that the animal died of thus-and-such, and was destined to be disposed of as whatever.
Make sure you know your laws and regulations! Your methods of euthanasia need to be as humane as possible, reliable, swift, and safe to use. Be prepared to prove it at any time...because in today’s climate, you may have to.
The upshot? KEEP A GOOD RECORD OF ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. I heard that ‘yeah, right!’ from the back bleachers! It’s possible. Do the best you can, and strive to improve as much as you can. The MOST important thing is that the animals are healthy, well-kept, and loved.
What else? KNOW THYSELF AND WORK TO FIX PROBLEMS BEFORE YOU NEED TO! Be proactive about problem areas. Take the time to get the spiderwebs down, to clean the fans, to wipe down the feeders and label them. Don't forget to get all the hay, urine, and so forth off the outsides of the cages, too. Make the time to get everything really, really CLEAN and RGANIZED once or twice a year. Maybe even more.
I know it sounds totally overwhelming, and believe me, when you see that first list, you won't believe how much there is to do! But it is absolutely worth bringing your place up to snuff regularly--and the joy you can take in knowing that you are truly doing the best you possibly can by your animals is just the trick for those blue days when everything seems to be going wrong.
It’s a whole lot more fun to do rabbits and cavies when the place is something you can truly be proud of, no matter who’s doing the looking. You should be proud of being a responsible animal owner!
I have been breeding rabbits for a quite a few years. I thoroughly enjoy them as animals and think they make great pets. I also like to take some of them to rabbit shows to see how they measure up to the standards.
For the BEST rabbit forum I've ever found. Go to Rabbittalk.com. Good for the pet rabbit owner as well as the breeder for meat or show.