It’s been hot. Like, super hot. Hard to believe a month ago we had heavy frost that killed many crops.
Whether you’ve read it here before, or this is your first visit, I will tell you, rabbits do excellent in the cold. Not so well in the heat. Rabbits can tolerate so much, but when the temperature soar, they need some assistance. Rabbits can get heatstroke very easily.
If a rabbit is hot, you will generally see them stretched out, breathing heavily.
Rabbits dissipate most of their heat through their ears. Some also escapes through the mouth, which is why you may see dampness on your buns mouth.
This girl is hot. If this were a video, you would see her breathing heavily. She was laying flat on her side before I opened her cage door.
1. First things first. Make sure your rabbit has some where to get out of direct sun. Air movement helps. A fan for air circulation. Wire bottom cages are great for air circulation.
2. Water. Make sure there is plenty of water available. When it's extremely hot, they may not drink much, but there has to be plenty available. And if it's cool water, they'll be more inclined to drink it. Change it out frequently, if possible. If you can't, try adding ice cubes to it. They won't last long, but it will help a bit.
3. Give them something cold. Ceramic tiles in the freezer and/or frozen bottles of water. The rabbits can use these to lay on or against. Even if they don't, there will still be some coolness coming from them that will help. Some rabbits enjoy pushing the bottles around. Make sure you remove the label from bottles, or they will do it for you.
4. I gave my rabbits (those in wire bottom cages) ice cubes. They really seemed to enjoy playing with them and licking them.
5. Wet their ears. With your hand or a light mist sprayer, wet your rabbits' ears with cool water. Don't soak, just get them damp. Be careful not to get any in their ear canal. This helps dissipate heat from their bodies.
6. If a rabbit is limp or listless, it may already be too late. Get them to the vet, ASAP.
Also, something to keep in mind: Lots of people bring their outdoor rabbits in for the winter. I assure you, you're rabbit will be fine in the winter, and may even enjoy it. I know mine love snow. So, it gets cold and them you bring your rabbit into your nice, warm house. And then it dies. This is probably due to heatstroke. Going from cold to warm, the rabbit has no chance to acclimate itself, thus suffering from heatstroke. If, you feel you must bring them it, do it before the temperatures drop significantly, and before you start cranking up the heat in your home. A basement or garage is also a good choice.
So, you’ve got a broody hen. What do you do with her? Firstly, she’s not just going to “get over it”. She’s going to continue sitting even though her eggs might not be fertilized, even though you continually remove the eggs, even though you keep removing her from the nest. So you need to decide if you want her hatching eggs or not.
Do you want chicks? If the answer is yes, proceed.
Do you have some place quiet you can house your hen and her newly hatched chicks? Hens that are going to hatch chicks should be separated from the flock. A broody hen that is sitting in a nest that others may use can be chased away by other hens. Eggs can be damaged, and the nest can be added to by other hens. And sometimes the hen will move to another nest on her own. She should be allowed to sit on her eggs without being disturbed and without threat of her chicks being injured. Also, keep in mind that moving her to certain areas may break her and she may no longer sit.
Do you have a rooster or plan on buying hatching eggs? Either will do! But if she’s not a hen that has hatched eggs before, please don’t spend a lot of money on hatching eggs she may not sit on without a backup plan, ie., an incubator.
Is it the right time of year? You really don’t want a hen sitting on eggs in the heat of the summer or in the dead of winter.
This is Abra, she’s never hatched eggs for me, but has adopted many chicks for me over the last 2 years. She’s a Wyandotte
So you’ve decided to go ahead and let her hatch, so where do you start?
Let me start by saying, you can’t make a hen go broody. You just have to wait. And some breeds go broody more often than others, some not at all.
A hen should have a nice quiet place to hatch eggs. I have a hen that will sit anywhere you give her a nest, another needs to be in my smaller coop in an actual nest box, but will break immediately after putting her in a rabbit pen.
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. Some hens will lay a clutch of eggs herself, and sometimes they steal other hens eggs to sit on. I give mine the eggs I want to hatch. Make sure there’s plenty of bedding for the eggs, so none get accidentally broken. Also, make sure you don’t give more eggs than they can cover with their bodies. Keep in mind that chicks grow very fast and she will need to be able to fit them all under her for several weeks.
Keep an eye on your hen. She should leave the nest at least once a day to eat, drink and use the bathroom. Make sure you see feces somewhere, occasionally. If you don’t, you may want to chase her off the nest. I had one hen that was so dedicated to hatching, that she was actually soiling the eggs. This is not healthy for the eggs, you want them to be as clean as possible. Note* Do not wash hatching eggs. You will wash the protective coating off, called bloom. This allows bacteria to penetrate the eggs and possibly kill the chicks developing inside. Also, a hen that is not leaving the nest, is not eating or drinking, which can lead to her dying. I must tell you that broody hen poop is large and incredibly smelly. Don’t be alarmed.
A Marans hen with her single hatchling.
Cheeck the eggs when she leaves the nest. Remove any that may be broken, and replace the nesting material. After about 10 days, you should candle the eggs with a bright flashlight or candler. This is easier to do in lighter coloured eggs. In eggs that have a developing embryo will have a dark spot in it and veins coming from it. If the egg appears clear, toss it. There’s no point in letting her sit on eggs that won’t hatch. Plus they could explode, contaminating the good eggs.
A Marans hen camouflaging herself with shavings.
The last couple days, she may not leave the nest. Do not force her. She will leave the nest and call her chicks with her when she feels they are ready for their first feeding. She will show them the feeder and waterer and how to scratch in the ground and dust bathe and maybe even roost. Make sure the feeder has low enough sides that all chicks can reach and that it has chick starter feed in it. The waterer should also be low enough that they an drink from in, but not run through it or drown in it. Depending on the type of feeder and waterer you have, you may need to clean the shavings out a few times a day.
Medicated feed or non medicated feed?
I feed medicated. Medicated feed does NOT contain antibiotics. It contain amprolium, which is a coccidiostat. It helps build up the chicks’ immunity to coccidiosis. Coccidiosis can kill a chick very quickly. So, the choice is yours.
Every hen is different. Some will keep their chicks with them for months, some will want nothing more to do with them after several weeks, some will kill chicks as they hatch. Some hens will even sit on eggs for a couple weeks and decide they are done right before they hatch. And even if a hen had done well for you before, doesn’t mean they always will. There’s always a risk.
Abra’s sister. She hatched a few chicks after soiling the nest constantly. Thankfully, these guys came out healthy. Here she is showing them to the feeder.
Ive seen people say, oh you’ve got a broody! Let her hatch eggs! And others that have said they feel bad about breaking them up because it’s natures way! I’ll just keep taking the eggs from her! I’ll just keep letting her sit there! Why on earth would you think that’s okay? She’s not just going to stop being broody on her own. And if you’re not prepared for chicks, don’t let her hatch them. Broody hens don’t eat or drink much. They can die. They can become malnourished and dehydrated. If it’s too hot, they have heat stroke. If it’s too cold, they can freeze. Chickens need to eat to generate heat. Break her up!
A Marans hen in a rabbit pen with chicks she hatched out.
To break up a broody, put her in something that is uncomfortable. I use a dog crate for most of my hens. Give them food and water and a roost. Take them away from the coop, preferable where they can’t see it. The sooner you catch them, the easier it should be to break them. I’ve also put hens in a rabbit pen on bare floor overnight and that usually seems else work. One hen I had to put her in a box and drive her out to my parents place for her to be broken.
In all, hatching with a hen is easy, you just need to give her what she needs and monitor her a bit. It sure is fun to watch a hen teach her babies what they need to know.
There are so many people out there that believe rabbits should be kept in pairs. This is simply not true. Rabbits are very territorial animals and can actually kill each other. And it doesn't matter if they're from the same litter, I've had three sisters try to kill each other. When I rehomed the meanest one, the next in line decided to take over. It wasn't a good situation. I've only ever had one pair of rabbits live together, and even then, there was the occasional fur flying moments as "the boss" continued to establish their dominance over the other.
If you feel the need to have more than one rabbit, there are ways to help your bunnies bond, but be aware, if things go south, you must be prepared to house them separately, for the safety and well-being of all parties involved.
Mom and babies. The babies will be weaned from Mom at 7 weeks, and then a week later will be separated from each other.
If you already have a rabbit, how is it housed? If you're rabbit lives in a cage, you'll want to buy a second cage for your second rabbit. If your rabbit has the run of the house, you'll still want a cage for the new rabbit. If you are buying two rabbits at the same time, you'll need to buy two cages. So, what am I saying? You need a cage for each rabbit!
The first thing you want to do is house the rabbits near each other so they can see each other, and smell each other. You can gradually move the cages closer to each other until they are touching. Leave them next to each other for at least 2 weeks. If you have a rabbit that has the run of the house and you are adding a second rabbit, you may want to put that rabbit in it's cage for a few days with the new one close by before letting your rabbit run up to the cage of the new rabbit, as they may try fighting through the cage. You'll want to monitor them.
Sisters. Another was removed earlier because she was fighting with her 5 siblings.
After having your rabbits next to each other for a few weeks, you can start having short, supervised playtimes together. If a fight starts, separate them immediately and put them back in their respective cages. If things are going well, you can gradually lengthen their supervised playtimes.
Even we’ll bonded rabbits can fight occasionally. It’s usually a dominance thing. One rabbit is usually more dominant than the other, and will remind the more submissive one on occasion. When housing multiple bonded rabbits together, make sure the space is large enough they won’t feel overly territorial and they can have their own space. Houses or huts are a good idea. I found that rabbits that were housed next to each other, but not together, did the best. Usually male/female pairs. For obvious reasons, you will not want to house a unaltered male/female pair together. Males can spray when in the presence of a female, altering the male may not stop this behaviour.
Although bonded bunnies are adorable together, you do not need a friend for your rabbit. Rabbits are completely fine on their own, and honestly, they’re not alone, they have you.
A few babies enjoying their first snow.
I show rabbits. If you’ve been with me, you’ll already know this. I’ve not been to many, but I’ve made some connections over the years and it’s fun to see everyone. I also like to try and support the club, and of course try to win in my class.
First, I want to tell you how our shows work (and I assume other shows, but I’ve only been to ours). Our rabbit club is called the Maritime Rabbit Breeders Association, or MRBA. We follow the rules and regulations put in place by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, or ARBA. The purpose most of us breeders is to come as close the Standard as possible. We follow the ARBAs Standard of Perfection. Every breed has an outline or Standard, of exactly what the breed is supposed to look like. So essentially, we want to make the perfect rabbit for our breed. This includes making sure they healthy and in the best condition possible. And then we show them. If our breed is sanctioned, we can gain points. We want to win Best in Breed. And then we want Best in Show. Me? I’m not there yet. But I’m working hard on it.
There are several breeds of rabbits. 49, to be exact. Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly as many breeds here in the Maritimes. Each breed is then broken down into groups, then varieties. Then again into age classes. For example, I breed Blue eyed white Netherland Dwarf. They’ll call out that they will be judging Netherland Dwarf. The group is Self, which includes Black, Blue, Chocolate, Red eyed white and Blue eyed white. When they get to my variety, blue eyed white, I’ve got to be ready. They will then call out the age classes. For smaller breeds, there are 4. Sr buck, Sr doe, Jr buck, Jr doe. Seniors are any that are over 6 months of age, juniors must be at least 8 weeks old and must meet minimum weight, which is 1lb for Netherlands. Does are female, and bucks are male.
This is at a show a few years ago. These are judging coops. You put your rabbit in the front, and the judge takes them out the back to examine them, then they are put back in the coop. Here the judge has the Blue Eyed White Netherland Dwarf Sr bucks ready to go for judging.
When they find the best blue eyed white Sr buck Netherland Dwarf, they will sit him aside. Then they will choose the best Sr doe, and so on. After they have chosen the best four of that colour variety, they choose the best out of them. This rabbit become Best of Variety, or BOV. If this rabbit happens to be a buck, or them the best doe will be chosen. This rabbit becomes Best Opposite Sex of Variety, or BOSV, and vice versa. The BOV is then set aside until the group is finished. The best out of those is then called Best of Group, BOG, and Best Opposite Sex of Group, BOSG respectively. If the show is small, this part may be skipped. BOG is then set aside and will be judged for Best of Breed, BOB. Again, if this is a doe, the best buck will be picked and considered Best Opposite Sex of Breed, BOSB. BOB then goes on to compete against all the other Best of Breeds, for Best In Show, BIS.
This is one of my boys at the exhibition. They close the barn to do the judging and you don't find out how you did until the reopen the barn to the public.
Getting ready: My first show was scary. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know what to expect. I was alone. I found the building, parked my car, grabbed my rabbit and went in. Yup, I drove 2 hours with one rabbit (that I bought). I can’t remember if I even had a rabbit carrier, but I’m thinking I must have. I walked in and they took him to check him over to make sure he was healthy. No sick animals allowed. I stood in line and paid my fee, as I had already presentered him. Then I found a seat at an empty table at the back. Which just happened to be right in front of the canteen. My mentor, brought a rabbit for me. He came to sit with me for a bit, looked at the rabbit I brought (which I also bought from him) and I paid him for my new girl. I watched other breeds being judged, as Netherlands were pretty far down on the list, and then grabbed a bite to eat at lunch. I took my boy out and sat him on the table and gave him a good brushing. I finally got to take him up and put him in one of the holes. He was judged, and did not place, so I put him back in his cage and I went home.
Now I know more people, and I have someone that doesn’t mind going with me, so it’s a bit more enjoyable. And I probably pack too much stuff. Towels, brush, clippers, water, hay, carriers. I make sure there’s water for me and water for the rabbits.
This is Apollo, my Mini Rex, in his cage. This is where he lives. Mini Rex have thinner fur on their feet, so he has a resting mat in his cage, which he obviously doesn't feel he needs to use.
Now I need to address what people see when they’re not familiar with rabbit showing. Or with farming aspects. Contrary to what most believe, rabbits are actually livestock, much like cattle or chickens. I know, you’re see these cute, furry little creatures, and you want to bring it home and put it in a cage in your living room and cuddle it at night. Well, you can. But that’s not what they were originally meant for. Rabbits, before being cute little house animals, were raised for food and fur. Rabbit meat is actually one of the best meats you can eat. Very lean and high in protein. And the pelts make lovely mittens. Like a chicken, it served a purpose. And for many, they still serve that purpose. So, like other livestock, they don’t usually live in the house. And, like other livestock (or even your dog), they must be transported as safely as possible.
This is Chester, and we are at a show. He is in a carrier in this picture. This is how he is transported and this is where he stays until they are ready to judge him. He does NOT live in this.
I usually take a couple young rabbits to our local fair. And on the Facebook page, I’ve seen comments of what horrible conditions the rabbits and chickens are kept in there. (They’re in the same building) My little rabbits live in 24x24 cages. This is bigger than required for their breed. This is also the size of the cages that are kindly donated for the rabbits at this fair. And there is someone there that donates their time to make sure all these animals have food and water at all times. This building is hot and it’s held in the dead of summer, so it’s understandably hot in there. And sometimes water gets spilled. That’s life. It will get refilled as soon as the caretaker realizes it. She may have been in the bathroom. Or maybe grabbing a bite to eat. I can assure you, I’m not sitting in my rabbit building all day long to watch my animals. The animals at this fair get their cages cleaned out every morning before the barn opens. They get fresh hay. They get food all day long. Do you know why? It’s so people don’t complain about how the animals are starving. When they’re home they only get a measured amount in the morning. Do you know why? Because they’d be fat. And fat rabbits are unhealthy rabbits. Also, you will see large rabbits in slightly larger cages. Please don’t think this is the way they live. At home in the barn they live in, I can assure your their space is much bigger. The people go above and beyond to care for these animals, please do not complain.
These are rabbits on display at the South Shore Exhibition. These rabbits are well taken care of while they are here, but these larger rabbits you see here live in much larger cages at home. This is only temporary housing for the duration of the exhibition. And we thank those who care for out animals while they are here.
We’ve had a tussle in the rooster world. It’s not been the first time, and it will certainly not be the last. A pecking order is just what it sounds like. There’s one at the top, there’s some at the bottom, there’s a bunch on the middle. There’s an order to it. You’ll see it in your flock. It happens with hens. It happens with roosters. But I have less roosters than I do hens so it’s more apparent with them. My top guy is my Barred Rock. He’s the oldest. He was here longer. He’s the boss. If another rooster is mating with one of his hens, he’ll run over and give a quick peck on the back of the head, the other rooster walks away. Or if they see him, they may just turn and walk away. Next is the Buff Orpington. He was second to arrive. He was hatched here. He knows not to mess with the Barred Rock. (He also got put in his place by my now deceased Black Copper Marans rooster and is now missing an eye) Of he sees the frizzle mating a hen he will run over and kick him with both feet. And if he chases a hen, the BO is running right behind him. The frizzle is still not excepted by most of the hens. He’s pretty low in the pecking order. The Marans cockerel is just starting to figure out he’s a man. He goes after the hens and they want no part of him. There is usually lots of screaming involved. The frizzle isn’t sure what to do but just a glance from one of the others and he turns tail and runs. Now on Saturday the frizzle decided to test his place in the pecking order. I came home to a very bloody Barred Rock rooster. I took him in the house and gave him some scrambled eggs. Put some eye drops in his swollen eyes and tries to clean the blood off his comb and spray it with disinfectant. Then I took him back out. Sunday I let the birds free range. I had to put the BR in the garden with a couple of his girls. Sunday night my boy couldn’t get on the roost by himself. And i had to reopen one eye. The frizzle just kept attacking him. He jumped over a hen on the roost to get to him. Monday I let them freerange again, thinking the space would help. I heard a commotion and found a bloody BR hiding in behind the coop. I had enough.
I cleaned out the little coop in the back. And grabbed the frizzle and out we went. I read somewhere that removing a bully from the flock for a while and then putting them back in, the flock will have to reestablish their pecking order. And hopefully the bully will be at the bottom. So I figure, what have I got to lose? After a week, I’ll put him back in. I’m hoping that will be enough time for him to lose his place and for the Barred Rock to recover. Of not, I will try it longer. If that doesn’t work, the frizzle will need robe rehomed.
He was actually very agitated in this photo and I really thought he was going to injure himself trying to get out. He has calmed down.
*One week later....he’s back in the little coop after being in the big coop for a night. I’m disappointed. He’ll stay there until he can find a new home. If it’s two or three weeks and he still hasn’t found a home, I’ll try to reintegrate him again. Maybe I just didn’t give him enough time.
If I would have known that my rabbit and chicken page would have the most posts, I would have separated them, and until Weebly decides that we can split posts, this will have to do.
So I’ve decided to write about chicken breeds. But only ones I’ve owned and have personal experience with. So this won’t be your typical list and it won’t have histories or any of that good stuff, but it will be honest. Now I know that not everyone will experience the same things with the same breeds, as I’m sure the line and breeding come into play as well. But here’s what I’ve got for ya, and I will update this as necessary.
Growing up we’ve had several different breeds, some of which we just guessed or made up breeds for. I’m much more educated now. But one of the last flicks we had consistented of Black Australorps and Barred Plymouth Rocks. So when I started my own flock, I wanted Australorps, but I couldn’t find any. I settled for Barred Plymouth Rocks.
Ancona are beautiful black speckled bird. She’s only young and hasn’t started laying yet. She is slightly and prefers to roost as high up as possible.
My Ancona pullet. Can’t wait until she matures.
Andalusian are a beautiful bird. I actually wasn’t sure about them initially so when the opportunity came to do an order from Murray McMurray hatchery, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to test the waters and ordered 4 birds. One being an Andalusian. She had yet to start laying, but her comb has grown so I expect one soon. She’s a lovely blue laced colour and has filled out nicely. She is slightly flighty, but if you catch her and put her in your lap, she will lay down and make herself at home. She is a medium sized bird. I will update later on in the Spring after she starts laying. She lays about 2 eggs per week that are decent size and almost white in colour.
Camilla, my beautiful Andalusian, above. Below is her egg
Barred Plymouth Rock or Barred Rock, as barred is the most common variety of the Plymouth Rock breed. I bought 6 chicks and 3 ended up being boys (cockerels) They’re a medium sized breed. My girls are now 3 1/2 years old and have never once gone broody. My original boys were kind, and so is the one I have now. I picked up a rooster (cock) from somewhere else and he attacked me every chance he got. I just thought maybe it was because I took him fe his home, so I got rid of him and kept one of his sons, and he was a turd, too. The one I have now used to jump on my shoulder. I thought it was cute until he started grabbing my earrings. The hens seem indifferent to you, neither skittish nor overly friendly. They lay a decent sized light brown coloured egg. I’ve not eaten one, but they are a dual purpose breed.
Barred Rock rooster just finishing up his moult.
Black Copper Marans They’re French. And they’re beautiful. They’re definitely one of my favourite breeds. They are black with copper colouring around their necks and lightly feathered legs. They are a dual purpose breed. I love my BCMs. The roosters are always sweet and top of the pecking order without serious injuries. The hens I have, only two have become broody (some are 3 years old) and are great moms. They lay a lovely dark brown to chocolate coloured egg and are some of my best layers. They tend to moult fast and ugly.
This is one of my older hens.
Blue Laced Red Wyandotte It took me a while to get one, but unfortunately it ended up being a cockerel. I may try again next year. He’s maturing nicely and although not flighty, does seem quite weary of me. Hopefully he stays kind enough to stay in my flock. They have rose combs, making them great for cold climates.
Buff Orpington I was always told they’re the most calm, friendly birds. This has not been the case for me. I originally hatched 6. One was a rooster. After being tortured by a couple Easter Egger Roosters (that I rehomed) the rooster decided to start grabbing pant legs. And the hens want nothing to do with you. I rehomed that rooster and hatched 2 more. These two were lovely, one followed me around, but it may have been due to the hens hating him and continually being chased off. The remaining rooster lost an eye due to an injury that came from one of my BCMs roosters. Other than that, he’s fine, and highly entertaining. I also lost all but one hen. So I wouldn’t say they’re the hardiest bird. They are decent layers of light brown coloured eggs and the roosters are a nice size of you decide to raise them for meat also. Orpingtons come in a range of colours, but Buff is the only one I’ve owned so far. I’ve only had one hen go broody so far, so I can’t say they’re a broody breed, and they’re definitely ones for ugly moults.
Here’s my guy, all pretty looking after a light moult.
Chantecler mix Chanteclers are a breed developed in Canada. They’re were designed to have a small comb which makes them more winter hardy. I have two girls that I was told were Chantecler mixes. I’m not sure what they’re mixed with. But I’m wondering if they’re not leghorns. They’ve got huge combs. They’re very curious but slightly flighty. They’re sisters but one lays a darker egg. They’re always into something and are my absolute best layers. They lay a very large egg and have never been broody. They’re almost 3 years old now.
This is Salt. She’s the troublemaker.
Cochin another breed I got from the hatchery. Although my China did not make it, as she never seemed to grow well, my new girl is doing wonderfully and has a similar personality. They come in two sizes, standard and bantam. I ordered the standard but she’s not very big. I’m not sure if it’s just her, or what. I ordered blue, which apparently isn’t a guarantee, so I think mine is more of a splash variety. She’s very calm and relaxed. Being heavily feathered on her feet, they get dirty quickly, especially with my horribly muddy run. I may order another one just to see what I get. She doesn’t like to drink from the poultry nipples, so her head is always dirty from drinking th drippings on the ground. *China recently started laying, at almost 10 months old. The eggs are very light cream color.
Top is China, a standard blue (splash) Cochin. Under is a young standard blue Cochin.
Lakenvelder is another breed I had shipped from the hatchery. She lays 3-4 eggs per week and the eggs are small and almost white in colour. So for now, I can tell you they are a small flighty breed. She tends to try and kill her self on a regular basis. I’ve had to “rescue” her in more than one occasion from something “scary” and she tries to get away by throwing herself against the walls and such. I’m glad I only bought one. I saw a picture in a book I was reading (Gail Damerow’s The Chicken Health Handbook) and I had to have one. They are a pretty bird.
This is Charlotte, my Lavenvelder pullet. She’s a bit dirty here, as it’s been pretty muddy lately.
White Leghorn are a Mediterranean breed, like the Andalusian. They are closely feathered and have large combs. They are slightly flighty, but curious. They should lay large white eggs.
This pretty girl is a young Leghorn pullet.
Rhode Island Red are a nice hardy breed. They are indifferent to you. They are decent layers of light brown eggs. I’ve never had one go broody. I’ve not had a rooster, so I can’t comment on personality there. I’ve never noticed which one would moult, but I’d alway see a lot of feathers when they do. So maybe they just all moulted at the same time?
Silver Laced Wyandotte is a great breed for Canada with their small peacombs. They are decent layers of small to medium sized brown eggs. I bought two of these as pullets and had to sell one because I was so tired of breaking the broodies. If one wasn’t broody, it was the other. And then one day I came home and they were in neighboring nests. The one I sold had hatched eggs for my sister in law. She was a very dedicated sitter, not even leaving to use the bathroom. Which was not a good thing. But she was great with the chicks. The other hen that I kept, has on a couple occasions, raised foster chicks and did a wonderful job. Though she does seem to want to get rid of them early, so I know only to use her when the weather is warmer. Wyandottes come in several different varieties. I’d like to get a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte from the hatchery (but they’re weren’t any available!) She doesn’t seem to moult heavy.
This is my SL Wyandotte. She is very poorly marked, but she’s a great mom.
True Whiting Blue is a new breed created for beautiful feathers for fly tying. They come in a wide range of colours and patterns. She is quite flighty and really wants nothing to do with people. She will lay blue eggs. There is also a True White Green, that’s a newer variety, that come in less varieties and will lay green eggs.
Here is my young True Whiting Blue.
Easter Eggers/Mixed Breeds I have several mixed breeds in my flock, including Easter Eggers. Easter Eggers are generally a mix of a blue egg laying breed, usually Ameraucanas, and a brown or white egg laying breed. Oliver Eggers are a mix of a blue egg laying breed, typically Ameraucanas, with a dark brown egg layer, like Black Copper Marans. Easter Eggers can lay any coloured egg, brown, blue, green, olive, pink or even white. Some mixed breeds are very difficult to tell who the parents are (especially if they’re not yours) and some are super easy! Some Easter Eggers have muffs and/or beards. It’s hard to say much about them, because they are all so individual. But here’s a few!
This first picture you’ll see my dirty white Easter Egger. She lays a beautiful green egg, she's never had a full moult, which is why she's so dirty looking. Second picture is Cleopatra. She was raised with my hatchery chicks. Any guess on breed? You’ll have to scroll down to find out! The last picture was supposed to be a leghorn. The colour of her legs, eggs and size of her comb say she’s not. So she’s definitely a mixed breed. Last picture is my newest Easter Egger. She is the first one I’ve had with muffs and a beard.
First picture is Chloe. She was also a hatchery chick. She was an Easter Egger. I lost her before we could find out what colour egg she layed. The second picture is Pita. (Rita’s twin) I bough her as an egg, was told she’s an EE as well. Pita and Rita both lay brown eggs, they moult fast and horribly and are super inquisitive. Third picture you’ll see a strange fuzzy looking bird. That’s my frizzled rooster. He’s a Chantecler mix. I had one from the same breeder before, and that one was mixed with an Ameraucana. He’s was super tiny and had a nice little peacomb. This guy here is actually battling frostbite as we speak, due to the size of his comb (this is an older picture) It’s been unseasonably cold.
So, are you ready to find it if you guessed correctly what breeds Cleo is? Hint....she is the product of two of my purebred birds.
Cleopatra’s father is a Barred Rock (you can see that now, can’t you) and her mother is a Black Copper Marans! Did you guess correctly?
Last year I had a respiratory illness spread through my flock. I lost several birds. It was my fault. There was a leak in the back side of the building, which got he floor wet, which then froze and I couldn’t get it out. So, they got sick. And frostbite. It was awful. And it’s back. Passed on from one of the birds who survived getting sick last year. It hit my McMurray chicks. They should be laying soon, but instead, my gorgeous Easter Egger is dead, and my Lakenvelder can hardly breath. We are going to the vet tonight. I can’t lose the amount of birds I did last year.
Update: the Vet took a decal sample to run tests on, just in case it’s a parasite causing my problems. I treated her with old tetracycline, and the Vet said to continue to do so until she consults with a poultry veterinarian on what the next step should be. But she is probably just going to give me some fresh tetracycline and a dewormer.
Update: The Vet called and basically said that if this is a virus, all we can do is support the birds through it (kind of like us with a cold) Keeping the area very clean, keeping them warm, and continuing with the tetracycline. There was a parasite in my pullet’s stool, which will be treated with the dewormer I was given.
Update: I used the dewormer today that the vet had measured out for me. The tetracycline only seems to be keeping things at bay. The Lakenvelder doesn’t have any discharge or anything, but she has a horrible sneeze/cough. It’s been cold, and it’s not helping. And now my Cochin has swelling in her earlobe.
Do you know how to create your own “line” of rabbits? Line breeding. Most of the best breeders out there line breed. Dispite what you may think, line breeding (or what those who do not do it call it, inbreeding) does not cause deformed rabbits or health issues. What exactly is line breeding? It’s when you breed a son back to his mother, or daughter back to her father. Half siblings, full siblings, grandparents to grandchildren, and so on. Your must choose carefully, though. Line breeding will set traits in your line. So don’t line breed two rabbits that have the same fault. For example, pinched hind quarters or low shoulders. That’s not something you want in your line, so if they have the same fault, so will the offspring. That is something you want to breed out of your line. Occasionally you may need to out-cross. This means bringing on a rabbit from a different line that is completely unrelated to your herd. You can do this if your line is lacking in something that line breeding won’t fix. That doesn’t mean this will fix all your problems, but then you can line breed back to your new addition. Not all species can be linebred. But rabbits can. Please keep in mind that if this is not something you agree with, there is nothing wrong with doing it and it’s a golden rule many follow. So don’t hate on the many of us that do. You are more than welcome to do as you please with your own herd. We won’t judge you.
Warning: picture of dead baby rabbit near the bottom.
Another common occurance in dwarf rabbit breeds is the peanut.
Dwarf breeds can come in different sizes, that does not make them any less a dwarf breed, nor does it change their breed. You can have “true” dwarfs, which is one true to size, and “false” dwarf, that are larger in size.
Some breeders will use a false dwarf doe (female) to a true dwarf buck (male). The flash dwarf doe, sometimes called big ugly doe, or BUD, must have good type true to the standard of the breed you are working on, with the exception of the weight. BUD to a true dwarf buck will give you the chance of a larger litter, less birthing complications, and no peanuts.
A peanut will occur when two true dwarfs are bred together. When a kit (baby rabbit) gets two copies of the dwarfing gene, one from each parent, a peanut will occur. You will recognize them by their size, being about half the size it should be. Pinched hind quarters, smaller ears, bulging eyes. Usually peanuts don’t survive more than a few days and are sometimes found dead when you find the rest of the litter. This is one good reason to check on your kits as soon as they are born. Any dead kits must be removed. You may humanely cull any peanuts you find or let them pass on their own.
Using a false dwarf buck, sometimes call a big ugly buck, or BUB, is not wise when using a true dwarf doe. It is never recommended to use a buck that is larger than the doe. This could result in larger kits that cannot be easily kindled (birthed) by the doe, this you are risking her life.
So keep in mind when using two true dwarfs, that you will need to be prepared to deal with possible peanuts.
In my hand is a deceased peanut that lived 2 days. Next to it are it’s siblings, 3 days old.
Breeding rabbits isn't as easy as everyone else thinks it is. Breeders know better. Females rabbits, called does, breed when they're ready. Males, called bucks, are usually always ready. When you want to breed rabbits, the first thing you need to do is make sure both the buck and doe are both healthy. Both animals should be of healthy weight, no fleas or mites. Check genitals for any signs of sores. If a doe is ready to breed, her genitals will be deep pink, not pale.
You'll want to take the doe to the bucks cage. Does can be territorial over their cage and may attack the buck. A successful mating will be when the buck mounts the doe, then you will hear a "sneeze" and he'll fall off. I like to make sure there are at least 3 successful fall offs, then put the doe back in her own cage. You can put the doe back in with the buck later in the day for a rebreeding.
Rabbits are induced ovulators. They do not go into heat, like cats or dogs. Rabbits will release eggs 12-24 hours after mating. Gestational period for a rabbit is 31 days.
Pictured below is a pair of rabbits. The black and white one (Vienna Marked) is the doe, the white is the buck. The doe is willing to be bred in this case. She was actually mounting him.
A doe will lift her tail when she is receptive, some will even raise their pelvis as well.
If a doe is not receptive, she may attack the buck, growl, grunt, and run away. Her tail will be firmly planted on the ground and she may back herself into a corner. Remove her immediately before she injures him. Try again later.
Rabbits seem more receptive in the spring, when days are getting longer. Sometimes you may need to table breed a pair. This is when you have to put your hand under the does hips and lift her up yourself so the buck can mount her. These breedings don't always take.
Not only is it hard sometimes to get a pair to breed successfully, but even when you do, the breeding doesn't always take. Shorter days make some does not want to breed at all. Hot weather can affect a buck's fertility. I've had one doe that carried full term, but her pelvis wasn't wide enough to kindle (give birth) to them alive. After several tries, it just got harder on her so I sold her to a pet home. Another doe had a stuck kit that she tried to remove herself. I had to help, and the remaining kits were all born dead. My very first doe actually died from a breech birth and I didn't get there in time to save her. Hidden vent disease (syphillis) can cause a doe not to convince at all and will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Rabbits don't usually abort their pregnancies, their bodies actually absorbs the fetuses. Sometimes they don't absorb completely, and will end up sort of mummified. This will cause future fertility issues.
Rabbits have two uterine horns, meaning they can get pregnant twice at the same time. If a mummified fetus is present on one side, she may very well be able to still conceive on a the other. But this is one reason you shouldn't leave a buck and a doe stay together after a breeding. Carrying two litters is very dangerous for both the litters and the mom.
There are other things to consider when breeding rabbits, like fetal giants, max factors, hippos, and peanuts. I have an article on Max Factors that you can read, I'll touch on the others in another article. Be aware that fetal Giants, and hippos may not be born alive, but max factors usually are and sometimes peanuts are as well. These will normally need to be humanely euthanized, as they won't live long or won't have any quality of life.
When it's time
About 3-4 days before the due date, you will need to give your rabbit a nest, or at the very least, nesting material. Nest boxes come in all styles, but I prefer wooden ones with solid bottoms. I put shavings in the bottom for absorbency and hay on top for the mom to use to build her nest. I give extra hay incase the doe doesn't think there's enough in the nest, or incase she wants to eat it. She may start pulling fur for her nest right away, or she may not do it until she's actually giving birth (kindling). When I see fur, I usually stick my finger down inside to see if it's warm. You'll know there are babies there. Mom usually will not need any help and will will deliver the entire litter in about 10 minutes, usually early in the morning, or some other time you're not around. After babies are discovered, pull the nest box out and remove all the babies. Check them over to see if they're all healthy and that they're bellies are fat and round from being fed. Discard any placentas she hasn't eaten, and any bloody hay. Also, a lot of peanuts are born dead, so you'll want to remove those, too. Carefully place the babies back in the middle of the fur, they will dig down themselves.
The doe will only feed her kits once or twice a day, and you may never see it. As long as the kits are fat and growing, you've nothing to worry about. She will do the rest. She may also wean them herself, or you may have to do it for her.
My next rabbit blog post will be about raising them from birth, so keep an eye out! 😊