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Breeder Spotlight - Katie Bickelhaupt

by Sue Stradwitz

There is this cute little blue barn nestled within the protection of a wooded section of a yard in Medina, Ohio, which is owned by a youth breeder by the name of Katie Bickelhaupt. From the outside, it could easily pass for a small home with it's front porch, hanging flower baskets, and perennial beds of ferns and hostas. With the big side door open, the home is then seen to be just that; home to Blue Barn Bunnies.
Katie has been actively involved with raising rabbits for seven years. The first rabbit she owned was a Mini Rex, but she quickly became enamored with the Dutch while showing in 4-H. With a helping hand from the Bogan's, she was the new owner of black Dutch.
Her rabbitry continues to stay small, which means for a rabbit to reside there, it must have the quality Katie demands. She currently has black, blue, and gray Dutch, as well as a couple Dutch wannabe's (Holland Lops). She breeds her blacks to blacks or blues, as well as an occasional gray, if she is trying to work on steels.
There are several points Katie looks at when evaluating either babies or animals to add to her herd. The first thing is markings. Long stops "drive her insane" and are culled. She feels it is much easier to work with short or even split stops to eventually get correct stop placement. Body development is another key element. She prefers a little bigger doe and rabbits closer to the 4.08 lb range, and tends to shy away from the small framed animals. Pinched hindquarters are quickly culled. If she purchases a rabbit, it must have enough "punch" to offset any marking faults it may possess. Color is also a deciding factor. She doesn't particularly breed for sheen but when it is present on an animal, she pays special attention to it's growth to see if it will help out the herd.
Does are bred between six months and one year of age. They are rotated out of the barn in three to four years, and replaced with a daughter of equal or better quality. Only the best bucks are kept due to her herd being so small.
Katie has found Nutritional Research Rabbit Pellets to be the brand that works best for her. Rabbits are fed 1/2 cup feed daily and are supplemented with both timothy hay and calf manna. The feed bowls are polyurethane lock crocks which she finds to keep feed spills to a minimum and water always plentiful.
The cages are stacking, but this is where it become especially interesting. Most of the cages are on what the Bickelhaupt's call the "gutter system". Beneath the pens are sheets of corrugated fiberglass material that slants backwards towards gutters running behind the pens. A timer sets off a series of six stations to allow water to flow from PVC pipe at programmed times during the day, flushing the trays quite effectively. Most of the solid and liquid waste flows into bucket-type colanders. Hay can be an issue with cleaning under this system so that is manually removed as needed. The solid is disposed of in the trash and the liquid helps out those trees and hostas nearby. Ideas for the flushing system came from Katie's Dad studying other breeder's cages, as well as what is now on the market. This set up has allowed for daily cleaning and keeping the rabbit area low in odors.
Katie has been a force to reckon with in the youth division, especially with some outstanding grays she has shown at Nationals. She said her family has been very supportive of her hobby and enjoys attending Nationals as much as she does. Bunnies from her herd consistently place in the tops of the classes at shows on both a local and national level. With Ohio being such a strong Dutch state, that is quite an accomplishment.
Thank you, Katie, for a glimpse into your Dutch world, and for sharing your ideas with the rest of us!

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