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What Do You Think?

Killing with Kindness - or just making them a little sick!

By Kevin Hooper

I began showing when I was a kid in the late seventies. I knew no more, probably far less, than many of you when you started raising rabbits!
Over the years, you pick up little things that someone may have told you, but you ignored the advice, until you decided it was your idea and you would try it. Then you discover, Wow! that really works, and later on you remember it was someone else's idea! In other words, most of what we do to care for our animals is not new, just maybe not known by us. I want to touch on a few things that I do when attending one of the big shows, as well as a few things I may do ahead of time.
First, let us look ahead of time. The show is coming up and you think your promising buck just needs to fill out, and he will be ready. But he won't eat as much as you think he needs, what to do? I have had this happen more than once, and I now turn to sweet potatoes! They almost all like them, and you only have to slice off a small piece - 1/2 inch - per day. They eat these as well as the normal ration, and they gain weight! (Credit - Andy Barton) (Banana can also be used, but is more messy.)
Then comes toning a rabbit up! that's right, toning them up. You want the animals to be firm in flesh. Genetics should do most of it for you, but for those you want to tighten up a bit, what do you do! Give them exercise! Now, that does not mean turn them out to run, unless you can run faster! You can get them exercising in their own pen. This will tighten up the back and loin. (I won't tell you how to get them exercising as I have to keep one secret, but involve the rabbits doing one of the things the rabbit is know for - and it is not breeding.) (Credit - Glenn Morgan)
Watch what you feed prior to the show. I used to use a pinch of good alfalfa starting about three weeks before the show. What I found was that this put on too much condition and they became a bit soft to the touch.
Many will tell you to give this or that to condition them. Me, I feed pellets. If you get a good quality pellet, that combined with good genetics will be adequate. I feed no conditioners, just pellets.
What do you do to "condition" them? Pray that the timing works out! Rabbits will go into a molt when nature tells them to do so, not before, not after. Good genetics will give you those animals who look good even when in molt! Some stay in a continual ugly molt - cull these! Some stay in a continual good coat - keep those!
Now, what do you do at the show? Well, at the weekend show like the National Dutch show, treat them just like you do at home. Same, feed, same feed amount. I might add a bit of straw as this gives them something to munch, but only adds fiber. This usually keeps them right on eating.
What about water? Well (pardon the pun), that depends on your water source. If you have city water/county water, I guess you can use that water. The key is we want to make as few changes to their diet as possible. I had cistern water growing up that I used for the rabbits, followed by well water (dirty well water), then another cistern, now a good well. I used to add electrolytes to the water at the location, followed by adding a teaspoon of Terrimycen (misspelled I'm sure). Now I bring my own water. I have three five gallon kerosene cans I use for hauling 15 gallons to the show (enough to water 50 Dutch for a week at the ARBA Convention). This is done to keep the same bacteria in the water that the rabbits are used to. Even treated city water has bacteria, and the bacteria in Fort Worth Texas would be different than that in Columbus, Ohio for example. Introduce a new bacteria, throw them off feed, until they adjust to the new bacteria, then take them home, and introduce them to the bactera they used to know. A vicious cycle!
That brings me to the title of the article! I had been watering my rabbits with their own water all week at this year's convention. They were eating great! Showroom was cool, none were off of feed! Wednesday morning, I had to go to the Standards Committee meeting, and I watered my animals. I knew I had ran out of water in that can, and did not have time to get the other out of the truck. I would get it later! Upon returning from my meeting one of our members (name omitted to protect the innocent), thought it was terrible (put in a nice way) and that I had not watered my big winner of the show! I told them I thought I had, and I made a mental note to check her. They said she sure acted thirsty! I knew I had added shavings that morning to her cage, but had I missed watering her?
Well, when I got over there, and checked her, she did have water, but the cup was nice and clean, no shavings or anything. So, she has water, but I didn't clean the cup, so they watered her?
As usual, I got busy doing something, and had not had a chance to bring in my other water, so I would get it in a while. Well, a while because late afternoon, no big deal, she had water!
Well to make a long story short, the doe is fine. But, of the 18 rabbits I came home with from Texas, one was off of feed for about five days, not eating anything, and you guessed it, it was the big winner, who had kindness bestowed upon her by one of our generous breeders! Now, I laugh at this now, as all turned out well. Even if it had not and I had lost the doe, I would just shake my head. So, the moral of the story is even though what you are doing may be out of the total goodness of your heart, kindness can kill as well (or throw off feed)!

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