Angora Rabbits-Warm Fiber Producers

Opal buck

Opal buck

So should I get a girl rabbit or a boy rabbit?

Well that depends on what your goals are and what you are going to use the new rabbit for.  First a female rabbit is referred to a doe and a male rabbit is a buck.  The just born baby rabbits are kits and junior usually refers to a young rabbit that is shown in the junior class and is young, under 6-9 months of age (has the rabbit reached standard weight).   So if you are going to breed you obviously need to have a boy and a girl, unless you can find a breeder willing to stud their rabbit out or you collect from s buck owned by someone else.  Most FFA or 4H or breeding programs start with at least 2 does and one buck.

Blue Pearl

Blue Pearl

If you are considering the rabbit a pet then there are some qualifications.  A doe rabbit when she comes into heat to breed may become protective of her cage (den) and do mock attacks on the owner.  Some does are more aggressive than others and some develop the habit of if the owner jumps away that they will consistently charge the owner.  Spaying (removal of ovaries and uterus) a pet that is not going to be bred can quell some of these behaviors if done before they become habit for the rabbit.  Some veterinarians although they will neuter a buck (it is in some practitioner’s an easier surgery) they will not spay a doe because of the prolonged anesthesia and the abdominal incision healing time.

Bucks are by far the most consistent in their personalities they are extremely friendly and will come to the side of the enclosure to be pet.  If you want a consistent fiber producer there is none better than a neutered male.  He will not spray and they tend to be very personable with their owners.

Lilac Tort

Lilac Tort

A few words about “spraying” or urinating outside the cage. Usually rabbit cages are set up with urine guards on the side to prevent urine from splashing out of the enclosure.  If you have more than one rabbit sometimes they will get into the habit of trying to impress the other rabbit or mark territory.  If you have more than one rabbit neutering can help with dominance behaviors.  Usually house rabbits can quickly be trained to urinate and poop in a litter box, although sometimes they still drop a pellet or two outside the litter box.  Rabbits typically poop and urinate in one corner of their enclosure so the behavior will help to litter box train them.  And it is no wonder most rabbit litter boxes fit in the corner of the cage.

Litter that would be used in a litter box should be of the digestible variety like Oxbows Eco Straw bedding or Care Fresh type of bedding.  Do not use clumping or non clumping cat litter, it can cause gi blockage if ingested and fatalities.

Rabbit Feeding

Recently I have seen a lot of confusion about what to feed your fiber producing or even pet rabbits. We often give too many treats in the form of lettuces and vegetables that are really unnecessary in the quantities we are providing to our pets.

Feeding Lettuce

Giving too much Romaine lettuce and other goodies can be a real problem.  Remember the digestive tract of the rabbit needs fiber to help it ferment and move the feces, or hair through.  Most treats (fruits and vegetables) are mostly water and not a lot of food value. The common miss conception is that they need these vegetables just like a wild rabbit.  The domestic rabbit is not a wild rabbit either.  Their digestion works a lot different than a wild rabbit living on seeds and bushes in the desert or in the arctic.  The Domestic rabbit breeds have been so changed that they no longer resemble their wild cousins or hares.

Rabbits Produce Two Types of Feces

Remember the lower colon is compartmentalized so that it produces two feces the greasy small feces sometimes referred to as morning or night feces and the normal pellets that you should see on the bottom of the cage.  Contrary to popular belief rabbits do not have the digestive system of a horse. Guinea Pigs are actually have a very similar digestive tract when compared to the horse.  The commercial pelleted diets are COMPLETE, too much watery treats can cause disruption of the proper flora in the gut and in some cases cause enteritis and death.

Pet Rabbits Require More Insoluble Diet Fiber

If a rabbit is an indoor pet rabbit, high fiber diets are recommended because the rabbits tend to be spoiled and get obese.  Usually using a diet formulated for pet rabbits is better like the Oxbow products, very high in fiber and lower protein and fat content.  Limit the amounts of food fed, a dwarf rabbit can eat himself to death if free fed and because of their tendency toward obesity must be fed an exact amount of food daily.  If the rabbit has eaten its daily ration all at one time it should not have its bowl refilled.  Instead divide the daily ration in to two or three parts so that the rabbit can receive a portion throughout the day. An empty bowl is OK.   Grass hay should be in front of the pet rabbit all the time as well as water. Also rabbits in hot weather and by nature eat most of their food at night so if you feed once a day and the food is gone by morning that does not mean that your rabbit is not getting enough food, especially if your pet is maintaining proper weight and not obese or thin.

Rabbits Raised for Production

Rabbits kept in rabbit barns and bred for fur, meat or breeding rabbits will require a higher quality of food with higher fat and protein content.  Hay is usually offered to increase fiber but does not offer the amount of fat and protein these rabbits require.  Sometime the breeder or raiser will also vary the food by the time of year, rabbits eat less in the heat of the summer and eat more when they are breeding or in colder weather.  The pelleted foods also contain chopped up hay but the ones specifically formulated for the breed (Angora verses Dwarf Rex verses Californian) should be used for whatever the breeder is breeding for.
It is out tendency to overfeed our pets because we think they will not feel our love if we do not spoil them.  It is much better to feed a formulated diet that is specific for the pet’s needs so that the owner has less problems with digestive disruption, balancing the diet, and other health concerns.

 Angora Rabbit Feeding

Angora rabbits were originally bred to provide both fiber, their hair, and meat for the family farmer.  Both meat, or muscle development, and fiber or hair are composed of protein the diet of the French Angora Rabbit must contain adequate amount of protein so that the rabbit does not just subsist but thrives.  Most fiber animals sheep, goats, etc will show thinness or areas in their coat where they may have not gotten enough calories or proteins in their diet.

Generally Angoras need between 17-18% protein in their pelleted diet to grow fiber and be productive.  Most rabbits will go “out of condition when they are breeding or nursing kits but some will quickly recover and produce abundant fiber.  Most rabbit breeders can feed just a pelleted diet. The angoras swallow some of their long fiber when they groom themselves so require a small amount of grass hay like Brome hay, Timothy hay, or Bermuda Grass.  The hay helps to keep the hair pushed out of the digestive tract.  Because rabbits cannot vomit the hair must be excreted with feces.  If the rabbit ingests too much fiber it can cause a fatal blockage in the intestinal tract.  Also paypaya has had some mixed reviews in the veterinary literature.  It may help to keep the digestive tract running properly and is an inexpensive supplement for the Angora Rabbit.

Blue Pearl Doe

 

Rabbit Breeding

Breeding baby rabbits is more than just placing the Buck (male rabbit) and Doe (female rabbit) together.  If you are just starting with rabbits and have not gotten your breeding stock yet, take your time.  Read all you can about the different breeds of rabbits and what might go wrong during the breeding and kit (baby rabbit) raising processes.  If you are not sure what breed of rabbit you would like to keep a good source is the American Rabbit Breeders Association or ARBA for short.  Their web page www.arba.net has a wealth of knowledge about the different breeds as well as some information on clubs that are specialty clubs.  For example, the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club is a specialty club for all the different breeds of angoras.  The NARBC web site is http://www.nationalangorarabbitbreeders.com/

The next step maybe to contact local breeders of the breeds of rabbits you are interested in or attend a rabbit show to make contacts.  Breeders and Judges that attend ARBA shows are knowledgeable and helpful in starting your rabbit barn.  As with any livestock, buy the best stock you can afford and breed the best to the best.  This means plan to purchase at least one Buck and two to three Does that are not direct relatives (sisters and brother).  Plan enough cage space to house all rabbits separately and then cage space for the offspring (depending on the breed of rabbit, one to 10 kits), and any youngsters you intend to keep to either replace the original rabbits or add to your breeding colony.

Gestation for Rabbits is 28-32 days from breeding so also plan to keep excellent records of breeding times and due dates.

Blue and smoke pearl 3
Baby Angora Kits in nest

 

 

Helpful Angora Rabbit Site

http://angorarabbit.com/hutch/images/angorarabbit_com_angora_care_grooming.jpg

 

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