Author Archives: riseandshinerabbitry

WINTER WATER WOES at the rabbitry

Ice from frozen crocks

Ice from frozen crocks

Most people have a winter sport that they enjoy, like skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. Here at the rabbitry we have water-crock thawing. Taking the hard water out and putting the liquid water in. This is something that you have to deal with when raising rabbits in a cold climate.

The picture on this post was the beginning of the ice crock pile of 2013! The hardest part of raising rabbits in the winter is keeping them watered. As long as you give them fresh water twice a day, they will do fine.

I use water bottles most of the time except in the winter. This is when I switch over to metal crocks (metal does not crack due to the expanding ice and thaws easy).

In the past I would still use water bottles in the winter. By having lots of extras I would swap out the frozen ones a few times a day. You can even cover or wrap the water bottles to insulate them to slow down the freezing process. These can be made by the DIYer from old wool socks, sewn up from old sweaters, or knitted or crocheted from yarn. You can also buy these covers http://www.homeandroost.co.uk/product/scratch-newton-water-bottle-snug-cover/ . During this time I  found that the metal tubes freeze too quickly and the water in the bottles will still not be frozen but the water is not available to the rabbits because of the frozen tube, so I switched to crocks

There is now some heated water bottles available, this looks like it would work if you only have a few rabbits. Heated water bottle  If you do like using water bottles in the winter I have seen a setup with a metal barrel with a light hanging down inside the barrel to keep the extra bottles thawed and in the rabbitry here is the You Tube link

My personal favorite is the metal crock they are easier to thaw out than plastic or ceramic, Aluminum Crock   http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/home-rig-housetrade%3B-rabbit-feeder-pan?cm_vc=-10005

It takes me less than a 5 gallon bucket of hot water to thaw all of my crocks. I drop a few crocks in the hot water and the ice pops out, I put the ice in a separate bucket to make the hot water last longer. I wear dishwashing gloves and my hands stay warm and dry. If my rubber gloved hands do get cold, by putting them in the warm water they warm up quick. By putting the ice in a bucket I keep the extra moisture out of the rabbitry. I will dump the removed ice blocks were I want the extra water in the spring thaw.

I have a method to my crock watering in the winter. I only have to unthaw my crocks fully, once a day usually at night. After de-icing in the evening, I fill the crock 1/2 full they will drink their fill before it freezes. In the AM I fill the crocks to the top (at this time there is a small layer of ice on the bottom of the crock left from the evening water) and again they drink their fill. Later in the day my wife makes her rounds with hay topping off the crocks again. Then the process starts again in the evening as I de ice and water again. I like this method and works great for me. Some people use hammers to smash the ice out of the crocks (technically know as clunking), or just have lots of spare crocks bringing the frozen ones into the house or basement to thaw.

We can loose power here in the winter, sometime for as long as a week. During this time I can still heat water to thaw my crocks with propane or wood. I have also thawed the metal crocks with a small propane torch, by heating up the bowls bottom and side slightly the ice falls right out.

If you have a well you need power to pump water to your house. I think ever homestead needs a well bucket you will never have to worry about power. I have 2 wells. 1 shallow well and 1 deep, this bucket is awesome in my shallow well https://www.lehmans.com/p-1384-lehmans-own-galvanized-well-bucket.aspx

I have made one for the deep well out of PVC, just be careful of the pump wires when using this works same as the other bucket just narrower for the well casing http://www.truthistreason.net/how-to-diy-well-bucket-using-pvc-pipe

Here is a great idea for making a solar thawing Hot box http://tinyhomesteaders.com/2012/11/21/the-solar-hot-box-melting-waterers-efficiently/

I have used some black rubber crocks that I can pop the ice out of I liked these, but the rabbits liked to chew on them and they only lasted a few years. http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/fortex-round-feeder-1-2-gal-capacity-black

I am not a big fan of the auto watering setup I have used these in the past and even in good weather had issues with them not working properly. You do not know how much each rabbit is drinking this helps you to observe and know if a rabbit is “off”. There are many breeders who love this setup, I am just not one of them.  They now also have the ability to keep fresh water to your rabbits all year round. Bass equipment sells a couple different systems to freeze proof a watering system. One has a bucket with heater and circulating pump or heat cables to run through pipes in an auto watering set up. Heated auto water setup I have even seen some homemade setups that do work in the winter.

There are some breeders I know in Alaska, they run their rabbits in a colony setting for the colder months and use a regular large metal chicken waterer with a base heater and this has worked for them just fine. In the spring they return their rabbits to the hutches and cages.

I have heard that by adding two or three drops of glycerin into the rabbit’s water bottle. This sweet syrup will prevent the water from freezing as fast. Medical glycerin can be purchased from a pharmacist while vegetable glycerin can usually be purchased from a grocery store’s baking department. Just make sure you rabbit continues to drink the water with this added flavor included. I have never tried this method, if anyone has I would love to hear the results. I do not like the added sugar to their diet I would rather take the time to thaw my crocks.

Your diligence in making sure your rabbits have fresh water will keep your rabbits happy and healthy. Rabbits will not eat if there is no water available, and in the winter they need the extra food calories to keep warm. You should make sure to provide fresh ice free water at least 2 times a day once in the morning and again in the evening, preferably more often if you can. If you have any other ideas or comments please let me know as I update my posts all the time. Here is a link to my winter care for rabbits post https://riseandshinerabbitry.com/2012/02/20/winter-care-for-rabbits/

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RABBITS AND REDWORMS- Sustainability Above and Below!

Creme D Argents over worm bin

WORMS AND RABBITS TOGETHER

When raising rabbits if you have a few cages or a large rabbitry you can raise, grow, and harvest worms and compost under your rabbit cages or hutches. Raising worms under your hutches this will help control the smells and insects that can be a problem with the acculmated waste under the cages and hutches. The worms will reuse the rabbit manure and wasted feed from the hutches and turn it into a dark, nutrient-rich, finely-textured humus

Raising rabbits and worms together works so well because the nutrients in rabbit droppings and the wasted rabbit food and hay contains the perfect mix as a food source and as a bedding for the worms.  You can also raise the worms in compost bins or vermicomposting bins using the rabbit manure as a top dressing, for worm feed, and also as a worm bedding. Keeping worms under the rabbit cages also allows you to raise worms for fishing bait, chicken food, vermicomposting and this adds another bartering item you have on your homestead. This helps you to produce another potential source of income from your homestead and also improving your sustainability and another great fertilizer for your gardens.

Growing worms with rabbits is easy, I am in no way a worm expert. This post is what works for me in my rabbitry.  I have found that the best kind of worm to use under rabbit cages is the red worm or Eisenia fetida. They are also known as brandling  worms, manure worms, tiger worms, panfish worms, trout worms and many  other names. But whatever you call them, they are the best choice of worm for under your cages and for composting.

I started by building my worm beds underneath my existing rabbit hutches back in the early 80s.  I dug a trench under the hutches extending 6 inches out from the cages on all sides. Digging the trench about 12 inches deep to make my beds. This worked fine and I raised MANY worms for fishing bait using the trench system.

The rabbit cages should be at least three feet above the worm beds. I have also constructed beds under hutches and cages from 1x12s or 2x12s and putting them on their sides and screwing together to make a raised worm bed under the hutches. This can be built very inexpensively as the wood frame can be made from scrap lumber or pallets. Just try to make the worm bed about 12 inches deep. Remember to make the worm bed itself about four to six inches wider than the hutch or cage area to catch all the rabbit droppings, urine, and wasted feed. You can use the pit or trench system as mentioned earlier. It is best if you can add a base layer of sand or gravel for drainage this is weather you are using either the trench or raised bed method.

Placing 5 to 6 inches of bedding material in the bottom of the worm bed is sufficient for starting the worms. I use a mix of carbon type materials such as shredded paper or cardboard, leaves, hay, straw, and peat moss. Most worm growers prefer peat but I like what I can get around the homestead for free. I have found that the worms will general only use the top 6 inches of bedding unless certain circumstance’s make them go deeper, such as cold weather.

Moisten the bedding with water and let your rabbits do their thing until the surface is covered with 1 to 2 inches layer of rabbit manure. Mix the rabbit manure and bedding material together and wet it down. Rabbit manure is considered a cold manure, but by mixing the carbon and nitrogen materials it will generate some heat due to the natural composting processes, so keep mixing the bedding and lightly water it once a day for about 2 to 3 days.

On the third day, do the hand test by putting your hand into the bed to feel for heat. If the bedding material is hot, keep mixing it once a day until the heat is out of the bedding, Make shure it is cooled before you begin adding your worms into the beds. When the bedding is cool to the touch, you can add your worms. They should disappear immediately into the moist bedding material.

When starting the worm beds you should begin with 200 to 300 red worms per square foot of surface area.  You can add less worms, but they will not  work as effectively at turning the manure into compost. But they will reproduce, and soon you will have pleanty.

If you are raising the worms to sell, do not use more than 200 worms per square foot to allow the worms enough nutrients, room, and food to grow large. People will be lining up for you large trout catching  worms!

Worms cannot eat dry, rabbit manure, you will need to maintain a moisture level so the bedding is just damp enough to squeeze out a drop or two of water when you squeeze it.  Sprinkling the beds with water a few times a week will help to keep the bedding moist, but remember to skip by the areas under the automatic drinking valves, water bottles, or water crocks as they are usually already wet enough. In the summer time, you may have to water once or twice a day if the top of the worm beds dries too fast.

To maintain the worm beds you should add an additional inch of leaves, straw, or hay a few times each month and mix the beds with a pitchfork from top to bottom to avoid packed bedding. I will remove the urine spots from the worm pile with a shovel about once a week. This prevents the beds from getting too salty and hot for the worms. I add this urine soaked bedding to my compost piles. Leaving the urine spots in the worm bed eventually leads to a bad odor and insect problems.

After about six months you can start harvesting worms and saving the great fertilizer your rabbits and worms have made. I do this about once a year, I will remove half of the bed, save some worms and add the rest to my gardens. Then add new bedding just as you did when starting a new bed. Over the next few weeks the worms will move to the new bedding, and the old compost can be removed and sold, bartered, spread over a garden, or set aside to use later.

Do not harvest any worms for at least a few days after harvesting, and be sure to check the temperature and moisture conditions the following day. If the material is too dry or is heating up, water and mix again for the next few days.

If you plan to use your worm castings as a soil amendment, make sure that the castings are kept slightly moist and protected from sun and bad weather when storing. Poor handling, such as storing in areas leached by rainwater,  will result in a loss of the nutrients.

THE RED WORMS LIFE CYCLE

Red worms are hermaphrodites meaning that each worm is both male and female. It still takes two worms to mate as they can not reproduce on their own. When a red worm is sexually mature you will see the bulbous gland around its segments this is called the clitellum it looks like a swollen band about a third of the way down the body. It takes 3 months for a newly-hatched red wriggler to attain sexual maturity. Adult red wigglers secrete a number of egg cocoons after  mating, and after an incubation period of about 21 days, between 4 and 6  juvenile worms hatch from each cocoon. The cocoon is a small yellowish grain almost looking like a grain of rice.  As soon as they are hatched the worms are ready to start their diet of rabbit poop. The hatched worms first appear as a tiny thread like white worm. After about 8 hours they start to gain their hemoglobin and change to a pale pink then turning to a brick red color. It takes up to four months for a healthy and well-fed red wiggler population to double in number.

VERMICOMPOSTING

Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to convert organic matter to compost. This process is as old as time. This is happening in the forests and pastures every day naturally. By using worms under your hutches you are creating a controlled system of vermicomposting and you can harvest the worms for bins and the awesome worm castings.

One of the greatest pioneers in vermicomposting was a Michigan biology teacher Mary Appelhof who started the idea of home vermicomposting. In 1972, she realized she wanted to continue composting in the winter months despite living in a northern climate, she started with 1 pound of red wiggler worms, or Eisenia fetida, from a bait dealer. She created a shallow bin in her basement, loaded it with bedding and added her food scraps. By the end of the winter, they had consumed 65 lbs. of garbage and produced worm compost that resulted in impressive vegetables in her garden. Her book “Worms Eat My Garbage”  Is a must have book for the homestead library!  This is a great way to continue your soil production through the winter months. I have a few bins in my basement for holding my worms and composting in the winter, this is my added insurance in case all my outside beds die off in the winter.

WORMS AS CHICKEN FOOD

I have mentioned using your worms as fish bait and vermicomposting, But remember your chickens LOVE worms! It gives them  a great protein intake. I sometime have problem’s with my Silkies digging up the beds and eating lots of my worms . You can harvest a few worms and toss them inside the coops or runs for them to eat off the ground, or put them in bowls. But there’s also a better way to feed worms to chickens. You can choose to dry them, and then grind or crumble them. You can dry worms by placing them under an electric light bulb, in a oven, or inside a greenhouse. When they’re dry they are ready to be crushed or ground up, you can then add the crushed worm pieces as an additive to your usual chicken food supply. By drying the worms they are easier to save as a winter food source. Red Worms as a organic chicken feed can be a good idea for you to promote on your homestead. Even to sell and saving you money on chicken feed. Worm is about 80% protein.

If I have missed anything or you have questions, please leave some comments. I update my post all the time when I get new ideas or information. Join the Rabbit Revolution! By subscribing to my site and checking us out on Facebook

Beyond The Pellet -Feeding Rabbits Naturally

The book is now available in Kindle formant soon to be available in paperback check it out! I have a few more books in the works.

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Pellet-Rabbit-Project-ebook/dp/B00FZF1FCW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382518288&sr=1-1&keywords=beyond+the+pelletbook cover beyond the pellet

COMFREY- THE HOMESTEADERS GOLD MINE

Bee's love comfrey

Bee’s love comfrey

I get excited about a few things (most are homestead related), but rabbits and comfrey are at the top of my list! There are so many uses for comfrey on the homestead everyone should grow it.

This amazing plant can be used as a livestock food and tonic, herbal medicine, organic fertilizer and mulch for you gardens, and a great booster for your compost piles!

I will list as much as I know about comfrey on this page. The first time I got Comfrey was back in the early 80s and even when moving from place to place, I would dig up roots to bring my comfrey with me. Back then I was only growing it as a food and tonic for my rabbits. As I started learning how to use it more and more in the gardens, greenhouses, and compost piles and then seeing the results of what Comfrey can do. I was amazed!  I started many more comfrey beds and planted it around my gardens, fruit trees, and compost piles for easy harvest and use.

Comfrey is a high-yielding leafy green perennial herb, and a member of the borage family. I use, grow and sell, Russian Bocking 14 Comfrey, Symphytum  uplandicum.

In 1954 Lawrence Hills began researching the use of Comfrey. He found that it mines nutrients in the ground by using its deep root system. When plants do this it is called a dynamic accumulator. The plant will draw minerals out of the soil and into the roots, stems and leaves. This makes comfrey very rich in the basic N-P-K elements which are the basis of all plant fertilizers and are important for plant health and growth. Comfrey contains useful amounts of these trace elements but nobody seems to have researched this until Hills went on to develop the most useful variety of Comfrey, Bocking 14, which was named after the location of the trial grounds in Essex, England.

The most important property of Bocking 14 is that it is sterile. That means it does not self-seed so it does not spread like wild Comfrey. But once you have Comfrey in the garden you will never get rid of it as even the smallest piece of root will regrow vigorously. But then why would you want to get rid of it, with its so many uses!

Comfrey grows up quick and early in the spring and can easily reach heights of  5 feet. The lower leaves are very large, compared to the small hanging clusters of flowers at the top of the plant, to which I have never seen so many bees as in my comfrey beds, they love the purple flowers as do a great many other beneficial insects.  The shape and size of this plant makes it look like a shrub but comfrey is a herb. Comfrey is a hardy perennial and it will die back to the ground in the winter and regrow in the spring.

Comfrey will adapt to most areas you want to plant it, but will thrive in a rich organic soil. As with all quick-growing plants, Comfrey needs nitrogen. Comfrey gets all its nitrogen from the soil, so some type of regularly added organic matter is needed. Of course I cannot think of anything better to use than Bunny Berries! I top dress my Comfrey plants every spring and fall!

When starting Comfrey plants I use root cuttings most often. These cuttings are usually available in small and larger sizes. The larger roots will sprout and grow faster than the small cuttings. These are 2-6″ lengths of root which are planted horizontally 2-8″ deep. Plant shallower in clay soil and deeper in sandy soils.

You can also grow comfrey from crown cuttings, but these will be more expensive. A crown cutting will include sprouts and will grow faster than root cuttings. Crown cuttings are planted 3-6″ deep.

If you are growing several plants of comfrey for a bed, and regular harvesting, space them in a grid, 3′ apart.

Once Comfrey is established it will take care of itself. Each year the plant will get a little larger and the root system will get more dense. A Comfrey plant can live several decades before it begins to decline. By dividing the plant every few years this will keep the plant growing vigorously longer.

Because of its deep tap-root, comfrey is very drought tolerant. However regular watering will keep it green, growing strong and blooming for a great quick harvest.

Comfrey leaves can be harvested and dried at any time in its growing stage. If you are growing it to harvest the leaves, you can make your first cutting when the plants are 2′ tall. Cut back to within a few inches of the crown. If you begin harvesting early, you may not get flowers that year.

I have many comfrey plants all over the homestead and for many different reasons. The plants around my garden I let flower. These purple bell-like flowers draw in so many beneficial insects to help pollinate my crops. By planting Comfrey as an outside border the plants roots mat together stopping even couch grass from creeping in. I do plant them closer about 24 inches apart as a garden border and the plants are right were I need them when I want to use as a mulch.

There are so many great ways to use comfrey around the garden! One of the easiest uses of comfrey is as a thick mulch for other crops. Comfrey leaves and stems can be cut and wilted for a few days and then used as a mulch. This will slowly release all the nutrients that their long tap roots pulled up from the soil. This will also help to suppress weeds, feed the plants being mulched, and conserve moisture. This is especially good around plants that like a little extra potassium like fruits, squashes, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Researchers in British Columbia analyzed the NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio of comfrey and discovered that the leaves have a remarkable NPK ratio of 1.80-0.50-5.30. When we compare these nutrient ratios to that of animal manure we can see how far superior comfrey is but the bunny berries are still better than most manures!
Dairy Cow: .25-.15-.25
Steer: .70-.30-.40
Horse: .70-.30-.60
Sheep: .70-.30-.90
Chicken: 1.1-.80-.50
Rabbit: 2.4-1.4-.60

As comfrey leaves wilt an decompose they become irresistible to slugs and snails. If you spread them around young plants such as lettuce and other slug loving plants this will keep the slugs busy and easy to dispose of.

The wilted leaves and stems (by wilting the pieces of comfrey they will not root) can be dug into ground that is being prepared for a new crop and they will break down to give an awesome organic feed to the crop that is being planted. I always do this with all seedlings I transplant outside. This works great on plants being grown in containers as the comfrey decomposes it makes a slow release fertilizer for the plant. Great to add in when you trench in your potato starts in the spring.

Comfrey as a liquid fertilizer is the best! This is one of my favorite uses. Throw that Miracle Grow and any other chemical fertilizer out! Comfrey leaves and stems (I chop the stems) can be crammed and packed tight into a large container (I like using 5 gallon buckets) with a brick or rock pressing down on the mass of comfrey. After a few weeks the mixture will be like a green, brownish soup and ready for harvest. Strain it through a fairly fine screen and bottle, then put the screened sludge remains onto the compost pile. By putting a spigot on the bottom of the bucket you could just keep adding comfrey to the top as it breaks down and turn the tap on as you need it. Once this liquid fertilizer is made it should be diluted from 10:1 to 15:1.

Some people I know just add cut and chopped comfrey plants to their rainwater barrels, then let sit for a few weeks and use this to water their plants as is. They have all had great results.

Because Comfrey is a high-nitrogen source, Comfrey is a  wicked awesome compost activator and a great booster for the compost piles, it will even awaken those cold dead piles!

Remember when composting to always have the right balance of green and brown shredded material in any of your piles to keep them healthy and composting. Comfrey when added to the pile works best as an activator if it is well mixed with the whole pile rather than just adding it as layers, this will kick-start your hot composting process. You can add as layers if your pile is working and you just need to add some green stuff.

Here is a recipe for the Rise And Shine Comfrey Composter Super Booster Fill your blender 3/4 full with fresh comfrey leaves, then add water to about 2 inches below the rim. Blend  until the comfrey is dissolved. Pour the undiluted blended comfrey into your composter or on your compost pile. It will get your compost heating up fast! It’s an excellent compost activator because it contains more nitrogen than most manures.

A few years ago I planted some Comfrey plants next to my compost bins and their growth has been awesome, it is in a shady area on the homestead, most plants would never even grow there. The Comfrey grows vigorously while enjoying the leaching nutrient’s from the pile. The comfrey is also close to the compost pile to add as green matter, If I add some dry matter to the compost pile.

I get three good crops of leaves each year from each plant here in Maine, it can be cut right down to 2” above the ground and then it will re-grow fast. Remember to keep an eye on it, splitting off some of the root every few years to prevent it getting out of control, but you can propagate these cuttings into as many new plants as you want, to start new beds, and plants, to barter, sell or give as gifts.

Comfrey is also used as a livestock food. Farmers in both Japan and in the Pacific Northwest plant fields of comfrey to feed both their dairy and beef cattle. These farmers are getting remarkable results in the health of both their beef cattle and increased milk production in their dairy herds.

I did a post on the benefits of comfrey for rabbits here is the link https://riseandshinerabbitry.com/2011/10/22/comfrey-for-rabbits/

The Henry Doubleday Association in the United Kingdom long advocated the use of comfrey as a nutritional supplement for farm animals.

Comfrey contains many vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin B12, potassium, sulphur, calcium, iron, phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-complex, selenium, iron, germanium and is also an excellent source of protein.

I feed comfrey to all the livestock on my homestead. The chickens love it, when the free ranging chickens get to run in the comfrey beds they will eat it to the ground. The pigs go crazy when they see you carrying in to them grunting and doing their happy dance. I have fed it to my rabbits for 30+ years and they love it! So far, I have had no adverse effects on feed comfrey to any of the livestock I raise here on the homestead!

I have been told lots of negative things on feeding comfrey to livestock. Studies have reported the development of cancerous liver tumors and liver damage in animals after ingesting or being injected with various amounts of comfrey. If comfrey is so dangerous, then why is it not causing liver issues to the cattle raised in Japan? The cattle are being fed large amounts of comfrey yet there has been no problems with liver tumors or liver damage in their herds. I feed comfrey to my rabbits as much as 25% of their daily green feed.  I butcher my rabbits and all the livers are healthy and tasty! I have never personally had any problems with comfrey being fed to the animals on my homestead.

I researched a few of the negative comfrey studies, the ones I could find were done on young rats. The Comfrey was not given to the rats as a food source, Instead the toxic alkaloids were isolated and injected into these rats.

As with many herbs, the whole plant contains elements and nutrients that can neutralize the toxic elements in the plant being eaten. So by isolating and injecting a toxic chemical from the comfrey plant and eating the leaf of the plant, you would get different results in any study. So do some research yourself and make your own choice. I will be using comfrey as a food source for my animals!

As a medicinal herb, Comfrey has been used for more than 200 years. A famous herbalist, Dorothy Hall, who wrote in 1975 ‘Russian comfrey and garlic could together almost halve the present ills of western civilization.’

In herbal medicine it is sometimes referred to as “knit bone” for its ability to speed wound healing. Knit bone, refers to the way that the Comfrey was ‘knitted’  (wrapped) around the bruised leg or arm.

The allantoin content of comfrey, especially in the root, has resulted in its use in folk medicine for healing wounds, sores, burns, swollen tissue, and broken bones. When applied externally to bruising, sprains, arthritis or any inflamed tissue, it acts as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

In studies allantoin  appeared to affect the rate of cell multiplication. Wounds and burns seemed to heal faster when allantoin was applied due to a possible increase in number of white blood cells. Comfrey works so well that it is important to ensure that when using it as a healing poultice, the affected area or wound is completely clean and free from dirt or foreign matter. This is because Comfrey causes the skin to grow back so fast that any dirt left behind will actually end up being stuck under the new skin growth.

You can apply cold grated comfrey root or a cloth soaked in cool comfrey tea to sunburns or other minor skin burns.

Comfrey can be used as a treatment for rashes, scrapes and especially insect bites and stings.

Making a poultice with the juice can remove warts and other growths. Can be used as a rinse for skin problems on livestock and pets.

Comfrey Infused oil is used to treat arthritis, skin wounds and diseases such as psoriasis. Juice from the leaves and stems in a terrific cure for poison ivy.

You can make an infusion by boiling the leaves. For using the plant externally, the whole plant can be beaten and heated up, then applied to the skin.

To make comfrey oil, clean some fresh comfrey roots with a scrub brush under running water. Place the roots in a blender or food processor with olive oil to cover, and grind as fine as possible. Put into a large glass jar and allow to soak for several weeks before straining. Filter through a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth or in a coffee filter. This can be used as a compress or poultice.

Comfrey should never be taken internally. Most health agencies in the U.S. have banned the internal use of comfrey due to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in this plant. Comfrey is no longer sold in the U.S. as an herbal cure, except in creams or ointments.

In the past before the bad press on comfrey they did use it internally. Drinking a few drops of Comfrey in water can help with bronchial problems, particularly whooping-cough. Boiling the crushed root yields a mild remedy for diarrhea and other gastro-intestinal problems.

Use any of the cures here use at your own risk. I am not a doctor. These are old remedies’ that have been used for generations.

Comfrey is nature’s answer to a sustainable fertilizer, fodder, and healing herb for the Homesteader. Best of all it is free! and you can grow it yourself!  Comfrey is The Gold Mine on the Homestead!

We have Comfrey available for sale. https://riseandshinerabbitry.com/comfrey-for-sale/ . I am working on a YouTube video showing all these uses. Join The Rabbit Revolution!

GROW A SURVIVAL GARDEN NOW- for you and your rabbits!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many preparations and skills needed for running a successful homestead in good times or bad. Now is the time to learn these skills weather you live in a urban, suburban, or rural setting, you can start by growing some food to feed your family and rabbits.

Start today by building your knowledge, library, and skills to handle all the chores needed to run a homestead. Start a garden, plant some vegetables, fruit,berry and nut trees, and of course start raising rabbits! This way you will to have the skills needed when the bad times may come.

As you learn these skills you eat healthy food, you save money, as less grocery’s are needed and no taxes are paid for growing your own (yet). Seeds cost little money and can be free if you learn to save your own.

It is because today we are so far removed from our food sources, that we must relearn these skills that our grandparents knew. This is also why some of our forefathers often screwed up and starved to death because of lack off knowledge and skills.

Let me start with saying when I first started gardening and raising rabbits that I have killed plants, lost rabbits, and had some failures and setbacks as I first started, but do not give up the results you get in the future are worth it. The time to make mistakes is now while you can still purchase food to replace your mistakes without starving to death.

Lack of experience is a big problem in the amount and consistency of your harvest. Even experienced gardeners have bad years. Nature can work against you bugs, drought, flooding and other weather related issues can cause a lack of production, as you gain experience you will learn how to overcome these issues.

Working a garden now also lets you learn what to grow and what you like the taste of. Also by using heirloom plants so you can save seeds and even develop a strain of plant that will grow better in your area. This is also true with rabbits and other livestock as generations of that animal grow they grow accustomed to that climate and produce offspring that will grow and produce better. By saving and breeding the best you will have the best. My favorite saying is “Save The Best, Eat The Rest”

Every year I try to grow something new in the garden and learn a few more skills. This year I am growing Black Oil Sunflower Seeds to make my own oil and feeding the rabbits and chickens the byproducts. I am working on making a small scale oil press in the workshop for the sunflower experiment. This year I am also trying to grow Yacon as feed for the family, rabbits, and chickens. This is not usually grown in my climate but it has been done.

You will need to learn when do you start seeds where you live and what planting zone your state is?
What is the date of first and last frost?
What grows well in your area or in your soil?
Will you and your faimly eat them?
What plants to grow for your rabbits?
Do you really want to wait to find out after the Shit hits the fan?
Do you have your hutches built for your rabbits? What about the materials and tools to build them with, wire, wood, sheet metal?
Do you have everything you will need for any emergencies for your family and your livestock. These are just a few of the things you should learn now.

You need to plan now for what animals you want to raise, You need to know which wild plants will kill you and your rabbits and what wild plants weed will feed you and your protien source. You will need to know about rabbits. What is the gestation A rabbit?, How to feed a rabbit without pellets?, When to breed your rabbits? All this information and more can be found on this website, our Facebook page, all the guest podcasts and blogs we have done, We are now launching our new RABBIT REVOLUTION RADIO SHOW and the new YOU TUBE stuff for July. I will be constantly updating this post as time goes on. Thanks for reading my stuff. Join The Rabbit Revolution by liking us on Facebook and listening to the radio show. Raising Meat Rabbits To Save The World!

BREEDING SCHEDULES

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you start with rabbits you should worry more about learning all you can about raising rabbits and not how many a year you can get, you will learn with your rabbits as they grow and go through their life cycles. Your rabbits will teach you lots more than I ever could!

Learn how to butcher, cut up a whole rabbit and the MANY rabbit recipes, find your favorite recipes and grow some of the herbs and other ingredients in them. Learn how to freeze, smoke, and even pressure can your rabbit meat. When you have all this information and experience under your belt, then you can worry about high production!

If you have a crazy work schedule (like me) there are ways to help with this so your does will kindle on certain days of the week.

If you breed your does on the weekend (do not forget to mark that day on your calendar) 28 days later put in the nest boxes. The 28th day should fall on the weekend again, this works out well if the weekend is when you do your weekly rabbit chores (cleaning cages, emptying drop pans, bleaching crocks and bottles etc.) and since you are working in the rabbitry is also a good day to put in the nest boxes. The doe should have her litter during the week on day 30 or day 31 after breeding (remember you marked the breeding date on the calendar!). This should be on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Rabbits will usually kindle at night so if you work days you should be home in time to check on the new litter. If doe doesn’t kindle by day 35 you should breed her again. This again should fall on a Saturday or a Sunday.

I breed my does on a Wednesday. This is because I work during the week and never know what time I will get home. This way the does will kindle on the weekend when I am home working on the homestead.

When I first started with rabbits feed was cheap and everyone was using pellets. I could breed some of my high production New Zealand’s to get 8 big litters a year. Now I am looking to be more self sufficient with my life and my rabbits. With this new change I raise less rabbits (easier to grow and harvest food for 10 rabbits than 50) and a more natural feeding program I am happy with 5 to 6 litters a year. The litters may be a little smaller but the cost and sustainability is priceless!

How many litters a year can I get from my rabbits? This question I get asked all the time. There are many factors including types of feed and hereditary factors. Here is a breeding schedule for the amount of litters a year you want. Remember raising rabbits is not perfect you many get a doe that misses, or loses a litter.

LITTERS A YEAR-
4 Kindle litter- Rebreed 60 days after kindling- Wean kits at 60 days- Kindle next litter 91 days
5 Kindle litter- Rebreed 42 days after kindling- Wean kits at 56 days- Kindle next litter 73 days
6 Kindle litter- Rebreed 28 days after kindling- Wean kits at 42 days- Kindle next litter 59 days
7 Kindle litter- Rebreed 21 days after kindling- Wean kits at 35 days- Kindle next litter 52 days
8 Kindle litter- Rebreed 14 days after kindling- Wean kits at 28 days- Kindle next litter 45 days

4 to 6 litters a year are more likely with a natural feeding program, 6 to 8 litters a year will require more management and the need for a high protein production pellet.

You should have a calendar in your rabbitry or a calendar in the house just for your rabbits, I have a large calendar hanging in my rabbitry so I can see when to put in a nest box, I put the cage numbers on the date when the nest box should go in and when they are due. Here is a gestation chart that I use all the time.

31 Day Gestation Chart

Jan—–Feb——-Mar——April——May——June——July——Aug——Sept——Oct——-Nov——-Dec——Jan
1———–1————–4———4—————-5———–5———6———6——–6———7———7———–8————-8
2———–2————–5———5—————-6———–6———7———7——–7———8———8———–9————-9
3———–3————–6———6—————-7———–7———8———8——–8———9———9———–10————10
4———–4————–7———7—————-8———–8———9———9——–9———10——–10———-11————11
5 5 8 8 9 9 10 10 10 11 11 12 12
6 6 9 9 10 10 11 11 11 12 12 13 13
7 7 10 10 11 11 12 12 12 13 13 14 14
8 8 11 11 12 12 13 13 13 14 14 15 15
9 9 12 12 13 13 14 14 14 15 15 16 16
10 10 13 13 14 14 15 15 15 16 16 17 17
11 11 14 14 15 15 16 16 16 17 17 18 18
12 12 15 15 16 16 17 17 17 18 18 19 19
13 13 16 16 17 17 18 18 18 19 19 20 20
14 14 17 17 18 18 19 19 19 20 20 21 21
15 15 18 18 19 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 22
16 16 19 19 20 20 21 21 21 22 22 23 23
17 17 20 20 21 21 22 22 22 23 23 24 24
18 18 21 21 22 22 23 23 23 24 24 25 25
19 19 22 22 23 23 24 24 24 25 25 26 26
20 20 23 23 24 24 25 25 25 26 26 27 27
21 21 24 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 28 28
22 22 25 25 26 26 27 27 27 28 28 29 29
23 23 26 26 27 27 28 28 28 29 29 30 30
24 24 27 27 28 28 29 29 29 30 30 31 31
25 25 28 28 29 29 30 30 30 31 1 1
26 26 29 29 30 30 31 31 1 1 2 2
27 27 30 30 31 1 1 1 2 2 3 3
28 28 31 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 4
29 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 5 5
30 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5 5 6 6
31 3 3 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 7 7

To use this chart, find the month and day that the breeding occurred and then straight across to the next column on the right to determine the due date, this is based on a 31 day gestation. Remember that 31 days is the normal gestation time for most rabbits, but it’s not uncommon for does to kindle their litters from day 28 to day 32. I always put my nest boxes in at day 27 or 28.

JOIN THE RABBIT REVOLUTION! Start raising rabbits today! LIKE US ON FACEBOOK and get daily information on rabbits and homesteading. I am looking for more ideas for posts please email us at riseandshinerabbitry@hotmail.com and let me know what you want to read about. Working on RABBIT REVOLUTION RADIO a weekly online radio show about rabbits and more! Thanks for reading! May your litters be large and grow fast!

ARE THERE AFFECTS FEEDING RABBITS GMO FEED

If you follow my blog or my face-book page you already know what GMOs are, but here is the basic definition -Genetically modified foods (GM foods, or bio-tech foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as genetically modified crops or genetically modified fish. GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise than mutation breeding where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. The scientist at Monsanto started inserting genes from bacteria and viruses into crops. That’s were they got a crop that could either survive a application of the company’s herbicide glyphosate (roundup) or produce its own insect killing pesticide. Coming soon the USDA will be approving Agent Orange resistant crops (this have been proven in studies after Vietnam to cause cancer and birth defects).

Research has shown lower levels of nutrients in crops sprayed with Roundup. These crops are specifically engineered to tolerate the herbicide Roundup, whose use has increased with the release of Roundup-Ready GM crops. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, decreases nutrient availability and uptake in plants. Some of these nutrients help plants and animals fight disease. Recent studies have shown a link between high rates of spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock fed GM Roundup-Ready crops.

We know very little about the effects of genetically modified organisms on livestock and human health. Researchers in Italy have performed a study on some of the effects, and their results were released last year. They fed one group of pregnant goats rations with non-GM soybean meal and another group with GM Round up sprayed soybean meal. The mothers received this diet for two months prior to the birth of their kids. Then the offspring were fed milk only from their mother for 60 days. The results showed DNA from the GM Roundup-Ready soy in the blood, organs, and milk of goats. Also, the kids of the mothers fed GM soy had substantially higher levels of an enzyme, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), in the heart, muscles, and kidneys. Similar metabolic changes have been found in studies of GM-fed rabbits and mice, as well.

The word is spreading that rabbits fed pellets from company’s that use GMO grown products in the manufacturing of their pellets are getting sicker. Laboratory GMO fed rabbits have had organ damage, reproductive failure, high death of kits, stomach legions, smaller bodies and organs, low immune responses, and higher death rates. There is no actual facts that I have, just resource’s and articles I have found.

The way a rabbits digestive system works is that the beneficial bacteria that needed in the gut must flourish and adapt to their food source. If this bacteria is off it will cause all kinds of digestive problems such as enteritis, bloating, wasting away and more! If the bad bacteria starts flourishing this can cause coccidiosis and other problems. Last year I have had a rash of emails, phone calls, people stopping by the rabbitry to ask questions about problems with their rabbits. The only common factor in all these cases is the use of GMO pellets. Not just in one area (from California to Maine) or season (Spring to winter)! I do not believe that they are stress related. I am lucky to feed the lowest amount of pellets I have too, to keep my rabbits productive and healthy. By feeding rabbits a more natural diet and keeping a closed herd, has been the best thing for me and my rabbits.

A result in tests done on rabbits fed gmo soy-meal was released found Roundup Ready Soy Changed Cell Metabolism in Rabbit Organs, Rabbits fed GM soy for about 40 days showed significant differences in the amounts of certain enzymes in their kidneys, hearts and livers. A rise in LDH1 levels in all three organs suggests an increase in cellular metabolism. Changes in other enzymes point to other alterations in the organs. When cells are damaged in mammals, LDH levels are elevated. It is a key indicator of cancer, and LDH remains elevated after a heart attack. Increased LDH is associated with several other health disorders

A German farmer who had 65 cows die after he fed them genetically modified Bt corn has filed criminal charges against Syngenta, alleging that the company knew the corn could be lethal to livestock, and covered up deaths that occurred during one of their clinical feeding trials. Swiss bio-tech Syngenta committed a grave criminal offense by deliberately withholding the results of a feeding trial in which four cows died in two days. The deaths prompted the company to halt the test. No health problems or deaths were reported in the control group, which was not fed the genetically engineered Bt 176 corn.

Thousands of livestock deaths have also been reported across India, as a result of grazing on genetically engineered crops and feed.

Alfalfa is the number one forage crop in the United States. In January 2011 the USDA approved the release of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, raising the prospect that some non-GM alfalfa will be contaminated by GM alfalfa by cross-pollination from bees (could this also be the health problem bees are having?). Soon the first cuttings of GM alfalfa will be harvested and fed to livestock and be in your rabbit pellets with the GMO soy products. I have been called a conspiracy theorists but is this a way to control the food supply. You will not be able to raise any animals without the use of GMOs. This is why I push the Natural diet for us and our rabbits! Please comment your thoughts and ideas!

FOSTERING KITS

cremes fostered to a litter of black satinsFostering rabbit kits is the act of placing newborn baby rabbits with a different mother doe. Before fostering always give the mother of the litter a chance to care for her kits.

With some does it can take up to 48 hours for their milk to drop. Also remember does only feed their kits usually late at night, only once or twice in 24 hours, and at each feeding they feed for only a few minutes at a time. So you may not be at the right place at the right time to see if the doe is feeding her litter. You can tell fed kits by their plump bellies and they are warm to the touch, if the kits are shriveled and cold something must be done. Just make sure you are not fostering if you do not have to.

You can force the mom to feed the kits by placing the nest box on sturdy surface. Place mom in the box over the kits. Cover her and the box completely with towel. Leave her in the box for fifteen minute. Check the kits to see if they have been fed. If so return mom to her cage. Repeat in 12 hours. If they were not fed leave her for another 15 minutes. If she does not feed them return her to her cage and keep the nest box separate from her. Try again in 2 hours. Keep trying until she feeds them or at this point you should foster them.

I like using a nest box that is not part or attached to the cage. You can pull it to the front of the cage to inspect, remove, or place foster kits easily. it is much easier to disinfect between litters and can be replaced

I always try to breed at least two does at a time, this way you can foster their kits to each other if needed. When your breeding doe’s get older their litters will usually get smaller. These are great foster moms with experience raising young! So when breeding, breed a young and older doe on or near the same day. If you do not have two does, or you do not want to have two litters, then you will have to let the litter die naturally or bottle feed them if anything goes wrong. I did a post on FEEDING ORPHANED KITS- in the March 2012 Archives, Check it out for more information on this subject.

As a rabbit breeder backyard or commercial fostering litters is a very important skill to know how to do. Even if you have only a few rabbits you should know how to foster kits.

If you need to keep track of kits when fostering and they are of the same breed and color. A small tattoo needle will work by putting one or more dots in the kits ear, so that the fostered kits can be identified after weaning.

There are different situations where you would want to foster off kits to another mother doe those would be as follows.

If the doe is not feeding them and they are very skinny. The doe may not be producing enough milk to supply enough to her litter. If she is a fist time mom and needing some experience, let her raise some and foster the rest.

If a doe has a very large litter you can foster some to help them all grow equally and help out the doe. Sometimes does can give birth to a large number of kits that they can possibly not take care of. Some litters have been know to run as high as eighteen so be prepared to have a foster mom available.

If a doe dies while raising a litter or while giving birth. Never attempt to foster any kits from an obvious sick or diseased doe as this could very easily be spread to the new litter and the foster doe.

If the doe is mean to the kits, or if the doe is mean to you and you cannot remove the babies easily. If I have a doe like this I cull the whole line, I do not want this trait carried on in my bloodline!

If a doe ate all of the litter except one or two when they were perfectly healthy, Move the remaining babies, if any, to a new mother, If she is a first time mom I will give her a chance to re breed but if she repeats this do not use any of the does for breeding cull that line. (remember "Save the best, Eat the rest!").

Sometimes, I foster kits to even out litters, so they all will grow equally. If the doe has more than 8 kits, you might want to consider fostering one or two to another doe that has a litter of under eight.(remember a doe has only 8 teats). When raising rabbits for meat there is a advantage in reducing the litter size to a number that will develop equally. This way they will all be ready to process at the same time. Some show breeders will sometimes reduce the litter size to four to six kits. This will allow the kits to have the best chance to develop to the best of their breed and bloodline will allow.

If a doe has only a few kits you can re-breed her right away and foster her young to another does to raise the few with her litter increasing production. A single kit will often chill and die if left alone in the nest box without the added heat of its litter mates.

I always try to allow first-time does to nurse their litters to help them get the added experience of raising their own litter. I also try to foster kits to does who have had a dead litter. I think that it helps in the future by adding experience.

Many breeders claim to have to rub the kits or the nose of the foster doe with a scent. Some does can be hostile to kits that do not smell like them (I have yet to see this), so by rubbing a scent cover over the kits you foster, will cover their scent so they do not smell like the other doe. I have never rubbed any smelly substance on any of kits I have fostered, or to the noses of any of my does.

I have fostered MANY kits successfully. I just give the foster doe a treat (like a small piece of apple, or banana) to keep her occupied, and place the foster kits in the nest-box with their new siblings. I have never had a problem with a doe refusing the newly added kits or hurting them. This is most likely a hereditary trait. I do not even worry over destroying the scent of humans or other rabbits. Once the young are in the nest box and coming into contact with the young and nesting material all the scent will be destroyed. I feel that the doe’s do not count or notice a change of the new colored kits in their boxes they will raise them as her own.

I have fostered kits up to the age of 2 weeks(14 days) when fostering kits at a older age (something that is not recommended) I removed the doe from the cage and added the new kits to the box. I let them stay together for a little time, while I do my rabbitry chores, before returning the doe to the cage. Some doe’s will seem to be very curious that something has changed, but after sniffing around awhile, she jump into the box and feed the whole litter.

FEEDING RABBITS BLACK OIL SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Rabbits love black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS). They are a great winter tonic! I only feed BOSS to my rabbits in the cooler months, as it is a high calorie, high fat, “hot” feed. So it keeps them warm and shiny, great for a dry winter coat. This helps by putting the oil back into their coats.

I am talking about the black oil sunflower seeds, not the striped seeds. The striped seeds have thicker, tougher hulls. Black oil seeds have thinner shells and are more nutritious. Black oil sunflower seeds contain high levels of protein are rich in vitamin E, linoleic acid and provide a good source of fiber. Rabbits benefit from this snack seed as a high source of energy during cold temperatures.

I do not recommend using BOSS during the heat of the summer (June, July, and August here in Maine, it may be longer in your area). I feel that if fed during hot weather it will make them shed more and could cause gut troubles by hair blockage. But if you have a rabbit that is stuck in a molt, then this is a great additive to add to your rabbits diet. By adding the extra calories and protein this will get them to blow their coat and get in new growth. If rabbits are overfed BOSS or fed to often this can also trigger a molt so feed in moderation. This is used as a tonic not a feed!

Her are the general nutritional components of black oil sunflower seeds, I also listed some of the benefits of each next to the item

28 percent fat – Fat in a rabbits diet functions as an energy source, aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). It also adds luster and gloss to the fur and helps slow shedding.

25 percent fiber – This helps provide the bulk and forage requirements for a rabbit and also promoting a healthy gut.

15 percent protein – Protein is need for the growth, disease resistance, milk production, general health and reproduction.

Calcium – Calcium plays a key role in bodily processes, such as heart function, muscle contraction, coagulation, and electrolyte levels in the blood. But you do not want excess calcium in a rabbits diet as this can cause urinary tract problems.

B vitamins- A rabbit produces its own b vitamin by bacteria in the hind-gut of the rabbit, their requirements are fulfilled through caecotrophy. So B is not very important to a domestic rabbit.

Iron-

Vitamin E – helps to remove toxins out of your rabbit’s body this helps to maintain the immune system.

Potassium- Rabbit need this when they’re sick as they lose potassium through watery feces.

Feeding rabbits BOSS- Rabbits should only be fed BOSS as condition mix or tonic treat, 6 seeds per a rabbit top dressed in the feed hopper or crock is enough! DO NOT OVERFEED! You do not want fat lazy rabbits. Feed with the hulls on this is a good added fiber for the rabbits digestive track. Some show breeders feed BOSS as a daily conditioner one week before a show. I do not think you should add them to a bulk bag of feed because you will not be able to control the amount of BOSS each of your rabbits consumes. Black oil sunflower seeds are not a complete source of nutrition for your rabbit, offering only a few necessary nutrients your rabbit needs. These should only be offered as part of a rabbit’s diet, not the sole source of nutrition.

Vitamins A and E are vulnerable to poor or prolonged storage in feeds. Both of these vitamins are needed for the willingness and ability of rabbits to breed. Instead of increasing the pellets, I suggest feeding about a tablespoon of black oil sunflower seeds for Vitamin E and a good handful of dark leafy greens (dandelions, plantain, raspberry,and Kale are fine) for Vitamin A. If the rabbits have never had greens, start with just a couple of leaves and work up to more to help with those unwilling does.

One of the things I like about the BOSS is that even rabbits who are “off their feed” will nibble at them. When I got my first Angoras many years ago I tried adding BOSS to their diet and the results could be noticed by coat growth and quality, I can only assume it is from more protein-rich foods. Coat growth in Angoras or any wool breed uses a lot of protein to keep the fiber growing having a little extra to burn is making their fiber thick, dense, and soft.

PROS- They are packed with nutrition, amino acids, and calories, so they are a great supplement for almost any rabbit to one degree or another. They do help with shiny coats also. The side benefit is the volunteer sunflowers that sprout. I grew some out this summer (Will be growing a plot of the in 2013) and saved the seed heads, then pulled the plant and gave it to the rabbits as a green treat in the cages. They would not only eat the leaves, but they would gnaw the stems until it was all gone!

CONS- Not to many, but possibly too high in protein and calories, which could cause heat issues during summer months. If fed too much too often maybe some weight gain, and molting problems. I believe the positives of BOSS out weight the negatives. Definitely feed with shells as they add necessary fiber and are easy to chew through for rabbits. Black oil sunflower seeds often stimulate your rabbit to gain weight due to their high fat content. This extra body weight helps rabbits maintain their body temperature in the winter, fall, and spring months. Your rabbit may not need to maintain as much body heat in the summer months, so consider cutting back the amount of black oil sunflower seeds your rabbit consumes during those months.

Hope this answers any question on feeding BOSS to your rabbits. If anyone has other ideas or question please post in the comment section. Will be working on a conditioning mix post for rabbits and BOSS is in to that mix. Also if there are any requests for new post and ideas, email me and let me know! JOIN THE RABBIT REVOLUTION! Like Us On Facebook, and subscribe to the web page to get updates as the are posted.

EAR MITES CAUSES AND REMEDYS

Rabbits kept outside in hutches or on the ground in rabbit tractors are most likely soon or later to get ear mites. Even in wire hutches you can have a ear mite infestation in your rabbitry.

Ear mites are the most common of all health issues you will have to deal with raising your homestead rabbits. Ear mites are not serious, but if left untreated, an ear mite infestation can lead to a secondary bacterial infection which can extend to the middle and inner ear causing head tilt, loss of balance, wobbliness (head tilt) and even fatal meningitis. Because the mites may eventually penetrate the eardrum and destroy the rabbits equilibrium so that it staggers and can’t find the food or water crocks. In advanced cases, the ear mites can leave the ears and expand their populations across the rabbit’s body. In particular the head, neck, belly and the skin regions around the anus, genitals and the legs and feet, resulting in severe, generalized body scratching and widespread skin redness, trauma-induced hair loss, widespread scabbing (skin sores) and dermatitis.

Being a contagious parasitic skin disease, rabbit ear mites are generally spread from rabbit to rabbit by direct skin contact between infected and non-infected rabbits. Non-infested rabbits can also contract the mites through contact with the hutch of ear-mite-infested rabbits. Mite transmission from rabbit to rabbit is generally greater in conditions whereby large numbers of rabbits are being kept in close proximity to one other wild rabbit warrens, colony setting, overcrowded hutches, rabbit rescue shelters, pet shops, rabbit breeding facilities, commercial meat or Angora rabbit farming facilities.

The ear mites start by invading the deeper regions of the rabbit’s external ear canal, living deep down in the canal where they can not be seen by the rabbit breeder. Because of this, early infestations of ear mites are often missed by rabbit owners. Because the outer ear flap that the breeder can see often looks OK during the early stages and yet the ear canal is infested deeper down. Owners may only notice occasional symptoms of ear-scratching and head-shaking by the rabbit during these early stages. As the rabbit ear mites multiply in number, the ear mite infestation expands and extends from the ear canal of the rabbit onto the outer ear flap.

At this point, the mite infestation is generally clearly visible to the breeder. If your rabbit has an ear mite infestation you will notice a brown waxy build up inside one or both ears. Your rabbit will likely be scratching or shaking his head more than usual. Over the next day or two the waxy build up will become scab-like or flaky in its appearance. Your rabbit will most likely have several scratch marks in his ear from digging at it with it paws. Mites cause intense itching and pain that can lead to tremendous suffering.

When examining the ears of you rabbits if you see raw lesions along with brownish-grey, flaky crusts or scales, This is composed of mites, mite feces, blood, skin cells, and inflamed skin cells can be seen. In bad cases the accumulation of crusts may be so excessive that a rabbit cannot hold its ears erect, there may also be an unpleasing odor coming from the ears due to the accumulated gunk in the ear.

The ear mite is a parasite, known under the name of Psoroptes cuniculi. They are a member of the arachnid family, The average life span of an ear mite is 21 days. Most mites are microscopic and are living in the soil. The eggs of an ear mite are laid and hatch within four days of incubation. The larva emerges and feeds on the ear wax or skin oils of the rabbit, which continues for a week. After, the larva will molt into what is called a protonymph, which then molts again, becoming a deutonymph. The deutonymph mates with adult males, even though it has not yet established a gender at this time in its life. After mating, another round of molting takes place and the mite is established as either an adult male or female. The females are already ready to lay eggs, while the males go off to find deutonymphs to mate with. The average life span of an adult ear mite is about two months.

Before you start any treatment, you should separate your infested rabbits from any other rabbits you have, as ear mites spread from rabbit to rabbit very quickly. Then clean the cage and surrounding area, as well as sterilizing dishes and water bowls, to prevent re-infestation. When mite-infested rabbits shake or scratch their ears, flakes of mite-infested crust and scale rain down from the ears and into the rabbit’s environment. These falling flakes and crusts contain live mites and their eggs.

Because rabbit ear mites can survive away from the host animal for days to weeks (up to 3 weeks, depending on environmental humidity and temperature conditions), the environment of the mite-infested rabbit (hutches, burrows, pasture, feeding sources) should also be considered an important source of mite-infestation for non-infected animals. Non-infested rabbits can contract ear-mites from direct contact with the environment inhabited by ear-mite-infested rabbits. For this reason, when treating ear mites in rabbits, it is important to also decontaminate the environment that the rabbit is living in so that it does not become a source of mite re-infestation for the newly-treated rabbits.

Treatment for ear mites is fairly simple. There are several over the counter treatments that you can use, such as Rabbit RX (Good Stuff, have used this in the past) or a cat ear mite treatment. You may also use many oils such as mineral oil, baby oil, or even vegetable oil. Only add a few drops at a time, The oil will suffocate the mites and kill them. If you add a few drops of Tea Tree oil to the listed oils this will help by adding its antiviral, antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiseptic qualities to help the healing process. Most treatments have the same applications. I promote the use of naturally treating any of the health problems you may encounter in the raising of rabbits for meat. I will list some of the different natural treatments for ear mites I know of and have used.

When treating your rabbits do not remove the crust that appears in your rabbit’s ear. This will leave open, bloody skin that will easily become infected. This just puts the rabbit through unnecessary pain. The crusts will generally just fall off on their own when your rabbit shakes his head.

Using any of the oils or homemade oil mixes begin treatment on day one by placing 2-3 drops in both ears and gently massage the base of the ears. You may also use a cotton ball to coat the inside of the ear. On days 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 repeat same treatment as day one. Treat again on days 14, 21 and 28. With this treatment, your mite infestation should be gone. Ear mite eggs live for 28 days so by following this treatment plan you will break the life cycle of the mites. Remember you only need a few drops, do not overdo it.

Honey- is an great treatment for ear mite infections. Put three teaspoons of honey in a bowl and add 3 ounces of warm water. Mix the together until the honey is dissolved into the water. You will need a bulb syringe, to put the mixture in the rabbits ear. Squeeze the honey/water solution into the bulb syringe and then release it into the rabbit’s ear. Make sure the solution covers the entire inside of the ear, holding the ear upright so the inner ear gets completely coated with honey. Repeat with the other ear, making sure the whole of the inner ear is coated. Use the same treatment plans as listed above.

Corn Oil/Sunflower Oil- Using a few drops of corn oil (like Wesson) makes a decent home remedy for ear mites. The oil serves three different purposes, as it soothes skin, smothers the ear mites, and speeds the healing process.

Mineral Oil- You may temporarily combat ear mites by soaking a cotton ball with mineral oil and swabbing the inside of your rabbits ears. This is a good base to add essential oils and other healing herbs to make a natural mite treatment

Almond or Olive Oil- A mixture comprised of 1/2 ounce of almond (or olive) oil combined with 400 IU of vitamin E should be mixed and placed in a dropper bottle. The contents should be warmed to room temperature. Remember it is natural to see your rabbit shake their head during treatment.

Yellow Dock Root Extract- A convenient ear mite remedy to make at home may include Yellow Dock root extract, where nine drops of the extract are diluted with one tablespoon of water. Fill half of a dropper with the mixture and place in the ears. It is important to continue this treatment for many weeks (every other day) because ear mite eggs are rather resistant to home treatments, but once they hatch – a continuous treatment will prevent new hatchlings from reproducing until no more eggs exist.

White Vinegar- Some veterinarians suggest the use of white vinegar for treating ear mites because the acidity helps remove dirt and debris, which also helps to revitalize a healthy equilibrium within the ears. Using a small amount of diluted vinegar is suggested, which is made when combining one part vinegar and two parts of water together. Gently drip the remedy mix into the ears, making sure to thoroughly massage the solution. It is important to note that this remedy is not good to use on rabbits that have sores or intense irritation inside the ears or an uncomfortable stinging is the result.

Use a mix of apple cider vinegar in olive oil. Then, with a dropper, drop 6 or 7 drops in each ears, holding the ear flap closed for a few minutes after each treatment to keep rabbit from shaking the oil all over you. A few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in the water bottle is also supposed to act as a repellent and general tonic. Handy stuff for any rabbit medicine cabine (Check out the post on Apple Cider Vinegar For Rabbits)

Prevention is the most important item in any health program when raising rabbits. I make a mix of mineral oil with a few drops of apple cider vinegar, 5 or 6 drops of camphor oil and rosemary oil you can add tea tree oil and others if you want. I mix it up in the store bought mineral oil container and use that as storage and dispensing. I use a few drops in each ear as a preventive when I trim the rabbits nails, a few drops of mineral oil placed into each ear weekly can help to prevent new rabbit ear mite infestations from establishing inside of the ears.

While the infested rabbit is being treated for ear mites, it could be dropping mites and mite eggs into its local environment. In order to prevent this mite contamination from continuing by giving the hutch a chance to rest. I will to remove the rabbit from its permanent living quarters and treat it elsewhere during treatment giving plenty of time for the rabbits ear mites and their eggs to die off.Just in case you could not get the cage clean enough.

Try to keep dirt and dust at a minimum.

Do not use straw as straw is a natural harborer of mites. (I hate this one as I love using straw in nest boxes in the winter)

Sanitize your hutches with a mild bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. This will not hurt your rabbit’s feet, but I still recommend removing the rabbit from their cage when you spray on the solution let air dry.

If your hutch has wooden legs, consider coating them in paint, or oil. I know of one breeder that uses grease on the legs of all his hutches.

Reduce stress, ear mite populations in rabbits tend to explode in the presence of stress. Making every attempt to reduce the stress in your rabbitry can go a big way towards reducing the presence of mites and other diseases! By ensuring that your rabbits are provided with a good balanced nutrition, are provided with clean living conditions, not over-crowded and not being bullied by other rabbits, not exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and treated early for any other medical or disease conditions as soon as they are noticed.

Avoid overcrowding, rabbit ear mites tend to spread more quickly through a rabbit population when that population is overcrowded. Avoiding overcrowding reduces the spread of mites.

It is also possible for you, the rabbit breeder, to transmit ear mites from rabbit to rabbit by your hands and clothes. By handling rabbits with ear mites, even if you don’t actually know that they have ear mites, can result in rabbit ear mites crawling onto your skin and clothing. These rabbit ear mites will not harm you in any way, but they can pass from your skin or clothes onto the coat and ears of any other rabbits that you handle.

In order to avoid bringing rabbit ear mites (and other infectious diseases) home to your own rabbitry, you should refrain from handling rabbits and hares whose background and health status is not known. In particular, be very cautious of handling unknown stray and wild rabbits and rabbits in pet shops and shelters.

It is also important how vital it is to quarantine any new or ill rabbits from the rest of your herd. You do not want to infect any of the other rabbits in your rabbitry.

Most rabbit vets will tell you to use or prescribe ivermectin, which is an oral or injectable wormer and will also work on parasites. The problem with this is it will often cause other problems in your rabbit, just like antibiotics do in humans by killing all the good bacteria. I do not recommend such treatment. A lot of angora rabbit breeders use this for mange, and other medical uses.This is just my opinion!

If you use the cat ear mite treatment (bought at the pet stores), follow the directions on the package. This goes against the manufacturer’s suggested use, but the treatment is effective.

Hope this answers any of the questions you have on ear mites if I have missed anything e-mail me or post in the comment section of this post.

I try to do everything natural in my rabbitry by avoiding chemicals and most antibiotics. Join The Rabbit Revolution! By liking us on Facebook and get daily rabbit information and ideas, Also subscribe to the blog to get emails on the newest post as they are posted!