Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Preparing for Kits To Arrive

Starting two weeks before the kits are due, turn on a radio or CD player at night to calm rabbits and drown out unwanted noise from cars or coyotes or other predators that could be lurking outside.  If you have neighborhood dogs or children you will definitely want to run the radio all day and night.

One week before the kits are due, you will definitely want to clean and sanitize the doe’s cage, pan, and nesting box.  Hay is expensive, so you will want to use some shredded paper.  Try not to use thicker paper, or paper with sharp edges. 

Pluck, comb, or shear the doe’s wool the week before the kits are due so that there is no wool long enough to wrap around little baby bunny legs or ears.  Also, you can cut the wool the doe pulls herself into small pieces.  One week before the kits are due, do not move the doe any more. 

Two to three days before the kits are due, put the nesting box in.  Do not do this any earlier.  You don’t want it to become a litter box.  

Snowball with a mouthful of hay for rearranging her nest
Finally, start watching for signs of imminent kindling—stuffing hay in mouth, pulling wool, rearranging the nest.  Don’t stress the doe by checking too often, but do check to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Happens at a 4-H Meeting

Today I thought I’d post on what happens at a typical 4-H meeting.  First, we open the meeting and then recite our pledges to the United States of America and then our 4-H pledge.  Then we have roll call and introduction of new members.  The Treasurer’s report comes next.  The treasurer states our expenses and then how much we have left in the bank.  The secretary’s report tells what happened in our previous meeting.  New business is then presented and discussed.  Then we all discuss the previous month’s shows—where we went and what awards our rabbits received or how we did in showmanship.  All of the above happens at every 4-H meeting.  

(Oops.  My mom just realized she forgot to take any pictures.)

The next portion of the meeting is different each month.  At this month’s meeting we had a presentation by the 4-H coordinator about the ambassador program.  I’m too young for it, so I really didn’t pay much attention.  Next there was a presentation on a fundraiser.  Then we discussed our upcoming 4-H show, the expenses for it, locations for future shows, and made assignments for this show.  Finally, two of our members gave a presentation on mini rexes.  

Announcements always happen at the formal end of the meeting, and then the meeting is adjourned.  But most people usually hang around for a while.  The senior members of the club then help the younger members with showmanship, clerking practice, tattooing, or judging.  Basically, we help out with other members’ rabbits, learn new things, and socialize.  Each meeting lasts about an hour.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Drop Spindle

A drop spindle is used to spin fiber into yarn.  The drop spindle has been used for thousands of years.  In contrast, the spinning wheel has only been around for a few hundred years.  Drop spindles are much less expensive than spinning wheels.  They are small and very portable.  They are also very easy to make.  (See my post of two days ago to find out how.)  It’s very easy to take to crowded rabbit shows.

Yarn made from a drop spindle can be just as nice as yarn from a spinning wheel.  It just takes practice.    Some people can make yarn just as fast with a drop spindle as with a spinning wheel.  I’m still working on that.    

Now let’s begin using the drop spindle.  

First, you’ll need to start with about 18” of scrap yarn, also known as a leader.  Knot one end around the shaft of your drop spindle and fray the other end.  Wind the yarn around the shaft of your spindle and thread the end through the hook, leaving about a six inch tail.  If you are right handed, use your left hand middle finger and thumb to hold the fiber and frayed end of yarn together.  With your right hand, twist the spindle clockwise.  If you get it going fast enough, you can let go of the spindle while you draft the wool.  Your fiber will twist automatically into a single ply of yarn.  Every minute or so, you will need to pause (or “park”) and wind your new yarn around the shaft of the spindle. 
Below are some links for some good Youtubes on beginner spinning on a drop spindle.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trimming Nails

 A rabbit’s nails need to be trimmed once or twice a month to keep the rabbit healthy.  If the nails are not trimmed, the rabbit will develop sore hocks.  Sore hocks are painful and can become infected.  I use dog nail clippers for my French angoras, but for young rabbits you can use nails clippers for people.  

So here is how you trim a rabbit’s nails, step by step.  You will want a second person to assist you.

First, get your nail clippers and then get your rabbit.  Have your assistant sit down on a couch or chair.  If your assistant sits on the floor your rabbit can easily escape.   Place your rabbit on your assistant’s lap and have her flip it over. Make sure your assistant is holding the rabbit firmly.  As you clip the nails, make sure to keep the hair away from the nails.  If you don’t, you will be able to see clearly and you may cut the quick.  Sometimes, if you get too close to the quick and are about to cut, your rabbit will flip over.  Sometimes, they are a little ticklish.  

Maple getting his nails done

No rabbits were harmed in the making of this blogpost

Keep in mind that rabbit nails can grow at different rates.  Sometimes the back nails won’t need to be trimmed, but the front will.  Sometimes the dew claw needs to be trimmed, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Always check.  Trim the front paws first, and then the back.  After you are done trimming, flip your rabbit over and put him down on the floor to run around.  If he was good, give him a little treat. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DIY Drop Spindle

How do you make a drop spindle? 

First, you need to buy the materials at a craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michael's.  What are the materials, you ask?  A toy wooden wheel, a dowel rod, and an eye hook or cup hook.

Materials--dowels, wheels, hooks

The wheel diameter should be 2½-3".  The hole in the wheel and the diameter of the dowel should each be ¼".  If you use an eye hook, you'll need to open it up with pliers.  Pliers are also useful for holding the hook while screwing it into the dowel, but you can screw the hook in without them.


Now push the wheel onto the dowel, hopefully without much trouble.  You may need wood glue if the fit is loose.  All of ours last night were tight, and we had to tap them into place, about 1½" from the end of the dowel.  Then start screwing the eye hook or cup hook into the end of the dowel (now called the shaft) closest to the wheel (now called the whorl).  This took us a few minutes.  Pliers helped the job go faster.  

Close-up of drop spindle end

Finished drop spindle

The whole project took maybe 30 minutes.  We forgot the cost of the hooks, but we believe it cost less than a dollar to make one.  We included the links below for different instructions for making drop spindles.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What do you do at shows?

First, check in.  For 4-H shows, check-in lasts about an hour.  For ARBA you can check in whenever, but they are busy, so you will want to arrive earlier rather than later.  If you are late and you miss your show, you miss your show.

After we’ve checked in, we look for the other angora breeders.  We are almost always together.  When you find the others, you always politely ask where you should set up, unless there is some obvious space for you.  It’s nice to have a table to set your cages on so that you don’t have to bend over so much.  

After you’ve located a spot and set up your table, give all your rabbits water and food. Next, find the table where your rabbits will be judged and determine where your rabbits are in the line-up.  Then set up your chair and grooming table.  French angora people usually set up their tables outside because of the blowers and blowing wool.  As soon as you can, start blowing and grooming.  French angoras are normally last, but occasionally the judges switch up the order.  This happened at the Gridley show.  We hadn’t started grooming soon enough, and not all the rabbits were ready when we were called up.  This cost Duchess a leg.  Don’t make the same mistake we did.

After you have blown your rabbits, you can hope it is close to show time.  Use the slicker comb to spruce them up just before taking them to the table.  If there are comment cards already placed on the table, match your rabbit to its card and put your rabbit in its designated space and then turn the card over.  When all your rabbits are at the table, move to the opposite side and let the judging begin.  

Following the judging, give your rabbit a treat while you look at what the vendors have to sell.  You can find cages, water bottles and crocks, treats, hay, feed, cage repair items, brushes, books, nesting boxes, grooming tables, gifts and more.  Breeders will also sell used items, cheaper than retail.  While your rabbit is still on break, also walk around and look at the rabbits for sale.  For yourself, you can usually find sodas and sandwiches at the snack bar.

Whether or not you are participating in the show, you will find some breeders that you can talk to. We have learned so much from going to shows.  We learn from breeders about grooming and feed.  We learn from judges about the disqualifications for French angora.  For example, we thought Blue would be DQ’d for her torn ear.  However, we also thought the judges might not even notice it.  One judge didn’t even notice it; none of them DQ’d her.  I learned about rabbit health from showmanship and about rabbit breeds from preparing for royalty contests.