Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Friday, March 27, 2015

Who Actually Raises French Angora Rabbits?

I've noticed some trends here as the girls breed and sell their rabbits, a total of twenty rabbits so far.  Here is the run down on who buys French angoras, in our limited experience.

One trend, of course, is expected.  And that is that spinners buy angora rabbits to have their own supply of fabulous angora fiber to spin.   Nine of the twenty have been sold to people who identify primarily as spinners.

What has been surprising to me is the number of homeschoolers who buy French angoras.  Another nine of the twenty have been sold to people/families who identify primarily as homeschoolers. I think it's because homeschoolers tend to be a bit more practical as a group and like to see their "pets" have a practical purpose in life besides companionship.  Not that companionship is not important--it's just that pets can be so much more than just companions.  And homeschool families also aren't worried about the time commitment of caring for an angora rabbit.  (Not that there is a huge time commitment--it's really not more than 2-5 minutes more per week than for their short-haired counterparts.)  But because life revolves around the home, there isn't the concern that a busy schedule will result in neglect of the rabbit.    

One was sold primarily as a pet.   Because of a very slight, but critical, defect he could not be a show bunny. 

In all of this, however, there is usually at least one secondary reason for choosing a French angora rabbit.  Twelve of the bunnies went to homes where they will be involved in 4-H.  Based on my conversations with the new owners, I suspect that at least six of our rabbits are becoming part of the urban homestead or prepping trend.  At an average weight of nine pounds, French angoras are considered a dual purpose rabbit.  Also, rabbits are the most efficient of animals at converting feed to meat, and rabbit manure is fabulous for the garden.  They fit in very well with the prepping lifestyle. 

Where do we fall?  Pretty much all of the above.

French angoras are the quintessential rabbit.

A Typical 4-H Meeting

A typical 4--H meeting begins with the pledges--the Pledge of Allegiance and then the 4-H pledge.  Then we discuss old business--what we talked about at the previous meeting.  And then we talk about new business--what we will be discussing during the business portion of the meeting.  That is followed by the treasurer's report.  It tells how much we spent in the previous month and how much money is on our bank account.  Charlotte is the treasurer, but she has been sick, so the president read the report for her.  Then we have roll call by the secretary, which is my position.  We also introduce new members, if any.  We had three new members last night.  Next, we go around the room and share our show results. 

For our new business, we discussed upcoming shows, like the West Coast Classic and Bunnies in Bloom, and debated whether our club should host a spring show. 

One of our youth then made a presentation on a new color she is developing in the breed she raises.  She needs to find five different people to breed and raise this rabbit before she can get it accepted as a new color.  It sounds like an interesting endeavor, but it is a meat rabbit.  We prefer wool rabbits. 

Then the meeting was officially adjourned.  But people hang around to chat.  Some were learning about showmanship.  I had my sister's kits assessed for body type and wool quality. 

The whole meeting lasts for about an hour, and it's only once a month.  It's not a big time commitment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Anticipated Colors from the Breeding of Snowball and PB

As you already may know, Snowball and PB were bred ten days ago. 

PB's phenotype is A___C_ddee.  His color is called fawn.  We believe his genotype is AaB_CCddee.  Snowball's phenotype is AaBbcc_dE_.  She is a REW. 

The A gene determines whether a rabbit is agouti (AA or Aa), tan (at--we have none of these in our rabbitry), or self (aa).   If PB is Aa, then 1/4 of the litter will be self.  If he is AA, they will all be agouti. 

The B gene determines whether the base color is black (BB or Bb) or chocolate (bb).  If PB is BB, all of the litter will be black-based.  If he is Bb, 1/4 of the litter will be chocolate-based. 

If we are correct, and PB is CC, there will not be any REWs in this litter, but all the kits will carry the REW gene.

The D gene determines whether the color is dense (DD or Dd--dark--black or chocolate) or dilute (dd--blue or lilac).  If  Snowball is Dd, 1/2 the litter will be dense/dark, and 1/2 will be dilute.  If she is dd, they will all be dilute.

The E gene determines whether a rabbit has full color extension (EE or Ee) or is tortoiseshell or fawn (ee).  There is also the steel gene (Es) which is dominant to E.  Based on previous litters, we know that Snowball has at least one E.  If the other gene is E, all the of kits will have full color extension.  If Snowball is Ee, half the kits will be tortoiseshell or fawn. 

All of these genes work together to determine rabbit color. 

I will probably have a lot of agouti rabbit kits. 

Breeding Pairs

When acquiring new stock or planning your breedings, you need to make sure that you do not breed rabbits or acquire animals that have the same faults.  In other words, you don't want to breed two rabbits that both have pinched hindquarters, or long shoulders, or "snipey" heads, or numerous other faults.  If the pair you were planning on breeding shares the same fault, then you should consider changing your plans.

Before we bred our rabbits last week, we asked Seth, our 4-H president and rabbit aficionado, what he thought of our plans.  He carefully evaluated each of the three pairs and concluded that each couple was well-matched.  The pairs are Honey and Ninja, Snowball and PB, and Duchess and Cookie. 

Honey has less density over the top and more over the sides.  Ninja is the exact opposite, so they make a good pair. 

Snowball's kits all have great wool.  Judges generally say that she loses a little on her body, but she makes kits with great bodies.  PB (Peanut Butter, or as Lydia prefers, Perfect Bunny) is nicely balanced in guard hairs and wool.

Duchess has perfect hindquarters.  She would have won at the last show if she'd had a coat.  She is also heavier in weight, which is something that Cookie struggles with.  Cookie is pinched and peaks a little early.  In contrast, Duchess almost peaks late. 

These are just a few ideas to help produce better bunnies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Merlin Goes Home

Merlin, formerly known as the smoke pearl buck, has gone home to his new family.  Merlin was the last remaining buck of Muddy Buddy and Duchess's litter, and the only one that wasn't sold at Turlock. 

The family who bought him came to the Douglas show looking for a rabbit they wanted to raise for a 4-H project.  So they arrived at the show with a quest to find that special rabbit.  Apparently, they had originally planned on getting a lop, but they had a very difficult time making contact with a lop breeder who would return their calls.  (Many of you may know that breeders of some lop breeds have developed a reputation for being very competitive.) 

So this family happened to see one of our most beautiful angoras, Honey, and immediately came to our area.  Becky and the rest of us started talking to them about our unique breed.  (Becky is a great chit-chatter.  I, on the other hand, have a lot to learn from her.)  Becky got caught up in sharing with them all the great things about French angoras, and totally forgot to tell them that we actually had REW and smoke pearl junior bucks that were available.  Luckily, my mom reminded Becky that we had two for sale.  After they decided on the smoke pearl, we enjoyed teaching them about grooming techniques. 

They seemed like a very nice family and I think Merlin will be very well taken care of.  We will be looking forward to seeing them at the shows.   

Monday, March 16, 2015

Report on the Hoppy Trails (Douglas County) Show

We stayed up late Friday night figuring out who was going in which cage and seeing if we had enough troughs.  Early Saturday morning we woke up and started loading rabbits and went to the Douglas show.  However, the Douglas show was in Gardnerville, and we lived 1.5 hours away.  And we had a late start.  Consequently, we were late.  But we were able to find a good spot quickly anyway.

We set up by the back door so that we could blow and groom our rabbits outside.  After we had unloaded everything, we thought we would check when French angoras would be up.  We were the very last, as usual.  Finally, we were able to show in Show A, where we learned A LOT.  We learned from the judge, Nancy Richmond, that rabbit hindquarters need to be wide so that it is easier for the rabbit to kindle.  The male's hindquarters also need to be wide because 65% of the hindquarter genes come from the males.

We also learned that Honey, who is now almost 15 months old, might still be able to have a litter.  We had read that if a doe hasn't produced a litter by 15 months, that she probably won't ever produce a litter.  Nancy said she's had does have first litters as late three years old.  She recommended putting apple cider vinegar (one tablespoon per gallon) in the water.  She also recommended repeated breedings six hours apart because that is how long it takes for does to ovulate after mating.

Sage, Charlotte's chocolate steel doe, won best of breed again, and PB, my wonderful fawn buck, won best opposite.  

After Show A, we got Honey and Cookie registered as grand champions.  To become a grand champion, a rabbit must have received three legs from three different judges.  Honey has four legs.  She could have gotten two more yesterday, but no one wants to put her on the table if she isn't going to be able to have kits.  If you want to register a grand champion, you need the rabbit's pedigree and your ARBA card.  If you forget your ARBA card, you might talk a sibling into registering your rabbit in her name.  I now have three grand champions registered in my name.

Then we went up for Show B, with Uno Kivi as the judge.  He liked Sage best, again, and awarded Ninja best opposite.  That made Ninja a grand champion, so we registered him, too.  While the registrar was filling out the papers, we packed up the truck.  And then, we left.  It was a great day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Granded as a Junior

As you may remember, Ninja and Tootsie's litter consisted of six does and one buck.  Out of the seven, I have kept two and sold the rest.  Of the two that I have kept, Sage, the chocolate steel doe, has already been granded.  I am quite proud to say that I am her breeder.  She has won a leg in each of the shows she has attended--two at Gridley and one at Turlock. 

The other doe that I kept is the self black, Phantom.  She, though a beautiful color with fabulous wool (at least, that is what I think), has not done as well.  Phantom and Fudge (the doe that Lydia kept from Snowball's most recent litter) have both been taking last place among the junior does.  You don't compete for that!

After Sage is old enough, I plan to breed her.  This will be in late August, after she reaches nine months of age, and after the worst heat of the summer passes.  She obviously can't go with Ninja, and Cookie is her uncle, so I don't want to do that, either.  It will be either Muddy Buddy or Reese's (Lydia's new buck finally has a name).

How To Hold a French Angora Rabbit's Head for 4-H Showmanship

Our friend Julie has some 4-H'ers who are not new to showing rabbits, but they are new to showing French angoras.  Julie wanted to be able to show them how to properly hold the rabbit's head when flipping the rabbit over for doing the health check on the teeth.  Charlotte and Lydia have never shown any rabbits other than French angoras, so they don't know if there is something different that is done for other rabbits. 

Below are the pics for how to hold a French angora rabbit's head for showmanship.  Charlotte says that the middle, ring, and pinky fingers are used to hold the scruff of the rabbit's neck, while the index finger and thumb are free to manipulate the ears. 

Julie, let us know if this helps, or if you need some other pictures.  And everyone else, if you have questions, please ask us!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What I Learned at the Cal State Convention (Turlock)

At every show I attend, I always learn something new.  This year at the Cal State Convention in Turlock, I learned about various grooming techniques and some more pointers on how to better my breeding stock. 

I am thankful for every bit of new information I  can learn so that I may soon be breeding the most beautiful show quality French angoras.  I so appreciate all the knowledge my angora friends freely share with me.

Judges have said in the past that Cookie, Becky's chocolate broken buck, is pinched, but we didn't know what that meant.  Well, at the Turlock show I learned what "pinched" means and how to look out for it.  (I do not think any of Cookie's offspring acquired the pinched bottom.)  "Pinched" means that the hips are narrower than the judge thinks is acceptable.  "Wide" means, you guessed it, the hips are wide.  Now, how do you assess for this on a fluffy French angora?    First, pick the rabbit's hindquarters up by the skin and wool on the hips, an inch or two above the tail.  Look at the alignment of the back feet.  If the feet turn substantially outward, the rabbit will have pinched hindquarters.  If the feet turn inward, then the rabbit is probably wide in the hindquarters.  If the feet turn just the slightest bit outward, that is ideal.

Feet turn outward, so hindquarters will be "pinched."

Feet are almost parallel, making for an ideal bunny hind section.

If a rabbit is "undercut," it means the rabbit is a little off balance.  You test for this in the following manner.  Simply pick the rabbit up and then set it down on the table.  If it scoots a little bit backwards, then it is undercut. 

(Sorry for no picture.  We really need a video to show this, and that is beyond my mom's capabilities at this time.)

I had never considered this, and Julie said it took her a while to understand herself, but she eventually figured it out and shared her learning with me.  The technique is to use your left hand to hold just below a small tangle and then remove the tangle with the thumb and index figure of your right hand.  That lets you keep more wool in the rabbit so that you don't lose points for an uneven coat.  It may not seem important at first, but it is important to keep the rabbit well groomed around the legs, neck and chest.  It will give the rabbit a better balance of coat and a beautiful finishing touch.  Julie said that after she started doing this, her rabbits became a whole lot more competitive.  Maintaining the wool in these areas helps support the wool around the back and sides better and gives the rabbit a better shape.

Hold the hair of the rabbit firmly in one hand while pinching off the tiny tangles that develop at the ends with the other hand.

Try these grooming tips out and see if your rabbits become better competitors, too.  And let us know how it works for you!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Plucking v. Non-Plucking Angoras

As you know, at the Turlock show I recently bought a non-plucking French angora.  What this means is that his wool will get longer and that he gets sheared instead of plucked. 

Plucking angoras are those that get plucked, though sometimes you can over pluck and sometimes they won't be pretty for their next show. 

We originally decided to get plucking instead of non-plucking because we wouldn't be comfortable using sharp shears on our rabbits.  Also, plucked wool is the prime wool for spinners because it does not have a blunt end.  And I thought non-plucked might be more likely to get wool block.  I can't remember why I thought that, and it doesn't make sense now. 

Reasons for getting a non-plucking angora include being better for show because their wool stays in until you cut it.  Judges are not supposed to give more points to rabbits with wool longer than 4 inches, but nice long wool looks very impressive.  Some angora breeders have been able to grow the wool on their rabbits up to 10 inches long!  And I don't worry about wool block because that isn't a big issue with non-plucking angoras. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Grooming Table

For the California State Convention (held February 28 in Turlock) my mom read that because it was going to be a large show, exhibitors weren't allowed to bring any tables, only cage stands.  We had not bought or made a cage stand, and we didn't own a grooming table. 

What was I going to do!?!

I told my mom my concerns, and she told me not to worry; everything would be just fine. 

I still thought this wasn't going to work, but I soon forgot about it with the excitement of getting all packed. 

We left around 9:00AM Friday morning.  After a couple of hours we made it to my grandparents' house in Turlock. 

After setting the rabbits up with food and water, I got myself some lunch.

Lydia told me that my grandparents had gotten a new dog.  I was, of course, excited for them.  For some odd reason though, my grandpa didn't want Lydia to be with the dog unless I went with her.  So I did, expecting to see a larger dog.  It was a big puppy all right, but not what kind of puppy I had expected.  There was a stuffed bulldog with a cigar hanging out of its mouth.  The stuffed dog was sitting on top of a beautiful rabbit grooming table!

My grandpa picked a lovely light-colored wood, perfect so that the bunnies would "pop" to passersby. 

Grandpa couldn't find any plans, so he had to come up with his own design.  Grandpa built in storage box with a magnetic closer.  It is wonderful.  There is extra support in the legs and it folds super compactly. 
It is way better than any other grooming table I have ever seen!  Wouldn't you agree?

New Buck on the Block

On February 28 was the Turlock show.  Charlotte and Becky were very busy because they were selling bunnies.  While I was grooming Fudge, my mom came over and told me that Julie was selling two of her bucks.  At first I didn't really want a buck.  I wanted another doe.  But I knew it would be good to get another rabbit so that our rabbits would be better.  The more I thought about it, the more I was interested in him.  My mom said that Becky would not be buying because she's now in college and busy with that, and Charlotte already has three bucks.  So it was up to me.  I asked Julie to show me the two bucks that were for sale.  One was a black tort and the other was a fawn.  The two bucks are brothers and are 14 months old.  I traded Julie one of my junior REW bucks and gave her $100 for him. 

I'm still working on a name for him. 

He is a non-plucking French angora.  This means he needs to be sheared.  And it means that I can let his wool stay in a lot longer. 

He's a big bunny.