Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rabbit Color Genetics: The B Gene

Lydia's Fudge, self-chocolate doe, genotype is bb.  The red eye is from the flash.  Her eyes are actually brown.
The B gene is the easiest of the rabbit color genes to understand.  All rabbits are either black-based or chocolate-based.  (Even the REWs, which are white, are either black or chocolate.  It's just that the REW (cc) "bleaches" the color out.)

B stands for black.  Chocolate is represented by b.

A rabbit gets one allele from each parent.  If your rabbit is BB or Bb, it is black.  If your rabbit is bb it is chocolate.

Self-black kit, genotype is either Bb or BB

Mom Wins and Charlotte Loses; Or, More Fun Guessing the Colors of These Kits

When the kits were first born, we supposed that we had four coloreds and seven REWs.  Among the coloreds, we knew we had one self-black.  

Self-black kit
We assumed we had three agoutis.  However, two of the supposed agoutis do not have any tan, only black and white.  The last of the supposed coloreds is a definite chestnut agouti.  The two black and whites look to us like chinchillas, but we really are not sure.  PB does not show any chinchilla dark gene in his pedigree, only full-color progenitors.  So that makes us hesitant to state that these two kits are chinchillas. 

Chinchilla? kits

Chestnut agouti kit
Now onto the "REWs".  Within two days, two of the "REWs" began to color.  We still aren't sure, but they are either oranges or fawns. 

Orange or fawn kits
One of the four remaining REWs started to show a little color on his nose, feet, ears, and tail.  My mom started thinking that he could be a cream, and that all of them could be creams.  Charlotte said Mom was delusional and that they were all REWs.  We wouldn't find out for sure until their eyes opened.  Charlotte was sure she was right. 

Pearl? kits
And then their eyes opened.  Mom won.  They look like pearls, which would fit very well with the other two unknown colors being chinchillas.  Regardless, they are definitely not REWs. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bottle Feeding the Runts

In a litter of eleven kits, there are three runts, all REWs.  Normally, this would not be a problem.  We bred two other does at the same time with Snowball, but they did not produce litters.  So the three runts, which we probably would have been able to put with Honey or Duchess, now have to struggle to survive.  We are doing what we can to help them. 

They are not getting much of their mother's milk because the bigger ones push them away.  So we are bottle feeding them.  The formula we use is Ultra Start Multi colostrum supplement for newborn animals.  We have used it on other runts or struggling rabbits and they have all survived.  Fresh goat milk would be better for them, but our goats aren't milking yet.

The smallest runt is not looking very good.  He is really struggling.  This is why rabbits have large litters.  Some just won't make it, for whatever reason.

It's a learning experience. 

Report on Carson City Farm Days 2015

Carson City Farm Days was held April 16 and 17, Thursday and Friday of last week.  There were several groups making presentations indoors--insects, 4-H, wildlife conservation, raptors, water conservation, bees, and mine safety among others. 

This year we were presenters of beautiful French angora rabbits.  The only other rabbits there were meat and pelt rabbits.  They were stationed outside with the pigs, cows, and goats.  (Those kids were obviously raising the wrong breed of rabbits!)  We talked about many things, but mostly the raising of French angoras and how to prepare and spin their fiber. 

We were so happy Addy, Violet, Cecily, and Dahlia came to see us!

Our audience was ten school buses of children eight and younger.  We had a few homeschoolers on Thursday and a foreign exchange student from Vietnam on Friday.  We took two rabbits on Thursday and decided that we should have four on Friday so that they could be rotated and have a break from the attention. 

Lydia (above) and Charlotte (below) discussing the care of French angoras with students and their families

We were stationed next to the spinners. We learned a lot about the different types of wool and hair, along with different techniques for spinning.  We very much enjoyed talking with the spinners and learning about dyeing and spinning wheels and what they were used for. 

We were very happy to be able to show our rabbits inside the cool exhibition hall.  We were also very grateful for the delicious lunches provided for us.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why Show?

When I first got into rabbits, I did not want to show.  I didn't know what showing was all about.  I heard some of the 4-H'ers say that their rabbit had been disqualified for this or that.  Would my rabbit get DQ'ed?  Wouldn't it be embarrassing?

Shows are not only very educational, but also they are a place where you meet other youth, especially those showing your same breed, learn about new breeds, and learn a whole lot about how rabbits, especially your breed, are judged.

Shows let you step back and see what the judges say about your rabbit.

Shows also turn out to be quite fun.

If you are selling rabbits, shows are a prime place to sell.  If you are buying, shows are a prime place to find new rabbits.

Shows are a great place to meet up and deliver rabbits to your buyers.  ARBA shows are listed on the ARBA website at  In our area, most shows are held in the spring and fall.  There seems to be a break from late December to mid-January.  There are fewer shows held in the summer here, probably because high summer temperatures and outdoor rabbit shows don't mix.  We don't even travel to any in July or August. 

I have never had a rabbit get disqualified.  However, I don't worry about it anymore.  French angoras are usually one of the last breeds to be judged, if not the last.  By then judges are  tired and may overlook a few things.  In fact, I knew a girl who showed a rabbit with a missing toe, because only a few judges will ever notice it.

French angoras aren't a popular breed, so judges tend to be a little unfamiliar with them.  They are always consulting the SOP book.  On the other hand, some judges are very comfortable with them because not too many people know the breed.

Also, keep in mind that even if you are DQ'ed, very few people will notice.  In fact, the only ones who will know are those who are at the table with you.  And very often, the next judge won't notice whatever it is your rabbit was DQ'ed for this time. 

What a Day To Be Born!

I woke up early this morning.  Charlotte exclaimed, "Look!  It's snowing!"  

I went downstairs and remembered that today the kits were due.  I wanted to check on the rabbits, so I got dressed and went outside.  As you might have already clued in, it was very cold.  The snow was blowing horizontally, because it was so windy.  I went out to the bunny barn, and Charlotte was out there, too.  I said, "Today the kits are supposed to be born!" 

I checked Honey and Duchess.  Nothing.  Charlotte said that I should get Duchess some more hay because she took it all out of her nesting box and didn't put anything back in.  I told her that I would, but that I wanted to take care of my animals first.  I took care of all my rabbits except Snowball, because her cage is the highest, and I need to stand on a bucket to open her door.  As I was getting up on the bucket, Snowball ran to the door.  She always does that.  I noticed a bald spot by her legs.  "Look, Charlotte!.  She has a bald spot.  She must have been pulling wool."

Charlotte got up.  "Maybe she had kits!"  She took off her glove and felt inside the nesting box for kits.  Of course there were kits!  I asked her how many she felt.  She said she didn't know.  

Charlotte got the nesting box out of Snowball's cage to take inside the house and told me to stay behind and watch whether Snowball had any more kits.  She didn't, and when I came inside Charlotte told me the news.  Eleven kits!  And they are all still alive!

What I wasn't expecting to see was more REWs than coloreds.  There were seven REWs and four coloreds.  Unfortunately, it looks like three of the REWs are runts. 

One of the coloreds has a black belly.  We think it is a self-black.  The other three have white bellies suggest that these are agoutis.  I think there are two chestnuts and an opal.  

The "REWs", we are hoping, aren't actually REWs.  We are hoping they are some kind of cream or fawn.  PB, the dad, doesn't show any REWs in his pedigree.  It would be really sad to actually have seven REWs.

The three on the left are the runts.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Ugliest Thing I Have Made Since Third Grade

This is it.  The absolute ugliest thing (or things) I have made since third grade.  Maybe even second.  And yet, I must be truthful with you.  The picture just doesn't do them justice.  They were much uglier in person.  The photograph makes them look a little pinker than they actually were. 

They somehow reminded me of Ellie's little "brothers" in Ice Age 2.  Charlotte said they looked like the Cheshire cat in Disney's Alice in Wonderland.  At any rate, they were just plain ugly.

This is how they came about:

I had a little bit of chocolate angora yarn from Tootsie, and a little bit of white yarn from Snowball.  Enough for maybe one mitten each.  (I used every last inch of yarn.  In fact, if you look closely at the thumbs, you can see that I ran out of brown at the very end and that I had to use white instead.)  For some totally inexplicable reason, I somehow thought dyeing the yarn a very light pink would have a desirable effect.  Please note the effect was not in any way, shape or form desirable.  In person, the effect was more like vomitous. 

I have been creating various things for many years, and in my experience, often something that I think would look hideous turns out really well.  And sometimes it doesn't.  And that's ok.  Sometimes we then get inspiration for something else.  And then there is this other weird phenomenon.    See, many moons ago, I used to do craft fairs.  I mostly sold kits for people to make their own crafts, but I also had some unique jewelry and gift bags.  And for some completely unfathomable reason, people would buy the ugliest pins, or necklaces, or bags first.  I still cannot figure out why. 

I told Charlotte about this, and she could not believe that this would be true.  She had been knitting some tiny bunnies to sell at her 4-H shows, and she had some bunnies that were truly ugly.  Of course, she was embarrassed that they were so ugly and didn't want to take them.  I told her of my experience and suggested that she take the ugly bunnies to sell along with the nicer-looking ones. 

All the ugly bunnies sold first.

But I digress.  These mittens are truly ugly.  Horrendously ugly.  I figured nothing could fix them.

But they were angora.  I couldn't just waste them. 

So I figured, what the heck.  I'll try dyeing them another color. 

I decided to use royal blue liquid paste food coloring.  I stirred the food coloring into the water very well and then added the mittens and some vinegar.  I microwaved for two minutes, let sit for ten minutes, and then repeated. 

I know I took pictures, but it must have been on a different memory card or whatever those things are called.  And now I can't find it.  But they turned out really well.  Well enough to serve as an emergency gift on Christmas. 

Dyeing with Kool-Aid

You wouldn't know it by reading this blog, but our rabbits do actually have a purpose beyond companionship and show. Of course, we have mentioned, often, something or other about plucking the rabbits. We have done little posts on spinning. Unfortunately, I, The Blog Administrator (also known to the girls and rabbits as banker, chauffeur, and all-around gopher), have never written any posts about dyeing or knitting with angora. Today, I will begin making amends for this gross negligence.

So quite some time ago I spun a two-ply yarn—one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora. I had planned to knit a white angora/alpaca sweater with a multi-colored band of a Fair Isle pattern and stripes. It's a really attractive casual sweater. Unfortunately, I did not have enough of the white yarn to complete the project, and it will be a while before any of our REWs are ready to be plucked again. Ugh. So I decided to substitute black for the white. It would still be really pretty. I made plenty of black yarn. All that remained was to dye a multi-colored skein for the contrast.

I had read about using Kool-Aid to dye and had seen pictures of the results online. Kool-Aid would make the vibrant colors I desired, without me having to spend a lot of money buying dyes in colors that I probably wouldn't use a lot. I followed the directions on the website listed below.

In case you are wondering about the process without clicking over to it right now, I'll sum it up for you: dissolve the Kool-Aid in a cup or so of water. Put it in the microwave for a few minutes (time depends on the size of the project and the color you are striving for). Rinse. Dry. Done. It is super simple. And it is by far the best smelling yarn.

I have only dyed this one little skein of yarn using Kool-Aid, so I don't have a lot of experience to relate. But this much I can tell:  Sarah at was absolutely right about lemonade Kool-Aid. It's too pale. I added some liquid paste baker's food coloring to deepen the color. And the kiwi-strawberry color needed a second packet to produce a deeper color. 

To make this particular skein, I used Lemon-Lime (green), Lemonade (and yellow food coloring), Orange, and Kiwi-Strawberry.  I dissolved each packet in about a cup of water in a cereal bowl.  I then arranged the four bowls of dye in a circle in the microwave.  I microwaved for two minutes, let cool for ten minutes, and repeated the cycle two more times (so a total of three nuking sessions--36 minutes in all).  Then I rinsed and hung it on the clothes line to dry.

Rabbit Color Genetics: The A Gene

By popular demand, we are now going to dedicate a few of our blog posts to French angora color genetics. There are many genes that affect a rabbit's color. They are called the A, B, C, D, and E genes. Very original names, if I say so myself. Today I will discuss the A gene.

The A series contains three genes (listed in descending order of dominance):

A represents agouti. The color of the chestnut agouti is the easiest to explain. Aside, of course, from the length of the wool, a chestnut agouti looks exactly the same in color as a jackrabbit or cottontail. Agoutis have lacing on the ears, bands in the wool, and rings around the eyes. It is desirable to breed an agouti with a rabbit that carries the chinchilla dark (cchd) gene. However, it is quite undesirable to breed an agouti with a rabbit that carries the chinchilla light (cchl) gene. Such a breeding may result in unshowable colors. The agouti gene is also necessary for making creams, fawns, and reds.

at represents the tan gene. It is not showable in French angora, so we won't discuss it other than to say that it is recessive to agouti, but dominant to self (a).

a represents the self gene. A self rabbit has no bands in the wool. The wool color is fainter at the skin but increases in color the closer you get to the end of the hair.

Yes, I should have taken pictures. But we can't find the camera right now.