Friday, May 16, 2014

About Breeding Rabbits

Although rabbits are quite easy to breed there are some considerations to keep in mind before breeding your rabbits.

First be sure there is a need for more rabbits in your area.  If you are breeding them for pets make sure the local animal shelter does not already have a population of rabbits looking for homes.  If the animal shelter has several rabbits for adoption it means selling your litter may be harder than you think.

If you are breeding for meat or fur, make sure you have buyers.

Rabbits should not be bred by somebody who does not have space to keep them, while it may be assumed the male can be left with the pregnant female, he really should be removed and kept in an adjacent cage one week before she gives birth.  The female should be in a large hutch indoors so she can be monitored closely.

Rabbits who are not registered/purebreds should not be bred. Although the problem has not reached the level of concern of cats and dogs, there are more rabbits produced yearly than there are homes for. There is no practical reason for producing more common, or mixed breed, rabbits.

Rabbits should not be bred by people who do not have additional funding for emergencies. Although rabbit breeding is often considered easy, there are sometimes problems that may occur.

Note that it is not uncommon for the first litter to die.

A doe who is over the age of a year when she has her first litter will have a very difficult time, and in fact this can be life threatening, so never breed an older doe unless she has had a litter previously.  Usually she would be first bred when she is between 6 and 8 months of age.

Two female rabbits, photo by author.

Reasons for Breeding Rabbits:

There really are only two reasons for breeding; production for meat and fur, or to improve the breed as a whole.

If you are considering breeding your rabbits, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is my rabbit worthy of passing on its genetics?
  • Do I have the time/space to devote to caring for the kits until they are ready to go to their new homes?
  • Do I have homes, or a market, that will take them?
  • Do I have funding for veterinarian care if an emergency situation arises?
  • Why am I doing this? Is it for me, or because I want to improve the breed?
With rabbits being discarded in shelters, or abandoned outdoors, there is no reason to to let your rabbit reproduce just so you can see how cute her kits will be.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Care for a Cria

A cria is a baby llama or alpaca. They are born after an eleven to twelve-month gestation. Generally no special care is needed, the young cria stands and drinks on its own and can be left with its mother. Often delivery happens in the daytime and with the mother in a standing position, always alert to danger.  Here are steps on how to care for the mother and cria.

Newborn Crias

Supervise to see that the newborn cria is breathing and is able to stand and nurse on its own. Try not to interfere as this can be stressful to both animals, however if the cria is unable to nurse after two hours you may want to assist.
The newborn's naval should be dipped in seven percent iodine.
Be sure mother and cria are not in the hot sun, or bad weather. Ideally they should be kept in a large, clean, stall or small pen for the first few days.
You may want to weight it to monitor growth and condition, however this is not necessary, and most people simply leave the mother and cria on the pasture.
The baby should pass meconium (first stool), but if it is straining may require a enema (rarely needed).

If there are problems

If the mother refuses to allow the cria to nurse she may need to be restrained to allow the cria to suck, and monitored to see if she will accept it. If she does not, the cria should be removed and bottle fed.
If the cria is too weak to drink on its own it should be given something to drink to boost its energy. This should be its own mother's milk (llamas can be tricky to milk) or goat colostrum. Goat colostrum may be purchased from a goat farmer, veterinarian, or livestock feed store.
If the mother does not accept the cria, or has died, the young one will need to be bottle fed regularly. In addition to the goat colostrum for its first day, the following meals should be of goat replacement formula. In the first day it should be fed every three hours, and every six hours over night. The following day meals can be every four hours with a six hour stretch overnight. It will need to be kept in a stall for the first few days to enable catching and to keep it safe.

Author's llama and young cria

General care for mother and cria

The mother llama, or alpaca, should be fed a healthy diet, and given plenty of water. She will probably need a good drink especially after giving birth. After delivering, her grain should be reduced for the first 12 hours to reduce risk of her developing mastitis.
The mother and cria should be checked several times a day, signs of a weak cria (sleeping, standing hunched) should be investigated as it may not be getting enough to drink.
Female llamas and alpacas do not produce a lot of milk, you will not see a large udder on the mother, as such the cria must drink several times during the day.
After the first couple of days try to handle the cria for short periods of time each day as this will help it with social skills towards people.
Do not hesitate to call a veterinarian if there are any other concerns.

Weaning can take place around six months of age.  Gelding/castration can take place anytime after 4 months of age, and ideally before 2 years of age.  The age at which a male llama, or alpaca, is castrated will affect his further development.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Drawings of Tigers

Tigers are beautiful, but sadly they are also an animal who is headed for extinction unless we do something drastic.  I am not really sure how to save the tigers other than to control our own population growth to prevent people from needing more land and taking it from natural areas where tigers live.  Housing more and more tigers is not really the answer either, while it may preserve a species, it really does so in an unnatural manner.  Keeping tigers as "pets" is selfish and does not really benefit tigers as a species.

At any rate, tigers are beautiful and are an animal that is often captured in art.  I have done several drawings of tigers and want to show some of them to you.
Snarling tiger.  © Brenda Nelson

This is my first drawing of a tiger.  If you look a the image you probably do not immediately notice that I added a man's face on the tiger's forehead, if you look at the picture upside down you can see it better.  I thought it was clever at the time but now I sort of wish I had not done that.

Snoozing tiger.  © Brenda Nelson

This is my second drawing of a tiger.  I like how this turned out.  While I did it from a picture of a sleeping tiger it could also be a dead tiger and could be a statement against hunting or extinction in general. 

I do hope we can preserve natural areas for tigers and not wipe them out.  We need to have proper breeding programs for the captive tigers and not allow inbreeding or hybrid breeding between species unless it is to improve the bloodlines.  Breeding white tigers should be illegal as they are inbred and suffer from genetic eye conditions.

Hopefully we can prevent tigers from going extinct in the wild or all we will have left one day is images of tigers in photos and art, which is very sad.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Do Animal Shelters Have Exotic Pets For Adoption

If you are looking to adopt an exotic pet you should check your local animal shelter first.  Animal shelters often have exotic pets up for adoption at prices much lower than they would be sold for in pet stores.

An exotic pet is anything other than a cat, dog, fish, or livestock.  In some areas all birds are considered as exotic pets, while in other areas budgies and finches are not "exotic" but parrots and toucans (for example) are.  Either way animal shelters are likely to have exotic pets for adoption, especially in larger cities where exotic pets are more common.

Rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, are the most common exotic pets for a shelter to receive on a regular basis.  Depending on where you live you might also find ferrets, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, chinchillas, pot bellied pigs, as well as lizards and reptiles.

two bunnies, photo by author

Do not expect to find pet wolves or pet tigers for adoption at a local animal shelter, these larger predators usually go to special rescue centers just for those species.

Some animal shelters also deal with livestock.  Many rescue horses and have horses for adoption, or worth with another group who has these other animals for adoption.

One of the benefits of adopting an exotic pet from an animal shelter is that the price is considerably lower than if buying the same pet from a pet store.

Additionally the exotic pets that are at the animal shelter for adoption often come with their cage and supplies if these were brought in by the owner who was surrendering their pet.

If you are looking for an exotic pet check your local animal shelter's website, but note these are not updated regularly so you should really try to call or visit and see what pets they have for adoption.  Petfinder is a good site to use if you are in Canada, the USA, or Mexico and are looking for an exotic pet to adopt but not every animal shelter lists with them.