Search SLR

Author: Tresa Morris

Breeding Like Rabbits….Or NOT!

It’s late winter, and if you haven’t kept your does productive through the winter season, you may be struggling to get them in the mood and doing their jobs now.

There can be a lot of reasons for that, so let’s look at a few of them. I’m going to give you some research excerpts, but you’ll have to do at least some further research for yourselves.

Three common causes of breeding issues this time of year in the U.S. are:

  • Resource Allocation and Mobilization
  • Day Length and Light Intensity
  • Sexual Receptivity

Resource Allocation and Mobilization

Resource allocation is the term given to how rabbit does store energy for use (mobilization) during periods of high energy demand, like lactation.

  1. When properly raised doelings (those who have never encountered dietary deficiencies, have been healthy, and have been kept in sanitary conditions) have reached 80-85% of their mature size, they will enter the puberty stage of development and be not only capable of conceiving and raising a litter, but will do so without detrimental effect.

That “magic number” does vary a little bit depending on the base genetics, but in my experience it is generally true for most commercial type does with expected maturity weights of 9 to 12 pounds.

Part of that “magic number” includes stored resources. When doelings are allowed a quality, ad libitum diet through the rearing period (from wean to puberty), they will begin to store excess calories as abdominal fat, aka adipose tissue.

This particular fat is actually called perirenal fat and the thickness of it is a well studied factor in rabbit reproduction.

 The use of in vivo methods to assess the evolution of fat tissue, such as the perirenal fat thickness method (Pascual et al., 2000, 2004), allowed the description of how females manage their body reserves during reproduction. Although some works have studied the relation of body reserves around parturition and fertility (Rebollar et al., 2011; Romero et al., 2011), no works have described the direct effect of body-reserves mobilisation around partum on the fertility of rabbit females in their subsequent mating. Therefore, the main objective of this work was to describe the dynamic of fat reserves use and its effects on the fertility of primiparous rabbit females. (Savietto et al., 2016)

The does ability to allocate and mobilize resources (store energy and then use it when and how she needs it) is known to be a genetic factor that can be selected for, but it is also affected by the quality of the diet AND the size of the litter she’s rearing.

The growth of young rabbits during the 3 weeks just after birth depends mainly of the milk production from their mother (Szendrö, 2000). Milk production depends particularly of the genetic potential of the doe strain, of the feeding conditions and especially of the size of the suckled litter (Lebas, 1969; Lukefahr et al., 1981; Garcia- Dalmán et al., 2012)

The specific role of diet on not only the does health and performance, but more pointedly on the growth and performance of the litter has been studied as well, although this particular study led to more questions.

Our results suggest that the addition of fat in the doe diet increases the milk intake of kits, which in turn decreases their solid feed intake before weaning. The high milk intake before weaning was found to have a negative effect on the health of young rabbits after weaning when under the same feeding conditions, suggesting an effect on cecal microbiota maturation. Further experiments before weaning to better define dietary preference in suckling rabbits are needed. (Read T. et al., 2016.)

So, what do we do if we suspect that our does have too much internal fat stored, and how does that have anything to do with, well, anything?!

Remember, the fat we’re talking about is perirenal fat, which is located on the outer surface of the kidneys. What is located in close proximity to the kidneys? The ovaries! So, when there is excess perirenal fat, the ovaries and fallopian tubes are often partially or totally obstructed. No matter how willing the doe is to breed, if her eggs can’t get to the fallopian tubes, they can’t be fertilized and the breeding will not result in a litter.

Now, think about WHY the doe has stored that perirenal fat in the first place. It is stored as an energy source during lactation, concurrent lactation and gestation, and even for when her feeder runs dry but she needs calories. Oh, EUREKA! If she’s hungry, she’ll burn that fat!!!

If you have does who just will not breed, or who will breed but are not conceiving, put them on a diet! I have found that reducing their normal feed intake by 50% for ten to fourteen days usually does the trick. I’m a cold-hearted meanie head so I rarely give them “busy work” like hay to keep them busy when they’re hungry, but you certainly can give them rabbit safe chew sticks or horse quality hay to help alleviate their boredom (otherwise, you might find some bowls chewed on or neighbors scratched/bit by grumpy, hungry does). Just remember, the goal is to make them burn up those stored calories.

Because body weight is not necessarily a great indicator of perirenal fat thickness, you simply can’t just weigh the doe and assume she’s good. If she isn’t producing, try a diet; she will probably breed, and conceive, by the time that 14 days is up! Once she breeds, feed her to her appetite (whatever she will actually clean up each day without being frantic for the next meal).

Most of my does eat a standard six weighed ounces of pellets daily when they are not lactating, but I know that because I weigh their feed. You don’t have to weigh feed daily; just weigh a scoop full of feed, and use that for every rabbit. I use a Nutter Butter cookie cup (one of those travel things I get my kids for treats sometimes), which holds six ounces of my feed, or a generic chip dip tub that holds just under twelve ounces if I really cram the pellets in there. Nobody said you had to be all fancy or totally accurate to the last gram! LOL

Day Length and Light Intensity

So when we’ve investigated and addressed resource allocation, what’s next?

The first step should be increasing daylight hours, and maybe even light intensity, via artificial lighting. According to (Eiben et al., 2016):

Comparing 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 h daily fluorescent lightning with 20 lux light intensity Mousa-Balabel (2011) found that 14 h lighting was optimal for doe performance. Supplemental lighting of 14 h per day with 30 lux light intensity with incandescent bulbs favored productivity when natural photoperiod was decreasing (Mattaraia et al., 2005). Quintela et al. (2001) and Theau-Clément (2007) also found better receptivity and fertility but they increased the day length from 8 to 16 h and used higher, 70 lux light intensity. Theau-Clément (2007) reported reduced weaning weight. Intermittent 12 h daily lighting with 40 lux light intensity reduced rabbit does’ feed intake (Virág et al., 2000). Others assessed the impact of lighting schedule or light colour in rabbit does by the generally used, 30-70 lux light intensity (Gerencsér et al., 2008ab; Kalaba and Abdel-Khalek, 2011). Maertens and Luzi (1995) used higher, 120 lux light
intensity with fluorescent bulbs and increased the day length from 10 to 16 h in preceding 5 days before AI. This lighting schedule resulted in reproduction similar to what they found with 16 h lighting.
According to  World Rabbit Science Association
Proceedings 11th World Rabbit Congress – June 15-18, 2016 – Qingdao – China 190 Matics et al. (2015) with 16 h daily lighting, the rabbit does preferred cages with 10-20 lux to those with 150-200 lux light intensity but the number of kits born alive was lower. Besenfelder et al. (2004) studied the effect of 46-97 lux or 210-590 lux light intensity with 16 h daily neon lighting. They observed higher sperm concentration with higher light intensity. Sperm output can be influenced by the duration and source of lighting (El Hammady and Abdel-Kareem, 2015).

In this particular study by Eiben et al., lighting consisting of warm-white neon and cold-white LED with intensity varying from 40 to 50 lux, and durations from 9 to 16 hours were studied in an effort to determine the effect of light duration and intensity on sexual receptivity in artificially inseminated does.

You don’t have to be using AI to gain some valuable information, and suggestions, from this research! In a nutshell, does are more receptive, and therefore more productive, when they get more hours of light each day. But…what is a lux?

A lux is actually a measurement of light intensity, and it is equal to 1 lumen per square meter. We don’t buy light bulbs with lux measurements on the box though, they have lumen measurements. That’s because the lux that a bulb provides is determined by the space it illuminates. A good example to kind of bring this all together is that it requires about 300 lux, in any space, to comfortably read for a prolonged period of time. That’s 6 times the maximum artificial lighting provided the does in this study, so that tells you how little of a change you can make and get results.

LED lighting and photo-stimulation have positive effects on oestrus since pregnancy and kindling rates were increased compared to the values obtained by neon lighting. With the tested LED lighting and LED “dual” photo-stimulation (increased day length and light intensity around AI), the summer production of controlled nursing rabbits can be improved. (Eiben et al., 2016)

Sexual Receptivity

Once you’ve dealt with resource allocation, and made any adjustments to daylight hours or light intensity you might need to make, what’s left?

Well, quite simply, is the doe even in the mood? Sexual receptivity can be a pretty common problem, and I am continually astonished at how many folks don’t even check for common receptivity signs before they attempt to breed a doe.

Sexual receptivity is associated with a better fertility (Theau-Clément et al., 2015); possessing a higher number of preovulatory follicles in the ovaries (Kermabon et al., 1994) and higher plasma estrogen concentrations (Rebollar et al., 1992). Also, itis associated with high prolificacy, higher ovulation intensity, fertilization rate, and higher embryo survival (Hoffman et al., 2010).

Basically, does that are receptive are MOST fertile, ovulate better, and conceive more viable embryos. It’s not rocket science folks…if your does are not receptive, you’re not gaining much by trying to force a breeding.

So what are the signs of receptivity? One of the surest ways is to check their vulvas. You really should be doing this before every single breeding attempt as part of a thorough pre-breeding exam…you do not want to breed an unhealthy doe, so those exams can save you a lot of time and money.

Another method that I personally like to use, particularly on virgin does who may just generally be nervous about handling, is the tail tap. The tail tap is super simple to perform, doesn’t require that you pick up, flip, or hold the doe at all, and I have found it to be exceptionally reliable as an indicator of receptivity.

To perform the tail tap, you’ll need to locate the base of the tail bone with the tip of your index or middle finger. The doe should be sitting comfortably. Some does will really tuck their tail when you go fiddling around back there, but I promise, you don’t have to touch anything but that tail bone. You’ll actually be way closer to their anus than their vulva if that makes you feel a little better, lol

Once you locate the base of the tail bone, tap it a few times with your finger tip and watch her tail and hindquarters. If she cocks her tail to one side but doesn’t lift, leave her alone and try again tomorrow. Most will go from tail cocking to lifting sky high within 48 hours.

If she lifts, but not very high, try her with a buck, or try the tail tap again. More often than not she will lift higher within three to twelve hours, or stop lifting altogether. Most of the time, you can decide whether to try her with the buck or give her a few hours by checking her vulva.

  • Does who are not at all receptive will have a vulva that is pale/white, and very dry looking.
  • Does who are PAST prime receptivity will have a vulva that is very swollen, and very very dark pink to purple, but not very moist looking.
  • Does that are at prime receptivity will have vulvas that are moderately swollen, very bright pink, and very moist looking.

Hopefully I’ve included reference information below for every noted study, but if you find one I missed let me know! I’m happy to edit and add it in.



Besenfelder U., Theau-Clément M., Sabbioni E., Castellini C., Renieri T., Havlicek V., Huber T., Wetscher F., Mösslacher G., Brem G. 2004. Effects of different light intensities on quality of spermatozoa in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 12, 227-234.

Eiben Cs., Sándor M., Sándor F., Kustos K., 2016 – Effect of photostimulation, light source and season on reproductive performance of rabbit does. Proceedings 11th World Rabbit Congress – June 15-18, 2016 – Qingdao- China,189-192.

El-Hammady H.Y., Abdel-Kareem A.A.A. 2015. Influence of photoperiod and light source on semen characteristics, physiological responses and some blood parameters of rabbit bucks. Egypt. Poult. Sci., 35, 543-555.

García-Dalmán C., González-Mariscal G., 2012. Major role of suckling stimulation for inhibition of estrous behaviors in lactating rabbits: Acute and chronic effects. . Hormones and behavior, 61, 108-113.

Gerencsér Zs., Matics Zs., Nagy I., Princz Z., Biró-Németh E., Radnai I., Szendrő Zs. 2008a. Effect of colour of light on the reproductive performance of rabbit does. In: Proc. 9th World Rabbit Congress, 2008 June, Verona, Italy, 365-369.

Gerencsér Zs., Matics Zs., Nagy I., Princz Z., Orova Z., Biró-Németh E., Radnai I., Szendrő Zs. 2008b. Effect of a light stimulation on the reproductive performance of rabbit does. In: Proc. 9th World Rabbit Congress, 2008 June, Verona, Italy, 371-374.

Hoffman K.L., Hernandez Decasa D.M., Beyer Ruız M.E., Gonzalez-Mariscal G. 2010. Scent marking by the male domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is stimulated by an object’s novelty and its specific visual or tactile characteristics. Behav. Brain Res., 207, 360-367.

Kalaba Z.M., Abdel-Khalek A.E. 2011. Reproductive performance of rabbit does and productivity of their kits in response to colour of light. Asian J. Anim. Vet. Adv., 6, 814-822.

Kermabon A.Y., Belair L., Theau-Clément M., Salesse R., Djiane J. 1994. Effect of anoestrus and bromocryptine treatment on the expression of prolactin and LH receptors in the rabbit ovary during lactation. J. Reprod. Fert., 102, 131-138.

Lebas F., 1969. Alimentation lactée et croissance pondérale du Lapin avant sevrage. Ann. Zootech., 18, 197-208.

Lukefahr S.D., Hohenboken W., Cheeke P.R., Patton N.M., 1981. Milk production and litter growth traits in straightbred and crossbred rabbits. Journal of Applied Rabbit Research, 4, 35-40.

Maertens L., Luzi F. 1995. Effect of diluent and storage time of rabbit semen on the fertility of does reared under two different lighting schedules. World Rabbit Sci., 3, 27-34.

Maertens L., Lebas F., Szendrö Zs. 2006. Rabbit milk: a review of quantity, quality and non-dietary affecting factors. World Rabbit Sci., 14, 205-230.

Matics Zs., Gerencsér Zs., Radnai I., Kasza R., Szendrő Zs. 2015. Effect of different light intensities on reproductive performance, nursing behaviour and preference of rabbit does. In: Proc. 19th International symposium on housing and diseases of rabbits, fur providing animals and pet animals, 2015 May, Celle, Germany, 83-89.
Mattaraia V.G.M., Bianospino E., Fernandes S., Vasconcelos J.L.M., Moura A.S.A.M.T. 2005. Reproductive responses of rabbit does to a supplemental lighting program. Livest. Prod. Sci., 94, 179-187.

Mousa-Balabel T.M. 2011. Using light and melatonin in the management of New Zealand White rabbits. Open Vet. J., 1, 1-6.

Pascual J.J., Castella F., Cervera C., Blas E., Fernández-Carmona J. 2000. The use of ultrasound measurement of perirenal fat thickness to estimate changes in body condition of young female rabbits. Anim. Sci., 70: 435-442.

Pascual J.J., Cervera C., Blas E., Fernández-Carmona J. 2003. High-energy diets for reproductive rabbit does: effect of energy source. Nutrition Abstracts and Reviews, Series B: Livestock Feeds and Feeding, 73, 27-39.

Pascual J.J., Blanco J., Piquer O., Quevedo F., Cervera C. 2004. Ultrasound measurements of perirenal fat thickness to estimate the body condition of reproducing rabbit does in different physiological states. World Rabbit Sci., 12: 7-21.
Quintela L., Peña A., Barrio M., Vega M.D., Diaz R., Maseda F., Garcia P. 2001. Reproductive performance of multiparous rabbit lactating does: effect of lighting programs and PMSG use. Reprod. Nutr. Dev., 41, 247-257.

Read T., Combes S., Gidenne T., Destombes N., Balmisse E., Aymard P.,Labatut D., Bébin K., Fortun Lamothe L., 2016 – Effect of energy level in doe diet on intake and performances of young rabbits before and after weaning. Proceedings 11th World Rabbit Congress – June 15-18, 2016 – Qingdao – China, 439-442 +Poster.

Rebollar P.G., Ubilla E., Alvariño J.M.R., Illera J.C., Silván G. 1992. Influencia del nivel de receptividad sexual sobre el estradiol plasmático y la respuesta ovulatoria durante el postparto en la coneja. Revista Española de Fisiología, 48, 13-18.

Rebollar P.G., Pereda N., Schwarz B.F., Millán P., Lorenzo P.L., Nicodemus, N. 2011. Effect of feed restriction or feeding high-fibre diet during the rearing period on body composition, serum parameters and productive performance of rabbit does. Anim. Feed Sci. Tech., 163: 67-76.

Romero C., Nicodemus N., Martínez de Morentín C.G., García A.I., De Blas C. 2011. Effect of grinding size of barley and dehydrated alfalfa on performance and body composition of does during their early reproductive cycles. Livest. Sci., 140: 55-61.
Savietto, D., Marono, S., Martínez, I., Martínez-Paredes, E., Ródenas, L., Cervera, C., & Pascual, J. (2016). Patterns of body condition use and its impact on fertility. World Rabbit Science, 24(1), 39-45.
Szendrö Zs. 2000 . The nutritional status of foetuses and suckling rabbits and its effects on their subsequent productivity: a review (Main paper) – 7th World Rabbit Congress, 4-7 July 2000 – Valencia , Spain Volume B, 375-393.
Theau-Clément M. 2007. Preparation of the rabbit doe to insemination: a review. World Rabbit Sci., 15, 61-68.
Theau-Clément M., Tircazes A., Saleil G., Monniaux D., Bodin L., Brun, J.M. 2015. Preliminary study of the individual variability of the sexual receptivity of rabbit does. World Rabbit Sci., 23, 163-169.
Virág Gy., Papp Z., Rafai P., Jakab L., Kenessey Á. 2000. Effect of an intermittent lighting schedule on doe and suckling rabbit performance. World Rabbit Sci., 8 , 477-481.

I’m Not Gonna, And YOU Can’t Make Me!

I’m paraphrasing of course, but I have had variations of that statement slung at me with all the might angry fingers tapping on a screen or pounding on a keyboard can muster recently, and I think it deserves some addressing.

Folks, change is hard for some. I get that. But change is also inevitable. The information we have today will be antiquated at some point, but that doesn’t make it LESS valid today.

In 1906, 118 years ago, we had to pass a FEDERAL LAW banning formaldehyde from our food supply, and just a few years prior to that one of the premier food safety experts and advocates of the time, John Newell Hurty, actually advocated for it’s inclusion in fresh milk as a preservative.

It only took him three short years to realize his error, and in 1901 he referenced formaldehyde as one of the root causes of over 400 Indiana infant and child deaths. It didn’t take him long after that to hail the 1850’s discovery of pasteurization as the better, safer option to chemical preservatives.

When we know better, we DO better….even if sometimes we resist or don’t understand the options we have.

For those rabbit owners who don’t take their rabbits anywhere, and never go places that large numbers of rabbits and rabbit owners are known to be, the liklihood that you will encounter a communicable disease are probably pretty slim.

The biosecurity measures you need to employ are absolutely going to be very different from mine, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do just what you do and enjoy that same slim probability of encountering communicable diseases.

Likewise, to suggest that “just because” RHDV2 has not been confirmed outside of the single property case in Medina, OH we can all “relax,” is highly presumptive, and in my opinion, terribly irresponsible.

The fact is, we STILL don’t know where the virus came from. And we certainly cannot assume it never left that Medina, OH property.

Until we know how it got to Ohio, we have to assume that it is still here and active in the United States. If we maintain our vigilance, employ strict biosecurity, and stop moving rabbits around the country, we can limit whatever impact it may have.

If I’m wrong, what have we lost?

Who The Hell Are You?!

In the past two weeks, I have received that question via email and social media at least 200 times in various forms, lol

I get it, folks. I’ve rattled some cages and pissed some people off. I’ve said things in ways that get people riled up, but you know what else that does? It makes people think.

So, let me get it out of the way and answer that question!

Most people who are asking that question are really asking “Do you have any authority to tell me what to do?”

I am Tresa Morris. I may as well be Jane Doe though, because I am a “nobody” when it comes to letters after my name or professional affiliations, or anything that the majority of people look for to tell them someone is an authority figure of some sort.

I’m just like you, and you, and yes you too. I am an every day, ordinary person. I am a Wife, Mother, Grandmother, business owner, entrepreneur, tax paying, flag waving, citizen of the United States of America.

And just like you, I have a skillset, a knowledge bank, and experience that makes me slightly unique. I also have a passion for finding and sharing information just because it exists and needs to be shared.

Here, via this website, I happen to focus that exclusively on rabbits.

So the answer is, I don’t have any authority over you. But, I’m also not trying to tell you what to do. I’m offering you information, and opinion, based on my unique skillset and experience.

I have been actively involved in the commercial production of food animals for over thirty years, primarily hog production.

I have been raising rabbits as food animals off and on since 1999, and have been a commercial producer of rabbits since 2015.

To say that biosecurity has been a big thing in my life is an understatement, but to say that I have seen whole industries threatened by preventable disease outbreaks would be accurate.

For example, the PEDv (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus) killed about 8 million pigs in 2013, resulting in almost a $2 BILLION dollar loss to the U.S. swine industry and resulted in your pork prices skyrocketing.

And to also say that biosecurity and research, in all it’s manifestations, played a vital role in stopping PEDv’s devastation here would be accurate.

The swine industry has the resources to respond decisively, both in literal, physical action, but also via continuing research, as they have.

OUR industry, the rabbit industry as a whole, does NOT.

We are group of owners and caretakers with widely varied interests and purposes for owning rabbits, and we cannot seem to get our shit together and work as a team.

That needs to change!

The pet and hobby sectors of our industry have active representation, but the commercial industry does not. That does not negate the commercial industries input folks!

We may be a relatively small number in the head-count of people who own rabbits, but we own and care for the majority of rabbits in this country.

Most commercial producers either do not want to bring attention to what they do, or feel as if what they have to offer will be ignored. That’s fine; for them.

I, on the other hand, am not afraid of a little backlash. I am not “politically correct,” I do not cater to the sensitivities of folks who can’t imagine rabbit on their plate, and I am not afraid to challenge people to think for themselves.

I am willing to be a voice that rises above those saying “No, hush…be quiet.” “Don’t make waves.” “It’s not a good time.” “You’re going to make people mad!”

It is an unfortunate truth that controversy brings people to the conversation. None of what I have to say is meant to bring controversy, but if it does, good!

While people are responding to what I have to say, they are thinking. Hopefully, they are also researching, learning, and pointing out any inaccuracies they find!

So that’s who I am. Who the hell are you?


Since the September 2018 confirmation of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, Type 2 (RHDV2) in Medina, OH biosecurity has been a hot topic of discussion.

At this point, much good information has been shared about biosecurity, but there is still a large portion of rabbit owners who either don’t believe they have anything to worry about, or think that biosecurity ONLY pertains to threats like RHDV2.

That is just not true!

Biosecurity is, by definition:

There are numerous “biological agents” that affect rabbits, and biosecurity is always our first line of defense against them. RHDV2 is just the newest (and rarest) one we are aware of here in the United States.

Three specific, very common, pathogens that every rabbitry, but particularly rabbitries that breed, should be well informed about and practice good biosecurity for are:

Pasturella ( P multocida being a rabbitries primary concern)

Bordetella (namely Bordetella bronchiseptica)

Clostridium (primarily Clostridium spiriforme)

It’s time the rabbit industry starts making noise about the absolute need for biosecurity, what exactly biosecurity is, and how every single rabbit owner or handler in the US can do their part!

I’m willing to start ringing my cowbell on this topic….are you?!

If you are, feel free to leave a comment but please…share this post far and wide first.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be publishing co-authored posts from other rabbitry owners across the country who are willing to not only tell you what biosecurity looks like for their rabbitry, but SHOW you as well.

Are you in?!

Drama Llamas Will Hunt You Forever

I received some screen shots today from someone who thought I should know that someone was using my photos on Facebook, as well as talking about me and my rabbitry in a derogatory manner. My first thought was “Ooooh, REALLY?! What’s crawled up Annette’s ass this time?!”


I really just had to giggle. This woman is probably my biggest non-fan, and I could not be less concerned, lol


Here’s the short version of the backstory….


In February 2016 (yes, two and a half years ago), I bought a black otter Satin buck from her after lengthy conversations about what I wanted (a Satin buck for my pelt line) and what I didn’t want (a show rabbit). She INSISTED she ONLY sold show quality rabbits, so…whatever. If it was shiny and reasonably priced, I was good. I literally just needed a Satin buck with decent fur to breed some dang does who was at or past puberty, and not a total trainwreck conformation wise.


At 15 weeks and 3 days old, this rabbit weighed 3.09. THREE pounds, nine ounces. I had literally just paid $10.00 a pound for a freakin rabbit I knew immediately I would be eating.


A week later, I posted this on my personal Facebook page, and surprise! My kids 4-H Club leader commented and PM’d me.

I should have known IMMEDIATELY she was stirring the pot. I purposefully did not name the breeder, even though my post privacy was set to friends and the breeder was NEVER on my friend list. I knew though that the breeder and Hillary were friends. So, I checked the private message.



I assumed that would be the end of it. Assuming was my biggest mistake.


Annette was suddenly in every rabbit related group I was in, arguing with every single thing I said. Finally, I extended this olive branch:


She replied with lots of blabbering about how I needed to grow him and his kits out fooorrreeeevvvvveeerrrr and how so-and-so had bought five of his siblings, and so-and-so had another one, and….what-the-hell-ever-lady-just-stoppit LOL


I accepted then and there that this particular dog was never going to die and just let it go. What else was I supposed to do? Continue acknowledging her ignorance and giving her the attention she so craves? Nah. Not my style.


Oh, what about that rabbit? We ate him and every kit he sired. He barely made 7 pounds at seven months old and he was taking up cage space I quickly filled with a much better Satin.


Anyway, today I get these, which were apparently posted in the named group five months ago…


The thing that I find most funny is that she had every opportunity to argue her point directly with ME, right in the group where she took those screen shots and stole my picture! While she was busy on that particular thread bragging about her rabbits instead of actually giving a “how and why” answer, I answered the guys question with as much detail as I could.


But, of course she didn’t. Because in THAT group alone she’s ripped off enough people with her “great” stock that doesn’t grow, breed, or dress out worth a dang that nobody would listen to her prathering long.


So, she hotfooted her petty right over to a SHOW group ran by the second most non-fan of mine, the infamous Bob Donnell (that’s a story for another time…I’m a teeny bit busier than the average satellite TV technician LOL) !

So, here’s the deal folks. My best advice for dealing with the cray-cray.


Don’t. Don’t argue with them, don’t waste your time, data, and intelligence on proving them liars or letting them make fools of themselves over and over again, don’t bother validating their insecurities.


You cannot make them feel less threatened by you.


They won’t leave YOU alone, but pay them no mind. Just keep raising commercial rabbits that do what commercial rabbits are supposed to do.


(ps, it’s perfectly healthy to get a good belly laugh every time they accidentally like a post or picture of yours though…I DO!!!)

This Isn’t Just A Hobby, Don’t Treat It Like One!

Let’s face it…finding true, production herd rabbitries is hard these days, and it’s even harder to find commercial rabbitry owners who can, or will, mentor you. We are just a different breed of rabbit professionals, and pet or show industry practices are just too impractical, or too downright silly, to be applicable to our businesses.

When you start participating in the online rabbit community, and really you almost have to these days if you are going to participate in as many market areas as possible (and you really SHOULD do that), you quickly find that there are an enormous number of people who consider themselves rabbit experts, and portray themselves as such.

They tout their double-digit years of rabbit ownership as proof, cannot back up a single bit of their “advice” with any sort of industry or scientific research, and they do NOT take kindly to being questioned or corrected. If you challenge their authority, they will dissolve into fits of rage and name-calling immaturity so fast your head will spin LOL

Sadly, those are the people who speak longest, loudest, and most often. Those are the people you will see being called upon again and again to answer questions, and thereby continue their reign of misinformation and hobbyist righteousness. It is just SO difficult to find production herd owners who have the time, and the desire, to share the ins and outs of our trade and when you do, more often than not you will find the pet/show/hobbyists having absolute fits over the advice given and totally distracting from the information being shared with you.

If you are SERIOUS about starting (or expanding into) a commercial rabbitry, you cannot treat it like a hobby. You have to take a very clinical, black and white approach to everything to do with your business, and make NO mistake, you MUST treat it like a business. There is no room in true commercial rabbit production for soft hearts, touchy-feely emotional attachments, anthropomorphism, or pet/show/hobby type husbandry practices. You will burn out, go broke, and run as far and fast as you can from rabbits in a very short amount of time. Those of us currently in the industry don’t want that!

There is currently an absolutely enormous demand for rabbits, and that demand is increasing faster than we can expand our herds to meet it. If WE (U.S. based producers) can’t get closer to meeting the demand, we’ll simply lose it as buyers look elsewhere (outside of the U.S.).

In the very near future, I will be offering several integrated venues for folks just like you to find the information you’re looking for. The bonus? Every person who is breeding rabbits can benefit from the information, regardless of scale or end-use. Information will be tailored to rabbits produced for human consumption and the feeder markets, as well as breeding stock for those purposes. Topics will range from housing, to feeding, to production genetics and record keeping.

I’m excited to get this ball rolling, and start sharing the information with ya’ll!


Why Does Type Matter?

As I talk with folks about meat rabbits, I often refer to “type” or “commercial type.” When doing so, I’m referring to the ARBA defined ideal conformation of the breeds of rabbit best suited to meat production.

Now, that definition is available in it’s entirety within the ARBA Standard of Perfection (aka the SOP). I STRONGLY suggest that if you are going to breed rabbits, you get a copy. It will be the most valuable $20 you ever spend in the rabbit raising venture, no matter what your end goal actually is. You can get an electronic or digital copy via the ARBA Store.

In 1996, the ARBA removed the dressed carcass classes from their sanctioned shows, and the standards from the SOP, and I personally feel that was a negative turning point for commercial breeds as production livestock.

Here is an article from the ARBA’s Domestic Rabbit magazine that the ARBA links from it’s own website. While this article is focused on selecting and evaluating meat pen show rabbits, understand that the same evaluation points mentioned are what you want to be seeing in your own meat herd.

I wholly believe that well developed meat pen rabbits are the EPITOME of what a commercial breed rabbit should be, as compared to the Open level, Breed class winners. In my unapologetic opinion, being a winning fryer should be a pre-requisite to being a BOB winner for all commercial beeds!

See how easily I can get off track?! LOL Let’s see if I can get this train back on the rail, shall we?

Since 1996, when the ARBA removed the dressed carcass standards, commercial type breeds have certainly continued to be improved, but there have been and continue to be trends lending less toward form-to-function, and more toward a more modernly visually appealing, dramatic, “pretty” rabbit on the exhibition tables. That has led to a drastic disassociation with what the rabbits are intended to be used for, and what they are capable of in their current physical form.

Think first about what the useful parts of a meat rabbit are.

Originally, meat rabbits were also pelt rabbits because it just makes sense to use as much of any production animal as we can (much like beef cows are also leather sources), but even now the primary purpose of a meat rabbit is to be a quickly grown, feed efficient meat source.

The largest amounts of edible meat come from the hind legs, loin, then shoulders. It makes sense then that those areas will have the largest comformationally important structure.

To paraphrase:

Commercial type rabbits will ideally be as wide across the hindquarters (when viewed from above) as they are tall at their highest point (when viewed from the side), being slightly narrower at the shoulder than the hip, and they will arc steadily from a point just behind the ears to a high point over the center of the hindquarters, rounding from that high point smoothly down to the table (the flat surface upon which they are sitting for evaluation).

It doesn’t sound all that complicated, but there are a lot of moving parts that go into setting up that ideal frame, and how those work together in the movement of the animal has an important impact on the growth and development of the muscles.

There is currently a popular shift in preference among show breeders to a short-coupled, highly arced profile on commercial type rabbits, with the claim being that the loin is wider, longer, thicker, and therefore better. The current standard doesn’t help much on the technical interpretation, because it states:

they will arc steadily from a point just behind the ears to a high point over the center of the hindquarters”

Both of these rabbits “arc steadily from a point just behind the ears, to a high point over the center of the hindquarters.” Which is “correct?” They BOTH meet that description as it’s written.

Photo available publicly via Facebook
Image available publicly via breed association web page

I’m not alluding that EITHER of these rabbits is a bad rabbit, because neither of them are by any stretch of the imagination. However, the rabbit below also meets that description (obviously this isn’t a posed picture).

One of these three rabbits is a commercial type, production rabbit; the other two are exhibition rabbits.

The largest problems with that kind of shift in commercial animal conformation is the impact on growth rate, mechanical functionality, and carcass composition.

Ask as many show breeders as will discuss it with you how quickly their show animals reach fryer weight. Ask them what their dress-out percentages are (live weight vs edible, bone-in carcass weight), and what their meat-to-bone ratios are. If you get answers, please let me know because every single one that I have asked has refused to answer, or actually got angry and verbally abusive.

If they can’t, or won’t, answer those questions realize that they are not breeding commercial type rabbits for their intended purpose as you are, they are merely raising exhibition animals. To misquote Forrest Gump, pretty is as pretty does! 

Realize that you aren’t seeing that extreme exhibition type on 70 day old, 56 to 88 ounce fryers, and when those fryers grow up they don’t look like the popular exhibition animals.

What a rabbit looks like and weighs at 8 months of age is of little value if the growth and muscle development of the carcass is lacking at 70 days of age.

So, what IS a “good” carcass?

Typically, you will start with a five pound live rabbit, and after processing and removal of the inedible portions (leave kidneys, liver, and heart inside the carcass) you should have a minimum of a two pound eight ounce carcass. That is a 50% dress-out. The ideal would be a 48 oz carcass, which is the 60% dress-out mark.

However, there are many breeds and varieties of domestic rabbit that will dress out 50%, or even better, and still not give you a good carcass due to the weight of the remaining inedible portions. To determine the meat-to-bone ratio, you have to remove the bones.

De-boning a rabbit isn’t terribly difficult, but it does take some practice. I really like this tutorial video if you, like me, learn visually!

Now, does all of this even matter if you’re just raising enough to feed your family? It absolutely does!

You want to produce the most meat, with the least cost and time you can. The longer you have to grow a fryer (or roaster or stewer), the more you have to feed it (and it’s parents), and the more space you MUST to have to do it in.

Meat rabbits are supposed to be a fast growing, highly productive, efficient production animal. Once you start looking at weights and carcasses instead of win pictures, you will find that it really is not too difficult to find or breed a good meat rabbit.

You will also find that sometimes the pursuit of “perfection” leaves you with animals that don’t perform at all like they should. Don’t be afraid to break it all down to numbers (conception rates, litter averages, weaning weights, daily gains, and carcass ratios for example) to determine the real worth or value of your herd, and let the exhibitors do their own thing.

Coccidiosis – Part Three

I originally thought I could throw this post together very quickly, but the truth is that while treating coccidia is fairly simple, explaining why I think the simplest treatment is the best one gets very complicated, very quickly.

Now, I know I’ve scared the crap out of you and basically told you just how coccidia is going to kill your rabbits and ruin your life, but let me give you a little hope!

There are things you can do to help prevent coccidia infection, and there are treatment options available.

In Part Two, I gave you the sporulation and pre-patent period information for the most common species of coccidia that affect rabbits. Here is a condensed version of that:

Hepatic (liver) species:

E stiedae PP: 14 – 18 days

Sporulation: 3 days

Intestinal species:

E magna PP: 6 – 8 days

Sporulation: 2 – 3 days

E irresidua PP: 9 – 10 days

Sporulation: 2 – 2.5 days

E media PP: 4.5 – 6 days

Sporulation: 2 days

E perforans PP: 5 – 6 days

Sporulation: 2 days

E flavescens PP: 7 – 9 days

Sporulation: 4 days

E intestinalis PP: 9 days

Sporulation: 2 days

As you can see, the shortest sporulation time is 2 days, and the longest pre-patent period is 18 days. Those points are important to know because you don’t necessarily have to diagnose the exact species of coccidia to effectively treat it.

To reiterate again from Part Two, the sporulation time is the time it takes from eggs being expelled in the feces to the time they become infectious, and the pre-patent period (PP) is the amount of time from when the rabbit ingests an infectious egg until the coccidia from it mature and begin producing eggs themselves.

So, as soon as two days after being expelled in the feces, eggs are infectious. Within 18 days of being consumed (and hundreds or thousands of those infectious eggs can be consumed DAILY), those infectious eggs have essentially hatched releasing 8 immature coccidia each, and those have then invaded the intestinal or organ tissues, matured and created potentially thousands of other immature coccidia, and have begun producing more eggs.

Because the route of transmission is fecal contamination, housekeeping plays a vital role in containing and treating coccidia.

Fecal contamination does not mean visibly dirty!

Anything feces touches, even momentarily, can have coccidia eggs on it, even cage wire. So, the rabbit poops, that poop rolls across a wire and falls through. The rabbit then steps on that wire, and it’s foot is contaminated. Hopping around, eggs are spread from the foot, all around the cage and to the other feet. At some point, the rabbit puts it’s foot on the feeder or waterer. A couple of days later, the eggs transferred there are ready to infect the rabbit further.

Think about every possible contamination point….poop in a feeder or water bowl, on resting pads, on the floor and side wire, on nest boxes or toys, on the feed scoop you dropped on the floor, on YOUR hands after touching the rabbit or cleaning it’s cage or litter box….it really is SO easy for those eggs to get spread around!

In most situations it is virtually impossible to eliminate all sources of contamination. You can seriously make yourself crazy trying! Just ask me how I know LOL

What you can and should do is maintain a regular, thorough cleaning routine. What you MUST do when you suspect coccidiosis is implement one IMMEDIATELY.

This involves not only keeping the environment free of feces buildup, but also regular cleaning of feeders, waterers, and the surfaces of the rabbit’s housing as well.

Removing feces from the living environment removes the contamination source, but it does not kill the eggs. The eggs are essentially impervious to everything! One thing they are destroyed by however is a 10% ammonia solution.

One thing they are destroyed by however is a 10% ammonia solution.

NOTE: Household cleaning ammonia is NOT sufficient. You must use industrial strength, 10% ammonia. Check our favorite products page for a source to buy it!

If you clean regularly, and sanitize with 10% ammonia, you will keep the exposure level to a minimum. That’s not to say that you will never have a rabbit with coccidia, but the severity of disease is absolutely dependant on the level of exposure AND the overall immune system status of the rabbit.

That’s not to say that you will never have a rabbit with coccidia, but the severity of disease is absolutely dependant on the level of exposure AND the overall immune system status of the rabbit.

So what about preventatives? Think about that….a preventative actually stops (prevents) something from happening, right?

Well, when it comes to coccidia, compounds are marketed as preventatives, but they actually ONLY work once the rabbit already has the parasite.

The only TRUE preventative is to keep rabbits from contacting oocytes in feces.

Some will say that you cannot totally prevent coccidia infection, and I say you can go ahead and ask a Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) breeder or laboratory about that. You absolutely CAN prevent the parasite entirely, though for most of us it’s simply not plausible to do so, or to maintain a SPF line.

Focus then really has to be on treatment, whether a company calls it’s product a preventative or not.

Now here’s one point where it gets even more confusing – many of these products are chemically known as polyether antibiotics, or ionophores. To learn more about what exactly those are, go here.

One of the compounds marketed as a preventative, and widely used particularly in the massive European production rabbitries, is diclazuril.

What diclazuril does is damage the coccidia during both asexual and sexual reproduction, which reduces the number of oocytes that are produced and shed.

So, diclazuril does NOT actually prevent coccidia infection at all. It reduces the number of oocytes that are produced AFTER infection has occurred. The rabbit still has coccidia, and some damage is still being done inside the intestine (which can still result in decreased appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, and decreased ability to digest feed).

There is also the problem of resistance that can develop to the drug over time, which results in having to add another compound or change compounds altogether.

Now, if you go searching for a way to buy diclazuril here in the United States, you’ll find that there is only one FDA approved product in the US (Protzail pellets for horses), and that it is insanely expensive.

I’ve done a bit of research for you though, and can tell you that the approved usual dose of the drug diclazuril for rabbits, according to European research and maximum residue standards, is about 0.067 mg per kg of body weight each day, which is usually delivered by mixing the compound at a rate of 1 ppm in the feed.

The usual feed additive dose and withdrawal time is listed in the product information for the diclazuril additive Clinacox, and here is the Maximum Residue Limits report from the European Medicines Agency.

You can find the same kind of information for several other products such as Sacox with a simple Google search.

For what it’s worth, you can save your time because there are exactly ZERO of these products available or approved for use in rabbits in the United States. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but the cost alone is prohibitive for most, and you have to seriously consider withdrawal times. We’re talking about a 70 day growth period here, not 280 days.

My personal treatment of choice is Corid 9.6%. It is cheap, effective when used properly, and has a 24 hour withdrawal time (and because it’s just a synthetic vitamin, observing withdrawal times is optional for personal consumption).

I’m going to tell you how I personally treat a coccidia outbreak.
I have not saved every rabbit that got sick, and I am not a Veterinarian, but within 48 hours I have stopped the outbreak, every single time, in my rabbitry.

My treatment of choice IS amprolium, aka Corid.

Previously, research indicated amprolium dosed at 8mg/kg was effective, albeit not totally effective at preventing the development and shedding of oocytes.

Current, 2018 published research, shows that doses of up to 20mg/kg are as effective as antibiotic drugs at not only stopping outbreaks, but also at stopping oocyte shedding.

I use the liquid, 9.6%, Corid formulation. This product delivers 9.6mg of amprolium per 0.1cc, or 96mg per 1cc.

Given the new research, my 0.1cc per whole or partial pound dosing protocols effectiveness makes sense.

I dose sick rabbits at 0.1cc per pound, rounding up to the next whole pound. This provides 9.6mg amprolium per pound, and I give it orally once a day.

In group situations, such as a growout pen or colony, I dose at 30cc per gallon of water. This solution delivers 22.5mg amprolium per ounce of water…for every two whole pounds of body weight, a growout need only consume less than 1 ounce of amprolium water.

In all cases where I feel it necessary to treat for coccidia, I treat for 14 days, stop for 7, and repeat for another 14. This duration will treat all of the common species to infect domestic rabbits, including hepatic coccidia.

Remember when dosing via water, the rabbit has to consume enough of that water each day to receive at least 8mg/kg, and the water has to be mixed fresh every 24 hours. Individual dosing assures the proper dose is recieved daily.

The treatment time I always use is 14 days on, 7 days off, and repeat for 14 days. This treatment protocol addresses even the hepatic coccidia E stiedae, but it must be strictly adhered to to be successful.

For those looking for an all natural alternative, new research is indicating that 100mg/kg of whole wormwood not only reduces the number of oocytes produced, but increases weight gain in fryers. Check out that study here!

Coccidiosis In Rabbits – Part Two

Coccidiosis. If you’ve been learning about rabbits more than about two minutes you’ve heard of it.

And, if you believe everything you’ve read, you’re probably terrified. Well, don’t be. Once you understand the parasite, you’ll see that while it IS a serious concern, it can be controlled.

To begin, let’s talk about what coccidia actually are. I’ll say this again in case you missed it in Part One – there will be some complicated, science-ish terms used in this section, so I will break them down a bit. I’m not assuming you can’t understand the technical lingo, I just want to be sure you 100% know what I’m talking about.

Coccidia are microscopic, single-celled “obligate intracellular parasites.”

An “obligate intracellular parasite” absolutely MUST be inside an animal cell to live and reproduce. I want to repeat this: inside an animal CELL. That’s important to understand because you’re not going to SEE coccidia like you might see roundworms (the long spaghetti-like parasites puppies will often pass after their first worming..yes, rabbits can get those too!). They are absolutely microscopic at all stages.

There are literally thousands of types of coccidia, but the beauty of them is that they are almost always species specific. Almost (there are some that will infect species other than their normal host, even humans). The genus that WE are concerned about with rabbits is Eimeria.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, 11th Edition, the following are the most common species that affect rabbits (this is not ALL of the species that affect rabbits, just the most common):

E stiedae

E magna

E irresidua

E media

E perforans

E flavescens

E intestinalis

All of the Eimeria species undergo essentially the same process that turns them from non-infectious eggs to disease causing, active parasites. Here’s how it works:

Oocytes are the coccidia eggs, and those are the only form that can survive OUTSIDE the cell of an animal host. They have a thick, tough “shell” that protects them from…well, everything.

When they are first released into the environment in the rabbit’s feces, they are not infectious – in fact, you can think of them sort of like a chicken egg at first. All the material is there to make the parasite, but it has to go through some processes to be a problem.

Sporulation is an asexual form of reproduction of many protozoans, also known as meiosis. As soon as the coccidia eggs enter the environment, the presence of oxygen and moisture que the process of cell division known as sprorulation. For those who already know the term meiosis, sporulation IS meiosis (which, for those who don’t know, is a process of cell division which produces reproductive cells and makes sexual reproduction possible).

Through meiosis, four sporocysts form, and then inside of those sporocysts, two sporozoites form. In the end, after 24 hours to seven full days (depending on the Eimeria species), each coccidia egg contains eight sporozoites. That oocyte is now called a sporulated oocyte, and it is infectious.

So now, one egg has turned into eight infectious….parts. Let’s call them that for now. Then, along comes your rabbit and ingests just one of those sporulated oocytes (infectious eggs). How does that happen?! Well, it’s pretty simple – anything that feces has even TOUCHED can have oocytes on it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always cleaning water bowls because there’s a floater in there (how does a 14 pound doe fling poop into her water bowl  EVERY DAY?!), or I’m digging little baby turds out of feeders because as soon as I take away nest boxes the WHOLE litter has to try to sleep in the j-feeder.

So, we clean waterers and feeders pretty regularly, right? Well, sort of. See, oocytes are NOT killed by just soap and water. Bleach doesn’t kill them, air doesn’t kill them, sun doesn’t kill them, the friction of scrubbing doesn’t kill them….there are only two things that are proven to work without fail….fire and a 10% ammonia solution.

I certainly don’t torch my rubber water bowls every day, and I don’t scrub them with 10% ammonia solution every day either, so even though I don’t SEE any contamination, it’s still there. And that’s not even considering resting mats, floor wire, nest boxes, the rabbit itself (feet, nails, and fur), or the scoop I use to feed that has surely fallen to the floor a hundred times just this week, etc.!

So, your rabbit has ingested a sporulated oocyte. Crap, now what?!

Once the oocyte reenters the digestive system, it’s shell begins to break down. By the time it leaves the stomach, the oocyte has opened up and the four sporocysts have been released, and they too have opened releasing the total of eight sporozoites into the duodenum (the very first part of the small intestine, just after the stomach).

Those eight sporozoites then travel through the intestine to the part that their particular Eimeria species infects. While it has not been totally determined for every single Eimeria species exactly HOW they know where to go, it’s thought that each species has membrane-bound structures on their surface that release secretions that are then recognized by the host cell’s receptors – until the sporozoites reach those cells and their secretions are recognized, they just glide along inside the intestine. The host cell receptors then recognize the secretions and draw the sporozoites to the cell like a magnet.

Once the sporozoites reach the host cells, they invade them and start feeding. At this stage, they are called trophozoites.

I really want you to remember this part – trophozoites are the initial feeding stage of the coccidia parasite, and it develops AFTER the cell is already invaded. Got it? Great!

Once the trophozoite has fed, the process of schizogony begins. Schiz  WHAT?!

Schizogony is an asexual form of reproduction where the nucleus of the trophozoite divides by mitosis into two identical nuclei. At this point, the trophozoite is now called a schizont. The process of mitosis continues over and over again, resulting in potentially thousands of nuclei inside of each schizont.

So let’s slow down just a second and go over this all again real quick!

  1. An oocyte is expelled with the feces of the rabbit.

  2. At some point between 1 and 7 days later, the oocyte has sporulated and now contains 8 sporozoites, and is now infectious.

  3. The rabbit consumes the infectious oocyte, which bursts open and releases the 8 sporozoites.

  4. The sporozoites float along in the intestine of the rabbit until the magnet-like host cell receptors pull them close. All 8 sporozoites invade separate host cells (each oocyte ingested initially results in eight infected cells).

  5. The sporozoites begin feeding on the hosts nutrients and are called trophozoites.

  6. Once trophozoites finish feeding, they begin reproducing by dividing their nucleus and making two identical ones; each of those two nuclei divide as well, and so on and so forth from two to seven generations depending on species. After the very first nucleus divides, the sporozoites are not called trophozoites anymore, they are called schizonts.

Each nuclei within the schizont becomes a merozoite, which is a new cell in and of itself. The schizonts eventually burst due to the number of merozoites, which kills the host cell they were in and releases all of those potentially thousands of merozoites into the intestine.

The now free merozoites do one of three things….they either invade a new host cell and begin reproducing again into more merozoites, or invade a new host cell and become either macrogametes (female reproduction cells) or microgametes (male reproduction cells).

When some of them become male and female gametes, the parasite is now capable of sexual reproduction (all stages before this have been asexual). A male and a female gamete then come together and form an oocyte. That new oocyte is then passed through the intestine in the feces and the process starts all over.

To recap one final time:

  1. one single sporulated oocyte led to eight infected intestinal wall cells.

  2. Those eight cells hosted potentially thousands of merozoites EACH until the number of merozoites caused the cell to rupture and die.

  3. Each of the merozoites released by that now dead initial host cell go on to invade their own, new host cell.

  4. Some of those merozoites continue to reproduce and create thousands more merozoites, some become female gametes and some become male gametes.

  5. One male and one female gamete come together and create an oocyte which is passed out of the rabbit, and begins the process all over again.

Now, the scary part. A rabbit ingests potentially thousands of oocytes every day. If enough sporulated oocytes are ingested, of the more serious species, and enough damage is done, you may see signs of the disease we call coccidiosis.

Some rabbits never show ANY signs. Ever. They don’t get sick, they don’t go off feed or lose condition, and they appear completely, totally normal. But, they still shed oocytes into the environment. Other rabbits get very ill, very quickly, and before you can do much to figure out what exactly is wrong, they are dead.

Here is a list of the prepatent periods (the time from ingestion of an oocyte to the production of new ones inside the rabbit)  for each of the above, and a graphic showing the location in the digestive tract where each species reproduces.

Click to enlarge

E stiedae       PP: 14 – 18 days

Sporulation: 3 days

Symptoms:    In mild cases of liver coccidiosis (this is the only species known to infect the liver) there may be no signs, but in more severe ones the animals lose their appetites and grow thin. There may be diarrhea, and the mucous membranes may be jaundiced. The disease is more severe in young animals than in old. It may be chronic, or death may occur in 21 to 30 days.

Some of the symptoms are due to interference with liver function. The liver may become really big, and white to yellowish bumps or strings appear in it. At first they are well defined…an obvious round bump for example, but later as they get larger and there are more of them, they are harder to tell one from the other. The enlarged bile ducts are filled with the developing parasites. Under a microscope,you will see a massive enlargement  of the bile duct epithelial cells. Instead of forming a simple, narrow tube, the epithelium is thrown into big, tree-like folds, and each of those epithelial cells contains a parasite.

E magna       PP: 6 – 8 days

Sporulation:  2 – 3 days

Symptoms:    The principal signs are loss of weight, lack of appetite and diarrhea. A good deal of mucus may be passed. The animals lose their appetites and grow thin. The intestinal lining has decreased blood flow and is inflamed, and epithelial sloughing may occur.

E irresidua    PP: 9 – 10 days

Sporulation: 2 – 2.5 days

Symptoms:    This is one of the more pathogenic of the intestinal coccidia of rabbits. This is a BAD one. It causes the usual signs of intestinal coccidiosis. The affected areas of the intestine have a decreased blood flow, there may be leaking of blood from the intestinal lining, and the epithelium may slough and become denuded.

E media         PP: 4.5 – 6 days

Sporulation: 2 days

Symptoms:    It may cause the usual outward signs of intestinal coccidiosis such as watery, blood streaked, or mucous-laden diarrhea. The affected parts of the intestinal lining may be swollen, with greyish spots.

E perforans  PP: 5 – 6 days

Sporulation: 2 days

Symptoms:    E. perforans is one of the least dangerous intestinal coccidia of rabbits, but it may still cause mild to moderate signs if the infection is heavy enough. The duodenum may be enlarged by edema (fluid in the tissues), sometimes chalky white in color; the jejunum and ileum may contain white spots and streaks, and there may be small areas of broken bloodvessels the cecum.

E flavescens            PP: 7 – 9 days

Sporulation: 4 days

Symptoms:    Often presents dually with E intestinalis, so symptoms and necropsy findings are similar.

E intestinalis            PP: 9 days

Sporulation: 2 days

Symptoms:    According to Pellerdy (1953, 1954), experimental infections with this species cause more or less severe intestinal inflammation and diarrhea, and may kill young rabbits. At necropsy, edema and greyish-white foci which may come together to form a, sticky, pus- like layer  in the intestine.

I’ve given you a LOT to think about and absorb, I know. In the next, and final part, I’m going to discuss various prevention and treatment protocols at some depth, using the most recent information I can get my hands on. I’ll include ways to clean and sanitize your rabbits environment, as well as specific products used to treat and prevent the parasite in rabbits.

In the mean time, what I’d like for you to do is carefully consider whether you would be willing to use medications, including antibiotics, to deal with this problem should is present in your rabbitry. There are of course advantages, and disadvantages, both ways so give it very careful consideration.

I’ll have Part Three available for you very soon!

Coccidiosis In Rabbits – Part One

Ok folks, it’s the elephant in the room. Coccidiosis. 

All rabbits are susceptible to it, no matter how they’re kept. Nobody is immune, no rabbit is exempt.

While there are certainly some housekeeping issues that can cause it to be a big, big issue unnecessarily, unless you have a magic rabbit that doesn’t poop the truth is you cannot eliminate every single possible exposure. And guess what…all rabbits eat their cecotropes so, BAM, exposure happens (here’s a curve ball though….cecotropes are NOT a source of coccidia infection in and of themselves). True story.

So, every body and their brother is talking about it. Search every rabbit forum you can find….social media groups, rabbit blogs, message boards, private websites like this one…go ahead, I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Now forget everything you just read.

Did you notice that SOMEBODY always blames coccidia when a rabbit is sick or dies? Yeah, me too. And frankly, I’m sick of seeing all the misinformation spread around with NOTHING to back it up!

Folks, if you take anything at all away from what I say here, make it this: DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.

Don’t just look for the comment with the most likes, or go with the majority rules theory.

So, yeah…don’t believe it because you see it on the internet. Like…this…which is, admittedly, very much on the internet LOL

The difference between that other stuff and what you will find HERE is research. Every single thing is first scientifically proven and documented, before I tested and have practically proven in my own rabbitry.

Another big difference, I won’t just tell you I dug up the research, I will give you the same current research I myself use. You don’t even HAVE to go find it.

So, onward and upward as they say. Part Two will be what you’re looking for. A detailed, thorough explanation of what coccidiosis IS, how it works, what treats and controls it, and I’ll even show you pictures!