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Californina Meat Pen Rabbit In Texas Summer Heat

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Californina Meat Pen Rabbit In Texas Summer Heat
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SUMMER  2009

It is getting really hot here in Texas and I am getting many emails and phone calls about the heat.  I will try and give some advice that I have learned through the years.
Remember if you are hot then the rabbits are much hotter.  They can not take off their fur coat.  Everyone tells you to make sure that they are in the shade.  This is okay when it is 88 degrees but when we get in the upper 90's it is a different ball game.  Please make sure that they never have the sun shine on them and that you keep ICE on them.
Breeding Rabbits in the Summer
If you do not have a place that is air conditioned I do not recommend that you try and have babies after June 1st.  It is not fair to your Does to put them in labor in this summer heat.  However, if you have to breed for your county fair during the summer then there are a few things that you can do to help with the heat.  Breed late at night and early in the morning.  Do not try and breed at lunch time, it will be to hard on the buck.  Make sure that you put ice bottles in with all the rabbits several times a day.  Make sure the rabbits hava a crock for water and put ice in this water several times a day.  Put Small animal eletrolytes in the water and this will help with the stress from the heat.  You should do this even if you have a climate controlled barn.  Put a wet berlap sack in the pen with them so they can have something cool to lie on.  Some people put mister on their rabbits but I warn you about too much moisture if you are in a climate where there is a lot of humidity.  However, use mist if it is a 100 degrees.
The nest box should have a very small wire bottom.  Do not use a solid bottom nest box.  For your nesting material use Aspen shavings without hay or just a pinch of hay.  This will allow the babies (kits) to lay on the top without getting as hot.  You will need a little fur but not very much.  If the Doe pulls alot of fur take it out.
If you notice that the Doe has her head up and is breathing very hard she is in heat stress and must be cooled off.  Many times her mouth may even be wet.  She is in a lot of trouble at this point.  You need to cool her off.  Mist her with a spray bottle, take her where it is cooler, and watch her close.  You may need to call for help.  This can be another experienced breeder or a vet.  Do not put her in a really cold room or you can throw her into shock.
Bucks can go sterile at 85 degrees.  At the least they start throwing smaller litters if they are not kept cooler.  You may say well that is okay with me but it is really hard on the doe if she only has 1 or 2 babies.  Younger bucks are less likely to go sterile.
The first two days after the kits are born are important to watch them in the nest box.  If one dies then you must get it out immediately.  If not it will make the rest of them die.  Nest boxes must be kept clean in the summer!!!!!
Raising a Meat Pen in the Summer Heat
This is a hard project in the summer put can be accomplished. 
It is best done in a climate controlled area that is well ventilated. The key is well ventilated.  Even if your area is climate controlled but not well ventilated you may not make it to the end of your project because of resporatory problems.
However, you can raise your pen outside.  Put them in the coolest place possible.  A fan will need to be run 24 hours a day blowing under them.  You will need to use a crock to put their water in and put ice in it several times a day.  It is best to put clean water in several times a day.  Ice bottles will need to be put in with them three to four times a day.
Getting them to eat and gain weight is sometimes a challenge.  Put a piece of sheetrock in with them and each time you go by their cage throw some of their feed on to that sheetrock.  They love raw oatmeal, each time you go by put some of the oatmeal on their feed.  This will get them to eat.  However, the feed is what will help them gain weight.
You will not want to mess with them much especially their ears.  They cool themself with their ears.  The rabbits born in summer will naturally have longer ears and we need them to stand up and not droop.  Most of this is genetics but some of it is from being played with while you have your project. 
Enclosed is a sample chart of what I think their weight gain should be like:
5 weeks  -  2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds
6 weeks  -  2 1/2 to 3 pounds
7 weeks  -  3 to 3 1/2 pounds
8 weeks  -  3 1/2 to 3 3/4 pounds
9 weeks  -  3 3/4 to 4 1/4 pounds
10 weeks -  4 1/4 to 5 pounds
Rabbits can gain up to 2 ounces a day especially in the winter.  In the summer they are more likely to gain 1 to 1 1/2 ounces a day.
If they are not gaining at this rate you should contact someone if you have not done a meatpen in the past .
A few tips to get them to gain:
Change feed
Calf Mana
Water in a crock
Feed them on sheetrock
A special tip - If you weigh them and their weight fluctuates do not change their cages.  This will even slow them down more as they adjust to the new cage.
I must go now  ----  but I will put more on later.
Pam Heaton

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