Hollands and Summertime

by Dwayne Neal, NY

After such a long, hot and dry summer here in the Northeast last year where we had trouble keeping our rabbits comfortable from the extreme heat, it's hard to believe that we're already heading into another one! Yes, if things continue, this promises to be another warm summer with the added effect of extra humidity, which seems to be particularly heavy this year so far. The problem this creates is that not only are your Hollands stressed by the heat, but the extra humidity seems to only add to respiratory problems. I've had several breeders report to me that they have had a very difficult time being able to get the heavy air to flow and circulate as much as they would like. This heavier air slowing the air movement keeps the ammonia (from the liquid waste) trapped, thus setting the stage for your rabbits to breathe more of it and damage their lungs. What happens? You get rabbits with cold symptoms that eventually will have to be culled. So, here are a few recommendations.

Maximize the Air Flow - Just as in the winter where it isn't so much the cold that the rabbits can't take as it is the wind, it isn't so much the heat as it is the lack of an airflow that the rabbits can't live without. Anything that you can do to maximize the airflow in your rabbitry will help immensely. Of course, starting out with a rabbitry that is under the shade of trees (as is mine) is a great start. Simply get a sufficient number of fans to get the air moving, which not only allows your bunnies to use their ears to help them cool down, but also keeps those nasty and dangerous odors from getting trapped where they can cause some real respiratory problems. How many fans is enough? Well, it depends on how much natural venting you have in your building and how powerful your fans are. The test is to turn them on and then walk around the building. If you feel the air flow near all of the cages, so will the rabbits!

Donít Overly Pamper  - As much as we love our babies, I often tell people to not go overboard. What I mean by this is that if you are providing an appropriate and satisfactory environment for your rabbits and you still end up with an occasional sick one, don't go bonkers! This is just part of the process where you need to do some culling. After all, you don't want genetics that are weak. Overly pampering will only foster the development of a line of genetics in this situation where the animals cannot tolerate a little bit of heat stress. I write this because I have heard of people using air conditioning where it wasn't really needed and/or constantly providing frozen containers for the animals to rest on during the summer! Are these things warranted sometimes in extreme cases? Yes they are, but should not be done all the time. It only creates a crutch and keeps you from developing the best line that you can.

The Hollander / Summer Issue - August 2000