Hello! If you think you are interested in raising rabbits, I just want you to know that it is a very rewarding hobby, and I love it. Here are some basics I have learned while raising rabbits!
1.It costs just as much to feed BAD rabbits as it does to feed AMAZING rabbits!
2. Breed ONLY HEALTHY alert rabbits
3. Do not breed rabbits under 6 months old.
4. Take the doe to the bucks cage when breeding. Recorded the date bred, so on the 28 day after conception you can add a nest box.
5. After the babies the babies are born, give your doe a treat, and count how many kits are in the nest box. I have never had a doe kill her babies if the owner touches them, but I wouldn't recommend letting anyone else touch them until they are out of the nest box.
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Here are some rabbit terms you will need to know when creating your rabbitry:
A color where hair shaft has three bands of color
|ARBA||American Rabbit Breeders Association http://www.arba.net/ Join this site if you are really serious about rabbit raising :)|
|Base Color||The fur color closest to the skin|
|BIS||Best in Show. (A rabbit show award) The best rabbit at a particular rabbit show for that day.|
|BOB||Best of breed. (A rabbit show award.) Denotes the best of a particular breed that day.|
|BOS||Best opposite sex. (A rabbit show award.) Denotes the best rabbit (opposite sex of BOB)|
|BOV||Best of variety. (A rabbit show award.)|
|BOSV||Best opposite sex of variety. ( A rabbit show award.)|
|BRIS||Best reserve in show (A rabbit show award.) Second to the Best In show (BIS)|
|Breeder||Someone who strives to breed good quality rabbits to the Standard Book of Perfection|
|Broken Color||A Broken rabbit is a rabbit is any variety of color and white|
|Charlie||Very light colored broken rabbit-these rabbits are not show able, but can be used for breeding if paired with a good colored broken doe/buck|
|Condition||The overall state of your rabbit based on health, grooming, and care|
|Culling||This is when you pick the best rabbits in each litter and "get rid" of the bad ones by selling them as pets.|
|Convention||The national rabbit show held by ARBA and sponsored by a local rabbit club for all breeds usually held in the fall.|
|Crossbreeding||Breeding 2 rabbits of different breeds. Thus makina non showable rabbits.|
|Dam||The mother of a rabbit|
|Dewlap||Flap of sking under a doe's chin. Used when the doe pulls fur to make a nest before giving birth.|
|DQ||Disqualification. One or more permanent defects, deformities, or blemishes that make a rabbit unfit to win an award in competition or to take part in an exhibition. (Disqualified rabbits are not eligible for registration by the ARBA)|
|Fault||Conditions or characteristics that are unacceptable and will result in lower show placing but not disqualification. Examples: broken toenails, cheek spots to large, and poor tail carriage.|
|Flabby||Basically an udesirable fat rabbit|
|Gestation||The time between conception and birth of the kits. A rabbits gestation is 28-34 days (Most commonly on the 31st day)|
|Grand Champion||A rabbit that has earned three or more legs, at least one of them being a senior leg, under at least two different judges. To obtain a grand champion number and certificate, the legs must be submitted with a fee to ARBA.|
|Inbreeding||The breeding of closely related relatives (brother and sister)|
|Junior||A show class term referring to rabbits that are under 6 months of age and that fulfill the weight requirements of the breed.|
|Kindling||The birth and raising of rabbits by the mother|
|Litter||Group of kits born at the same time to the same mother|
|Leg||(rabbit show term) a leg is earned by winning in an ARBA-sanctioned show as long as there are three exhibitors and five rabbits competing for the win. For example, first place in a class of five or more bunnies showed by three or more different exhibitors would earn a leg. For classes without enough exhibitors and/or bunnies, it may be possible to earn a leg by winning BOSV, BOV, BOS, or BOB. A rabbit may only earn one leg per judging.|
|Molting||The process when rabbits loose their fur and grow new coat|
|Nest Box||This is a box you must put in for the mother to have her babies in. The litter will stay in this box for a few weeks, until they are ready to venture out|
|Pair||A buck and doe bought together for breeding purposes.|
|Palpating||A method of determining if a doe is pregnant|
|Pedigree||A written document of a rabbits ancestry, going back at least 3 generations. Also included in the pedigree should be the rabbits date of birth, color, weight, winnings, and registration number..|
|Purebred||A rabbit that has the same breed of ancestors going back at least 3 generations|
|Rabbitry||A rabbit farm|
|Senior||(A show class term) Rabbits 6 months of age and older in those breeds having two show classes (Junior and Senior) or 8 months of age and older in those breeds having three show classes (Junior, Intermediate, and Senior).|
|Sire||The father of a rabbit|
|Solid||These refers to rabbits that have the same uniform color throught the body.|
|Stand of Perfection||A book that is published every 5 years by the ARBA. It describes the perfect rabbit for each breed.|
|Tattoo||A permanent identification of a certain rabbit. It must be in the LEFT EAR. A rabbitry may choose any numbers/letters they wish to make the tattoo. A rabbit must have a tattoo to be show able.|
|Trio||1 buck and 2 does bought from the same place usually for breeding|
|Variety||A division of breed determined by color|
|Weaning||This is the process of taking the babies away from their mothers at the age of 8 weeks.|
Have a reason for breeding
Know why you are breeding! Not because you want cute babies (though this is a plus). If you are a fancy breeder, you should strive to breed your rabbits according the to ARBA Standard of Perfection book. Even if you are breeding meat for your own table, the better quality the rabbit, the more meat and better it will taste.
Picking a Breed
This is one of the first steps in rabbit raising-picking a breed! I know it doesn't sound to hard, but there are many great, fun breeds out there. I would greatly recommend you start with 1 or 2 breeds and become and expert in them. Rather than buying many breeds and knowing little about them. This will help you do better and shows, and hopefully get more customers if you are knowledgeable about your breed.
The first thing you want to do is ask yourself what you want to breed for. Are you striving for meat, show, pet, or laboratory rabbits?
Ideal meat rabbits: Medium-weight rabbits (about 9-12 pounds) are great meat pen rabbits. New Zealand Whites, Californians, Satins, Palominos, and Champagne D'Argents fall into this category. Meat producers prefer this group of rabbits because of their meaty, fine-boned fryer weighing at least 4 pounds by 8 weeks of age.
Small rabbits: Mini Lops, Tans, Florida White, and the Dutch can be called small rabbits. The weigh from about 4 to 7 pounds fully grown. These breeds are popular for show as well as pets!
Dwarfs: Dwarf rabbits weight only 2 to 4 pounds when they are mature. Netherlands Dwarf, Polish, Holland Lop, American Fuzzy Lop, Jersey Wooly, and the Mini Rex are a few examples of Dwarf breeds. These rabbits are very popular as pets. If you have limited space to raise your rabbits, dwarfs may be right for you!
Finding a market for your breed:
Before you finalize the breed you want to raise, consider finding a market for your breed. Most breeds can serve more than one purpose.
Meat, Breeding Stock, and pets are the major uses of rabbits. Laboratory use is also a rabbit market.
The Pet Market: Selling pets should be considered only in a small amount. The sale of pets is below what you could be earning in the other markets. If you are thinking of selling to pet stores only, you may want to reconsider. Pet stores are in high demand for just-weaned baby bunnies for a low price. Easter is usually the hot market for baby rabbits. Although this may sound promising, many families will buy Easter rabbits for their children only to realize that they don't want them, and they will be let go or put in a shelter. I recommend that the sale of pets should be used as a backup-Sell the rabbits that aren't good breeding stock as pets!
The Meat Market: More people are raising rabbits for meat every day.You could sell your rabbits live to a processor, or even slaughter them to sell directly to a customer, or for your own use. If you have decided to breed for meat, consider finding a processor in your area and asking him what they require. They may prefer a certain breed, or a certain color or variety. If they don't have a preference, they may have a weight range. Make sure you pick a breed that agrees with this policy.
Breeding Stock market: This should easily be one of your main markets. The sale of brood stock to customers who want to start breeding! I save my best rabbits from the litters and keep them for brood stock. You can get a much higher price for them than if you sold them as meat or pets. Many people will and should pay a higher price for a better rabbit. If you are a small raiser, you should concentrate on sales of breeding stock. Cull all the rabbits that don't meet your show requirements.
Finding the right breeder
Now that you've found a breed you want to raise, you have to find a good breeder to obtain brood stock from. Purebred stock is going to help you raise rabbits the right way! Don't go to a pet store and pick out the cute bunnies. You need show-able, purebred, reliable breeding stock to start you out right.
You want to find a breeder that knows what they are talking about, and wins on the show table. If he is a consistent winner, then you may be on the right track. You also want to ask the breeder you are considering if they keep close track of pedigrees and records. They should also be active in ARBA or 4-H. Breeders that want to show off their stock will go to as many shows possible, so this is a good place to look for breeders. Obtain a list of ARBA shows (http://www.arba.com/) and choose one to go to. You can talk to breeders and get a feel for showing rabbits, if this is what you are interested in doing! A good breeder will sell you good stock, and will stand behind it. They should gaurantee that the rabbits they sell will win, or breed better than themselves. You shouldn't expect the breeder to sell you their best rabbits, but you should expect nice young rabbits that have a potential to win on the show table.
http://www.arba.com/ also has a list of good breeders on their site.
What you should pay for purebreds
Here is a table of the Average Breeding Stock Prices in 2000 that I found in "Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits" by Bob Bennett. This is a great book to buy if you are interested in rabbits!
|Breed||Jrs.Avg. $||Sr.s Avg. $||Breed||Jrs. Avg. $||Srs. Avg. $|
|A. Fuzzy Lop||33||62||Holland Lop||38||51|
|French Angora||27||51||Jersey Wooly||26||56|
|Satin Angora||35||75||Mini Lop||19||41|
|Britannia Petite||73||73||Mini Rex||22||32|
|Champagne D'Argent||10||25||Netherland Dwarf||37||54|
|Checkered Giant||15||20||New Zealand Black||37||30|
|Chinchilla (American)||10||25||New Zealand Red||34||65|
|Chinchilla (Standard)||15||43||New Zealand White||25||45|
|French Lop||16||29||Silver Fox||25||45|
Overall Junior Average: $30. Overall Senior Average: $55
Note: This survey, which I have conducted annually for about 15 years, included an average price of:
$16 received for pet rabbits for all breeds
$1.25 per pound live weight
$2.65 per pound of dressed weight
$6.24 per rabbit sol as reptile food
Housing your rabbits
The right housing and equipment will valuable in your success with rabbits. I recommend the all-wire hutch, with trays underneath. These cages are easy to clean, and don't get dirty easily. They are also more economical and time saving. If you are planning to have many rabbits, or have a small space to house them, you should look into stacked or hanging cages. These save precious space in your barn/shed/garage for more rabbits!
The only other things your rabbits may need are crocks, waterers, and nest boxes for the females. You can use many things for a food dish, but I have found J-feeders and Crocks to be most useful. For water, water bottles and dishes can be used. I use E-Z crocks, because they are much easier to clean than water bottles. Also, if they water freezes in the winter, it won't break the E-Z crock like it could break a ceramic crock.
Feeding your rabbits
You do not need to worry about making sure your rabbit gets all the nutrition it needs-rabbit pellets do it for you! I have found Purina and Kent show quality feed are best for my rabbits, and provide the proper nutrition I find necessary.
How much food should your rabbit eat? Well, that depends on the rabbit. I feed my 6pound Mini Lops 1/3 of a cup day and night. My 4 pound Holland Lop gets an overflowing 1/4 cup day and night. And yet my 9 pound Californians get 1/2 cup day and night. It really depends on the breed, and the rabbit. A few of my Californians need more than 1 cup a day, so I give them more. You don't want your rabbit to be overfed or underfed, because they will be less likely to breed when it comes time.
Does with litters should be given as much food as they want!
Newly weaned rabbits should also be given unlimited pellets until they are about 4 months of age.
Mating your first rabbits
Small Breeds: Bucks and Does should be at least 5 months old
Medium Breeds: Bucks and does should be at least 6 months of age.
Giant Breeds: Bucks and Does should be at least 8 months of age.
*You should breed your rabbits after they are 6 months old but before they are about 2 years old, or the strain of having a first litter at these young and old ages will be to much for them.
You want to pick a pair that will compliment each other. If you are striving for a champion show rabbit, focus on things like depth. For exampled: If you doe peaks to early on her rise, then you need to find a buck a good rise over his midsection and full hindquarters. If you have a buck with poor balance, find a doe that has been complemented on her balance quality!
Always make sure both your buck and doe are healthy before mating! Take the doe to the bucks cage!! I leave the rabbits in together for about and hour just to be certain, but many breeders will tell you 15 minutes is enough time for them to mate. If everything goes as planned, the buck will mount the doe. If the doe has been serviced the buck will fall backward or onto his side.
8-10 hours later, you should put the doe back in with the buck just to make sure she is pregnant.
Nothing is happening?
I have had both bucks and does that are not interested in each other. First make sure they are both old enough. If the buck is not interested, try another. (if you have one) If you only have one buck, try leaving the doe in the bucks cage, and putting the buck in the does cage. He should pick up her scent and be more willing the next day. If that doesn't work, try mating them before you feed them. Also make sure neither of them are overweight.
If the doe is unwilling, which is much more common leave her in the bucks cage overnight. She should get his scent and hopefully be willing. Sometimes if the buck is willing and the doe is not, you should restrain the doe for forced mating. Place her hindquarters in the bucks cage, and push her hindquarters up with your hand under her belly. The buck will mount her and hopefully the process will be complete!
Is my doe pregnant?
To be sure if your doe is pregnant, you can palpate your doe about 10-14 days after mating. Some breeders will tell you to put the doe back in with the buck and see if she refuses him, but sometimes the doe will accept the buck even if she is pregnant. She may also refuse the doe even if she not pregnant. The best way is to use palpation. By the 10-14th day, the babies in the does stomach will feel like large marbles. Feel the doe on either side of the center of her belly. You should be able to feel balls about the size of marbles. If this is your first time palpating, don't assume she is not pregnant the first time you try it. Palpating takes lots of practice!
Also, when it starts getting close to the time when she will have her babies (or kindle) she will start carrying straw around in her mouth. This is also a big clue that she is in fact pregnant!
The gestation period of a rabbit is 28-34, with most litters commonly born on the 31st day. On the 28th day, you need to put in the nest box. Fill the box (wooden or metal) with straw. I put a layer of sawdust at the bottom, and then cover the rest with hay and straw. Make a small hole with your fist in the center of the box. The doe may very well use this to have her babies, or she may rearrange the box to her likings!
I have had does take everything out of the nest box and make their own nest on the floor of their cage. If this is the case, try putting 2 or even three nest boxes in her cage for her to choose from. This way she will have to choose one instead of having them on the floor.
So your doe has successfully kindled a litter of rabbits! Now is the time to take a small treat ( a carrot perhaps) to your doe. While she is eating, take the nest box out of the cage and count the babies. Make sure there are not dead kits, and if there are, remove them. When you are done, put the box back into the cage. Repeat this daily to make sure the babies are all growing well!
*Rabbits only feed their young once or twice a day, so it is fine if you remove the box to check on the kits throughout the day.*