care & science

Overview

Below are tips covered for rabbit raising (whether for show, pet, meat, or wool purposes), housing, feeding, grooming, behavior, tattooing, and understanding pedigrees. Rabbits can be rather complicated animals that require special care, however, they can make wonderful companions. They provide a multitude of uses making for a wide range of hobbies.

Rabbits can live to around 10 years, so they are a commitment for anyone that shares their life with them.

 

By following the correct and essential information, owners can ensure the proper care and comfort of their rabbits. Many misconceptions abound when it comes to knowledge of proper rabbit care-stemmed by the unrealistic stories and cartoons the public encounters. The following articles provide you with the facts and give you options to choose what best fits the individual lifestyle and needs of both you and your rabbit. The exciting aspect of the rabbit world is that you're constantly learning. You can be a top show breeder with thirty years experience and still bring home new information. Techniques, veterinary sciences, and research are constantly expanding and changing. What may have been a common practice one year, may be outdated by a more productive method five years later. If you're not open to accepting new and changing information, this hobby may not be for you.

 

Why own rabbits?

 

People have been keeping rabbits for over two millennia now. This method of keeping rabbits is called "cuniculture". Rabbits were first kept and bred by the Romans. The rabbits were a small, easy to keep, and portable meat that could be kept in a small cage. This made rabbits an essential and simple meal to acquire and transport for the army. Later on, Europeans started to raise rabbits for their own tables. Rabbit warrens were the earliest form of keeping rabbits. People would fence off a few acres of land in which a wild population of rabbits were living and had made burrows. These rabbits could then live in their natural habitat among other rabbits without the fear of predators and be provided with extra food from people. Later on, these warrens would be dived up with more fencing to separate rabbits that would be used for breeding and those used for meat. The true domestication of rabbits began in 600CE with Pope Gregory the Great. He issued the papal eddict which set forth the idea that rabbits were not to be classified as meat in order to allow monks to consume unborn and hairless rabbits on lent. The monks kept their rabbits in rabbit courts. These courts were much like warrens, but on a smaller scale in order to control genetic traits such as health and tameness. Monks would keep and breed certain rabbits not only for consumption but for their friendliness. The use of cages and pens then comes into the picture to separate and have further control of breedings. Later on rabbits were kept on Rabbit islands to study the effects of total confinement and interbreeding. Rabbits have been and are still also raised on rabbit islands where they have free roam like a warren set up. Scientists keep rabbits in these unfenced and naturally protected environments for research reasons.  Many European meat breeders use a combination of underground and outside cage/colony systems that seem to greatly increase the happiness and financial status of the animals. Today, thanks to the monks (particularly in France), rabbits are now successfully kept as both companion and meat animals.

There are a number of different reasons as to why people own and raise rabbits. Rabbits can offer quite a lot, from their affectionate and social personalities to the products they produce such as meat, fur, wool, and bi-products like fertilizer. Generally, rabbit people are classified into two groups-Pet owners and Breeders.

No matter what reason you choose to raise rabbits for, it should be a reason that best fits you, your rabbits, your ideals, and your lifestyle.

Whether for the breeder or the pet owner, rabbits make wonderful companion animals. Owning a rabbit is a 10 or more year commitment, but with the right education, having one around could be one of the most rewarding decisions you'll ever make.

 

Rabbits can provide a multitude of uses. To the average American homesteader, they are the ideal asset to maintain a highly efficient and economically productive living. 

 

Reasons for Owning Rabbits:

  • Pets: Pet owners usually keep rabbits for enjoyment, companionship, and sometimes use their rabbits in shows or agility competitions.  Show jumping and agility events are becoming a very popular and fun pass time for pet rabbits and their owners.  Pet rabbits can be trained to do tricks, to use the litter box, and bond with other household pets.  Both rabbits and owners can greatly benefit from living a life together and will form a strong connection. House rabbits act much like dogs, in that they enjoy running around the home, gaining attention through treats, and snuggling up on the couch or bed to watch TV. They are perfect to keep in single family homes or apartments as they are small and quiet. Sometimes they can be destructive by chewing wires or wooden furniture, but with the right training and prevention, rabbits can make wonderful household pets. 

  • Fancy: A breeder who produces rabbits strictly for show is called a fancier. They strive to perfect a certain breed-to make it healthier, stronger, friendlier, and stand up to the breed standard. They take their rabbits to various shows every year to be judged against other rabbits of the same breed. Rabbit showing can be a fun, challenging, and an enjoyably competitive hobby. Some fancy breeders and pet owners partake in competitive rabbit jumping/agility events.

  • Wool and Fur: Other breeders raise rabbits for their fur. Wooly breeds like angoras produce wool which can be collected after each molt and sheared 2-3 times a years and hand spun into things like sweaters, scarves, and gloves. Raising angora rabbits for their wool is much more cost effective and space saving than raising goats, sheep, or alpacas. Angora fiber is also 7 times warmer than sheep's' wool and it has a very fine soft texture, which makes it more comfortable to wear. A large German angora rabbit can produce about 4lbs of raw spin-able fiber a year, and about 3lbs of seconds which can be used as felt. You can make a small profit with your wool hobby; the current price for angora fiber is about $8 an ounce, and if it's handspun fiber, you can get as much as $20 an ounce. The fur from rex breeds is very thick and plush and can be harvested after butchering to make into coats, pillows, blankets, hats, and mittens. You can easily tan the hides at home and create your own craft project with the fur or homemade rawhides for your pet dog. If you raise white rabbits (such as new zealands) you can easily dye their pelts into a rainbow of fun and different colors after butcher.

  • Commercial: A small handful of breeders produce large amounts of rabbits on factory farms for things like laboratory research, commercial meat, and furs. Factory farming is a very controversial way of raising animals because in most cases, these animals are usually not provided a very respectable, healthy, ethical, or comfortable way of living.

  • Fertilizer: Whatever the reason for which a person chooses to breed rabbits, many breeders take advantage of rabbit manure. It's a very cheap and quick way to make nutrient rich fertilizer for vegetable gardens. It's high in nitrogen and is non-burning.  The nitrogen content found in rabbit manure is 2.4%, the phosphorus content is 1.4%, and the potassium content is 0.6%. There are also trace elements of calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper, and cobalt in it.  You can also raise some very healthy and fat earthworms in rabbit manure to use and sell for fishing.  This is termed as Vermicomposting, or worm beds.

  • Meat: Rabbit meat is a white meat. According to the FDA, rabbit is far healthier than beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, duck, or veal. It is high in protein and vitamin B, and is very low in calories (about 795 per lb) and has hardly any fat. You can get about the same amount of protein in a six-ounce piece of rabbit as a twelve-ounce piece of chicken. Rabbit meat is also very easy to digest, making it perfect for people with digestive or heart disorders. It’s easy to prepare and can be made into nearly any dish as chicken can be made into.  Rabbits are not only much cheaper than cows, goats, pigs, chickens, etc to feed and raise, but they also produce less toxic waste making them better for the environment and they take up far less space to produce. Raising your own meat rabbits is very cost effective-you can save hundreds of dollars a year by not having to purchase meat at the store for both your family and your pets. Your meat rabbits can help pay for themselves by providing excellent fertilizer for your garden which can grow at least 50% of the food your rabbits will consume-that in turn will save you money from buying a lot of feed-and you'll get a great organic garden out of the deal as well-again saving you money from buying at the grocery store. A rabbit will produce 6lbs of meat on the same amount and type of feed and water as a cow - which will produce 1lb of meat.  The office of Home Economics and the State Regulations of the US Department of Agriculture have made extensive test and have concluded that rabbit meat is by far the healthiest meat for human consumption. Rabbit meat is also very popular as part of a RAW or BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food)  diet for dogs and cats (learn more about RAW/BARF diets on this website:  http://www.barfworld.com/ ). The raising of rabbits for human consumption is very popular among all continents and many cultures around the world. Many fine restaurants offer "lapin" on their menu.  Americans however, are still having a hard time grasping this fact. Most Americans view rabbits strictly as cute cuddly pets. The American people are now so severely disconnected from the fact of where their food comes, thanks to vastly improving modern grocery conveniences, they have no connection to survival. It wasn't all too long ago, that our very relatives and the pioneers that formed this country relied heavily on rabbit meat as sustenance. At one point in American history, rabbit a staple of the American diet at one time. The rabbit meat helped sustain the European transplants who migrated west across the frontier. During World War II, eating rabbit was promoted as an act of patriotism akin to growing a victory garden. But as small farms gave way to large-scale operations, rabbit meat's popularity melted away and other meats took over.  In most places in the United States, you cannot sell home-raised rabbit meat to commercial establishments such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc. You must meet the requirements for local and state health codes and have the rabbits butchered at a specifically authorized processing facility. You can check with your local county agent or state inspection agency to acquire a state issued license and find where the nearest processing plant is (or create your own) in order to provide rabbit meat to the public.

  • Laboratory: Rabbits, controversially, make excellent lab subjects. Because of their low care needs, high production rates, short gestation, and sensitivity to changes, they are a great asset to scientific and pharmaceutical studies of advancement and discovery.

 

Rabbit Genome Analysis

According to a recent 2014 study published in Science magazine:

"Domestication of animals (that is, the evolution of wild species into tame forms) has resulted in notable changes in behavior, morphology, physiology, and reproduction. The genetic underpinnings of the initial steps of animal domestication are poorly understood but probably involved changes in behavior that allowed the animals to survive and reproduce under conditions that might be too stressful for wild animals. Given the differences in behavior between wild and domesticated animals, we investigated to what extent this process involved fixation of new mutations with large phenotypic effects, as opposed to selection on standing variation. Such studies are hampered in most domestic animals due to ancient domestication events, extinct wild ancestors, or geographically widespread wild ancestors.

Rabbit domestication was initiated in monasteries in southern France as recently as ~1400 years ago. At this time, wild rabbits were mostly restricted to the Iberian Peninsula, where two subspecies occurred (Oryctolagus cuniculus cuniculus and O. c. algirus), and to France, colonized by O. c. cuniculus . Additionally, the area of origin of domestic rabbits is still populated with wild rabbits related to the ancestors of the domestic rabbit. This recent and well-defined origin provides a major advantage for inferring genetic changes underlying domestication.

. The French (FRW1 to FRW3) and Iberian (IW1 to IW11) wild rabbit populations are ordered according to a northeast-to-southwest transection.

We performed Sanger sequencing and assembly of a female rabbit genome. The draft OryCun2.0 assembly size is 2.66 Gb, with a contig N50 size of 64.7 kb and a scaffold N50 size of 35.9 Mb. The genome assembly was annotated using the Ensembl gene annotation pipeline (Ensembl release 73, September 2013) and with both rabbit RNA sequencing data and the annotation of human orthologs. Our analysis of rabbit domestication used Ensembl annotations as well as a custom pipeline for annotation of untranslated regions (UTRs) (168,286 distinct features), noncoding RNA (n = 9666), and noncoding conserved elements (2,518,476 distinct features).

To identify genomic regions under selection during domestication, we performed whole-genome resequencing (10× coverage) of pooled samples  of six different breeds of domestic rabbits , 3 pools of wild rabbits from southern France, and 11 pools of wild rabbits from the Iberian Peninsula, representing both subspecies. We also sequenced a close relative, the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), to deduce the ancestral state at polymorphic sites. Short sequence reads were aligned to our assembly; single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) calling resulted in the identification of 50 million high-quality SNPs and 5.6 million insertion/deletion polymorphisms after filtering. The numbers of SNPs at noncoding conserved sites and in coding sequences were 719,911 and 154,489, respectively. The per-site nucleotide diversity (π) within populations of wild rabbits was in the range of 0.6 to 0.9%. Thus, the rabbit is one of the most polymorphic mammals sequenced so far, presumably due to a larger long-term effective population size relative to other sequenced mammals (5). Identity scores confirm that the domestic rabbit is most closely related to wild rabbits from southern France, and we inferred a strong correlation (r = 0.94) in allele frequencies at most loci between these groups (fig. S1B). The average nucleotide diversity of each sequenced population is consistent with a bottleneck and reduction in genetic diversity when rabbits from the Iberian Peninsula colonized southern France and a second bottleneck during domestication.

Selective sweeps occur when beneficial genetic variants increase in frequency due to positive selection together with linked neutral sequence variants. This results in genomic islands of reduced heterozygosity and increased differentiation between populations around the selected site. We compared genetic diversity between domestic rabbits as one group to wild rabbits representing 14 different locations in France and the Iberian Peninsula. We calculated fixation index (FST) values between wild and domestic rabbits and average pooled heterozygosity (H) in domestic rabbits in 50-kb sliding windows across the genome (hereafter referred to as the FST-H outlier approach). We identified 78 outliers with FST > 0.35 and H < 0.05. We also used SweepFinder (7), which calculates maximum composite likelihoods for the presence of a selective sweep, taking into account the background pattern of genetic variation in the data and with a significance threshold set by coalescent simulations incorporating the recent demographic history of domestic and wild rabbits (figs. S3 and S4 and databases S1 and S2) ). This analysis resulted in the identification of 78 significant sweeps (false discovery rate = 5%) (Fig. 2A, database S1). Thirty-one (40%) of these were also detected with the FST-H approach. This incomplete overlap is probably explained by the fact that SweepFinder primarily assesses the distribution of genetic diversity within the selected population, whereas the FST-H analysis identifies the most differentiated regions of the genome between wild and domestic rabbits. We carried out an additional screen using targeted sequence capture on an independent sample of individual French wild and domestic rabbits. We targeted more than 6 Mb of DNA sequence split into 5000 1.2-kb intronic fragments that were distributed across the genome and selected independently of the genome resequencing results above. Coalescent simulations, using the targeted resequencing data set and incorporating the recent demographic history of domestic rabbit as a null model (figs. S3 and S4 and databases S1 and S2), revealed that the majority of the sweep regions detected by whole-genome resequencing showed levels and patterns of genetic variation that were observed less than 5% of the time in the simulated data set (76.0% with SweepFinder and 73.7% with FST-H outlier regions, excluding regions without targeted fragments), a highly significant overlap (Fisher’s exact test, P < 1 × 10–5 for both tests). Furthermore, 26 of the 31 sweep regions detected with both SweepFinder and the FST-H approach were targeted in the capture experiment, and an even greater proportion (88.5%) showed levels and patterns of genetic variation unlikely to be generated under the specified demographic model.

 

​​​

 

Selective sweep and  allele frequency analyses.

(A) Plot of FST values between wild and domestic rabbits. Sweeps detected with the FST-H outlier approach, SweepFinder, and their overlaps are marked on top. Unassigned scaffolds were not included in the analysis. (B and C) Selective sweeps at GRIK2 (B) and SOX2 (C). Heterozygosity plots for wild (red) and domestic (black) rabbits together with plots of FST values and SNPs with ΔAF > 0.75 (HΔAF). The bottom panels show putative sweep regions, detected with the FST-H outlier approach and SweepFinder, marked with horizontal bars. Gene annotations in sweep regions are indicated: * represents ENSOCUT000000; **SOX2-OT represents the manually annotated SOX2 overlapping transcript . (D) The majority of SNPs showed low ΔAF between wild and domestic rabbits. The black line indicates the number of SNPs in nonoverlapping ΔAF bins (left y axis). Colored lines denote M values (log2-fold changes) of the relative frequencies of SNPs at noncoding evolutionary conserved sites (blue), in UTRs (red), exons (yellow), and introns (green), according to ΔAF bins (right y axis). M values were calculated by comparing the frequency of SNPs in a given annotation category in a specific bin with the corresponding frequency across all bins. (E) Location of SNPs at conserved noncoding sites with ΔAF ≥ 0.8 SNPs (n = 1635) and ΔAF < 0.8 SNPs (n = 502,343) in relation to the TSS of the most closely linked gene. **P < 0.01.

An example of a selective sweep overlapping the 3′-part of GRIK2 (glutamate receptor, ionotropic, kainate 2). Parts of this region have low heterozygosity in domestic rabbits, and at position chr12:90,153,383 base pairs, domestic rabbits carry a nearly fixed derived allele at a site with 100% sequence conservation among 29 mammals except for the allele present in domestic rabbits (8), suggesting functional importance. GRIK2 encodes a subunit of a glutamate receptor that is highly expressed in the brain and has been associated with recessive mental retardation in humans. Both SweepFinder and the FST-H outlier analysis identified two sweeps near SOX2 (SRY-BOX 2), separated by a region of high heterozygosity. SOX2 encodes a transcription factor that is required for stem cell maintenance (10).

Given the comprehensive sampling in our study and the correlation in allele frequencies between domestic and French wild rabbits (fig. S1B), highly differentiated individual SNPs are likely either to have been directly targeted by selection or to occur in the vicinity of loci under selection. For each SNP, we calculated the absolute allele frequency difference between wild and domestic rabbits (ΔAF) and sorted these into 5% bins (ΔAF = 0 to 0.05, etc.). The majority of SNPs showed low ΔAF between wild and domestic rabbits . We examined exons, introns, UTRs, and evolutionarily conserved sites for enrichment of SNPs with high ΔAF, as would be expected under directional selection on many independent mutations. We observed no consistent enrichment for high ΔAF SNPs in introns, but we found significant enrichments in exons, UTRs, and conserved noncoding sites (χ2 test, P < 0.05). We detected a significant excess of SNPs at conserved noncoding sites for each bin ΔAF > 0.45 (χ2test, P = 1.8 × 10–3 to 7.3 × 10–17), whereas in coding sequence, a significant excess was found only at ΔAF > 0.80 (χ2 test, P = 3.0 × 10–2 to 1.0 × 10–3). Compared to the relative proportions in the entire data set, there was an excess of 3000 SNPs at conserved noncoding sites with ΔAF > 0.45, whereas for exonic SNPs with ΔAF > 0.80, the excess was only 83 SNPs (table S6). Thus, changes at regulatory sites have played a much more prominent role in rabbit domestication, at least numerically, than changes in coding sequences.

We selected the 1635 SNPs at conserved noncoding sites with ΔAF > 0.80, which represent 681 nonoverlapping 1-Mb blocks of the rabbit genome. So as not to inflate significances due to inclusion of SNPs in strong linkage disequilibrium, we selected only one SNP per 50 kb, leaving 1071 SNPs. More than 60% of the SNPs were located 50 kb or more from the closest transcriptional start site (TSS), suggesting that many differentiated SNPs are located in long-range regulatory elements. A gene ontology (GO) overrepresentation analysis examining all genes located within 1 Mb from high-ΔAF SNPs showed that the most enriched categories of biological processes involved “cell fate commitment” (Bonferroni P = 3.1 × 10–3to 5.4 × 10–5) , whereas the statistically most significant categories involved brain and nervous system cell development (Bonferroni P = 2.9 × 10–3 to 3.7 × 10–10). Many of the mouse orthologs of genes associated with noncoding high-ΔAF SNPs were expressed in the brain or sensory organs, and this enrichment was highly significant . We also examined phenotypes observed in mouse mutants (www.informatics.jax.org) for these genes, revealing a significant (Bonferroni P = 3.7 × 10–2 to 7.5 × 10–17) enrichment of genes associated with defects in brain and neuronal development, development of sensory organs (hearing and vision), ectoderm development, and respiratory system phenotypes (fig. S5). These highly significant overrepresentations were obtained because there were many genes in the overrepresented categories . For example, we observed high-ΔAF SNPs associated with 191 genes (113 expected by chance) from the nervous system–development GO category (Bonferroni P = 3.7 × 10–10). Thus, rabbit domestication must have a highly polygenic basis with many loci responding to selection and where genes affecting brain and neuronal development have been particularly targeted.

Table 1 Summary of results from enrichment analysis of ΔAF > 0.8 SNPs located in conserved noncoding elements.

One significantly enriched term was chosen from each group of significantly enriched intercorrelated terms. Full lists of enriched terms and intercorrelations are presented in database S3, and the most enriched intercorrelated terms are presented in fig. S5. P values are Bonferroni-corrected. O/R, number of distinct nonoverlapping 1-Mb windows observed (O) and the average number of 1-Mb windows observed in 1000 random (R) samplings of the same number of genes (rounded to the nearest integer). TS, Thieler stage.

 

None of the coding SNPs that differed between wild and domestic rabbits was a nonsense or frame-shift mutation, consistent with data from chicken (12) and pigs, suggesting that gene loss has not played a major role during animal domestication. This is an important finding, as it has been suggested that gene inactivation could be an important mechanism for rapid evolutionary change, for instance, during domestication (14). Of 69,985 autosomal missense mutations, there were no fixed differences, and only 14 showed a ΔAF above 90%. On the basis of poor sequence conservation, similar chemical properties of the substituted amino acids, and/or the derived state of the domestic allele, we assume that most of these result from hitchhiking rather than being functionally important (database S4). However, two missense mutations stand out; these may be direct targets of selection because at these two positions the domestic rabbit differs from all other sequenced mammals (>40 species). The first is a Gln813→Arg813 substitution in TTC21B (tetratricopeptide repeat domain 21B protein), which is part of the ciliome and modulates sonic hedgehog signaling during embryonic development. The other is an Arg1627→Trp1627 substitution in KDM6B (lysine-specific demethylase 6B), which encodes a histone H3K27 demethylase involved in HOX gene regulation during development.

Deletions distinct to domestic rabbits were difficult to identify because the genome assembly is based on a domestic rabbit, but some convincing duplications were detected with marked frequency differences between wild and domestic rabbits (database S5). We observed a one–base pair insertion/deletion polymorphism located within an intron of IMMP2L (inner mitochondrial membrane peptidase-2 like protein), where domestic and wild rabbits were fixed for different alleles. The polymorphism occurs in a sweep region and is the sequence polymorphism with highest ΔAF in the region (fig. S6). Mutations in IMMP2L have been associated with Tourette syndrome and autism in humans .

Cell fate determination was a strongly enriched GO category (enrichment factor = 4.9) (database S3) for genes near variants with high ΔAF. We examined the functional importance of 12 SOX2, 4 KLF4, and 1 PAX2 high ΔAF SNPs associated with this GO category and where all 17 SNPs were distinct to domestic rabbits compared with other sequenced mammals. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) with nuclear extracts from mouse embryonic stem cell–derived neural stem cells revealed specific DNA-protein interactions. Four probes, all from the SOX2 region, showed a gel shift difference between wild and domestic alleles. Nuclear extracts from a mouse P19 embryonic carcinoma cell line before and after neuronal differentiation recapitulated these four gel shifts and revealed three additional probes, one in PAX2 and two more in SOX2, that showed gel shift differences between wild-type and mutant probes only after neuronal differentiation. Thus, altered DNA-protein interactions were identified for 7 of the 17 high ΔAF SNPs that we tested, qualifying them as candidate causal SNPs that may have contributed to rabbit domestication.

​​

Bioinformatic and functional analysis of candidate causal mutations.

Three examples of SNPs near SOX2 and PAX2 where the domestic allele differs from other mammals. The locations of these three SNPs assessed with EMSA are indicated by red crosses on top. EMSA with nuclear extracts from embryonic stem cell–derived neural stem cells or from mouse P19 embryonic carcinoma cells before (un-diff) or after neuronal differentiation (diff) are shown for three SNPs. Exact nucleotide positions of polymorphic sites are indicated. Allele-specific gel shifts are indicated by arrows. WT, wild-type allele; Dom, domestic, the most common allele in domestic rabbits. Cold probes at 100-fold excess were used to verify specific DNA-protein interactions.

Our results show that very few loci have gone to complete fixation in domestic rabbits and none at coding sites or at noncoding conserved sites. However, allele frequency shifts were detected at many loci spread across the genome, and the great majority of domestic alleles were also found in wild rabbits, implying that directional selection events associated with rabbit domestication are consistent with polygenic and soft sweep modes of selection (18) that primarily acted on standing genetic variation in regulatory regions of the genome. This stands in contrast with breed-specific traits in many domesticated animals that often show a simple genetic basis with complete fixation of causative alleles. Our finding that many genes affecting brain and neuronal development have been targeted during rabbit domestication is fully consistent with the view that the most critical phenotypic changes during the initial steps of animal domestication probably involved behavioral traits that allowed animals to tolerate humans and the environment humans offered. On the basis of these observations, we propose that the reason for the paucity of specific fixed domestication genes in animals is that no single genetic change is either necessary or sufficient for domestication. Because of the complex genetic background for tame behavior, we propose that domestic animals evolved by means of many mutations of small effect, rather than by critical changes at only a few domestication loci.

Species and Breeds

What is the difference between species and breeds?

 

Breed and species are two groups of organisms that can breed with the members of the same group. Breed is mostly used to describe groups of domestic animals while species can be animals, plants or microorganisms. The main difference between breed and species is that breed is a specific population that is selectively bred by humans for the preservation of specific characteristics whereas species is the largest group that has been created by nature that can produce a fertile offspring through breeding. Therefore, breed is a smaller group of animals than species. A particular species may contain several breeds. For example, Rottweiler and German Shepherd are two types of breeds of the species Canis lupus (dog). Since breeds are created by humans and not nature, most animal breeds are not well adapted or specialized to survive in the wild. For example, most dogs that have curly coats would not be able to properly shed their coats and regulate their body temperature on their own without the assistance of human groomers to de-mat and brush them out. Their coats are a product of human selection, not natural selection. You don't see curly coated dogs running wild on the African savannah. So, since humans created certain animals with characteristics to be non-adaptive and non-self regulating, it is the humans' responsibility to maintain the health of their domestic animals. 

 

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae in the order Lagomorph (which include rabbits, hares, and pikas). There are ten separate species in the genera in the family classified as rabbits.

The creatures we call rabbits come in 3 varieties:
Hares, which are not real rabbits, come from genus Lepus and have 24 chromosome pairs.
Cottontails, from genus Sylvilagus have 21 pairs
Domestic Rabbits, from genus Oryctolagus have 22 pairs. This genus has all our domestic breeds.

 

Since the domestic rabbit is derived from the European species, they cannot breed with any North American species (some studies have concluded that cross-fertilization can rarely happen, but the resulting embryo dies after the fourth cell division.) The difference between a rabbit and a hare is that rabbits are altricial, meaning their young are born blind and hairless. Hares are born fully furred and with their eyes open (precocial). All rabbit species, except cottontail rabbits, live underground in burrows called warrens, while hares create nests above ground. In appearance, hares have longer ears and legs compared to a rabbit.  Domestic rabbits are essentially mutated European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Their genes have been altered through strict selective breeding by humans over many generations to create many different breeds. 

 

There are over 180 rabbit breeds that span across the globe. Different breeds were developed for different reasons.

A breed is a collection of individuals within a species which share a certain number of morphological and physiological characters which are passed on to their progeny as long as they breed among themselves."

 

A breed is the outcome of the combined impact of artificial and/or natural selection. Artificial selection may be based on a number of different principals, such as productivity in both meat and wool markets. The majority of breeds are artificially created, usually catering more to the needs of people than that of the animal. Often times, artificial selection creates animals that do not possess self-regulating characteristics. Take the wooly angora breed, with its thick coat. In the wild, this coat type would not be desirable as it can easily become matted, causing skin irritations/infections, being detrimental to the health of the rabbit. Because man created breeds, it is man's responsibility to maintain and care for the aspects that are not inherently favorable by nature.

 

One way of assessing the genetic uniqueness of different breeds is to look back at their origins.

 

For quantitative characters, such as litter size or weight at weaning, which are controlled by a great many non-identifiable genes, rabbit populations can also be defined by their performance. These genes are also assumed to have little effect on overall variability and to function independently, according to the standard assumptions of quantitative genetics. Such characters are also influenced by the environment. 

 

Rabbit breeds can also be defined in terms of gene frequencies. This is possible with genes identifiable through their visible or major effects on progeny. Color and coat type are classified as visual keys. Thanks to advanced observation techniques the genes covering biochemical, blood groups, and protein polymorphism and hereditary anomalies are also widely used.

 

Inbreeding plays a massive role is selective breeding. Rabbits can withstand a slow and gradual increase of inbreeding, however, research suggests that mating programs for small populations should minimize the extent and rates of increase.  Over the years of careful selective breeding, breeders have created animals that now have a written Standard of Perfection. Each has been bred from animals of local and regional populations, by crossing existing breeds, or by using mutations that suddenly present themselves. Selection for size and body morphology has separated these breeds into giant, medium, small and extra small sizes. 

Each breed is characterized by its size, temperament, coat type, color, and use. Generally, rabbit breeds can be classified into three groups-Hobby, Fancy, and Economy.

 

The domestic rabbit comes in 5 body types-full arch, semi arch, compact, commercial, and cylindrical. Their fur can come in normal (flyback and rollback), rex, satin, wool, woolrex, satinwool, satinrex, satinwoolrex, single maned, double maned, wool maned, and astrex wavy. There are over 17,010 colors and pattern combinations the domestic rabbit can come in. Depending on breed, domestic rabbits can range in weight from 1.1 lbs to 28lbs (or more).

 

Small, friendly, and easy to care for breeds such as mini lops, lion heads, mini rex, and dutch make great pets (these are also known as "fancy" breeds).

 

Angora breeds and jersey woolies are great for people who want a challenge (lots of daily grooming!) or for people who enjoy making and selling wool products. 

 

Breeds such as New Zealand, Palominos, Champagne D'argents, Silverfox, and Californians are great as meat rabbits because of their large muscle to body/bone mass size  and quick growth rate.

 

Chinchillas and Rex are the best for producing fine fur products. 

 

Then there are the other breeds that don't have much use in the production world such as netherland dwarfs, english lops, flemish giants, etc, however, these breeds make for a unique and fun project in the show world. 

 

A smaller non economy group is the running group. This group consists of arched breeds; slender, tall, and muscular-like an athlete. These breeds can include the belgian hare, rhinelander, tan, and checkered giant and they require a good deal of exercise and stimulation. They are judged in the show ring for their athleticism, as opposed to their looks like other fancy breeds.

 

Whatever breed you choose, make sure you do your research on the care it requires and the type of temperament that best suits your lifestyle.​​

​​

Species:

 

Oryctolagus cuniculus

  • European Wild Rabbit

  • Domestic Rabbit Breeds (the below list contains both recognized and unrecognized breeds from international organizations) ​

Sylvilagus

  • Brush Rabbit

  • Desert Cottontail

  • Dice's Cottontail

  • Marsh Rabbit

  • Mexican Cottontail

  • Mountain Cottontail

  • New England Cottontail

  • Omilteme Cottontail

  • San Jose Brush Rabbit

  • Swamp Rabbit

  • Tapeti Rabbit

  • Tres Marias Cotton Tail

Pentalagus

  • Amami Rabbit

Poelagus

  • Bunyoro Rabbit

Brachylagus

  • Pygmy Rabbit

Bunolagus

  • Riverine Rabbit

Nesolagus

  • Sumatra Short-eared Rabbit

Romerolagus

  • Volcano Rabbit

 

Lepus

  • African Savanna Hare

  • Alaskan Hare

  • Antelope Jackrabbit

  • Arctic Hare

  • Black Jackrabbit

  • Black-tailed Jackrabbit

  • Broom Hare

  • Burmese Hare

  • Brown Hare

  • Chinese Hare

  • Corsican Hare

  • Ethiopian Hare

  • Ethiopian Highland Hare

  • European Hare

  • Hainan Hare

  • Japanese Hare

  • Mountain Hare

  • Scrug Hare

  • Snowshoe Hare

  • Tolai Hare

  • White-sided Jackrabbit

  • White-tailed Jackrabbit

  • Wooly Hare

  • Yarkand Hare

  • Yunan Hare

Caprolagus

  • Hispid Hare

  • Alaska

  • Argente Bleu

  • Argente Brun

  • Argente Noire

  • Beige

  • Blanc de Bouscat

  • Blanc de Termonde

  • Continental Giant Colored

  • Continental Giant White

  • Deilenaar

  • Golden Glavcot

  • Hulstlander

  • Perlfee

  • Pointed Beveren

  • Sallander

  • Siberian

  • Smoke Pearl

  • Squirrel

  • Sussex

  • Swiss Fox

  • Thuringer

  • Vienna colored

  • Vienna White

  • Wheaten

  • Wheaten Lynx

  • Fauve de Bourgogne

  • Argente St Hubert

  • Astrex Rex

  • Opposum Rex (Rough Coated Rex)​

  • Spanish Giant

  • Thuringer

  • Elfin

  • Enderby Island Rabbit

  • Brazilian

  • Blue of Hem

  • Blue of Sint-Niklaas

  • Belgian Silver

  • Canadian Plush Lop

  • Mini Argente

  • Pygmy Rabbit

  • Gabali

  • Geant Hongois

  • Giza White

  • Goat Rabbit

  • Grey Pearl of Halle

  • Hermelin

  • Ibicenco

  • Isabella

  • Jamora

  • Japanese Jumbo White

  • Kabyle

  • Klein Lotharinger

  • Miniature Silver

  • Cashmere Lop

  • Dwarf Rex Lop

  • Mini Plush Lop

  • Altex

  • Lutino

  • Lutterback Ermine

  • Lux

  • Mecklenburger Schek

  • Moravian White

  • Moravian Blue

  • Nil (Tax Xiber)

  • Normand (Picard)

  • Argente Clair

  • Argente Cream

  • Baladi

  • Belgian Silver

  • Blanc de Popielno

  • Blanc de Vendee

  • Blue of Ham

  • Bourbonnais Grey

  • Brown Chestnut of Lorraine

  • Caldes

  • Carmagnola Grey

  • Chaudry

  • Criollo

  • Cuban Brown

  • Czech Albin

  • Fee de Marbourg

  • Orange

  • Orestad

  • Pani

  • Pannon White

  • Perlfee

  • Prat

  • Micro Rex

  • Rhoen

  • Sable de Vosges

  • Sachsengold

  • San Juan Island Rabbit

  • Schwarzgrannen

  • Separator

  • Sichuan White

  • Saint Nicholas Blue

  • Stor Egern

  • Stora Havanna

  • Tadla

  • Tho Noi

  • Tronder

  • Vit Land

  • White Dendermode

  • Zemmouri

  • Composite

  • Czech Frosty

  • American

  • American Chinchilla

  • American Fuzzy Lop

  • American Sable

  • Belgian Hare

  • Beveren

  • Blanc de Hotot

  • Britannia Petite

  • Californian

  • Champagne D'Argent

  • Checkered Giant

  • Cinnamon

  • Creme D' Argent

  • Dutch

  • Dwarf Hotot

  • English Angora

  • English Lop

  • English Spot

  • Flemish Giant

  • Florida White

  • French Angora

  • French Lop

  • Giant Angora

  • Giant Chinchilla

  • Harlequin

  • Havana

  • Himalayan

  • Holland Lop

  • Jersey Wooly

  • Lilac

  • Lionhead

  • Mini Lop

  • Mini Rex

  • Mini Satin

  • Nederland Dwarf

  • New Zealand

  • Palomino

  • Polish

  • Rex

  • Rhinelander

  • Satin

  • Satin Angora

  • Silver

  • Silver Fox

  • Silver Marten

  • Standard Chinchilla

  • Tan

  • Thrianta

  • Velveteen Lop​​

  • Dutch Tri-Color

  • English

  • Giant Papillon

  • Lop Cashmere

  • Lop Cashmere Miniature

  • Lop German

  • Lop Meissner

  • Lop Miniature Lion

Ecological correlates to cranial morphology in Leporids (Mammalia, Lagomorpha).  The mammalian order Lagomorpha has been the subject of many morphometric studies aimed at understanding the relationship between form and function as it relates to locomotion, primarily in postcranial morphology. The leporid cranial skeleton, however, may also reveal information about their ecology, particularly locomotion and vision. Here we investigate the relationship between cranial shape and the degree of facial tilt with locomotion (cursoriality, saltation, and burrowing) within crown leporids. Our results suggest that facial tilt is more pronounced in cursors and saltators compared to generalists, and that increasing facial tilt may be driven by a need for expanded visual fields. Our phylogenetically informed analyses indicate that burrowing behavior, facial tilt, and locomotor behavior do not predict cranial shape. However, we find that variables such as bullae size, size of the splenius capitus fossa, and overall rostral dimensions are important components for understanding the cranial variation in leporids.

Citation:  Kraatz BP, Sherratt E, Bumacod N, Wedel MJ. (2015) Ecological correlates to cranial morphology in Leporids (Mammalia, Lagomorpha) PeerJ 3:e844

Obtaining the Correct Rabbits

Firstly, you’ll need to select a breed of rabbit that best fits you and your way of life.  Do your research on all of the breeds and choose one that compliments you. You need to factor in what you’ll be using the rabbit for-showing, meat production, wool production, or household pet. Also take into consideration the temperament, size, and needs of that breed as they all greatly vary. For example, you wouldn't want to get a 30lb flemish giant or temperamental mini satin as a pet for your 5-year-old daughter or you wouldn’t choose a small bony netherland dwarf if you plan on raising meat rabbits. Likewise, you wouldn't have any success in raising thick haired angoras if you lived in a climate that exceeds 100-degree weather.  Every breed is different and has both pros and cons to their uniqueness-what you may find to be a good trait in a breed, there may also be a bad one to compliment it. Different breeds can offer you different levels of challenges and it's up to you to decide what fits your standard. Ask your self what challenges you are willing to take on and which ones you will not tolerate. For example, a short-haired rabbit breed will not require much grooming, but angora breeds will demand hours out of your week in care.

 

If you are interested in selling your rabbits or their byproducts, research the market and likely demand in your area. For example, if you live in a rural farming community, you could make a stable profit selling rabbits to 4-H and FFA. However, if you lived in the suburbs or city, this would be an unwise and thin market to target. Likewise, if you want to sell Angora wool-you'd want to sell to people who reside in an area with a colder climate as opposed to a warmer one.  Do keep in mind that markets are subject to fluctuate and change periodically due to many outside factors.

Once you do find a breed, you should love that breed. Spend as much of your time as possible to get to know every aspect of that breed and what you want from it in the end.

 

The best place to start is a rabbit show. You can visit the ARBA website to view national sanctioned shows that are local to you (https://www.arba.net/showsSearch.php)  or simply a Google search for your state's rabbit shows. Rabbit shows will give you a healthy representation of the different breeds and allow you to find reputable breeders in your area. You can handle the different rabbits and talk to breeders about the temperaments, market uses, and requirements of each breed. You can also watch the judging process and evaluated any rabbits you may be interested in buying at the show.

 

Now generally, whether you are new breeder or a pet owner, the best thing you can do when starting off is to purchase your rabbit(s) from someone who can provide you with a pedigree certificate.

 

It’s best to go with a reputable and responsible breeder-someone who can give you information on the rabbit you are about to buy.  Now keep in mind, not all breeders are good people and unfortunately, pedigrees can be falsified and you may end up purchasing a low quality or sick rabbit.

So how do you find a good breeder? Get a recommendation from someone who shows rabbits or go to the website of the specialty club for the breed you are interested in. Find out which breeders are on the top list for sweepstakes.  You can also visit a rabbit show and get to know all of the breeders in your area.  Look at local online adds or rabbit forums to help you find what you're looking for. In the rabbit world, reputation and word of mouth is everything. You can learn a lot about different breeders by simply asking around.  

 

If you want extra protection, purchase a rabbit that is registered with the ARBA. The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) maintains an article regarding rabbit care. The ARBA has a legislative committee that works with the USDA and House of Representatives and Senate Agriculture Committees.  A registered rabbit is one which an ARBA licensed registrar has examined and certified to be free from any health defects and disqualifications. The registrar will also examine the rabbit’s pedigree for true completeness and accuracy.

 

So why is it important to purchase a rabbit with a pedigree? A pedigree ensures that you are getting a purebred rabbit of true bloodlines, show potential, and most importantly the health of that rabbit. By being able to look at the ancestry of your rabbit from its pedigree, you can evaluate all of this. Having pedigrees, health testing, and certificates enable a new owner to trace the lineage and even contact people for prior documented litters to talk to about any health issues.

 

You can’t determine the ancestry nor health when purchasing a mixed breed rabbit. Aside from health, even when you just want a rabbit as a pet, you may consider breeding or showing it down the road, and having a pedigree comes in handy at that point. Over time, you'll really recognize the value having a pedigree -the more information you have on your new rabbit-the better you can care for them. This pertains especially if you plan on breeding and selling the offspring. Purebred pedigreed animals are worth far more than an animal without a pedigree (regardless if an animal actually is purebred-if there are no papers to prove it, then that animal is as equally worthless price-wise, as a mixed breed).

 

Do NOT purchase rabbits from pet stores, dealers, or backyard breeders. 

These rabbits come from irresponsible, unethical, dishonest, and highly uneducated sellers. The ONLY thing these people care about is making money. Animals that come from them are usually sick with parasites, viruses, and a host of chronic genetic ailments. No care is placed into the animal's health or living conditions. Animals are bred indiscriminately, void of any thought being put into creating correct healthy conformation, good temperaments, or preventing genetic disorders.  The animals are usually not handled, so they exhibit fearful and unsocialized behavior. The animals are usually extremely overpriced because they are "purebred", "designer breeds", or "rare colors". These people may also provide you with highly inaccurate information on how to properly care for your new pet. They will not accept any returns. The last thing you want to do is to support these places and keep them in business by giving them your money. Don't put yourself in the position of taking home an overpriced and dying pet that's just going to cost in multiple vet bills down thr road. 

 

 

Purchasing from a responsible breeder is going to be your safest and smartest way of going about buying a rabbit.

When you do find a breeder, get to know them and their set up in order to evaluate what you may be purchasing from them.

 

 

How to check if you’ve found a responsible and ethical breeder:

  • Ask the breeder if you can visit their rabbitry to see the conditions that the rabbits are kept in. Usually, your first sign of an irresponsible breeder is their discouragement of you viewing their rabbitry. However, do also keep in mind that some responsible breeders have closed rabbitries simply for home privacy, animal safety, and bio-security precautions. If this is the case, please be respectful and understanding of the breeder's wishes for privacy. If you are permitted to visit the breeder's facility, you need to ask yourself the following questions when you are reviewing the conditions.

  • Are the cages clean?-They should not be piled with feces

  • Are the cages big enough for the rabbits?- They should not be too small or overcrowded to the point where the rabbits can hardly move around.

  • Are the food bowls clean?-They should not be soiled with excrement or filled with moldy food.

  • Do the rabbits have a constant supply of fresh clean water? -The water should not be soiled with excrement or green with algae. The rabbits should have water available to them at ALL times.

  • Are the rabbits healthy? -They should not be emaciated, sickly looking, or lying dead in their cages. They should have a clean dry coat that is not matted or covered in excrement.

  • Does the rabbitry have good ventilation?- The rabbits should have plenty of fresh air flow. The rabbitry should not be stuffy and smell heavily of ammonia.

  • The rabbitry should be clean and appear to be well maintained.

  • The breeder should be happy to show you the parents of your rabbit.

  • The breeder should be more than willing to answer any and all questions you may have.

  • The breeder should seem concerned about how you will properly care for your new rabbit.

  • The breeder should be there as a teacher, not just someone who wants to sell you a rabbit.

  • Ask the breeder to point out any faults in their rabbits. Ask this not only for your own knowledgeable gain, but to determine if the breeder is honest and responsible. Ask the breeder what they are doing to correct these faults. (And yes, every breeder's breeding program will have some form of fault-otherwise, there would be no point in raising animals in the first place. If the breeder tells you that their breeding line is perfect, they're flat out lying to you.)

  • Ask the breeder if there is a guarantee on any rabbits sold and what the breeder plans to do in the case of returns. A good breeder should be willing to take any unwanted rabbits back.

  • A good breeder will not capitalize on breed "trends". For example, they should not be trying to sell you rabbits that are "rare colors" or "In time for Easter". The breeder should only be concerned over the goals of proper confirmation, health, genetics, and temperament of their rabbits.

  • Ethical breeders should only be concerned about preserving the best qualities of the breed. Not seeking out a justification to supply any kind of market. 

  • A good breeder will NOT sell ANY genetically inferior or unhealthy animals. They want to keep the rabbit gene pool free of health defects by not allowing unqualified animals to breed and they will not tolerate any kind of animal suffering.

  • A simple yet highly important factor; A good breeder also shows their rabbits. You may find the rare backyard breeders who are nice, honest, clean people, but without utilizing the unbiased use of a show evaluation, they have no means of knowing if their rabbits are of correct conformation and health. And without that, they are again, just another backyard breeder who contributes to an unhealthy gene pool.

  • Don't seek out a breeder who just has a lot of trophies and blue ribbons to show off. Seek out someone who has a herd LINE to show off. For all you know, they could've just bought a champion rabbit from another breeder and used that as "their" champion animal. You want a breeder who has their own genetic line of rabbits that they produced. Better yet, inquire for proof of their champion lines. Look at the pedigrees for the breeder's prefix on the rabbit's names going back at least three generations and look for registered rabbits with legs on the pedigrees. 

 

If a breeder does not match up to any of the above simple standards, move on to another one. There are plenty of good and bad breeders out there, so take your time and choose wisely. There will always be another breeder, another litter, another rabbit that you can choose from.

After you have found a responsible breeder and have chosen your rabbit, make sure you look your rabbit over BEFORE you purchase it. Most breeders will go over the rabbit physically in front of you and point out any show defects/faults. HOWEVER, it’s still up to you to make sure you are not purchasing a sick rabbit because most sales will be final! Even the best, most experienced breeders can make mistakes and miss something when checking a rabbit over.  

 

 

Check your rabbit for:

  • Clean, bright, clear,  and calm eyes-no mucus, cloudiness, or rapid movement

  • Clean ears-no wax build up, crust, foul smell, mites, or lumps

  • Clean nose-no mucus, redness, wetness, or sneezing. You should not hear any wheezing or gurgling noises when the rabbit breathes.

  • Good teeth-no gum abscess, unalignment, overgrowth, protrusion of the mouth/gums, or drooling

  • Trimmed nails-not overgrown or broken

  • Weight-not over or underweight. The rabbit should be solid, not boney with loose skin or have folds of fat 

  • Clean coat and skin-not matted, balding, flaky skin, or covered in dirt/feces/urine

  • Clean genitals-not red, swollen, scabby, or pussy (also check to make sure you're actually getting the gender you want. All too often, new owners bring home a new rabbit, only to later find out that their HE was actually a SHE. Rabbits can be tricky in this area, and even the most experienced breeders can make mistakes in determining gender!)

  • Clean bottom-no diarrhea, clumped feces, fur soaked with urine

  • Friendly, active, and playful temperament-not lethargic, timid, or aggressive

 

 

Purchasing Pet Rabbits

Now if you are absolutely set on not showing or breeding, truly want a mixed breed rabbit, and you're willing to take the chance on health and temperament, your next best option would be to adopt a rabbit from a rabbit rescue or shelter.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to rescue a rabbit and save its life. However, do understand there could be potential risks of the unknown when it comes to that animal's medical background and behavior. What you save cost wise with initial adoption fees compared to purchasing an expensive animal from a breeder, you may be making up with vet bills later. One of the great things about rescuing a pet rabbit is that they will often come spayed/neutered and general vet check. As well, when you rescue a pet rabbit from a shelter, you're helping make cage space for another animal to be rescued there. Do remember, just like the fact that there are both good and bad breeders out there, there are good and bad rescues as well.  Often times, hoarders will disguise their operations as "rescues" and often their animals will be sick and on the verge of dying by the time they are "adopted". These people can be very dishonest and often mentally ill. You don't want to support their programs or bring home a fatally sick animal. A good way to differentiate hoarders from private rescues is how they ask for donations. Hoarders will literally beg for food and supplies for their operation, claiming the animals in their care will die without it. Responsible rescues do not place themselves in the position of compromising the health and well being of their animals if they cannot afford to do so. They are diligent in working within their abilities and limits and never allow themselves to reach desperate situations. The animals in their care will ALWAYS be well taken care of. So do your research when choosing a responsible and reputable organization to adopt from. 

 

 

 Purchasing Show Rabbits:

If you are looking for show quality stock, know exactly what you are looking for in the rabbits you are about to purchase. Try to stick to only one or two breeds. You don't want to get in over your head.

 

 As a new breeder, know exactly what the faults and weaknesses are in the breed you choose to work with. This way, when you go to purchase your rabbits, you'll know what you need and not allow yourself to get talked into buying something that won't do anything for you.You want something that will improve and benefit your herd. For example, if you already have a strain of rabbits that have long ears, but short arches, you'll want to find some rabbits with short ears and high arches. If you are knowledgeable in exactly what you need, then it’s a good choice to make an investment. Otherwise, you could be making a serious long-term mistake.

 

For example, if you decide to buy 10 rabbits at $30.00 each, and use those rabbits for your breeding/showing program, then all you’ll have is a bunch of low-quality rabbits that won’t win shows and won’t sell.  Your low-quality rabbits won’t stand a chance competing with the big breeders and no one will want to purchase from you if you don’t have any outstanding rabbits. All you’ll end up with is an overabundance of unwanted rabbits that nickel and dime you to death for cages, feed, and time. So basically, you buy low-quality rabbits for dirt cheap, then you’ll end up raising low-quality rabbits that sell for dirt cheap. It'll take you years to produce top quality animals out of low-quality ones, and by then you will have wasted far more time and money than it would've been to just start off right.   Even starting off with low-quality rabbits and later introducing top quality rabbits will only degrade your herd after a few generations. You want to start off your herd with as few faults as possible.

So your best bet if you are going to be a breeder, is to invest in a couple of top quality rabbits and work your way up from there.   When others know you sell high quality rabbits, they will beat a path to your door.

 

Watch out for backyard breeders who may try to scam you into purchasing low-quality rabbits for top dollar. It'll just cause you a ton of heartache and an empty wallet down the road.  Don't be the ignorant person who will get ripped off for everything you've got. Stick with a breeder who has a known respectable reputation. Don't attempt to bargain with breeders if you don't agree with their prices. This will not only get you into bad standings with other breeders as it's not only disrespectful, it's also very irresponsible on your part if you can't pay for what you want. Respectable breeders work very hard and put a lot of money into their top quality rabbits, and they don't need the hassle of selling their hard work to someone who isn't serious about a purchase.

 

Be sure to research the prices for top quality rabbits in your area (For example in our personal area, netherland dwarfs are not currently a popular breed and you can expect to pay about $30 for a mid-grade quality one, however, holland lops have high competition here and you see a minimum of $300 for them). A lot of factors can play into this; such as breed and breeder availability, diverse gene pools, and supply and demand. Know your financial limit and set your standards for what you want and what you're willing to pay for it. Only go after breeders who sit in your price range. Develop an eye for the correct conformation in the breed you're focused on, that way you can see exactly what is worth the money you will be paying for.

 

When you get your breeding stock, start out small. Three rabbits are ideal. One buck and two does is perfect to get you started.  This pairing is termed simply as a "Trio" in the rabbit sale world. Many breeders may offer discounts on trio sales. Later on, in your breeding program, you may want to purchase further stock to improve your bloodlines, but when starting out, you don't need much. The goal is to create your own line, not a mixed gene pool. 

 

If you're looking to add rabbits to your already existing herd, try to stick with the same lines. Adding in too many separate lines could just add to a number of faults you're attempting to work with. For example, if your herd has consistent narrow loins and you're wanting to add rabbits with fuller loins, go back to the breeder you got your original stock from (granted, only if you started off right) and see if they have the animals you need. This way, you know exactly which animals will throw what and you won't have odd faults popping up when you least expect it. Going with a separate breeder who has completely separate lines, could very well give you those fuller loins you needed in your herd, however, you'll also get those ugly heads, flat backs, and extra long ears you did not need - throwing you back to square one in your breeding program.

 

Acclimation Process

It's not uncommon for rabbits to fail to thrive when they are moved to a new home (even if these rabbits are top quality, healthy stock). Seemingly small factors such as temperature change, new feed, daily regimens, even the car ride to said new home, etc can cause stress for your rabbit. A stressed rabbit is not only prone to decreased condition (such as sterility, weight loss, and excessive molting to name a few symptoms), it can bring out hidden illnesses such as Pasteurella. In some cases, stress can even lead to death.

 

So, how can this be diminished? Some factors are out of your control, such as transportation. However, make your new rabbits as comfortable as possible. Provide them with plenty of water, cool temperatures, and a quiet environment. It's important to take these precautions as you don't want that $450 show rabbit to turn into a sickly pile of bones and fur over the course of five days after purchase.

 

If you feed a different pellet brand than the pellets the previous owner/breeder fed, be sure to gradually switch them over. Start with the previous feed (usually a good breeder will send you home with a small bag of their current feed) and slowly add 5-10% of your new feed to their meals over the course of a couple of weeks. Depending on your area and local resources, finding the same feed or prices as your breeder may not always be feasible. So, be sure to find what best matches the rabbit's usual nutritional intake. 

 

Rabbit Quarantine Disclaimer

 Always make sure that you quarantine new rabbits from the rest of your rabbits for at least two-four weeks after you bring them home. Keep them in a separate room from your rabbitry. Even if the new rabbits seem perfectly healthy, they may be carriers of diseases that your other rabbits could be susceptible to.  While your new rabbits are in quarantine, keep a very close eye on their health and behavior. Make sure they are eating well, acting bright and alert, and staying clean. Wash your hands after you handle the new rabbits and before you handle your current rabbits. Any signs of illnesses in your new rabbits, such as sneezing, lack of appetite, lethargy; you should consider culling them. It may be hard to cull a new rabbit, but it will save you a vast amount of heartache and loss of expenses.  You do not want a new rabbit transferring potentially deadly illness to the rest of you herd.

Housing
  • Environment: It is imperative that rabbits be kept in a climate controlled area at all times. Rabbits do not do well in excessive heat of over 80 degrees or cold temperatures of under 40 degrees. In either case, in extreme weather you should accommodate your rabbit’s needs of comfort; if it's too hot, put a fan in front of the cage or give your rabbit a frozen water bottle to lay against; and if it's too cold, give your rabbit a warm draft-free box with bedding. Remember that rabbits tolerate colder temperatures far better than warm temperatures. Smaller breeds especially, cannot handle heat because their ears are so small (rabbits use the blood vessels in their ears to circulate and cool them down, so the smaller the ears, the less ability the rabbit has to control its high temperature). Humidity levels must be at least 55% (rabbits are very sensitive to anything lower and in fact prefer humidity of 100%). The hotter it is and the higher the humidity, the more likely the chances are of your rabbit getting heat stroke. Most breeders keep their stock out of the weather in a building, but if you are a pet owner and wish to keep your rabbit outdoors, make sure that your rabbits are out of direct sunlight, wind, moisture, and away from predatory animals at all times. Keep them in a cool, dry, quiet, and well ventilated area.  Ventilation is extremely important as well. The maximum NH3 content in the air rabbits breathe is 5ppm. If you are moving your rabbit from one temperature extreme to another, i.e. from hot weather to very cold weather or vice versa, the temperature change should only remain between a 10 degree and 15 degree range of difference. Their blood does not adjust to temperature change as quickly as other mammals, and they could easily go into shock.

  • Cages: Rabbit cages can be made out of wood, metal, or plastic. Each structure has its pros and cons and it is up to the owner to decide what is best for their individual needs. A wooden cage provides extra insulation and comfort for a rabbit. However, it can be easily saturated with urine and harbor diseases in the wood. Some rabbits destroy their wooden cages by habitual chewing as well. Wire cages are the most popular as they are the most sanitary and easiest to build and maintain. The only drawbacks are that rabbits may acquire sore hocks while being forced to stand on the wire constantly, and the metal will rust over time from the urine. Plastic cages are popular among pet owners simply because of the aesthetic values of them. The only real cons of a plastic cage are that they are expensive and unless you have a rabbit that is litter box trained, then you're going to have a constant mess of feces and urine gathering on the floor of the cage which will cause your rabbit to be ill. No matter what choice you make for a cage, it must be sturdy and free of anything that poses a danger to your rabbit such as sharp edges or holes big enough to get their head or feet caught in. If you're making your own cages out of wire, make sure it's a solid heavy duty welded wire that will not sag, bend, or rust easily.  Cages must be at least 2'X2'X14'' to allow the proper comfort of your rabbit. The rabbit must be able to lie down, stand up, and stretch in every direction of its cage. If the floor of the cage is wire, give the rabbit something solid to rest its feet on such as a piece of plywood. Mini rex are especially in need of this as the bottom of their foot pads are not as protected as other breeds, which easily leads to sore hocks. You can also make your own indoor cages with wire office grids. These are called NIC cages and you can customize them however you want. You can purchase these grids at any office supply store.When housing your rabbits, it is best to keep your rabbits in their own individual cages. This helps prevent the spread of diseases, fighting, and unplanned pregnancies among your rabbits. Some rabbits can be bonded to each other and housed together if they are pets.

  • Nest Boxes/Beds: Some rabbit owners, especially pet owners, will provide nest boxes for their rabbits to sleep in. These can be made either of metal or wood. Safe bedding materials can be straw, grass hay, timothy hay, aspen shavings, kiln-dried pine shavings/pellets, sugar cane shavings, non-scented CareFresh, or stall pellets.

  • Litter Boxes: Rabbits can be litter box trained just like a cat. They will instinctively use the same corner to urinate and defecate in. After they choose a corner, simply place a low laying pan filled with a rabbit-safe litter. Visit the "Breeding" tab and read under "Nest Boxes" to learn about proper material to use in litter boxes. Some rabbits catch on to the idea, and for some, it may take a few weeks for them to get the hang of it. You can place a litter box either in their cage, exercise run, or in the house if you have a free roaming pet rabbit. 

  • Sanitation, Waste Management, & Odor Control: Cages, food bowls, water bottles, toys, and nest boxes must be cleaned out routinely. You must clean out all feces, urine, and soiled bedding at LEAST once a week per rabbit. Remove soiled bedding and waste and keep hutches dry. An all-wire hutch makes this simple.  A rabbit showing signs of disease or parasites should be isolated immediately from the rest of the herd to reduce spread of infection. Isolate newly acquired rabbits for at least 2 weeks. That includes rabbits returning from shows. Clean and disinfect all nest boxes before using. Disinfect watering crocks and make sure they are clean often to prevent coccidiosis. The ability to recognize common disease symptoms will allow owners to treat sick rabbits early and isolate the affected animal from the herd to prevent other rabbits from becoming ill.  If you're rabbit lives outside, you'll have to clean more frequently, especially in the summer months to keep the ammonia levels down and the flies at bay.High ammonia levels are not only offensive for people, but detrimental to rabbit production. It can lead to respiratory problems, wry neck, abscesses, and decreased/fading litters.  Ammonia is produced by the rabbit in the urea and passed in urine and feces, and is increased by high temperatures.  Flies are also a major problem.  The life cycle of a fly is as little as 8 days from egg to adult (blow flies are only 143 hours, which is just over 5 days).  If you don't keep ahead of them, you'll have a lot of flies, which increases your risk for fly strike.  Everything must be sanitized with a mild/diluted bleach, animal safe Quat, MadaCide, Opti-Cide, or Vanodine type solution to kill off all bacteria, ammonia, viruses, and/or fungus.  These solutions are medical grade broad spectrum sanitizers/disinfectants, and far stronger than your commonly found grocery store antibacterial sprays. They will kill microorganisms such as Acinetobacter baumannii, Avian Influenza A (H3N2) Reassortant Virus, Escherichia coli – with ESBL (E. coli), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Herpes Simplex II Virus (HSV 2) G Strain, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1), Swine Influenza A Virus (H1N1), Influenza A Virus Strain A2/Hong Kong, Klebsiella pneumonia- Carbapenem-resistant (KPC), Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium bovis BCG (tuberculosis) (TB), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Rotavirus Strain WA, Salmonella enterica, Serratia marcescens, Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Trichophyton mentagrophytes (ringworm), Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough), Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, Duck Hepatitis B Virus, Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Para-Influenza Virus, Chlamydia psittaci (parrot fever), Feline Leukemia Virus, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis Virus, Murine Norovirus, Streptococcus equi, and Canine Parvovirus. Many of these organisms can be passed to people and other animals if they are not destroyed. Try to perform a complete sanitation a couple of times a month.  Be sure to use solutions that are safe for rabbits. Not everything that is labeled “Animal Safe” means it’s specifically safe for rabbits, especially if your rabbit may ingest it.  So make sure you do your research on chemicals and rinse equipment off extensively.  If you allow feces and urine to build up, it’ll invite all kinds of problems for you and your rabbits.  Some cages have the option of drop down or slide out pans underneath the cage to allow unobstructed cleaning without interfering with the rabbit.  Other commercial options have a flush clean system, in which the rabbit's wasted drops into a slanted pan that releases into a drain pipe. You can dump waste either into your garden or directly into a trash bin. Odor control is essential, especially if your rabbits are housed indoors or in close contact with other animals or people. Animal safe diatomaceous earth, compressed wood pellets, Sweet PDZ, lye, or wood shavings placed in waste areas are good for keeping odors down to a minimum. You can also add Zaps-it, an enzyme-producing bacteria culture that actually digests organic, odor-causing materials. Certain forms are either added to the rabbit's water or sprayed directly on the waste source. Yucca Schidigera extracts also help inhibit the activity of urease and ammonia released by the rabbit.  

  • Exercise and Enrichment: Rabbits must also have a run or some form of an area for exercise. Despite what some breeders will say, a rabbit is a living breathing creature that needs physical and mental stimulation to keep it happy and healthy. If a rabbit is denied its right to play and run and is kept confined to a cage for its entire life, it will develop social problems and constantly be under stress which will result in a weak immune system. Constant confinement to a cage can also lead to obesity, spinal problems, and gut digestion slow down. Scientific research has proven that rabbits confined to a small cage for their entire lives result in fluctuating asymmetry-meaning the rabbit's bones and body do not develop into the normal size they should be developing into as the rabbit grows with age, resulting in a multitude of health-related problems.  Rabbits can be given plastic cat toys, fruit tree branches to chew on, potting soil for digging, and wooden blocks as stimulating toys. Don't ever leave rabbits in open runs unsupervised. They should have a fully enclosed area and have at least 1 to 4 hours of exercise time every day. If you have a litter trained pet rabbit, you may allow it to roam around the house as long as everything is bunny proofed-no cords or wires laying around, furniture to chew on, chemicals to get into, etc.  Harnesses, even ones specifically designed for rabbits, should not be used. A rabbit can easily chew through it or get its feet entangled and panic, thus causing serious injury.  You can also utilize an outdoor rabbit tractor. Rabbit tractors are portable pens that can be placed anywhere outside, allowing the rabbit to graze on grass (free mowing services!) and simultaneously stretch its legs. These tractors can be moved around so feces does not build up and rabbits get access to fresh grass on a regular basis. 

  • Colony Raising: Colony raising is when rabbits all live together in a large pen, located either inside or outside, much like a chicken coop. It is a natural way of living for the rabbits as opposed to being constantly cooped up in individual cages. They have the chance to roam, play, and socialize with other rabbits out in the fresh air. Since the rabbits have space in this environment, they are less prone to fighting. However, this close contact also means illnesses can run rampant and swiftly wipe out an entire herd before you get a chance to even quarantine. Breeding can be indiscriminate and out of control, so bucks should have their own closed off areas until breeding time. Does also need to have adequate areas/nest boxes to safely raise their kits. With outdoor colony setups, since the rabbits are housed on the ground, there is a high possibility for the spread of viral infections, bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasites. Because of this, daily sanitation upkeep is extremely important. There is also the threat of rabbits digging out, predators getting in, and severe weather conditions wreaking havoc on the pen.A great deal of effort should be put forth to ensure the habitat is safe, strong, and fully secure. 10 square ft per adult rabbit is ideal. Strong mesh or concrete should make up the floor to prevent digging out. The rabbits should have insulated, dry, and warm shelters off of the ground. A strong roof needs to be able to support snow, rain, wind, and ward off predators. Be sure there are no holes anywhere. Even a one-inch square hole is literally enough for a rat to get in and devour kits. Multiple feed and watering stations need to be available to prevent resource guarding.

  • Safety: Aside from ensuring that the rabbit cage itself is void of holes, sharp edges, or weak spots, make sure it is properly placed in a safe area. Indoor areas should be away from electrical cords and out of reach of both pets and children. Outdoor rabbitries should be off the ground and if possible, surrounded by a tall, secure fence. Animals such as stray dogs and cats, raccoons, fox, coyotes, rats, weasels, snakes, and birds of prey can and will find a way to get to your rabbits if you allow them access.

Cage Type Examples
Ventilation Standards
Outdoor Wooden Hutch
Indoor Plastic Cage
Indoor Metal Cage
Indoor Playpen
Outdoor Rabbit Tractor
Indoor Flush Kleen System
Indoor Cage Bank
Outdoor Colony Setup
Show More
Nutrition

Rabbits in the wild can acquire all the nutrients they need from certain plants and they rarely even need to drink water because of what they eat. They prefer eating the fresh shoots and sprouts from plants so they can benefit from all of the extra nutrients and water that aren’t usually found in adult plants. Caged rabbits on the other hand, are denied their grazing abilities, so must be kept on a certain diet to ensure proper health and nutrition. Rabbits fed improper and/or unbalanced diets will suffer from severe dental and digestive problems, not to mention nutritional deficiencies which could lead to an unlimited number of diseases and complications. In general, rabbits need something that is low in fat, high in fiber, and low in starchy carbohydrates.

 

 

Feeding rabbits isn't the same as just going to the pet store and picking up a bag of food. They need a constant supply of grass hay and a daily mix of leafy green vegetables, grains, and pellets. Fruits must also be a supplement to their diet.  Always remember-the more nutrient dense their diet, the less they consume, and the less they consume, the easier it is on your wallet. So choose wisely when picking out which feeds/supplements you'll purchase for your rabbit.

 

  • Pellets: At the very least, all healthy adult rabbits must be fed rabbit pellets. These are hard and small bite sized properly prepared feed just for rabbits. They have all of the necessary nutrients in them that a rabbit would normally find in the wild. Pellets were originally formulated by commercial breeders as a quick way to improve rapid growth and health. Rabbit pellets can be found at either a pet or feed store. When purchasing rabbit feed, make sure you buy a brand that is low in protein and calcium. Too much protein will quickly overload the rabbit's kidneys and too much calcium will lead to urine sludge or bladder stones. Less protein in the diet has also been known to help rabbits reduce stress in warm weather. So, you'll want feed that is no more than 16% protein and at least 16% fiber. If you're raising meat rabbits or angora breeds, you'll want 18% for maximum growth rate. If you're unsure of the amount of protein your rabbit is ingesting and of how much may be too much, then the rabbit's urine will smell heavily of ammonia (more so than a healthy rabbit). Fiber should be the main staple in a rabbit's diet as it plays a very large role in overall digestion, which is why it should be the first ingredient in your chosen pellet brand. The overall pellet quality depends on the mill from which it originated from-meaning you'll want something that is consistent in having a fixed analysis and formula over a fixed priced. Feed mills greatly vary by state and location and you must be aware of which local brand offers the best and consistent quality of pellets as these factors can fluctuate with what may be locally available to the mill. A high quality producing mill will have high standards of keeping a consistent pellet formula. The pellets should also be as natural to the rabbit's true diet as possible. The more whole food, the beneficial and easier it is for the rabbit's body to absorb. Meaning things such as bone meal (a calcium replacement) which is obviously something rabbits don't eat, should be avoided. Anything with high amounts of preservatives or even  lethal preservatives such as ethoxycuin should never be fed. Cheap manufacturers will use these ingredients because it's cheap for them and they can get away with it. When choosing a feed brand, you should also stick to just plain pellets, rather than a mixed feed. The reason for this is because the extras added in mixes (such as seeds, corn, legumes, nuts, and dried fruits/veggies, etc.) usually aren't very good for rabbits in the first place, not to mention rabbits will only pick out their favorite treats from the mixes, resulting in an unbalanced diet. Corn in particular, is extremely hard for rabbits to digest if in its complete form due to the cellulose outer layer of the kernal-this can cause severe gas and other problems in rabbits with sensitive stomachs. Grass-based pellets are best for adult rabbits since they are low in calcium, reducing kidney problems. Some rabbits have protein sensitive bacteria in their cecum, which leads to an excess amount of ceacals. These rabbits must have a pellet base of the lowest protein possible, and in small amounts and by also adding straw to the diet. High protein Alfalfa-based pellets are all right to give to rabbits younger than 6 months of age, nursing does, or in small portions to show rabbits to add for conditioning when needed. Dwarf breeds may require a pellet diet that is higher in energy and lower in fiber. When purchasing your feed, be sure it is not stale or moldy. Anything over 6 months after the date printed on the bag is considered stale feed and should not be fed to your rabbits due to mold build up.  Along with this, the longer you store feed, the more nutrients you're going to lose. Vitamin A and E especially, are lost fairly quickly. Always store your pellets in a clean, dry, and airtight container. Do not feed moldy, wet, or stale pellets as it could cause your rabbit to become seriously ill.  You can feed pellets in either a crock or a hanging cage feeder; the choice is ultimately up to you and your rabbit. Cage feeders are easier since they allow you to feed your rabbit outside of the cage without having to open the door and invade your rabbit's space. This is a huge time saver for large-scale breeders. They can be made of either metal or plastic. Cage feeders can also hold more food than a crock, often several days worth. Some cage feeders have a screen bottom to allow all of the fine dust particles to escape the feed, thus preventing respiratory infection in your rabbit.  Crocks are easier for rabbits to eat out of as opposed to hanging feeders since they allow a wider space for their mouth. However, lightweight crocks can easily be tipped over by your rabbit or soiled in. Crocks can be made out of either metal, plastic, or ceramic. Whichever feeding method you choose and find to fit your rabbit's habits the best, you also need to take into consideration the material the container is made out of. Metal is by far the most sanitary, but it will rust over time and may have sharp edges on it that could harm your rabbit. Plastic is the cheapest, but it can be too lightweight and your rabbit could quickly destroy it by chewing on it. As well as this, plastic is a porous material, so you cannot get it 100% sanitized when washing it. Ceramic is very heavy duty and can last a long time, but it can become cracked over time and some ceramic pet crocks contain harmful leads in the finished glaze. Whichever container you decide to use, always make sure the feed inside is clean, dust free, mold free, and free from any urine or feces. It should be easy for your rabbit to eat out of and your rabbit should get his/her daily amount of food out of it without experiencing any problems.

 

  • Water: Rabbits should have a constant supply of clean fresh water. Water can be given in either a water bottle or crock. Water bottles don’t take up much cage space and can usually hold more water than a crock can. However, water bottles can harbor bacteria and algae if not properly cleaned and they can also freeze and crack in cold weather. There are, however, heated water bottles available on the market, but they can be expensive. And unless you have quick flip top lids on your water bottles, then it can be become annoying to unattach, fill, and reattach bottles every day. Water bottles can be made of either plastic or glass. Glass is more expensive, but usually long lasting and more sanitary. Plastic is cheaper and lighter, but it will crack and become weak in extreme temperatures, and it is less sanitary than a glass bottle. Not all rabbits like using a water bottle as it can be difficult and time consuming for them to get enough water. Don’t worry if you think your rabbit may not figure out how to use a water bottle. They will know by instinct and from the smell of water to figure it out. You can also use an automatic watering system which is basically the use of hoses with nozzles like water bottles in which the hoses connect and run from a water container. This method is favored by breeders of large rabbitries as it's the most time saving and allows the breeders to medicate all of their rabbits at once via the water system. The only drawback to a water system is the hassle it takes to clean them. Most rabbits prefer crocks simply because they’re easier to drink out of.  However, unless the crock is heavy duty, rabbits can and will tip them over and this could leave your rabbit without water until the next time the crock is refilled (which depending on your schedule, could be as long as 24 hours. You don’t want your rabbit to ever be without water, especially on hot days.) Rabbits also have a habit of soiling/urinating in their water crocks which could lead to serious illnesses if the rabbit later drinks the contaminated water. Mold can also be a problem in a rabbit’s dewlop as it can get wet when the rabbit leans down to drink from a crock.  Just like with the type of cage you choose to put your rabbit in, the type of water container also depends on you and your rabbit’s personal preference.  Whatever you decide, the important thing is that your rabbit will ALWAYS have water and that you’ll be able to keep their water device clean.

 

  • Hay: Along with pellets and water, hay is also a highly important source of fiber and other nutrients for rabbits as it aids in digestion. Hay should make up the largest majority of your rabbit's diet. In fact, it should make up at least 95% of your rabbits' diet.  Rabbits get most of their fiber intake strictly from hay. Rabbits should ideally have hay available to them at all times as this provides a constant supply of motility feed to keep their guts moving as opposed to cramping up between meals. Just like with grass-based pellets, types of grass hay such as Timothy, Orchard, Oat, Brome, and Meadow are much better than Alfalfa Hay since they are low in protein. Grass hays are rich in vitamin A, D, and calcium. Alfalfa is actually a legume. Alfalfa can be given to rabbits younger than 6 months, nursing does, or show rabbits in need of extra conditioning. Always keep your hay in a clean DRY area. Never feed moldy hay to your rabbits. When choosing hay and pellets, be sure to check the cutting stage of the hay as it can contain different levels of nutrients. For example, late bloom alfalfa hay and early bloom timothy hay have the same protein content.  Hay can be given in the form of hay cubes or you can put it into a hay rack that hangs on the side or top of the rabbit’s cage.  Hay racks are cheap and easy to make out of scrap cage wire- all you need to do is to cut and bend it into shape and attach it the cage. 

 

  • Amounts: It is very important to never overfeed your rabbit or give them excess fatty or sugary treats and allow them to gain extra weight. Those few extra pounds are a huge strain on a rabbit's system and will lead to serious health issues (mainly organ and heart failure) and eventually death. The right amount of feed depends on the rabbits' breed, age, health, and surrounding climate. Rabbits will obviously consume more water and less feed in warmer temperatures, but will also need more water and feed in winter so they can keep up their energy to keep from getting cold. If they do not have enough water, they will not eat.  A general ¼ - 1/2 cup of feed per 5 lbs-7lbs of rabbit is usually enough for most breeds, but again, this amount can vary.  Rabbits are more comfortable being fed in the evening and morning (rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are more active during twilight hours). However, if because of your own schedule you must feed them at different hours, it will not cause any damage to their health. As long as you keep your rabbits on a diet of pellets, hay, and water they should do fine.

 

  • Feeding Treats, Supplements, & "natural" diets: Treats may also be given to your rabbit, but in moderate amounts, unless used as supplements (visit the "Health" page for recommended supplements and herbal remedies for rabbits). Supplements can help curb appetite, aid in medical problems, and improve show quality. You want to focus on keeping your rabbit on consistent and well-balanced feedings. Remember, many plants contain a naturally occurring chemicals called an alkaloids. These are mild toxins that protect plants in the wild. The most regards alkaloid with rabbits is oxalic acid. When consumed in small amounts, it is completely harmless to animals. The amount of oxalic acid within each plant can vary significantly due to several factors including the composition of the soil the plant grew in, the time of year, and the age of the plant. Most of the fresh vegetables we feed rabbits have a low to zero level of oxalic acid, but a few, most notably parsley, mustard greens, kale, and spinach have relatively high levels. The toxicity of oxalic acid comes with feeding large quantities of foods high in this chemical and can result in tingling of the skin, the mouth and ultimately damage to the kidneys=. These foods are nutritious and do not need to be excluded from the diet if you feed them sparingly. Don’t feed the same greens all the time from week to week if possible, mix it up. For instance if you feed parsley this week, then leave it out of the diet for next week and use something else. Rotating the greens will also give your rabbit variety. Some people, mainly pet owners and a few meat breeders, feed "salads" or prefer natural feeding for every meal. These 'salads' or forms of natural feed must be VERY carefully put together. Giving something that's unsafe, not enough of something, or too much of one thing can have a serious effect on a rabbit. For example, a small half inch long piece of banana is okay, but anything bigger than that could send your rabbit to the vet with deadly GI stasis.  A rabbit's digestive tract is very sensitive and you must be careful in what you feed them and how much. Natural Feeding must be planned out according to what’s available during the year and what exactly a rabbit’s body needs nutrition wise. For example, in winter you’d be feeding an unlimited supply of 80% alfalfa and 20% grass hay with a rationed mix of grains such as wheat and barley along with certain dried weeds and roots-and in the summer they’d be fed fresh green weeds such as dandelion, clover, grasses, and berries. In general, feed 2 cups of mixed fresh vegetables/fruit/dark leafy greens per every 5 pounds of rabbit every day with every pelleted meal. The darker leafy greens and hay given to your rabbit, the healthier their diet will be. Make sure everything is organic, especially things that humans wouldn’t normally consume (such as carrot tops and lawn grass) so as to prevent your rabbit from ingesting deadly pesticides, chemicals, poisons, or fertilizers. Mineral blocks must also be provided if your rabbit is on a natural diet to make up for any missed nutrients. Any lack of any kind of nutrient can have severe and often fatal effects on a rabbit's health, so it's extremely important to make sure your rabbit is getting what it needs and in the right amounts. If your rabbit is eating pellets, there is usually no need to supplement their diet with a salt block or mineral block as your rabbit will already be getting those necessary nutrients from the pellets. Sometimes commercial feeds can lose their nutritional content if kept in improper or prolonged storage. If this is the case, a trace mineral block can be provided. If you do choose to provide salt, keep it up out of the way from being soiled and in a dry area. Keep in mind that anything with excessive amounts of water, sugar, oxalates- salts, calcium, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are generally bad for rabbits. Supplements found in pet stores that are advertised towards rabbits such as salt licks, yogurt drops, and mixed snack feeds, are not good choices for treats as they contain hardly any beneficial nutrients and lots of salt and sugar. Rabbits less than 5 months of age must never be given anything except hay and water, and eventually pellets because their digestive systems are extremely sensitive and anything that disrupts that may cause severe diarrhea and/or death. Adult rabbits may be given treats in the forms of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Plants are best given to rabbits just before they flower, as they retain their nutrients and oils up until that point. When introducing new treats, always start off in small portions, so you can monitor your rabbit's reaction and so you won't harm their already adjusted feedings. Rapid or inappropriate changes in a rabbit's diet is a common leading cause of GI stasis and death. Below are two lists of treats, "Good Treats" and "Bad Treats". If there is something you wish to feed your rabbit and you don't see it on either of these lists, then as a general safety rule, don't feed it.

 

  • Good Treats: Artichoke (jers), Arugula, Asparagus, Basil, Beans (Outer Leaves), Beet Tops, Beets, Beet Roots, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage (Outer Leaves), Celery (small quantities), Chard, Collard Greens, Cucumber, Endive, Escarole, Green Pepper, Kale, Kohlrabi, Parsnips, Peas (Outer Leaves), Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds, Radish Tops, Radicchio, Romaine Lettuce, Snow Peas, Spinach, Sugar Beets, Summer Squash, Sweds, Turnips, Watercress, Yam, Zucchini, Calendula, Chrysanthemum, Dandelion, Daylily, Dianthus, English Daisy, Honeysuckle, Lilacs, Marigold, Nastursham, Oxeye Daisy, rose, Scenter Geranium, Squash Blossom, Sweet Woodruff, Tuberous Begonia, Violas, Violets, Yew, Yucca, Apples (but not the seeds), Blueberries, Banana Chips, Blackberries, Cranberries, Cantaloupe, Hawthorn Berries, Honey Dew Melon, Papaya, Pears, Peaches, Pineapple, Privet Berries, Raspberries and Raspberry Leaves, Strawberries, Watermelon, Anise Hyssop, Sage, Salad Bernet, Barley, Basil, Bee Balm, Borage, Chamomile, Dill, Fennel, Sage, French Tarragon, Chives, Greek Oregano, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Marjoram, Mustard, Rosemary, Mint (not for pregnant does), Comfrey, Cow Parsley, Acorns, Alfalfa, Beechnuts, Chickweed, Crimped Barley, Clover, Groundsel, Hael, Hog Weed, Knotted Persicaria, Lucerne, Nettle Pkanain, Oats, Shepherd's Purse, Sunflowers, Sunflower Seeds, Vetch, Willow Bark, Willow Leaves, Wheat, Yarrow (not for pregnant does), Carrots, Mango, Grass Hay, Timothy Hay, Almonds, peanut shells

  • Bad Treats: Aloe Vera, Amarylillis Plant, Andromeda, Anemone, Angel's Trumpet, Antirrhinums, Apple Seeds, Apple Leaves, Amaryllis, Apricot Seeds, Apricot Leaves, Asian Lilly, Asparagus Fern, Autumn Crocus, Autralian Nut, Avocado, Azalea, Baby's Breath, Balsam Pear, Ban Berry, Barbados Lilly, Behonia, Betel Nut Palm, Belladonna, Bird of Paradise, bitter Cherry, Bittersweet, Black Locust, Black Nightshade, Black Walnut, Bloodroot, Blue Bonnet, Bluebells, Blue-Green Algae, Boston Ivy, Boxwood, Bracken Fern, Branching Ivery, Buckeye, Buck Thorn, Buddhist Pine, bull Nettle, Buttercup, Busy Lizzie, Bryony Cactu Thorn, Corn, Cycads Nephytis, Cyclamen, Cypress, Daffodil, Dahlias, Daisy, Daphne, Datura, Day Lily, Deadly Amanita, Deadly Nightshade, Death Camas, Delphinium, Devil's Ivy, Dieffendbachia, Dog Band, Dog Mercury, Dracaena, Dragon Tree, Dumb Cane, Dutchmans' Breeches, Easter Lily, Eggplant, Elain Pionsettia, Elderberry, Elephant Ear, Emeral Feather, English Iby, English Laurel, Eucalyptus, False Hellebore, False Henbane, False Parsley, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Fire Weed, Impatiens, Indian Hemp, Indian Rubber Plant, Indian Turnip, Indigo, Ink Berry, Iris, Boston Ivy, Jack in the Pupit, Japanse Euronymus, Japanses Show Lily, Japanese Yew, Jasmine, Java Bean, Jerusalem Cherry, Jessamine, Jim Son Weed, Johnson Grass, Jonquil, Madagascar Dragon Tree, Striped Dracaena, St John's Wort, Sweetheart Ivy, Sweet Oea, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Cheese Plant, Tansy, Taro vine, Torn Apple, Wood Lily, Wolly Pod Milkweed, Yellow Jasmine, Caladium, Calendula, Calico Busch, Calla Lilly, Caladiur, Carnation, Carolin Jessamine, Castor Bean, Clastrus, Ceriman, Chalice Vine, Charming, Dieffenbachia, Cherry Tree, Cherries, China Doll Chinaberry Tree, Chinese Bellflower, Chinese Lantern, Chinese Evergreen, Chives, Choke Cherry, Christmas Candle, Tree Sap, Christmas Rose, Chysanthemum, Cineraria, Climbing Nightshade, Coffee Bean, Columbine, Cone Flower, Coral Plants, Cordatum, Corn Plant, Cornstalk, Cow Bane, Cowslip, Croton, Corn of Thorns, Cuban, Laurel, Cuckoo Pint, Cereal, Cut Learf Philodendron, Cycads, Fig Wort, Flamingo Plant, Florida Beauty, Flowering Maple, Flowering Tobacco, Fools Parsley, Foxglove, Garden Sorrel, Geranium, German Ivy, Ghost Weed, Giant Dumb Cane, Giant Touch Me Not, Glacier Ivy Gladiola, Glory Lily, Gold Dust, Golden Pothos, Golden Chain, Green Gold, Hahn's Ivey, Heart Ivy, Hawaiian Ti, Heavenly Bamboo, Bellebor, Hemlock, Henbane, Hog Wart, Holly, Horse Chestnut, Horse Head, Horsetail Reed, Hurricane Plant, Hyacinth, Hydangea, Juniper, Kamia, Kalanchoe, Kingcup, Lupins, Laburnum, Lacy Tree, Lac Fer, Lady Slipper, Lantan, Larkspur, Laurel, Leyland, Lily of the Valley, Lima Beans, Lobelia, Locoweed, Lords and Ladies, Lupin, Macadamia Nuts, Tiger Lily, Toadstools, Tobacco, Tomatoes, Tropic Snow, Tropical Cycids, Tulips, Umbrella Plant, Vinca, Wood Rose, Yam Bean, Yea, Iceberg Lettuce, Marbel Queen, Marijuana, Machineel Tree, Marsh Marigold, Mauna Loa Oeace Lily, Mayapple, Mexican Breadfruit, Meadow Saffron, Medicine Plant, Mesquite, Mescal Bean, Milk Bush, Miniature Croton, Mistletoe, Mock ORange, Monkshood, Moon Flower, Morning Glory, Moth in Law, Mountain Laurel, Mushrooms, Mustard Root, Marcissus, Nandina, Needlepoint Ivy, Nephtytis, Nicotiana, Nightshade Berries, Nutmeg, Oak, Oleander, Onions, Oriental Lily, Oxalis, Panda, Parlor Ivy, Patience Plant, Palm Peace Lily, Peaches, Pears, Pencil Cactus, Peony, Periwinkle, Peyote, Philodendron, Pieries, Plums, Plumosa Fern, Poinsettia, Poison Hemlock, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Pokeweek, Poppies, Potatos, Precatory Bean, Primrose, Primula, Privet, Purple Thorn Apple, Pothos, Peanuts, Queensland Nut, Rag wort, Rannunculus, Red Emerald, Red Lily, Red Princess, Red Margined Dracaena, Phododendon, Rhubarb, Ribbon Plant, Ripple Ivy, rosary Pea, Rubrum Lily, Sage Palm, Saffron, Saddle Leaf, Sago Palm, Satin Pothos, Schefflera, Self Branching Ivy, Senna Bean, Shamrock, Silver Pothos, Skunk Cabbage, Snake Palm, Snow on the Mountain, Solomon's Seal, Spindle Berry, Split Leaf, Spoon Flower, Spotted Dumb Cane, Spurges, Star of Bethlehem, Stinkweed, String of Pearls, Sweet Clover, Virginia Creeper, Violet, Walnuts, Water Hemlock, Weeping Fig, Wester Lily Wild Calla, Wild Carrots, Wild Cucumber, Wild Peas, Wild Parsnip, Wiseria, Zucchini, Chocolate, Sugar, Milk, Candy, Yogurt Chips, Yogurt, All Other Dairy Products

 

 

 

What about Vitamin Supplements?

  • Rabbits require natural vitamins. Below, you'll read how rabbits can acquire all of their essential vitamins, and what amounts are tolerated.

Vitamin A:

  • An adult healthy rabbit can produce as much as 10-60 of its daily need for Vitamin A from beta-carotene. Rabbits can store natural vitamin A in their livers, however synthetic vitamin A does not store easily in their bodies. If fed in excess, synthetic vitamin A can lead to sudden toxicity. The interaction between vitamin A and vitamin D3 promote gene expression in the form of growth and development. These two vitamins must be regulated safely to create a balanced ratio.

Vitamin B:

  • Vitamin B in rabbits is shown to assist and promote growth rate. Rabbits produce a significant amount of their own vitamin B in the ceacum. A well balanced pelleted brand diet should provide adequate Vitamin B.  

Vitamin C:

  •  Rabbits can produce their own healthy amounts of vitamin C.

Vitamin D:

  • Rabbits can be very sensitive to Vitamin D3, and in high doses, it can cause deformities or even death. Rabbits get a natural and healthy dose of Vitamin D2 through the UV sunlight rays. This is why it's important to allow your rabbits secured outside access.

Vitamin E:

  • Rabbits can receive their vitamin E from whole oilseeds. Synthetic vitamin E may provide energy, but lack the proper carbohydrates that rabbits need. Rabbits that do not receive enough vitamin E will experience severe physical ailments such as muscular dystrophy, reproduction problems, and immune problems.  

Vitamin K:

  • Vitamin K is fat-soluble, so leafy green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli provide adequate amounts for rabbits.

Other Vitamins:

  • Chlorine makes up as an important part of cell membranes and builds acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter of memory and muscle stimulation. Without chlorine in the diet, a rabbit may cirrhosis of the liver.  

 

Probiotics?

Rabbits have an extremely delicate and complicated microorganism flora. Their stomach is also highly acidic, so any probiotics that are orally administered must be encapsulated. Probiotics should only be given in dire situations, such as when the rabbit is off feed. In which case, fluids are more essential than probiotics. Too many probiotics can cause an overload of carbohydrates which will cause an increase in toxins to build up in the cecum.

 

Rabbits eating meat?

There have been a couple of studies successfully demonstrating that rabbits can utilize animal products (such as chicken by-product meal, fish meal, and earthworm meal) as a protein source. Many pellet companies outside of the United States even prefer to use these sources in their feeds. Wild rabbits have been observed to "hunt" snails and earthworms when otherwise abundant resources are scarce. This proves that the rabbit's digestive tract isn't entirely obligatory towards plant matter, but is quite capable of breaking down animal proteins. In an article published by the Instituto Nacional de la Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, México, D.F, authors state, "The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the nutritive value of earthworms as protein feed in rabbit rations. Earthworm meal was obtained from Eisenia foetida and Lumbricus rubellus. Its proximate chemical composition, amino acid composition and protein digestibility in vitro were determined. In addition, growing rabbits were fed a diet containing 30% of the total protein as earthworm meal, a diet which was compared with a control diet containing soybean meal as protein feed. Both diets were isocaloric and isonitrogenous. Feed intake, weight gain, feed conversion and apparent digestibility were measured. Results showed high protein (50.86%) and fat (10.16%) contents, and low fiber percentage (2.67%). Amino acids content including the essential, and in vitro protein digestibility percentage were similar to fish and meat meals and higher than soybean meal. There were no differences in feed intake, weight gain and feed conversion. Apparent digestibility was 5.09% higher (P less than 0.05) with the diet containing earthworm meal than with the control diet. It was concluded that it is possible to substitute 30% of the protein in the diet of growing rabbits, with earthworm meal, without any adverse physiological effects. Similar results to those achieved when conventional protein supplements are used for rabbit rations, were obtained". In a more recent study, Michael Peers, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, snowshoe hares in Canada were seen for the first time eagerly consuming meat from animal carcasses to supplement their winter diets, The carcasses ranged from many species of birds to deer, fish, lynx, and somewhat concerning, other hares. The hares primarily targeted to brains of these animals, being that they are high in protein. Scientists are still research how the hares are able to actually break down and process these animal parts in their digestive system.

Grooming

First and foremost, rabbits should never ever be bathed using water. Water will damage the coat, irritate the skin, and if it gets in their ears (even a tiny drop) it will cause serious and often permanent damage. Rabbits have a delicate skin PH, one that most shampoos will strip away. If a rabbit gets soaked in water, its body temperature will drop dramatically, which can lead to death. On top of all of that, submerging a rabbit in water can very easily cause it to panic and literally be scared to death. A damp coat can also lead to bacterial infections of the skin, especially in areas around the rump where the rabbit can't properly groom itself. This can lead to fly strike. The one and only exception for bathing a rabbit is if a licensed vet has directed you to give your rabbit a medicated bath for health reasons. In certain situations, such as dried mud, diarrhea, blood, etc.-you may have to remove the material from the coat. In this case, use a warm wet cloth and some mild non-scented soap to clean the area. Then (this is the most important part) thoroughly dry the area, either with a towel or a hair dryer on low setting (if it doesn't startle your rabbit).

 

Grooming your rabbit is essential to proper care. Rabbits will go through 'molts' or periods of shedding throughout their lives. Adults will shed on average 3 times a year, while kits will go through a major molt before they reach adulthood (called a baby molt, when they get rid of their soft baby coat for a more course even adult coat). Removing loose fur is important to prevent knots and hairballs. Rabbit fur comes in many varieties- normal, rex, satin, wool, and wavy. And within these varieties are different variants- flyback, rollback, and standing hair. When you know the breed of your rabbit, you'll know what type of fur it has and be able to determine the most effective and time-saving way of grooming them.

When you groom your rabbit, don't just focus on its fur. Look it over to see if the rabbit has any illnesses or is underfed. A healthy rabbit should be active and will have clear bright eyes that do not have any watery or crusty discharge. The ears should be dry and clean from any dirt or crustiness. There should be no sign of diarrhea on the rabbit's bottom. If you can feel the ribs and backbone of the rabbit than it is underfed. The skin should be smooth and not crusty, full of dirt or parasites, or dry to the point where it is flaky. What you'll need for grooming your rabbit consists of a small slicker brush, small soft bristle brush, cat nail clippers, and odorless wipes. When grooming your rabbit, it is usually quite simple. Take the slicker brush to gently brush out any knots or clumps of dirt or feces in the fur. Afterwards, take the bristle brush to unruffle or sweep away loose fur. You can also wet your hands and run them through the fur to pick up piles of shedding fur.

 

 If you raise angora rabbits, you will need to use a specialized blower to remove extra fur. You should do this about one to two times a week along with regular brushing with a wide steel comb. Angoras will also need to have their extra hair harvested about every three to four months. A standard breed healthy angora will produce about 1 pound of wool for you with each yearly harvest, and about 2 to 3 pounds of wool from the giant angora breeds. You'll need to take extra care of your angoras and keeping them cool in the high temperatures because those wooly coats insulate heat very well.

 

 To remove any urine stains or odor in the fur, you can use odorless baby wipes. These do the trick for minor problems, however, if your rabbit has deep yellow urine stains that are hard to remove, use a small amount of vinegar, cornstarch, witch hazel, or peroxide.

When grooming the fur, you may also have to clean the rabbit's scent glands located under its jaw as well as around its anus. Just like some people can accumulate more earwax than others, some rabbits can accumulate a lot of messy and smelly material around their glands. If left unchecked, this can lead to infection. Simply use a damp cloth to do the trick.

 

Rabbit’s nails must be clipped regularly as to prevent them from getting caught in cage wire, causing injury to other rabbits or people, or causing discomfort to the rabbit while it is sitting or standing up.  Rabbits use their nails to support them when the stand, so if the nail is too long, the rabbit will be off balance. Balance issues can lead to spinal and internal organ problems. If the nails get caught in something, they can be torn off or bruised (the blood inside the quick will be a dark brown color if this occurs) which can be extremely painful for your rabbit. Rabbits in the wild keep their nails filed down from running across various ground terrains and digging through hard soil. Just like trimming the nails on any other animal, take extra care to not cut the quick (the pink part inside of the nail where nerve endings and blood supply are located.) A rabbit's nails should not grow any further from the length of the fur on their paw.

 

As well as trimming nails, the length of your rabbit's teeth must also be kept in check. A rabbit's teeth grow nearly 1/2 inch every month. If they are healthy and are kept on a hard pellet diet, you usually will not have to file the teeth down. However, due to genetics or poor health, you may find yourself having to take a metal file to them. The best way to do this, however, is to have a vet do it because sometimes filing teeth can be more serious then it appears to be. Infection and further damage could occur. If the teeth are left unchecked they could quickly grow out of control and pierce into the rabbit's cheeks, tongue, gums, and even the roof of the mouth. It is extremely painful and prevents the rabbit from eating, which in turn could result in a slow death due to starvation. The very best way to prevent this is to know the genetic background of your rabbits. Teeth issues are hereditary so always check your rabbit and it's parents dental history. This hereditary trait, called malocclusion, should be culled for in any breeding program.

Behavior

Here are some simple tips to understanding the behavior of your rabbit. It is important to recognize these traits so you can better judge the health and happiness level of your rabbit. Always understand and remember that rabbits live naturally in a system of hierarchy and they display either their dominance or submission to their owners just as they would to other rabbits. 

  • Head lowered to the ground when approached: This is a sign that a rabbit is being submissive.

  • Unexpected jumping and twisting: This is how a rabbit releases pent-up energy.

  • Thumping of hind feet: Rabbits do this if they are either startled, aggressively defending their territory, or as a warning to other rabbits that danger may be near.

  • Standing up on hind feet: This is how rabbits make a survey of their surrounding or to simply reach up for something out of their normal grasp.

  • Grunting: This is usually a warning when a rabbit is about to attack or feels threatened. Sometimes they also grunt when frustrated or feeling extra frisky.

  • Squealing: A rabbit will do this only when it is under extreme and sudden stress or pain.

  • Rubbing chin on objects: Rabbits have scent glands under their jaw and when they rub their chin up against something, it is their way of marking their territory or letting rabbits of the opposite sex know when they are ready to breed.

  • Grinding Teeth: This is usually the equivalent of a happy cat purring. However, if this is excessive, it can also be a sign of discomfort or pain.

  • Running in circles in a cage or jumping back and forth constantly: This is the psychological result of a rabbit that has been caged for too long or in too small a space.

  • Chewing on Cage Wire: A rabbit may do this to help grind its teeth down, or if this is done in a repetitive motion, this is yet again another psychological disorder from being caged for too long. It can be corrected by exercised time outside of the cage and/or allowed extra hay, toys, and treats to keep the rabbit preoccupied.

  • Binky: This is a playful hop in the air and twist, meaning that the rabbit is full of energy and ready for play.

  • Circling: When a rabbit circles your legs or another rabbit, it's usually a form of courting or a need for a treat.

  • Licking: This is simply a form of affection and/or grooming. Or something could just taste really good!

  • Biting: Rabbits may bite in order to display defense when scared or stressed. They may also bite as a way of defending their territory or they may simply mistake a hand for food. To avoid being bitten, never force a rabbit into a corner, and wash your hands before you handle your rabbit so you do not have the scent of food on your skin.

  • Kicking: A rabbit's main defense is to kick. Especially when being held. Rabbits, no matter how tame and friendly, easily scared when being picked up and will kick in order to free themselves. Sequentially, this leads to scratches on owner's arms. Learning to properly and comfortably pick up and hold a rabbit will help prevent this. If you're not willing to put up with scratches, rabbits may not be the best pet for you.

  • Ears back at a 45% angle and tail up: The rabbit is being aggressive because it either feels threatened or defensive of its territory, and is ready to lunge out and bite.

  • Mounting: Rabbits do this when they are ready to mate. They will also do this as a sign of dominance. Rabbits will not only mount other rabbits, but stuffed animals, other pets, or your leg (whatever seems convenient for them, basically). You can diminish this unwanted behavior by spaying/neutering your pet rabbit.

  • Spraying: Both male and female rabbits may spray urine as a way to mark their territory. Rabbits also have scent glands located on either side of their anus and these alone can produce quite a smelly mess. This behavior can be diminished by spaying/neutering your pet rabbit.

  • Flopping Over: This is comical yet very normal and common behavior in which a rabbit will quite literally and suddenly flop down and roll over onto its side and go to sleep. It is also known as the DBF - dead bunny flop because the rabbit appears as if it had been shot down. Nearly every rabbit owner will testify to their first time witnessing this and the heart attack it caused, only to find that the rabbit was perfectly fine!

A Rabbit's View on the World:
Like most open-space prey animals, the rabbit's eyes are placed predominantly on the sides of their heads. Quite a few studies have shown that this lets rabbits see nearly a full circle around them. In effect, rabbits receive a wide-angle, panoramic view of the world. However, rabbits do have a small blind spot in front of their noses, and another just behind their tails, and they probably cannot see much that is sitting low on their backs either. Because of the placement of the rabbits eyes, only about 30 degrees of their entire field of vision overlaps, and 10 degrees of that is the blind spot. 

Rabbits don't have very good depth perception... What allows us humans to concentrate on an object is an increase in cones in an area called the fovea in our eye. Rabbits have a similar area that spans 30% in front of their face, but has less cones than our eyes. However, remember, 10% of this space is a blind spot so rabbits only have depth perception in 20% of their field of vision. To make up for this lack of depth perception, rabbits use the technique called “parallax.” The bun bobs her head up and down. An object that moves more than other objects will be closer.  Some domestic breeds have the shape of their head altered from that of the natural design, and so the eyes may offer more or less binocular vision, depending on where they are - Lionhead breeds, for example, have eyes that are more forward facing than the natural design - it would be safe to assume that they may well have increased binocular vision.

 

 This is why, when you approach a rabbit, walk at them from their side, not directly in front of them. This way, they can see you coming and not get startled. If a rabbit begins to act panicked as you approach, try slowly swaying, looking away, stopping every few steps, talking loudly, and/or walking back and forth from them. These tactics of making yourself peacefully known or that you're not directly focused on the rabbit, will make yourself appear like a prey animal and not a predatory one.

Handling & Socializing

Contrary to what you've most likely seen on old cartoon shows of magician's pulling a rabbit out of a hat by its ears, holding a rabbit by its ears is one of the most painful and physically damaging ways to handle it. By doing so, you can easily cause cartilage and blood vessel breakage. A rabbit's ears are not meant to support the weight of the rabbit. The same goes for holding them solely by the scruff of their neck. Doing so can break the connective tissue, blood vessels, and cause bruising. If you absolutely must scruff a rabbit (such as having to quickly grab it out of a small space), place its ears flat over it's back and hold the scruff with the ears on top. Be sure to support the rabbit's bottom at the same time. Suspension of the body without supporting the bottom can lead to vertebral column luxation or fracture at the lumbar level or neck.

 

Instead, the best way to pick up and hold a rabbit is by supporting it around its shoulders and bottom. As a rule, one hand supports the chest of the rabbit, with fingers resting under its axilla (armpits). To prevent compression of the chest, the front limbs of the rabbit are placed over one hand. The second hand or elbow supports the rabbit's weight and is placed underneath its rump. A rabbit kicking against a hard surface when held may injure or fracture its spine. Hind limbs pointing away from the human's body will reduce struggling by the rabbit and scratching of the human by sharp nails.Start by laying the rabbit's ears flat against its back. Apply pressure down and back. Slide your free hand down underneath the rabbit's bottom. Gently and firmly lift up. Rotate the rabbit toward your body and place its head underneath your arm. Always support the rabbit's hindquarters. By placing the ears down and hiding the rabbit's head, you are allowing it to naturally relax and feel safe while being held. The more you handle your rabbit, the more relaxed it will be and more willing to be held.

Another encouraged way to hold rabbits is called the "football hold". This is the most secure hold and is the standard way of holding in the 4H and show world. How it works is you place the rabbit on one forearm with its head facing your rabbit (much like how you cradle a foot ball in your arm. Place your other free hand over the ears and scruff for control.The rabbit does best with its head tucked between the crook of your arm and body so its face is hidden. Rabbits are most calm when they their eyes are covered/hidden, so this method is lease likely to cause them to panic or fight when being held.

 

Some rabbits may panic and kick wildly when being picked up/set down. This is perfectly natural as rabbits are prey animals and being caught and confined is a very scary situation for them. They like to have all four feet securely on the ground and when those feet leave the ground, they feel insecure and vulnerable. Hence why it's crucial to support their feet and rear end when picking them up. No matter how well-socialized your rabbit is, there is always the possibility that it will kick and struggle when you initially pick it up.  It's important to be prepared for this so that both you and your rabbit will feel safe, trusted, and avoid any injury. Rabbits are notorious for breaking their backs when being improperly handled. Some rabbits will learn that kicking and flailing about will get them out of being handled. This will just lead to an unsocialized and finicky animal. To avoid an increased occurrence of this behavior, work with your rabbit as much as possible to get it comfortable and relaxed with being picked up. You cannot allow kicking fits to get out of hand, as the reaction will only get worse with time. Let your rabbit calm down before picking it up and setting it down. If it acts up, repeat the process before releasing it.

 

The importance of handling:

All domestic animals, including rabbits, benefit from social interaction with their owners. The more you handle your rabbit, the friendlier and more relaxed it will be when with you. Not only does constant handling make a better companion, but it promotes better health of your rabbit as well. Recent scientific studies have shown that gentle physical contact decreases stress and encourages relaxed emotions. This, in turn, increases endorphins which help keep the body healthy by fighting disease. So the happier your rabbit is, the healthier it will be.

Gently exposing your rabbit to being handled, being around other pets, noises, smells, and environments will helps them be more comfortable and relaxed. Just as you would with your new puppy or your child, you want them to have as much exposure of the world as possible so they are better prepared to face it with a calm and confident manner. Supervising your rabbits in both outdoor and indoor play pens for a few hours a day is a great and safe way to do this. Allow calm dogs, cats, and people around so the rabbits get use to them. This will better prepare the rabbit for situations such as going to shows, being handled by children or vets, and accepting other pets into their daily lifestyle.  A rabbit should act and behave calm and composed while being handled. This is especially essential when they are being groomed or attended to by a vet. Just imagine how difficult and dangerous it would be for you if you were flailing around in your barber's chair while they attempted to cut your hair or trim your nails. It's not pretty or safe and it's no different for your rabbit. It's important to ease rabbits into new stimuli and not bombard them all at once with terrifying situations, otherwise, they could be traumatized and that'll just lead to more issues down the road. Expose them to only one or two stimuli every week or so. And don't allow aggressive or obnoxious people/other pets around them for safety concerns.

Not handling your rabbit frequently or not exposing them to various stimuli can lead to "wild rabbit syndrome", This isn't a disease, but a loose term for behavior. Choosing to keep your rabbit in total confinement with little to not interaction stunts their senses and mental development. "Wild rabbit syndrome" defines a rabbit that is easily and often stressed or terrified of people, other animals, noises, or sudden movements. Rabbits that exhibit this behavior are more prone to their flight or flight instincts and will often unintentionally injury themselves when in a panicked situation. These rabbits can be very difficult to handle because they are quite literally terrified of everything. Simple things such as a dog barking, child laughing, squirrels or chickens running around, trash bags, cars, lawn mowers, etc can be confusing and scary to a rabbit that is not accustomed to them. Remember, rabbits can panic very easily and break their backs in a cage or die of a heart attack out of fear. Please don't let this happen to your rabbit. 

Socialization

 Some rabbits enjoy having companions. Some rabbits can thrive on socializing and having a friend whom they can play and snuggle up with. Some rabbits can have such close bonds with other creatures that they’ll even mourn and sulk when separated.

 

 

It's important to understand that any animal can and will be territorial or defensive/aggressive if placed in the right circumstances. With that in mind, the techniques used to bond rabbits are crucial.

 

Every rabbit is an individual. Some are dominant and aggressive. Some are submissive and calm. You must determine this before introducing your rabbit to other rabbits so there's less of a chance of clashing personalities.  Some rabbits do best-bonded female to female, others, it's with male to male, and still, there are others that may only bond with family members (such as brother with brother or mothers with daughters). Pet rabbits that are spayed or neutered are more likely to get along than unaltered rabbits. Hormones can play a significant part in dominant and aggressive behavior, so removing them contributes to a more docile animal.

 

Remember, there are rabbits that will refuse to have anything to do with other rabbits, despite any and all attempts to introduce bonding. These rabbits prefer and thrive living in solitude. And that is perfectly fine.

 

Never introduce an unaltered male to an unaltered female unless you are willing and prepared to expect baby rabbits. Mating can happen in the time it takes to blink your eye (literally), so do not make mistakes.

 

It's best to introduce rabbits when they are young before hormone driven aggression has a chance to set into their personalities.

 

When the time does come to introduce new rabbit friends, do it in a neutral environment, one neither of the rabbits have ever been to. The rabbits will not feel like they have to defend a territory if they have not already scent marked it as their own. Most crucial to the process is to keep them in a wide and open area. Rabbits that are confined to a small cage together will immediately feel threatened and act defensively. Small spaces do not allow each individual animal personal space or a place to hide. Such close quarters force the rabbits to be in constant violation of each other's safety zones and in turn cause constant fights. It's extremely important that each rabbit feel like they have an escape option.  So a large enclosed, safe, and supervised yard or room in your house will be best. (This is why rabbits raised in a colony setting get along far better than rabbits housed together in a single cage.)  Try giving them some treats so they can both eat together and distract them from any fighting. 

 

Bonding rabbits may take only a few moments or it may take several weeks. It all depends on the rabbits. There may be fighting or there may be snuggling. If extreme fights break out, immediately remove the rabbits to prevent injury. It may take a couple of tries before they get used to each other.

 

Rabbits can also be socialized with other pets such as dogs and cats. However, it's extremely important that you keep them supervised at all times. Even the best well trained and mildly behaved dog or cat can become victim to their natural predatory instincts at any time and could attack your rabbit. Every dog and cat has their own personality, and some are just better suited than others. Certain breeds of dogs are far better suited to befriending a pet rabbit as opposed to breeds that would try to devour it the second their eyes met. Retrievers and livestock guarding dogs are by far the best (Golden Retrievers, Labs, Great Pyrenees). Dogs breeds in the groups such as hounds, terriers, herding, and underground fighting rarely if ever can be safely introduced to a rabbit. Dogs in these groups have been bred specifically to hunt, chase, and/or kill small game animals and therefore have an extremely high prey drive (Australian Cattle Dog, Border Collie, German Shepherd, Dalmatian, Shiba Inu, Chow Chow, Spaniels, Setters, Pointers, Weimaraner, Chinese Shar-Pei, Beagle, Foxhounds, Coonhounds, Greyhounds, Whippet, Saluki, Dachshund, Akita, Siberian Husky, Smooth Fox Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Border Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, just to name a few common ones) . Small toy breeds may be of little harm to a rabbit, however, they too may not make good rabbit companions as they can easily stress a rabbit out with their excessive barking and high energy (Chihuahuas, Toy Fox Terrier, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, etc). With the right pairing, a rabbit and dog/cat could easily become close friends and they will happily play, groom, and sleep with each other.

Other animals such as rodents (rats, hamsters, chinchillas, etc.) and ferrets shouldn't be introduced to rabbits. Even though these animals are of completely different species, the can carry the same diseases, and some of these diseases are far more fatal to rabbits.

Inducing Tonic Immobility

Rabbits can be put into a trance-like state (or tonic immobility) by being gently flipped upside down. This behavior has been observed in a handful of animal species in the wild. The practice in rabbits can be very useful for palpating, trimming nails, and/or forceful nursing. Trancing a rabbit, however, should only be done when absolutely needed.

...However

There is a great deal of controversy and extreme confusion regarding this practice. Some research suggests this is a behavior related to thanatosis - playing dead to avoid predatory attention.  This research has shown a decrease in heart rate. And, although the “fight-or-flight” response is the most common response to fear, which is characterized by the action of sympathetic nervous system with tachycardia and increased physical activity, TI is an alternative anti-predator behavior causing cardiac changes opposite to the “fight-or-flight” phenomenon. In relationship to this, others believe the position forces the animal's brain to release a high quantity of oxytocin and render the animal in a fully relaxed, zen-like state. Still yet, some people believe that the rabbit experiences increased heart and respiratory rates with elevated plasma corticosterone levels, suggesting the rabbit is in a fear induced stress. Unfortunately, at present, there hasn't been further research to expand on these ideas. So until we fully understand the physical and mental actions this plays on rabbits, we should exercise extreme gentleness and attention in placing them in this position. Because of the limited understanding associated with inducing tonic immobility , rabbits that have diagnosed respiratory or cardiovascular diseases should not be placed in this state.

 

To trance a rabbit, gently place it on its back and rub its cheeks. You can use your forearms to support the sides of your rabbit so it doesn't roll off to the side. After a minute or two, your rabbit will slowly shut its eyes and stop moving. After this, you may proceed with what you need to do with the rabbit. Don't leave your rabbit in this state for more than a few minutes, and don't startle it. Always keep your hands on your rabbit during the trance to keep in steady and safe. If your rabbit is startled, it may break out of its trance and panic, thus causing serious, even fatal injury to itself.

Tattooing

In the U.S., rabbits used for show and/or breeding must have a permanent, legible tattoo in their left ear. Tattooing rabbits is necessary for several reasons including accurate identification, a requirement for showing in the U.S., identification on pedigrees and show winnings, and rabbitry organization.

 

There are two common ways to tattoo rabbits; using clamp-style tattoo pliers, or using a tattoo 'pen'. Clamp tattooing is the traditional older method used for many decades and the method most breeders choose to use. Pen tattoo machines are relatively new and can be rather expensive, but they offer a more effective and faster way to tattoo, not to mention, they make the tattoos more legible to read.

When using a clamp-style tattoo, the skin of the ear is penetrated with the needles of the tattoo digit. This is accomplished with the tong style instrument by squeezing the tongs together with the ear between the digits and the rubber backing pad of the tool. Ink is then rubbed into the puncture holes and becomes permanently fixed in the area within the tissue of the skin as the puncture marks heal. For the mark to be permanent, it is imperative that the ink is rubbed into the puncture holes and that the ink remains in the holes until the surrounding tissue has time to heal and incorporate the ink.

 

Be sure that you do have the digits in the correct order by testing the mark on a piece of paper prior to tattooing the rabbit. It is easy to forget that the digits will appear reversed while in the tool, so be careful that you have the digits in the proper order and that the tattoo is going to be what you want it to be and where you want it to be.

 

When tattooing your rabbit, it is important to restrain the rabbit in some way to prevent injury to both itself and the operator should the rabbit move suddenly during the tattoo process. This is also important to assure that the final result is desirable as any sudden movement while tattooing the rabbit and result in incomplete penetration of the digits and thus an illegible mark. A variety of boxes, wraps, and other contraptions have been devised as tattoo restraint systems.

 

The site of the placement of the tattoo should be deep enough in the ear so as to avoid any hair that might be around the outer portion of the ear. If the tattoo is placed in the fringe area of the ear where there is a small amount of hair, this will often impair the legibility of the mark.

It is also extremely important to avoid any major blood vessels within the ear. While inadvertent puncturing of one of the larger vessels may cause above average bleeding, it will not cause any long-term harm to the animal and will usually stop bleeding in a short time. If placed properly, the tattoo will often result in very little, if any bleeding. Care should be taken to find the area within the ear that has the least amount of blood vessels. The tattoo ink contains alcohol to aid in healing and helps prevent infection should some bleeding occur.

 

After the exact site of the tattoo is determined, it is best to clean the area with an alcohol swab to remove any oil, dirt, and bacteria that might be carried into the puncture marks and interferes with the permanent incorporation of the ink with the tissue, thus causing an infection. This will not only assure a clean site to ensure fast healing of the puncture but also helps make the final result a clearer, more legible mark.

Numb the rabbit’s ear with a piece of ice or any other sterile frozen object.

 

The tattoo should be placed in the ear so that it is readable when the ear is opened and looked at from the left side of the animal. By positioning the animal with the nose to your left, you will ensure that the mark will be readable from that position when finished.

When preparing to tattoo, be prepared for the rabbit to make sudden movements, if possible, have a friend hold the rabbit in place on the table while you do the tattoo, if you do not have a restraint system figured out. Prepare a location for tattooing. Pick an area that is comfortable for you and has ample light. The table should be covered with carpet or burlap so that the rabbit does not slip around and become frightened.

Select the digits desired for the tattoo and place them in the tongs. Double-check your selection by making a practice imprint on a piece of paper. Place the rabbit in the tattooing position with his head facing your arm. Place the tattooing instrument over the site to be tattooed; remembering that the site should be deep enough in the ear so that it will not be obscured by the fringe area of fur and that there are no folds in the ear prior to tattooing.

After positioning the tool properly, firmly squeeze the tattoo tongs together. A common mistake is to squeeze the tongs only until the rabbit responds and then release the tongs before the needles of the digits have thrust through the inner skin of the ear. It is extremely important that the tongs be completely closed to make a good penetrating imprint. On young rabbits, it is not uncommon for the digits to penetrate completely through the ear. After some experience, you will develop a feel for the right pressure to apply to the tongs to make a good mark. Do not be alarmed if the digits do penetrate completely through the ear as this will result in a perfectly legible tattoo and the backside of the ear will heal over and not leave a noticeable on the outside. It is better to go completely through the ear than to apply too little pressure and leave a mark that is illegible, which may need to be redone later on.

 

Your rabbit will obviously feel some discomfort and may squirm around and even scream. But it will all be over within less than two seconds. The rabbit reacts more from the shock than the pain.

 

After making the imprint, apply ink to the tattoo with the bristle brush provided from the tattoo kit. Rub the ink vigorously into all the puncture holes. If the tattoo needs to be read within a short time of the tattoo process, you may wipe the excess ink from the ear with cotton or tissue and then apply a light film of Vaseline to the tattoo. It should be distinct and legible immediately. If you do not recognize the tattoo immediately, it is not necessary to wipe the excess ink away as it will wear away in a few days leaving the clear mark.

 

Now if you choose to use a pen style tattoo machine, you must still use the above preparation methods-sterilizing and restrain the rabbit/area.  The pen machine is not as painful as the clamp style so your rabbit may not react as harshly, however, the pen does take quite a bit longer and requires a steady hand.

 

You must draw on the letters/numbers with a sharpy on the rabbit’s ear so you can trace over them with the pen. You MUST use block style for your letters.

 

With the pen, much like a real tattoo machine, it is made up of a series of needles that rapidly push up and down. You dip the needles in the ink and trace over the letters/numbers of the tattoo in the rabbit’s ear.

 

You may have to trace over the letters more than once if it's your first time. It takes time to learn to apply the right amount of pressure to depth for the tattoo ink to stay. You do not have to push the pen all the way through the ear like a clamp tattoo.

Once you have the letters traced, simply wipe away the excess ink and you're all done!

Understanding Pedigrees

Pedigree Abbreviations and Meanings:

  • BIS - Best in Show

  • RIS or BRIS - Reserve in Show or Best Reserve in Show

  • BOB - Best of Breed

  • BOS or BOSB - Best Opposite Sex of Breed

  • BOG - Best of Group

  • BOSG - Best Opposite Sex of Group

  • BOV - Best of Variety

  • BOSV - Best Opposite Sex of Variety

  • BIC - Best in Class

  • BJIS - Best Junior In Show

  • GC - Grand Champion

  • REG - Registration

  • DOB - Date of Birth

Different Types of Legs:

  • BOB-Best of Breed

  • BOS-Best Opposite of Breed

  • BOG-Best of Group

  • BOSG-Best Opposite of Group

  • BOV-Best of Variety

  • BOSV-Best Opposite of Variety

 

 

A pedigree tells about a rabbit's owner and ancestry, and information for its parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Pedigrees are important for verifying that the rabbit is a purebred. Of course, a rabbit can be shown without a pedigree, but it cannot be registered with ARBA(American Rabbit Breeders Association), or become a grand champion without a pedigree. This being the reason a pedigreed rabbit is generally worth more. The difference between a pedigree and Registration papers is that there honestly isn't much. The registration paper contains basically the information that the pedigree had. However, it is a certificate that states, the rabbit meets the breed's standard, and is free of any disqualifications. However, a rabbit does not have to be registered in order to be shown or considered purebred. A rabbit's parents do not need to be registered in order for the rabbit to be registered either. However, there is a merit system that works to offer the ultimate protection of a guarantees purebred registered pedigree. If the single rabbit is registered, ARBA will affix an embossed seal to the rabbit's certificate. If the rabbit's parents are also registered, then a red seal with be affixed. If both the parents and grandparents are registered, there will be a red and white seal affixed. And if the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are also registered, the certificate will be complete with a red, white, and blue seal.

 

 

Pedigrees are a little simpler than a registration and can be made by the breeder. On the pedigree, the rabbit's name and information will be first. Generally the first part of the name or the suffix tells you who the breeder of the rabbit was. The other part is the rabbit's individual name. Ear numbers are used for identification and are tattooed in the left ear. Sex is the gender of the rabbit (buck or doe). Variety is another word for the color of the rabbit. Registration # (Reg #) is the number a rabbit receives when it is registered. Grand Champion # (GC #) tells a buyer that the rabbit has earned three grand champion legs and is registered in order to receive a grand champion number. Legs can be in the categories seen above this paragraph. Provided there are 3 exhibitors with 5 rabbits of the same variety. If it is an opposite-sex win, there must be 5 rabbits of the same opposite sex in order to receive a leg. When registering a rabbit, an ARBA representative (called a Registrar) will come to your rabbitry to examine your rabbit and it's background to determine if it is truly purebred. If they can prove this to be the case, then they will register your rabbit. A tattoo will then be placed in the rabbit's RIGHT ear.

Presenting New Breeds and Varieties

When you are working on creating a new breed or variety of rabbit, you must go by a strict five (or more) year process of selective breeding. You must submit an application to ARBA stating your intentions in order to receive a Certificate of Development. The association is provided a written copy of the Proposal Standard of Perfection. The breeder then has two years to create and develop their new breed/variety. Once the third year arrives, they must present their rabbits on exhibition at the national ARBA Convention. The standards committee must then decide if the breed/variety has met its standard criteria. If it has, then it has passed its first showing. You must then present rabbit's of equal or better quality of this new breed/variety for the next two years. If you fail any one of these presentations, you must start all over again with your program and process of the exhibition.

Determining Gender

To determine the sex of the rabbit, use your forefinger and middle finger to press down the vent area just in front of the anus. In both the doe and buck, the area will protrude. The doe will display a slit or central line running up and down. Each side of the slit will be banded in pink. The buck, on the other hand, will display, if less than 5 weeks old, a blunt white tube without a central line. It will not have pink traversing either side of a center line. Older bucks will present a pink tube with a pointed end that resembles a bullet, as well as testicles on either side. With younger rabbits, you must look very closely to see the difference. Sometimes the bucks will hold their penis in upon examination, making them appear as a doe. Even the most experienced breeders make mistakes when determining the sex of a kit.

 

Anogenital distance (AGD, the distance between the anus and the genitalia) has been observed in research, however, for the rabbit breeder, this can still be a tricky way to define the sexes. Males typically have larger anogenital distance than females, and the amount of individual testosterone in their bodies can be the defining factor in that distance. As equally interesting, the variation has been found in the anogenital distance of individual adult female rabbits, and this morphological trait has been linked to other behavioral traits (aggressive and territorial does having more distance than timid or lazy ones for example). Other studies have shown that females with more distance seem to have smaller and less frequent litters and often produces more males than females.

Spaying and Neutering

Rabbits make exceptional pets, and if an owner decides to keep a rabbit for that reason and not for showing/breeding, then it can be a good idea to get their pet spayed/neutered. It's also highly advised to get them altered to prevent unwanted/unneeded pregnancies if you plan on keeping rabbits of the opposite sex housed together. You shouldn't be breeding rabbits unless you are a dedicated and responsible breeder working to IMPROVE the breed. Altering removes the rabbit's hormones and ability to reproduce. Altered animals are less likely to display naughty behavior such as aggressive biting and marking their territory with urine. 

 

Since pet rabbits aren't used for breeding, getting them altered (especially at an early age of 4-6 months) usually physically benefits them. Older unbred rabbits can develop testicular cancer,  fused hip joints, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. Though these ailments are extremely rare, they are more consistent in unaltered and unbred animals. ( In comparison, think about how many unaltered humans contract these diseases. It's not common, but it can happen). The older the rabbit it, the riskier it will be to have them altered, so timing is key. Typically, any rabbit over 3 years of age will be at extremely high risk to surgery.

 

When you do get your pet rabbit altered, make sure they are taken to a certified vet who has experience and knowledge in rabbit health and anatomy. Rabbits are very sensitive to anesthesia, and an inexperienced vet may use the wrong kind or amount. On top of that, because of rabbit anatomy, there is a ring of muscle that does not close up after a neutering (unlike in cats and dogs-because rabbits can pull their testes up into their body cavity) and if this cavity is not sewn up, it will lead to serious infection. Inexperienced vets have also been known to inject pre-anesthetic into the rabbit's thigh (a common practice when altering dogs and cats), which can severely damage the sciatic nerve in the rabbit.  This can leave your rabbit permanently unable to use its hind legs after surgery. Unfortunately, this hind leg paralysis is a common side affect from botched sterilization procedures.

 

After being altered, hormones may still be in the rabbit's system for a few weeks or even months. So don't expect hormone-driven behavior or the ability to breed to immediately cease.  Wait at least 8 weeks after surgery before placing males and females together in order to avoid accidental breeding. Give your rabbit time after surgery to slowly decrease in naughty behaviors.

Retiring Rabbits

Perhaps one of the most important things to know about owning your rabbits is what to do with them if you no longer want/need them. And there can be many good and bad reasons for people to no longer keep their rabbits around.

 

For breeders, it is important to keep their herd sizes small so they can focus on keeping only their best stock for showing and breeding.

 

Sometimes unforeseen life circumstances arise, such as the loss of a job or home, and rabbit owners are no longer able to properly provide a safe and appropriate home for their animals. In unfortunate cases such as these, re-homing or finding a temporary foster family for your animals until you get back to a stable living may be in their best interest. 

 

For some pet owners, unfortunately, they may not have taken the time to educate themselves on rabbit care before purchasing one and later realized they were in over their head.  Reasons such as "The rabbit urinated on the carpet", "Our daughter just lost interest in the rabbit and we don't want to take care of it", "We're moving, and don't want to take the rabbit" or "The rabbit scratches and kicks a lot" are poor excuses to get rid of one.

 

Rabbits, like all other pets, are living beings that are completely dependant on you. They are not objects that can be tossed aside when the mildest inconvenience arises or if you get bored with them. You made the choice to have one in your life and you are obligated to provide that animal with a safe home and a lifetime of consistent, appropriate care.

 

If you find yourself making such excuses, please try looking at alternatives. Not every obstacle is defeat and there can be a plan of action with those issues you encounter. Education is key, the more you know about your rabbit, the better off you will be in solving problems that will arise. Simple changes to your pet's training, diet, environment, and socialization can all make a massive difference to otherwise unwanted issues. Teaching both yourself and your children the importance of responsibility will set you up for success, the ability to maintain a schedule, and understanding how to fully appreciate and respect life. This, in turn, creates more empathetic contributors to society. 

 

Getting rid of a rabbit (or any pet for that matter) for petty reasons is a very poor and immature way of handling a situation. No animal should have to suffer because of their owner's ignorance and/or lack of compassion.

 

Whatever the reason, the goal of retiring a rabbit, whether it be from herd stock or as a pet, it's extremely important to look out for its future well being. The best place to retire a rabbit should either be back to the breeder from which it came from (most if not all breeders will take back any rabbit with no questions asked), to a new owner such as a friend or neighbor (one who is experienced in rabbit care), or a no-kill rabbit savvy shelter (such as the House Rabbit Society). Do not dump them off at a pet store or somewhere out in the wild. The number one reason why animals end up filling up shelters is that pet owners either didn't educate themselves with what they were getting into or decided the animal was an inconvenience. Contrary to public opinion, the majority of shelter animals are NOT the unwanted culls from breeders. They are unwanted pets. If we, as a community, want to put an end to the unwanted and growing pet populations in the U.S. we need to practice good ethics in responsible pet ownership.

 

Dumping a rabbit off in the middle of a field should never be an option. Domestic rabbits are a separate species from wild rabbits. They do not have the same immune system, skills, nor knowledge to survive in the wild.  As well, domestic rabbits could carry diseases or destroy the environment/food sources for other native animals. Dumping a rabbit off into the wild will nearly always guarantee a slow and painful death. 

Economics and Management of a Rabbitry

Research. Research. Research. The best thing you can do is to educate yourself as much as possible about rabbits and how to raise them. Learn everything you can before even considering purchasing your first rabbit. Once you feel like you've educated yourself enough...read some more. And some more. And some more. Like anything in life, you can never know too much and you must always be open to receiving new information. This philosophy goes with raising rabbits as well, as new techniques in the care and raising of rabbits is a constantly changing industry as people become more educated.

 

There is a lot of work you'll need to do before you obtain your rabbits.

 

1. Know your Zones: Before getting your rabbits, you'll need to check your area's zoning to make sure you can keep and raise them. Certain areas have certain restrictions. You may only be allowed to keep a certain amount or types of animals depending on where you are located. If you don't abide by that, you may find yourself in legal trouble and end up getting your rabbits removed by animal control.

 

 2. Establish Yourself: The next step you'll need to do is to plan out your rabbitry as a business. Create a name for yourself. It should be unique to your rabbitry, but not too complicated either. Simplicity is key as it's a quick way for buyers and other breeders to recognize you. You'll also need a logo, some business cards, and preferably a website to advertise your stock. You can either hire a graphic artist to do these things for your or you can simply make them yourself. VistaPrint.com is a very easy and cheap site to use for creating all of your advertisements and documents. And there are plenty of free web hosts out there such as Webs.com, Wix.com, Weebly.com, and Homestead.com. Utilize social networking sites such as Facebook and Pinterest to get your rabbits out there.

 

3. Creating Documents: You'll have to make your own documents such as pedigrees and stud cards. There are certain programs you can purchase to do this or you can make them on an office program on your computer. Some pedigree software programs allow you to keep track of your breedings, births, health journals, and calculate genetics which can come in handy, especially if you run a large breeding operation. Pedigrees should be unique to your rabbitry, yet still have to fall under the guidelines of a pedigree standard. This means that each animal must have at least three generations to back it up and a signed statement by you the breeder that the pedigree is to the best of your knowledge and belief.

 

4. Creating a Sales Policy: Next, you'll need to create a sales policy. This is extremely important because as a hard fact, there are people (for whatever reason) who will do everything they can possibly do to rip you off and accuse you of anything. If you have a Next, you'll need to create a sales policy. This is extremely important because as a hard fact, there are people (for whatever reason) who will do everything they can possibly do to rip you off and accuse you of anything. If you have a solidly written statement of exactly what you sell and guarantee, then it's much harder for them to tear down your business. Always stick to your prices. If you believe your quality show rabbit is worth $150, then that's what it's going to sell for. Don't let anyone tell you that you're asking too much. It's their problem, not yours. Tell them that's the price and if they don't like it, that's fine, and change the subject. You'll never have ends meet if you give everyone a discount on all of your hard work. Once you've got your Sales Policies set, print them out and keep a document posted inside of your rabbitry. You should also provide a free copy of the policies to each and every buyer, for each and every sale made.

Create a document that states which rabbits you sell and to whom and be sure to have you and the buyer sign off on this document in agreeance to the terms and conditions stated in your sales policies and the price of the rabbits being sold. An example of a sales document can be seen below:

 

You can also create a document that provides simple rabbit care instructions for new rabbit owners. This will help ensure that the rabbits you are selling will be given a decent living. Always provide your buyers with a lifetime guarantee of support, education, and help in caring for their rabbits. 

 

5. Provide Yourself Information: You’ll need to keep some books of all of your rabbitry records as well. Have one book for all of your pedigrees, one for all of your sales documents, and one for all of your breeding/stud documents. Some breeders also keep a binder with all of their information, notes, and tips they acquire on rabbit care. NEVER stop learning. Rabbit care and understanding is a growing field of knowledge and change and you need to be open to the idea of constant improvement.

 

6. Supplies: When you finally get to setting up your facility, you'll need to purchase your cages (always get more than the number of rabbits you are keeping, as you'll need space to keep all of the growing offspring), grooming table, grooming supplies, feed bins, feed, feeding equipment, a tattoo set, watering equipment, and cleaning/sanitation equipment. Make a spreadsheet of all of your supplies and the total costs it will require for everything before you make any purchases. That way, you know how much you need to save up and how much you will allow yourself to spend.

You'll also have to price out how much you'll be spending on the care of your rabbits every month. You should also have money put away in case any of your rabbits have a medical emergency and needs vet care. 

 Make a list you can print out every month and keep in your rabbitry of all of the expenses you encounter. That way, you can keep track of price fluctuation in your area and know how much you are spending on your rabbits as your herd grows.

Create a monthly chart allowing you to document all of the rabbit sales and purchases you make. This will allow you to see what budget you can work with when obtaining new stock as well as provide more written documentation of a final sale. You can see at the end of every month, whether or not you are breaking even with your stock.

 

7: Purchasing Your Rabbits: Obtaining your stock can take some time. As stated on the top of this page (as well as the "Breeding" section of this website), you must choose wisely when buying your rabbits as well as whom you purchase them from.  Please read those sections to help you know what you're looking for. Start out with a small pair or trio of TOP QUALITY rabbits. You don't need a lot, because rabbits will be rabbits, and they will multiply rather quickly which can soon put you in over your head.

Register your rabbitry with the ARBA. This way, it will be easy for other breeders and buyers to find you.

Keep realistic goals for yourself and your breeding program. Having a rabbitry takes a lot of time and a LOT of money. It's very common for first-time breeders to abandon their business after one or two years because they were in over their head and things didn't turn out the way they expected. But if you prepare yourself education wise and financially, you'll be fine. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Start out slow and small, keep things organized and clean, set your goals and stick to them, and keep a good reputation. Be honest and respectful of yourself and other breeders. Most importantly, have fun! Raising rabbits, if done correctly, can be a very exciting hobby. With all of this in mind, you'll be well on your way to having an accomplished rabbitry that both you and your rabbits will enjoy.

 

8. Stay Organized: One way to keep a successful rabbitry, is to create a chart of a weekly work plan, like the one below, so you can keep track of all of your cleaning, breeding, and sales. You need to find a plan you can stick to and appoint certain days for certain tasks like stocking, cleaning, and disinfecting your rabbitry. For example, set every Saturday as a day to clean out catch trays. This way, you can ensure everything stays on a schedule, thus preventing any forgotten duties. You can mark off each day with a check or highlighter.

 

  It is very important that you keep track of all medical records as well. This includes diagnostic tests such as blood panels, radiographs, and cultures, medication regiments, necropsies, and veterinary exams. Keep these files in a file cabinet or on your computer. Having these things will help you keep track of medical histories so you'll know who has a weak immune system, is allergic to certain meds, and what treatments can be used in the future.

 

Keep a stud card for each of your breeding bucks. This will allow you to view how many does he processes, the mortality rate and show potential of the kits he fathers, when he may seem at his peak performance during certain parts of the year, and can also help you prevent STDs in your rabbitry by keeping track of breedings. Keep your stud cards either in their own binder or you can keep them in a plastic sleeve along with each buck's pedigree. That way, you can have all of this information in one place.

 

It's also wise to have hutch cards for your rabbits. These cards can be custom made or purchased. They hang either on clips or in card holders on the cages. They should state the rabbit's name, breeder, gender, age, health, tattoo number, feeding instructions, etc. These will help you stay organized and allow you to quickly identify any information about each of your rabbits in the facility. This especially comes in handy if you ever find yourself ill or on vacation and must rely on someone else to care for the individual needs of your rabbits. You can have cards for cages that house individual rabbits, breeding/kindling rabbits, studs, and/or growing pens.  Breeding information cards are very useful to have as they allow you to plan out and visibly see the stats on a gestation and keep documentation on the kits while they grow. Below are some examples of different cage cards:

 

 

Make a feed chart that specifies the individual needs of each of your rabbits. This too will come in handy if you ever find yourself ill or on vacation and must rely on someone else to care for your rabbits. A feeding chart will help ensure that all the rabbits will be properly taken care of at all times, no matter who is doing the feeding.

 

Keeping all of these regular charts, records, and forms of identification will help you maintain a well run and organized rabbitry. This will leave you and your rabbits in a happy state and allow room for time to really enjoy your hobby

Facility Security

One of the many joys of being a breeder is providing education by inviting members of the public over to their facility. For breeders, it’s the opportune environment to demonstrate proper and responsible husbandry practices to new pet owners. When visiting a breeder’s facility, adults and children alike have the convenience to get hands on with the animals, ask the breeder questions, and get a feel for the challenges and rewards of pet ownership before making the decision to bring something home. Breeders obtain peace of mind when they can meet with the pet owners and help match the perfect animal to their lifestyle. Breeders invest their finances and years of the lives perfecting their animals-ensuring there are healthy, conformationally correct, and properly socialized. Meeting with the new owners and sending the perfect pet home with them is an ending accomplishment for many breeders. They can feel proud, knowing the new owners with have a healthy and well-adjusted animal. They also receive peace of mind, knowing the owners will have been well educated in the care of said animal.

 

However, unfortunately in recent years, breeders have to be extremely cautious of who they talk to, sell to, and invite into their facilities. Why? Animal Rights Activists.

 The presence of animal rights activists is a highly serious and sadly, a growing issue that ALL animal breeders everywhere have to deal with.  Whether you're a rabbit breeder, a dog breeder, a horse breeder, a hamster breeder, or involve a life with any other animal in between- you're a target for their violence and harassment.

 

There are people out there that are uneducated, ignorant, judgmental, and hungry for attention and they’ll stop at nothing to ruin your life if they find something about your animal hobby they disagree with. These people are fanatics, some being more extreme than others. They can be militant members of PETA,  ALF, private "rescue" groups, people who want to push their religiously vegan views onto others,  uneducated pet owners, or simply narrow-minded city people trying to tell farmers how to raise their animals. 

 

These people have no real educational background in animal sciences, health, or handling and they base their opinions on highly unrealistic public encounters (For example, they see that Bugs Bunny eats nothing but carrots, so in their mind, they are going to base their "rabbit knowledge" on a children's cartoon and state that rabbit diets should only consist of carrots). Rarely will they ever get their "facts" straight. And rarely will they willingly accept reason and rational thinking when presented with it.

 

Extreme fanatics will resort to absurd, ridiculous, annoying, and often disastrous extremes to "prove their point". They thrive on forcefully shoving their confabulated personal "ideals" down the throats of everyone they encounter.  

 

Being a rabbit raiser can lead to plenty of awkward conversations. "So why do you own all those rabbits?" "Oh, we eat them. They taste like chicken, but better!" These types of conversations usually don't go over well. As an FYI, saying "We raise meat rabbits" instead of "We raise rabbits for meat" seems to go over better with the general public. For whatever reason, most people don't think past this terminology, assuming it refers to a completely separate, soul-less animal, other than the cute fluffy bunny at the pet store. 

 

Many people consider rabbits as pets, not livestock, and will react accordingly. Many people also believe that unless you're a member of PETA, you must hate animals. In reality, just like everything in life, balance is key. It's perfectly acceptable and doable to love animals and NOT be an animal rights fanatic.

Activists have a tendency for anthropomorphizing everything.

 

They impart human emotions onto animals as an attempt to play on actual human emotions in order to win over public sympathy. This is quite obviously a show of lack of understanding/education fof animal behavior (other than what they see in cartoons). They believe animals have human “rights” and should be treated like human children. These people believe they are “experts” in animal care, but in reality, they know hardly anything about the requirements that animals actually need. They think animals should be fed “people food”, have free roam, and not be involved in the lives of humans in any way shape or form.  In extreme cases, they believe in abolitionism; the exterminated of all domestic animals because “they are man-made”. (Despite the historical/scientific fact that dogs and cats originally domesticated themselves on their own accord from years of communal association. The practice of selective breeding for certain breed characteristics is the only role that man has played a part in.) Without allotting animals around in life, we permit an egregious violation of understanding nature. The profound companion relationship between man and dog would never exist and children would never experience the importance, respect, and responsibility of caring for all forms of life. Children cannot learn this without hands-on experience. We as an intelligent species need to utilize such knowledge to show compassion and responsibility for our planet and the ecosystem that it thrives on. Not destroy it.

 

 Animal Rights proponents as a majority can't differentiate rights versus welfare, and their radical acts often lead to disastrous results to animals and property.

Animals require sentient welfare, not rights. They are not humans. Animals should be treated as what they are-animals. They do want to be dressed up, fed French fries, and have a designer couch to lounge around on. They want natural food, water, fresh air, room to run, and companionship.  You can spoil your animals rotten with proper diet, housing, enrichment, and love, but it wouldn’t be enough for the ideals of an animal rights activist.

 

 

  • They’ll accuse you of animal abuse simply because you house your rabbits in cages (no matter how big that cage is or even if the rabbits get plenty of exercise running around in a fifty-foot long pen).

  • They’ll call you an “animal hoarder” if you own more than one animals (to them, the amount of animals you have far exceeds the fact of how well you actually care for them. You could have the most expensive, top of the line facility with the best nutritional and veterinary care and enrichment as possible, but that wouldn't matter to them if you have multiple animals).

  •  They’ll call you a murderer if you raise meat animals for your own table.

  •  They’ll tell you that you’re the reason for the pet overpopulation (when in reality, it’s the irresponsible and ignorant pet owners who neglect their impulse bought pets that are the reason).

  •  They'll call you neglectful for not feeding your rabbits "people food" (when of course "people food" is not healthy for them).

  • They'll accuse you of trying to "starve" your rabbit if your rabbit doesn't have food in its bowl 24/7. (Even though overfeeding/free feeding a rabbit will lead to severe obesity and countless health problems)

 

  Once they find you and have a "reason" to be against you, they ’ll set you up and use animal control (which can be as equally ignorant and judgmental) to “rescue” your rabbits.

 

These "rescue" groups can and will go around the law by not providing the legal options they have to recover your animals. In some cases, they may not even have a warrant to be on your property. They believe they have the right to make judgments without the law and do as they see fit with your animals.

 

They want the attention and belief that they are doing a "good thing" by taking your animals away from you. In reality, because of their ignorance and attention seeking, these people cause more harm to the animals, environment, and other people than they do any good.

If your rabbits are seized, they could end up in a very stressful and life-threatening situation.  They’ll end up in a shelter, where they’ll be improperly handled and cared for. The activists will stick males and females together in cramped solid floor cages where they’ll breed and have to sit in their own feces. They’ll feed them things like carrots and lettuce instead of a properly prepared pellet and hay diet. They’ll spay and neuter your prize-winning show stock that you worked years to create. They’ll try to adopt out your rabbits to pet homes. Who knows where these rabbits will end up. They may end up with owners who are neglectful and abusive. And for the rabbits they can’t adopt out, they’ll be euthanized-and that's if they haven't already died from stress or improper care in the shelter. 

 

 

The majority of breeders caught in these situations are completely innocent. Factory farms and backyard breeders should be the targets for animal abuse and cruel exploitation.  These are the people who have little to no regard for the health and well-being of their animals. Responsible breeders enjoy, love, and care for their animals and only want the best for them. They want to educate the public on proper care and want to create genetically healthy and happy animals. The activists can't seem to understand the difference between a responsible breeder and an irresponsible breeder. To them, all breeders are classified in the same group. To them, a farmer is the same as a pet hoarder.

As a responsible breeder, you need to be very wary of these people. They WILL ruin your life, your animals, your reputation, and your wallet. If you get caught in an animal seizure, you’ll have to go to court to defend yourself and your animals, and unless you reluctantly surrender your animals to animal control, you’ll be facing fines up to $10 a day per animal for their “care” until you are proven innocent in court.  That can add up FAST if you have a lot of animals. Not only will they seize animals from your breeding operation, but every single other animal on your property-from your dog to your goldfish. You’ll also have to pay for a lawyer and for court fees to defend your rights. Chances are, you'll be given an unfair trial and have to deal with a lot of ignorant people in the process. And in the end, even if you are found to be proven innocent, you may never get your animals back because they could've already been euthanized or adopted out to pet homes before the trial even began.

Sadly, situations like this are highly unfair and unregulated by the government. Your position may remain completely untenable.

 

 

So how do you protect yourself from these people?

  • Obviously, keep your animals as healthy and happy as possible at all times. 

  • It should go unsaid that you need to constantly raise your standards for the sanitation, cleaning, and organization of your rabbitry. For example, if you normally clean a twenty hole rabbitry once a week, up it to two-three times a week. Don’t get behind on disposing of waste, trash, rusty cages, chewed up food bowls, etc. Sweep dirt, hay, and cobwebs off of the floors every day.

  • Only keep the number of animals you are legally permitted. Only maintain enough rabbits that you can comfortably handle- Stay within the limits of your own personal ability. 

  • Be smart and wary. If someone seems weird, don’t let them into your rabbitry. Trust your gut.

  • Don't respond to people who want to buy all of your culls. Chances are, they're a "rescue" setting you up for a massive confiscation. Or, they're actually hoarders wanting to "save" your culls and they'll just keep them in horrible housing conditions.

  • Only discuss your breeding operation with other breeders and people you trust. Discussing rabbits with people who don’t know much about rabbits could give that person the wrong idea about your breeding operation.

  • Don’t disrupt your neighbors with your rabbitry. Keep it clean, odorless, and don’t let it be an eyesore in your backyard.

  • Also stay on your neighbor's good side. Upset neighbors have been known to call animal control and report breeders for "animal abuse" just to get back at them for any unrelated past situations. They'll do this because they know they can hit you hardest by having your beloved animals taken away.

  • Quarantine any unhealthy rabbits and document their illnesses. If someone notices you have a sickly looking animal, you need proof that that animal is indeed sick and actively being treated, not that it's presumptuously neglected.

  • When visitors come to your rabbitry, require them to sign a visitor book and include their phone number and address..

  • Refrain from publicly talking about culling your rabbits or using them for meat. This includes posting about it on the internet or anywhere that it may be publicly documented. Culling and meat consumption are touchy subjects that some people get offended by. If they are offended and don’t understand, they may feel the need to call your act “abuse”. Some people simply refuse to believe in the fact that death and meat consumption are natural aspects of life. You can politely educate people, but do not push your opinions or belittle other . Be wise in how you phrase these topics.

  • Do not respond to any negative e-mails or phone calls from activists. As hard as it is to refrain from defending yourself, do not get involved/reply for your own sake. They have nothing constructive to do with their time other than seek attention and harass you. The best thing you can do is ignore them. You can't reason with people who are already unreasonable. If threats are involved, notify your local authorities.

  • Do not go out and harass the animal rights activists themselves. By doing this, you are placing yourself into the same narrow-minded low level of disrespect as them. Not only will you not be heard, but you'll be digging yourself into a hole of trouble. Keep your opinions to yourself, educate others if anything, but don't make yourself look like a judgmental hypocrite.

  • Don't publicly post your home address anywhere. If someone wants further information of where you and your rabbitry are located, they can contact you directly by phone or e-mail. You can then be the judge of whether or not allowing them to come to your home/facility is acceptable.

  • Keep documents of your rabbitry in clear view inside of the rabbitry barn-including your cleaning and grooming schedules.

  • Keep all rabbit health records on file in multiple places.

  • Take photographs and videos regularly of your rabbitry to prove that you maintain sanitation and that your rabbits are housed and fed properly.

  • Keep a lock on your rabbitry door. Activists have been known to sneak into rabbit sheds and steal rabbits or let them all loose. They’ll also empty food bowls and turn off automatic watering systems so they can have “proof” for animal control of your supposed “neglect”.

 

If you find yourself in a situation with animal rights activists or animal control, stay calm, respectable, mature, and collective. Do everything you can legally possibly do and act quickly. Documentation is everything. You can visit the Show Rabbit Protection Society if you need help and information in going about getting your rabbits back and defending your case in court.  

In the mean time, many breeders have resorted to maintaining "closed" rabbitries. Below, are a few reasons to enforce this practice for your own facility;

 

 

 

Reasons for a Closed Rabbitry


Breeders do not want rude, loud, and unruly children (or adults) in their rabbitry:

Unfortunately, most breeders have had bad experiences with buyers and their children causing chaos in their rabbitry. Firstly, rabbits can be easily spooked by strangers. Pregnant and nursing does, especially have a difficult time dealing with stressful environments. If they become too stressed, they may kill their young. Second, children running around screaming, poking fingers in cages, inappropriately handling rabbits, touching things without permission, feeding rabbits who are strict/medicated diets, etc. is a recipe for disaster.

In addition to risking injury to the rabbits, there are liability concerns. Suppose a child gets injured in the rabbitry (falling, being bit by a rabbit, getting caught on the wire, etc)? Most insurances do not cover rabbitries. 

 


Bio-security:

Breeders have no control over where a buyer has been and what infectious agents they may be carrying with them to a rabbitry.The same goes for any unfamiliar pets being brought to the property. Allowing strangers into the rabbitry puts every rabbit at risk. If a breeder brings rabbits to a buyer separate from the rabbitry they can better control and minimize the risk of disease. The US has had several outbreaks of VHD, a foreign animal disease that the USDA will kill every rabbit on the property if just one rabbit becomes infected. Due to VHD, the FDA has advised breeders to maintain a “closed” rabbitry and not allow visitors in. 


Risk of dangerous strangers:

No matter how much correspondence or conversations a breeder has with a potential buyer, they never truly know that person. Would you allow a complete stranger into your home to “inspect” it? It isn't any different from your rabbitry. Besides privacy issues, breeders face serious risks allowing complete strangers onto their property. The buyer may not actually be looking for a rabbit, and in fact may be a thief, animal rights activists, or worse.

 

Most people can recall the incident a few years ago about the pregnant dog breeder who allowed a woman she met at online to her home. The strange woman posed as an interested buyer looking for a puppy. Once inside the home, the woman brutally stabbed the dog breeder, cut out her baby, and took off. The dog breeder later died from the attack.

 

Other incidents have included animal rights activists going in, again posing as potential buyers, and scoping out the layout of the facility. They later came back at night or when the owner was away and released all of the animals from their cages. The animals then attacked each other, mated, and/or ran off into the wild. The ones that ran out into the wild were later found, either hit by cars or brutally killed by neighboring dogs and wild animals.

 

With incidents such as these, people need to understand why breeders are reluctant to allow others to their facility. 

The Petting Zoo Dilemma:

Sometimes “buyers” aren’t serious about getting a rabbit, and they just want to use the breeder as a petting zoo for their kids. Raising rabbits requires a lot of time and work. In addition to the rabbits, breeders have busy schedules (careers, family, school, farm work, etc) to attend to. They do not have the extra time to cater the pubic as a petting zoo. 

© 2018  All images and content are the property of Obsidian Rabbitry and may not be used without written consent.