I’ve had Rex rabbits for around 3 years now, and I made quite a few mistakes when I started out my Rabbitry. Thankfully, through these last couple years, I’ve learned more about good stewardship and more about rabbits too. As a Christian, one of my many desires is to steward creation in a way that best glorifies God. Whether you breed rabbits, or just have them as a pet, I encourage you to read on. With that being said, here is what I’ve learned as a rabbit buyer!
Before my husband and I ever bought rabbits I did a lot of research and learned just about all the general care and health things! I will mention, not one of us had ever owned rabbits previously. We started it out with the goal of using them for a source of meat, garden fertilizer and then we would sell a couple to make back the feed costs. The priority was always to have good, quality homesteading rabbits, and that is something we still currently live by. Often, I see two sides to the rabbit community; people who use for meat only, and people who do it for show. I really don’t try to advocate for one or the other, I advocate for quality.
Here is where I will list the things I previously looked for, as a (first time) buyer:
The “Rabbit Buying” Checklist I Went By:
- Healthy, lively, friendly: Was the rabbit friendly, lively and healthy looking? Was the breeder friendly, and willing to communicate?
- Cleanly rabbit, cleanly living: Was the rabbit clean? Was it’s living quarters or it’s transfer cage clean?
- Fully Pedigreed: We were always firm on only getting pedigreed stock. Check the pedigree over when picking up rabbit, to ensure it is correct and complete. Check ear tattoo.
That was it, that is all I checked for. It was not a horrible list to start with, and I indeed covered important things, but I also left out a lot too.
I, like many, thought, why even bother looking into “show rabbit” breeders, when I don’t plan to show them? So, when we did buy our very first rabbits, it was just from some friendly breeders who used them for meat and didn’t think much about the other parts of the animal. I think instead of looking for show breeders, or a meat breeder (like I bought from in the beginning), we instead need to look for breeders who know to breed from quality, and for quality. It is true, that you may have a much better chance at getting a well-balanced rabbit from a show breeder, but it is solely because they are frequently counseled on the quality of their rabbits.
Anyone who is buying a rabbit, should focus their attention primarily on the rabbit’s quality of body structure, coat, and then genetic history too. Body structure should always be prioritized first. If they are weak in one area, it can contribute to imbalance in another area. Weak body structure will, and does make for weak rabbits. If you have two, weak rabbits- apart from the occasional exception where rabbits out produce themselves- they will likely produce weak litters. You don’t want rabbits that get worse and worse, you want them to get better and stay that way. When people show rabbits, the judges are looking for strong and correct body structures (and coats) specific to the breed. They also get more technical and discuss cosmetic issues as well. However, to evaluate them efficiently, they get put in a posed position.
Pedigrees are another important thing to look for. Most rabbit breeders pedigree their stock, but this isn’t because of quality, this is because of identity. When a rabbit is pedigreed it is much easier to identify who is who, and to make sure you don’t breed relatives. Pedigrees can be very informative, when trying to see what lineage the rabbit has come from.
You may have heard the phrase “pedigree does not equal quality.” Remember that, because it is true. It’s easy to believe that though, and back when I started I believed a healthy, pedigreed rabbit was a quality one. Rabbits who did well in shows, don’t always produce show quality babies, so don’t let that fool you either. Going to a rabbit show is something I’m planning to do to observe and learn, however I don’t think you have to go to them to have nice, quality rabbits. I do believe, you can build a community and find mentorship either way.
All you really need, is a community. Use your community to help mentor you as you learn how to evaluate your rabbits. There are lots of good resources for learning, apart from shows; groups on social media, books, videos, and many breeders that often share wisdom. If you are not in contact with any, I encourage you to do so. Don’t skip talking to breeders.
Our First Rabbits:
When we were starting out, we got two does and one buck (a trio). The two girls came from a friendly breeder that bred for meat purposes, and did obviously love and care for her rabbits. They were still however, very weak in a lot of areas, regardless. Before I go further, I will say, if you are a rabbit breeder you have to be willing to cull the ones that are not good quality. Sending them out as pets, just makes for a bad quality pet. Even I, in the past had fallen under this mindset; if it didn’t meet my standards, just make it a pet. My views have changed since, and I would highly recommend you buy quality animals, no matter what their purpose is.
While websites like Craigslist are not inherently bad, do not just buy the first animal that you see on there. Irresponsible breeders are everywhere. I would say a good rule of thumb is, don’t expect quality offspring from something that is not quality, and don’t expect quality from something that wasn’t bred for quality. I fully believe that part of being a good steward is making sure you breed or support breeders who are continuing good genetics, strong body structures, and of course healthy, lively animals.
While my very first rabbits may not have been that great of quality, we all live and learn! and hopefully if I do this right, I will be able to look back and see good progress. So far, I can say that I do see some!
The “Rabbit Buying” Checklist I Recommend:
- Pose the Rabbit: What you are looking at in a pose is the top view, back view, and side view. you don’t want a rabbit to look very narrow, bony, odd-shaped, pinched, etc. You want balanced, gradually flowing proportions. Ask the breeder about areas you are unsure about! *Research the breed you are looking at.
- Flip them over and evaluate: Belly and hocks. Clean, furry, and straight feet, is what you need to see.
- Look at fur coat: Is there any defects in the coat of fur? e.i. patches, discoloration. Look at both top coat and undercoat. (you’ll need to know what section the rabbit falls under; self, agouti, otter etc)
- Teeth, ears, nose, eyes: Check all of these. Teeth should be straight, and everything should be clean and clear.
- Check the gender: My recommendation when checking the sex, if you can’t see the rabbit in person before buying, is to have the breeder send you a photo of the genital area to confirm sex and quality of health.
- Cosmetic Issues: I personally don’t find any problem with the more cosmetic things. If you plan to show the rabbit, then I would make sure there is no cosmetic issues/damage.
- Ask the Breeder: Apart from any other questions you have, ask him/her to give you their own evaluation; their thoughts on the rabbits strong and weak spots so you can have a better understanding of what you are looking for in any breeding mates that will compliment it best.
- Here I will link a couple videos on evaluating rabbits; Posing, Posing article, Evaluation, A Rex Overview
Again, I do not think it is neccessary for you to go to shows in order to have nice, quality rabbits. So, if that is your thoughts, it’s not so! Although, I do think it can give more opportunity to build community, if you did go as an observer. Most social platforms can help build community though, so however you do it, talking to community will help immensely. Not everything has to be a deal breaker. I’m not sure there is any perfect rabbit out there, so don’t get too caught up looking for that. Look for a strong, healthy structure and go from there!
Whether you do this for meat or showing, I really encourage you to follow these steps when buying rabbits. If you are a first time owner and are uncomfortable with preforming any of these steps, ask for the breeder to help show you how! If he/she does not want to oblige you when it comes to evaluating the rabbit, that would be a red flag indicator.
Improve Your Current Lines:
If you are just now noticing that some of your herd has major faults, don’t think you have to cull everything right away! Firstly, I would ask for advice within your community on what would best compliment your current rabbits to get better quality offspring and then work with that to improve your lines! Undoubtedly, you will still have to cull, but you may not have to go all the way back to square one.
Although I have made my own mistakes in past, I am continuing my plan and I keep striving to breed better quality rabbits, and to steward what I have well in a way that best honors the Lord. Thank you for being on this journey with us and we hope that our sharing is beneficial for you in your journey too!