PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock
January 5, 2015

When adding a rabbit enterprise to your farm, you’re not simply after cute bunnies with soft fur and floppy ears. It’s important to select rabbits carefully and ask the appropriate questions before buying, no matter if you’re raising rabbits for meat, fur or fancy. A great way to maximize your investment is to start a breeding program with a pair of rabbits that encompasses the traits and qualities you desire in future generations of rabbits. These questions will guide you through your buying experience and help get your new farm venture started on the right track.

1. Is the Rabbit Healthy?

It goes without saying: The rabbits you buy must be in good health. In addition to avoiding rabbits with contagious diseases (such as pasteurella, aka snuffles), ask if the rabbit has ever suffered from GI stasis, sore hocks or mastitis. Check that the rabbit is free of congenital defects, such as malocclusion of the teeth or splay leg. If you’re planning to raise and breed rabbits, you’ll want your foundation rabbits to be as perfect as possible, particularly in regard to the Standard of Perfection for their breed.

2. How Old is the Rabbit?

The age of a rabbit is more important than you might think. There are advantages and disadvantages to buying both junior rabbits (under 6 months old) and senior rabbits (over 6 months old). Young rabbits, even if you start off with 10-week-olds, will mature quickly and still have all their reproductive years ahead of them, though much guesswork will be involved in determining their offspring. An older rabbit that has already produced or sired a litter lets you confirm it’s giving birth to the size, type and quality of rabbits that you’re after. Of course, an older rabbit will also have less time left to produce offspring for your breeding program.

3. Does the Rabbit Have a Pedigree?

If you’re coming to rabbits with knowledge of other types of livestock, you might assume that you’ll want to purchase registered rabbits, but in most cases, you’ll want to look for pedigreed rabbits. Registered rabbits are wonderful, but they’re not always easy to find, as a rabbit has to be evaluated by a licensed registrar and meet all breed criteria, including ideal weight, before being registered.

Pedigreed rabbits, on the other hand, are easy to find and possess a detailed history of their ancestry, giving insight into the weights, colors, accomplishments and bloodlines of their ancestors. You’ll often see people selling rabbits that are supposedly purebred but don’t have pedigrees; however, without a pedigree, it’s impossible to determine whether the rabbit truly is purebred.

4. Is the Doe a Good Mother?

If you’re looking for a senior brood doe that will raise healthy litters, inquire about her background. Find out how many kits she’s produced in each litter and if she cared for them all properly. Did she build a good nest and kindle—aka give birth—in her nest box? Some female rabbits fail to use a nest box and scatter their kits all about the hutch, which prevents the kits from staying warm and can be disastrous if you don’t find them immediately.

5. What’s the Price?

Unless you have an unlimited budget for establishing your rabbitry, the price being asked for a given rabbit is a factor to consider. You might find an ideal rabbit of the appropriate age and with all of the qualities you desire for $50 and a similar rabbit for $20, but with some compromising qualities. Determine ahead of time whether you want to invest in a more expensive rabbit to obtain all the characteristics you want or compromise in order to save money. Remember, the purchase price is often the least expensive part of owning a rabbit. Once rabbits are in your care, you’ll need to be able to pay for food, litter, housing and veterinary expenses.

Get more help keeping rabbits on HobbyFarms.com:



Next Up