Benefits Of Rabbits
Raising rabbits are much cheaper, more efficient, and more productive than raising chickens.
Raising Rabbits is Fun
Don't expect to make a profitable business raising rabbits. Only a small minority of those who raise rabbits are capable of making a living out of it. Think about it, , an enjoyable hobby that can help pay for itself. Raising rabbits gets in your blood. Two times you have had some nice rabbits, you need to keep them around. I found that when I was raising lots of and didn't have markets, the rabbits were eating me out of house and home. And so I got rid of them -- for a while. I then took up the hobby again because I found it was in my blood to raise rabbits.
Rabbits are fun to raise except when you must go out and take care of them at 10 below zero. Thinking about this is the exception than the rule, we'll assume that, generally speaking, they are fun to raise. You may have different reasons for raising them - enjoyment, education, business, show, laboratory, meat, fur, and the bi-products they produce, such as fertilizer and fishing worms.
Before you get lots of rabbits, it would be a nice idea for you to join the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). The low membership fee includes a very nice booklet on raising rabbits. It lists all of the recognized domestic breeds of rabbits along with their characteristics. Membership in ARBA includes a subscription to Domestic Rabbits magazine that supplies you with helpful articles on rabbit raising. Each year you will also receive a booklet listing the over 35,000 ARBA members and their addresses. You will easily find rabbit fanciers living close to you.
Check out ARBA's web page for helpful books and materials. ARBA's web-site also lists shows throughout the United States. Find a show near you and go to it. You'll learn a great deal there. Watching the judges, you will find what they think about nice qualities in each particular breed. By exchanging information with other breeders, you can learn techniques that work. Shows are great places to shop for rabbits. You can find the breed(s) you would like to raise by seeing the rabbits up close and asking the owners what experiences they have had with them.
If you start showing your rabbits, you'll need to be a member of ARBA in order for your rabbits to be awarded grand championships. A rabbit wins a grand championship when it's won first place in two rabbit shows. Having a grand champion is valuable. Not only does the rabbit's monetary value go up, but also its offspring are thought about valuable.
Purchase Only Pedigree Rabbits
Usually, it is not a nice idea to go out and buy rabbits from somebody who cannot give you a nice pedigree certificate. Without knowing a rabbit's ancestry, neither it nor its offspring to the fourth generation may become grand champions. You risk getting a mixed rabbit (two that is not of a specific breed), a low quality specimen of a particular breed that somebody knew was poor and sold it as a pet, or a rabbit that has serious genetic defects. The principle of only buying animals with a pedigree applies anywhere. When acquiring a dog, why receive a mutt, even though it might be free, when you can buy a pedigree whose offspring you can sell for over two times the price you paid?
Even if you are purchasing a rabbit only as a pet, if you are planning on keeping the rabbit for any length of time, you need to think about its resale value. You may also later select to raise rabbits on a larger scale. Having a pedigree certificate ensures that you are beginning out right. When breeders give you a pedigree certificate, they are putting their reputation on the line. They are guaranteeing the background of the rabbit, specifying themselves as the owners, and authenticating it by their signature. Also, unless they are stupid, they are not going to knowingly sell you a defective rabbit. They would not stay in business long. Those that cannot provide a pedigree certificate may not be an expert raising rabbits. They may knowingly or unknowingly sell you two that is sick or has a genetic defect. Usually they are not very helpful in getting you started right. Stick with recognized breeders of pedigree rabbits that will provide you with a certificate.
Keep in mind, however, that pedigree certificates can be falsified by the person selling you the rabbit. It is best to buy from a reputable person. Try getting a recommendation from somebody who shows rabbits. They usually know the nice breeders.
The key idea is to purchase your rabbits from a reputable person who can help you with your questions after the sale, two who is recommended by others, and two who guarantees the rabbits you purchase.
If you need added protection, purchase a Registered Rabbit. A registered rabbit is two which an ARBA licensed registrar has examined and certified as free from defects and disqualifications. The registrar has determined that the rabbit is healthy and a nice representation of the breed. The registrar examines the rabbit's pedigree for completeness and accuracy. A copy of the rabbit's pedigree is forwarded to ARBA. Though inaccuracies can also be present with registered rabbits, the chances are better that you will receive a better rabbit.
I suppose the most difficult decision in raising rabbits is selecting the breed you need to raise. As for myself, I am not satisfied with two breed. I need representatives from several. I have Netherland Dwarfs in shades of white, black, chinchilla, chestnut, chocolate, and sable. I have white New Zealands, Californians, Rex in shades of white, black, lilac, chestnut, and broken (spotted). I also have Champagne D'Argents, chocolate English Spots, and black Silver Martens. I am planning on buying some Satins in the colors red, copper, and Siamese. I also need to purchase some more Netherland Dwarfs in the colors Himalayan, smoke pearl, black tan, and broken.
Pick Your Breed
Breeds are characterized by size, shape, ears, fur texture, sheen, and color. In some breeds, the individual fur characteristics are combined. The main fur types are:
Angora - The fur grows very long and is shaved or plucked and woven in to yarn to be used in making Angora sweaters, hats, and mittens. The long haired rabbits can become a real problem for the casual rabbit breeder. Their fur has a tendency to matt and shed. It is a real bear trying to neat the cages that have long hair everywhere. The hair also floats out and settles on anything in your rabbitry.
Satin - The fur has a special shine to it. It is used to make fine fur coats and hats.
Rex - The fur has a velvety touch and is short. It is used also to make fine fur coats and hats.
Multi-color fur - The fur is made up of two or two colors. Never will you find a fur coat made with these because of the problem of matching the patterns and colors. They are sometimes found in small furred items. Positive color patterns are sought for by judges when showing these types of rabbits.
The smallest breeds, the Dwarfs, vary in size from 1-3/4 to 3-1/2 lbs. They include:
Britannia Petite (White, black, black otter, or chestnut agouti) 1-1/2 - 2-1/2 lbs
Dwarf Hotot (White with black around its eyes) 2 - 3 lbs
Jersey Wooley (Lots of colors - Angora wool) 2 - 3-1/2 lbs
Netherland Dwarf (Lots of colors) 1-3/4 - 2-1/2 lbs
Polish (Black, blue, chocolate, blue eyed white, ruby eyed white, and broken) 2 - 3-1/2 lbs
These rabbits, as a group, are less than 3-1/2 pounds mature. These are the rabbits you will need to raise if you need small pets that don't consume much feed (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup per day) and take up the least amount of cage space (about 2-1/2 sq ft). Lots of times, these are the only rabbits that pet stores will buy. You can expect to fetch about $7.00 from pet stores without having to supply a pedigree. The pet store will turn around and sell them for about $30.00. When you sell to other breeders and provide a pedigree, you can expect from $15.00 to $40.00 or even $100.00 or more for a grand champion. Price depends on the rabbit's show background, quality, and heritage, including the production characteristics of its parents.
The Netherland Dwarf is the breed in greatest demand. The Netherland Dwarf has the most ARBA-recognized colors and patterns of all the breeds. If you are in to variety, you cannot go wrong with Netherland Dwarfs.
The problems you will run in to with any of the dwarf breeds mentioned are the following:
The average litter size is 2 - 4 bunnies, as opposed to the larger breeds which have 6 - 12 bunnies.
The genes responsible for making a dwarf rabbit, in positive combinations is lethal. This combination occurs in 25% of the rabbits. The two having this gene usually dies within 4 days after birth.
Dwarf rabbits are more susceptible to coccidiosis, an intestinal parasite that lots of times proves lethal to the young rabbits between two and ten weeks of age.
I have found that a significant number of dwarfs have attitude problems. Lots of of them resort to scratching or biting you when you put your hand in to their cage. It could be that they are more afraid than the larger breeds, as chihuahua canines have a nervous fight-back tendency.
The above factors don't tend to discourage people from raising dwarfs. They think about these problems as challenges. Dwarf rabbits are in great demand because of their popularity with young people. This, coupled with the lower litter rate, portray why they command a higher price than other rabbits.
The next group of rabbits make up the small size breeds. They vary from about 2-1/2 to 5 pounds. These rabbits consume between 1/3 and 2/3 cup of feed per day and take up 3-1/2 sq ft of cage space. The small breeds have characteristics between the dwarfs and the medium size breeds. They usually have 1 - 3 more children in their litters than the dwarfs and do not carryover the possibly lethal dwarf gene. However, they are still more susceptible to death from coccidiosis than the larger breeds. A few pet stores will carryover these small breeds and you can expect perhaps $2.00 less from the pet shops than the dwarfs will bring. They may only take them during Easter. Check with your local stores. Sales to other breeders will command similar prices to the medium size rabbits, about $20.00. The small breeds consist of:
American Fuzzy Lop (Lots of colors - Angora fur - Lop Ears) 3 - 4 lbs
Dutch (The feet, front half of torso and face are white, the other parts can be black, blue, chocolate, tortoise, steel, or brown-gray) 3-1/2 - 5-1/2 lbs
Himalayan (White with colored ears, nose, feet, and tail of black, blue, lilac, or chocolate) 2-1/2 - 4-1/2 lbs
Holland Lop (Lop ears - Lots of colors) 2-1/2 - 4 lbs
Mini Rex (Rex coat - Lots of colors) 3 - 4-1/2 lbs
The next group of rabbits make up the medium size breeds. This group is characterized by weights ranging from 4-1/2 to 7 pounds mature. These rabbits consume between 1/2 and 1 cup of feed per day and take up 5 sq ft of cage space. Usually, pet stores don't need these breeds except possibly around Easter. The medium breeds produce an acceptable amount of meat on small bones. Some commercial meat rabbit breeders raise these breeds. But they usually prefer the next group - the meat rabbits, because the feed-to-meat conversion ratio is apparently better. Usually, those that raise the medium size rabbits like to show them and eat the ones that don't make the grade. A number of these rabbits are raised for their fur as well. On the whole, it is harder to sell these rabbits except to other fanciers of like mind. You can expect about $20.00 with pedigree for mature rabbits.
Medium Size Breeds
Rabbits that make up this group of medium breeds include the following:
American Sable (Also nice for meat) 7-10 lbs
English Angora (Lots of colors) 5 - 7-1/2 lbs
Spanish Angora (Lots of colors - nice also for meat) 7-1/2 - 10-1/2 lbs
Satin Angora (Lots of colors) 6-1/2 - 9 lbs
Belgian Hare (Not seen much - different body style) 6 - 9-1/2 lbs
Standard Chinchilla 5 - 7-1/2 lbs
English Spot (White with spots of black, blue, chocolate, gold, gray, lilac, or tortoise) 5 - 8 lbs
Florida White 4 - 6 lbs
Harlequin (Has alternate bands of color) 6-1/2 - 9-1/2 lbs
Havana (Black, blue, or chocolate) 4-1/2 - 6-1/2 lbs
Lilac 5-1/2 - 8 lbs
Mini Lop (Lop ears - Lots of colors) 4-1/2 - 6-1/2 lbs
Rhinelander (White with spots of black and orange) 6-1/2 - 10 lbs
Silver (Black, brown, or fawn with white ticking) 4 - 7 lbs
Silver Marten (Black, blue, chocolate, or sable with white on belly, flanks, jaw lines, and eye circles) 6 - 9-1/2 lbs
Tan (Black, blue, chocolate, or lilac with tan on belly, flanks, jaw lines, and eye circles) 4 - 6 lbs
Meat Rabbits make up the next group. They are characterized by weights between 8 and 12 pounds. These rabbits are raised for both meat and fur. A number of these may also be thought about fancy rabbits because they have unusual fur, color, or ear characteristics. Most of these rabbits are shown a great deal. Rabbits in the meat group consume about 1-1/4 cup of feed per day and take up 7-1/2 sq ft of cage space. They will command a price comparable to the medium size rabbits, about $20.00 for mature ones. The rabbits that make up the meat group include:
American (Blue or White) 9 - 12 lbs
Beveren (Black, Blue, or White) 8 - 12 lbs
Californian (White with black ears, nose, feet, and tail) 8 - 10-1/2 lbs
Champagne D'Argent (Starts as black, mature is silver) 9 - 12 lbs
American Chinchilla 9 - 12 lbs
Cinnamon 8-1/2 - 11 lbs
Creme D'Argent 8 - 11 lbs
Hotot (White with black around its eyes) 8 - 11 lbs
English Lop (Lots of colors - giant lop ears) 9 - 14 lbs
Spanish Lop (Lots of colors - regular lop ears) 10 - 15 lbs
New Zealand (Black, Red, or White) The standard meat rabbit 9 - 12 lbs
Palomino 8 - 11 lbs
Satin (Shiny coat - lots of colors) 8-1/2 - 11 lbs
Silver Fox (fur resembles fox) 9 - 12 lbs
The next group of rabbits are the Giants. These are raised because some breeders like giant rabbits. They can sometimes weigh up to 25 pounds. The giants need 1-3/4 - 2 cups of feed per day and 11 - 12 sq ft of cage space. The giant breeds also need stronger cages. Because few people raise these rabbits, they are more rare than the other breeds. It takes a strong person to lift these rabbits, so their demand is not great and thus harder to sell. They may command up to $50.00 for a mature rabbit and about $15.00 - $20.00 for a 2 month elderly two. Most of the giants are shown (their presence is always appreciated). They are mainly used for meat and fur. The feed-to-meat conversion ratio is less than the meat group. The giants include:
Checkered Giant (White with spots of black or blue) weight over 11 lbs
Giant Chinchilla 12 - 16 lbs
Flemish Giant (Black, blue, fawn, light gray, sandy, steel gray, or white) weight over 13 lbs
The above discussion of the various breeds of rabbits touched on the
Feed and Cage Requirements