I’ve decided to write this article as the number of breeders is starting to increase here in the south (Which is really great! Yay!). I think there isn’t too much information out there for people starting out, so I think this is a great way to help. Hopefully this will help many of you get on your way to a successful herd. Nobody has to agree with this 100%, but through trial and error, these have been influenced by my experiences.
1.Picking out a breed:
I recommend visiting an ARBA show before picking a breed. There are some breeds that might look really great from a picture, but may not have that wow factor that you love in real life. It can be the size, temperament, competition, etc that can make or break your decision.
I highly recommend also going with an accepted breed before you look into something with just a COD, such as the Lion Head, so you can become knowledgeable about desirable and undesirable type and faults before you work on a breed that is still going through a lot of development.
I feel like for some it’s a little bit like…. You are trying to create the masterpiece sculpture without any sculpting experience.
2. Just because it is pedigreed, doesn’t mean it’s quality:
Yes, a rabbit can be free of DQ’s, making it showable, but doesn’t mean that they are show quality.
Do not expect to know the type of a rabbit at 4-5 weeks. The best time to look into junior stock is usually around 8 weeks and up.
Usually culling in my rabbitry will be at 8 weeks, then 10 weeks, and then again at 12 weeks…etc
If you are at a show, you could ask a judge politely to look at a potential purchase for you when they aren’t busy.
3. Limit your lines
I’m sure we all took a statistics class at one point or another! One of the things I actually valued in highschool.
The more you limit your lines, the more predictable your gene pool is. The less amount of variables. Try to have consistency. Not that rabbits from outside lines are always bad, but when you bring in a rabbit that has distinct set traits from on line that are different from your own sometimes when crossed, you can get “freaks of nature”, better known as outliers, that can be super for the table (sometimes they will just throw just straight up poor quality), but then production wise, can never produce anything better than themselves.
So I advise to be mindful on a crap ton of different lines going on pedigrees. Sometimes a make or break for me when I see too many names even on a very nice rabbit. Type is very important if it can breed true.
I think it’s best to try to keep it as short,simple, and to the point as you can with your lines.
3. Show your foundation stock before you breed
I highly recommend showing your stock before you breed them. It’s good to know their faults, so you aren’t breeding the rabbits with the same exact faults together. That will pretty much do you more harm than good. You also need to decide if they have more pros than cons. We will all have really great purchases and then we will have really bad ones.
You need to be harsh. Just because you breed two show quality animals, doesn’t make all the offspring show quality. You need to have an outlet for those culls. There are over 23,000 members in the ARBA (Then think about the # of breeders that aren’t), and if we are all breeding and selling offspring, there needs to sometimes be more outlets than the pet route.
It’s a noble goal to think that all can get into a pet home, but if the pet market and homes are over saturated, you will run into a problem.
There are times of the year things don’t sell, certain colors are not desirable, or your holes are filled a little more than you like… Unless you have an idea of profit in rabbits in your mind (WISHFUL THINKING) then you probably will find yourself overrun with an overwhelming amount of rabbits at one point or another.
So if you don’t feel comfortable with different outlets of culling, there is usually someone out there that will find more purposes for your rabbits in a humane way.
Rescues want to point fingers at breeders, but during these times, we shouldn’t be giving them reasons to if we want to continue to enjoy this hobby.
5. DO NOT SELL EVERYTHING WITH A PEDIGREE
Please only offer pedigrees on worthy animals. Usually they are something you’d keep for your program if you had the space. Just because the offspring come out of such and such lines doesn’t mean they are brood or show quality. Think of it this way: Would you want the rabbits you sold to represent you on the show table if someone else owned it? You can’t guarantee a win, but you probably don’t want to sell one a rabbit that a judge recommends that they are better off culling them. ( Yes, I’ve seen this done and I just rephrased it to make it sound less brutal).
6. Type over color!
Please do not get hung up on color. Especially when starting out. Just don’t. Learn to be how to breed and be successful with common colors.
When I was just purchasing my first stock, I remember when I drove 2 hours for a BEW “Mini Lop”. The “breeder” failed to mention that he had no pedigree, wasn’t infact a Mini Lop (just a cross with Mini and something else), and was talking about how she really wasn’t into showing. She talked me into that buck and a doe…that I deeply regretted later but I was so sure that I could improve upon them… Oh was I so wrong. That was a huge mistake. I was too naive to see the red flags.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten in rabbits: Build your house before you paint it.
We all will go through a lot of trial an error with our herds. When it comes down to what you will pay for your stock, consider your options. I know that a big factor can be the price of rabbits. Weigh your options. Learn the SOP so you can make an educated decision. Sometimes I rather pay $150 for one good proven rabbit that compliments my herd than 3 $50 rabbits that might not do squat for my breeding program. There are some great buys out there, and sometimes you have to pay a little extra. Remember, junk will only produce junk. So if you are purchasing a lot of poor quality “pedigreed” rabbits, then there isn’t going up from there to be competitive. You will find a lot of money wasted. It cost just as much to feed a poor quality animal than good one. Thoroughly inspect your potential purchases for any genetic issues or non genetic issues (such as an accidental pulled tooth; honest breeder should disclose beforehand) & sickness.
I hope this has been a helpful article and will hopefully help some people avoid some beginner mistakes. They happen but hopefully no to a magnitude that will make rabbits so discouraging, you want to throw in the towel all together