Starting Out in Rabbits 101

Reposted with permission from Oceanside Angoras October 31, 2017.
I'm watching a lot of beginners start in rabbits and I'm watching a lot of mistakes being made. I'd like to address some of them:

1 - Not waiting for quality. This is the first and biggest mistake. You contact the top breeders and every one of them tells you that they have a waiting list, or they might have something in the spring, or maybe fall around convention time. Meanwhile another breeder is telling you that they have great quality (that wins at shows!) and they had a litter and have 6 available. Ok I know it's hard to wait but the reason top breeders don't have much available isn't typically the demand. It's due to the fact most of their rabbits don't make it to the sales list for shows. They only sell the top animals they have, and not everything born. As you grow in this hobby and get pickier, faults stand out more. Body faults, coat faults, overall balance. All those things matter more. While at first all 6 babies are amazing in a litter - sure one needs more bone, one is pinched, one is a little flat in the shoulder but they're all CUTE - soon that litter is filled with nothing you want on the show table and you move on. That's why top breeders are at the top. It's worth your time to wait.

2 - Getting different lines in the hope of making your 'own'. Often people buy a bunch of different stock. Or I'll get requests for unrelated pairs or trios. The BEST animals are linebred. Sure, you can get an outstanding rabbit from an outcross. But it is not as likely to reproduce that quality. When I brought in satin from the otter program, it took me 3 generations to start turning out the animals I thought I should have in the first generation. It was only after I linebred on BOTH sides at the same time I could replicate what was there. Get 1 or 2 lines. Ask breeders which work well together. Don't worry about diversity in rabbits. Worry instead about producing quality. It's better to have a tightly linebred line that you know backwards and forward than getting surprises at every turn.

3 - Refusing older stock. Don't turn down the offer of brood stock. A 3 year old doe can be worth her weight in gold for the few litters. That is the BEST way to start out. Don't win with other's rabbits, focus on winning with things you produced. If a breeder is willing to let you have their best doe for a few litters - or a herd buck TAKE THE RISK!

4 - Wanting a guaranteed deal. All rabbit buying is a risk. You can't control whether or not they produce, breed, or even live. Instead of getting frustrated try again. I have spent thousands on rabbits who didn't survive, didn't breed, or didn't work in my line. Keep moving forward and don't dwell on the past. Transporting especially increases the risk of things going wrong. Anything can happen.

5 - Don't color hunt. Color is great, we all need fun colors. But - color programs are guaranteed to be lesser quality than those who just breed for type. I love my dilutes, and reds. Where is the quality in my barn? In my chocolates and rews. Just now, after 6 years of work do I feel like I'm making progress on my agoutis. But they still can't beat those chocolates. Spend your first few years learning genetics so you can manipulate quality into what colors you want, and building your line in whatever your best color is. Then start working on a color program. And remember to cull them just as strongly as the colors you don't like.

6 - Only having friends in your breed. Break out of your bubble. Learn about other breeds, make friends in other breeds, listen to the old timers, and ask questions. Don't stay insular in your little group or breed.

7 - Ignoring the judges. Listen to the judges, even those you don't agree with. If one judge picks up on a fault ask them to let you feel it. And do. No they aren't perfect, they're human, but they are our unbiased eyes.

8 - Winning above all. Never place winning above improving your breed, and your line. Just because a rabbit wins all the time doesn't mean it's what you want to base your breeding program on. At the same time don't take your best to convention, or those big shows. Keep them home. Their value is in the nestbox, not on the show table.

9- Being a cheapskate Set a budget but remember, your rabbits are worth the best food, cages, and stock you can afford. It's better to have fewer animals, cull harder, and focus on the best than it is to cut corners.

10 - Not making goals. Set up 1, 3, 5, and 10 year goals for your breeding program and review them. Cull out your bottom 25% of your herd spring and fall, and always be looking for the way to move forward not to stay stagnant. Goals shouldn't be based on wins but on improvements. What body faults are you working on, what coat faults? Where do you see yourself in 3 years (6 generations)? What buck is your next herd sire? What doe is going to be the pivotal doe and more importantly, where do you linebreed both of those to get better?

Never be afraid to ask questions. I feel so many get discouraged through no fault of their own, simply through being lost or a lack of planning. Let's help everyone succeed!

  • care/starting_out_101.1.txt
  • Last modified: 2019/07/16 13:59
  • by becker