In the first post of this series I talked about what questions you need to answer before you get rabbits. If you are still reading, I am assuming that you have decided that rabbits are still a good fit for your family. I can’t blame you, I think that they are fabulous.
In this post I am going to talk about how you choose the right rabbit and bringing it home.
One of the questions that you answered in the first post is why you want rabbits. If you are looking to homestead, like I do, than you are interested in a rabbit that is breed for meat and possibly for fur. There are many meat rabbits out there that can supply your family with a steady supply of food. The breed that I choose was American Chinchilla. The reason that I choose that breed was that I wanted something that was a heritage breed. The heritage breed animals seem to be a much better fit for a homesteader. They produce a good size roaster and are a very good with kids. Those are two very important things to me. A breeding trio will provide you with a constant supply of meat. A trio is made up of two doe rabbits and 1 buck. You want the two does to be two generations removed from the buck or unrelated to the buck.
If you are interested in rabbits because you would like a pet, there are a lot of smaller rabbits out there that are not as large as the American Chinchilla. I have found that some of the smaller breeds can be a little grumpy. If you are looking for a pet, please make sure that you have the time to socialize it, so that you have an animal that can be handled. Lastly, I would not be an animal lover if I did not plug the local animal shelter. If you just want a pet and compost, this might be a great place to look.
Another reason to have rabbits is for fiber. Do not tell my husband, but this is my next adventure. I love the angora rabbits. They provide you with fiber a couple of times when you shave them. I love that this is a renewable resource, unlike the rabbit fur, which is a one time use only.
No matter what your reason for getting a rabbit, this is a great place to research some great breeds of rabbits.
Once you decide what breed you want, you can go to the American Rabbit Breeders Association Site to find lists of breeders by state. While you are on the ARBA site, if you are interested in showing rabbits in 4-H or another organization, please get the show standards book. This makes you an educated consumer. I, for example, do not show my rabbits. When I sell a rabbit, I know that it is pure bred American Chinchilla, it has a good attitude and then I focus on breeding ability and health. I know nothing about showing. My rabbits are easy to handle, clean, in good health and come with papers, I depend on the buyer to know which rabbits are good show rabbits.
Look over your rabbit when you buy it, you want it to have a clean bottom, clipped claws, clean ears, nice teeth, and bright eyes. Feel the rabbit over, make sure you do not feel any bumps or scabs. I actually was selling a rabbit, and even though I interact with my rabbits often, I did not notice a bump her side. The seller helped me find this abscess before it got worse and I was able to get the rabbit to the vet. This was a rabbit had gotten out of her cage and apparently been bit by a tick. The bite got infected. I was able to get her treated and now she is a healthy rabbit. You want to find a breeder that cares about their rabbits.
BRINGING THEM HOME
Before you bring them home make sure you have your water bottles, feeders, hay, cages, and rabbit feed. You might even want to talk to the breeder about rabbit feed. If you have more than one feed available to you, the breeder might be able to point you to one they found worked better than another. We prefer Blue Seal Show Hutch Deluxe. My rabbits love it and I recommend it to all my buyers. Before you leave the breeder make sure they give you a small bag of whatever they are feeding so that you can slowly transition the rabbit to their new food.
Actually bringing them, a cat carrier is a great way to transport your rabbits. Another great way to transport is rubbermaid totes with holes drilled in them. We did a mix of the two. You can transport the does together in one carrier, however, you need to make sure each buck has their own carrier. They will fit if you put them in the same box.
Just like with bringing the rabbits home, once they get home you have to make sure that they bucks have their own cages. The does can share a cage while they are young, but once they reach breeding age it is important that everyone have their own cage.
After your rabbits are home, make sure they have water, but I have learned to with hold food for a few hours. Let the rabbit get settled from the car ride before you offer them food.
Now that you have your rabbits, the next post will be some basic management and lessons that I have learned.
Always end with cuteness!