Raising Rabbits for Show
Raising Rabbits for Show A comprehensive guide to raising show rabbits. Learn how to start successfully raising rabbits for show in this exclusive free guide.
Are show rabbits right for you?
One of the most fun things you can do with rabbits is raise them for show. It’s a never-ending challenge to find the ideal show bunny, one that conforms so closely to the
that it blows your competition away. It’s gratifying to see your effort pay off on the show table when you win, and even when you don’t win, showing rabbits gives you the chance to meet friends who share your interests. Raising rabbits for show is an unforgettable experience, but like any adventure, it has its ups and downs. Can you afford an investment for stock and equipment that, though it will be less than the cost of raising other animals, can run over a thousand? Do you have the patience to learn the intricacies of the ARBA Standard, and the perseverance to push on through the process of bringing your herd to the top level? Do you have the time to care for at least twenty animals, seven days a week, in all seasons? Do you have that competitive edge that will drive you to success? If so, welcome to the world of showing rabbits!
What kind of rabbits are best for show?
Here’s the beauty of raising fancy rabbits (a.k.a. show rabbits): any kind goes! You can keep enormous Checkered Giants or dainty Britannia Petites, smooth sleek Tans or longhaired Angoras. You can help the stay alive a breed that’s rare today, but has been around since the 14th century or help the newest breed, the Lionhead, get off to a great start. The only bunnies you can’t raise are mixed-breed rabbits, or breeds that aren’t recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
Probably the most important factor to consider when choosing your rabbit breed is its popularity. The more popular a breed, the easier it will be to locate stock for sale…but it might also be more expensive if you want to get starter rabbits that can compete at high levels. If you choose a popular breed, you’ll have more competition at shows (which is a good thing, because you’ll meet more friends and it will be more rewarding if you win), but it will also take longer for your rabbits to reach the top. Scroll through the list of breeds on the ARBA webpage and visit their national breed clubs to learn more and find breeders in your area.
The very best way, however, to find rabbit breeders near you is to visit an , like the one at http://www.RabbitBreeders.us. These give you access to hundreds of phone numbers, websites, and Facebook pages of people offering rabbits for sale in your area.
What equipment do you need to raise rabbits for show?
There are three main components to raising rabbits successfully. We’ve talked about the first two you and your bunnies so let’s talk about the third thing: your equipment.
Use all-wire cages. They will keep your rabbits cleaner both better-looking and healthier. The best kind of
have slide-out drop trays and urine guards so they can be stacked on top of stands with casters. If you plan to keep your rabbits outdoors in a hutch, you should still use self-contained cages with , set into the hutch like shown in these plans. This will be much more secure than simply nailing wire to wood, because rabbits will gnaw away any wood they come in contact with. Also, using a cage with a drop tray offers protection on the underside from predators that can (and will) pull rabbits’ toes off through the wire. (This author has had it happen.) If you build your own wire cage, you can order drop trays and even pre-cut wire floor panels from a , to make the building process go easier. (That way you just have to buy one roll of
for the sides of the cages, not an additional roll of “x1” wire for the cage floors.)
For providing rabbit food, many show breeders prefer
because they are sturdy, quick to fill, and come in a variety of sizes. Along with J-feeders, you can use water bottles to provide an ample supply of water that’s safe from debris. (You can choose either
bottles.) Sometimes rabbit owners prefer to use plastic or
for both feed and water. Those are fine, but get either heavy stoneware ones, or ones that
so rabbits cannot tip them.
In addition to the basics of food, water, and housing, there will be a few additional pieces of equipment you’ll want if you’re raising rabbits for show. Most importantly, you’ll need nest boxes for your does with litters. Nest boxes should be snug: don’t buy a box that’s too large, or the kits will be more likely to wander out and the doe will be more likely to use the box as a couch, potentially harming the babies.
work great, because they are light weight, chew resistant, and easy to clean.
Another important tool in the hands of a show breeder is a rabbit tattoo kit. Every bunny that crosses a show table needs to have a permanent ear mark in its left ear. These days most rabbit breeders use a battery-operated to apply the ear mark. It’s very simple to use, affordable to buy, and doesn’t cause the rabbit nearly as much stress as the old fashioned clamp method of tattooing.
There are so many other things you might need for your bunnies practical things like
and , and fun things like
or a So download a
and have fun browsing it, even if it’s just “window shopping” for now.
General Tips for Raising Rabbits for Show
There are so many things to learn about raising rabbits for show, so the best thing to do is to pick up a
and learn from there. But here are a few insider tips to help you along:
-When looking for starter stock, be respectful to sellers. Don’t ask for their very best rabbits for sale. They know that everyone wants the best they can get, and so will be more likely to help you out if you are polite and simply ask what they have available.
-Don’t expect to win right away. Even if you buy the best starter stock, it usually takes a couple years of learning the ropes to get your rabbits up to snuff. Don’t worry you will get there. If you persevere past the first couple years, you’ll probably find your rabbits start to improve quickly.
-Line breed. Breed rabbits from the same bloodline together, because this will give you much more predictable results in the offspring. Contrary to what you might think,
when done right can actually keep your rabbits healthier, because you aren’t introducing them to unknown genes that the outcross might bring in.
-Always breed one or more does at a time. That way, if something goes wrong with one litter you can foster the babies to another doe.
-Start small. This is so important. You may find that, after a year or so of raising show rabbits, you want to switch breeds. You may find that your starter stock isn’t as good as you thought it was, and you want to replace it. This is much easier to do if you have 15 rabbits than if you have 50. If you start out with too many rabbits, you may get overwhelmed and decide to sell out.
-Keep good records. Keep a
for every rabbit you produce. Update your breeding and show records regularly. Keep track of each rabbit you sell, so when buyers contact you later about the bunny, you remember which one they bought. You can even use
designed for rabbit breeders.
-Get a rabbitry website. Most buyers find their rabbits through the internet. A unique, professionally-built website speaks volumes about the professionalism and credibility of your rabbitry. Hire a designer that specializes in
for best results.
-Make friends in the hobby. This is the #1 tip. Friends will keep you having fun even when things aren’t going well with the rabbits. They’ll help you out when you have questions. Pretty soon you might find that you go to shows not even to compete so much anymore as to visit with your friends.
Resources for Additional Information
To learn more about raising rabbits for show, check out these books written by breeders with many years of experience in the hobby.
-A comprehensive guide to breeding and caring for rabbits. Highly acclaimed and now in its third edition.
-This book is beloved of 4-H members and leaders across the country, who use to study for county fairs and national-level competitions. Contains information that would be valuable to anyone interested in starting a show rabbit project.
-This guide spells out the basics of rabbit color genetics in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand and apply to their breeding.
-. If you plan to show rabbits in market classes, such as meat pens, single fryer, or roaster, this is the book for you. Don’t miss it.
-This official book outlines what each breed should be like, and explains how to judge them correctly. Every breeder raising rabbits for show needs to know what the inside of this book looks like.
Wishing you success with your rabbit venture!