Archive for the Cool Tips Category

Buying Top Quality Show Rabbits

January 5, 2015

Five things about Buying Show Rabbits that I Learned the Hard Way



As show breeders, we have high hopes for the rabbits we buy. Sure, there are some people who seem to have unlimited funds and cage space, and can grab every rabbit that strikes their fancy, but for most of us, adding another bunny to our herd is a big deal.

We don’t want to mess up. We don’t want to spend $75 on a rabbit that’s going to place last in its class (trust me, I’ve been there), but on the other hand, we don’t want to pass on rabbits that could potentially boost our herd to the next level. Sometimes excitement clouds our judgment when we get the chance to purchase a certain color or bloodline we’ve been hoping for. It’s especially difficult when we are new to the hobby and haven’t quite mastered that Standard of Perfection yet.

The truth is that less is more when it comes to buying show rabbits. You’ll do better in the end to make fewer purchases, but really, really smart ones.   Everyone gets burned at some point, but since our goal at Premium Rabbit Supplies is to supply you with both equipment and rabbit raising wisdom, I wanted to share some of my experiences with you. Here are a few things I learned the hard way about buying show rabbits:


Five Top Tips for Buying Show Rabbits

1. We’ll start with my first mistake first: don’t shop alone. Join a 4-H club, or a local ARBA club, or simply mingle at shows and make friends before you go rabbit shopping. Meet people who have been in the hobby for many years and have seen success at state or national levels, then ask one of them to help you go pick out some stock. They should be able to spot health issues, attitude issues, and faults or disqualifications that you may miss when shopping by yourself. Even if you have some experience raising rabbits, it always helps to get a second opinion.

2. Don’t buy sight-unseen. Okay, so it’s a well-known breeder. Okay, so the rabbit has a great pedigree. Okay, so they e-mailed you pictures, and it’s a color you really, really, really don’t want to pass up. Still, don’t buy the rabbit until you see it in person. Great bloodlines don’t always make great rabbits. Photos can easily hide faults. There will be another chance to buy that color. In most cases, it’s not worth the risk. Even if the breeder has the best of intentions, sometimes they can miss a DQ or accidentally sex the rabbit wrongly, and you’ll want to check it yourself before you had over the cash.

3. Don’t buy too many rabbits at once.   It’s been said many times, and it’s true: winners are bred, not bought. You won’t be consistently excelling on the show table until you have established your own lineand are producing your own winners. You may start with several bucks and several does, but after a few generations, you’ll find that all your keepers tend to go back to the same handful of rabbits. This is the foundation of your line. You’ll want to sell almost everything else at this point. If you start with too many rabbits, you’ll have a lot more you need to find homes for when they don’t turn out like you wanted. Plus, if the gene pool is too broad, it will take longer to find those few crosses that “click.” It always is wise to start small and build your herd piece by piece.

4. Don’t buy on show record alone. In fact, don’t buy on show record at all. Anyone who’s been around shows for a while knows that the judging can be very inconsistent. A rabbit that won several legs in one part of the country may not place well in a different area, under a different handler, or under a different judge. More importantly, it might not be what you need to fix an issue in your herd. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a purchase by flaunting a rabbit’s achievements: I’ve seen rabbits win at the national convention that I wouldn’t buy.   Instead, shut your eyes to show records and hunt down a rabbit that has the body type you need.

5. Don’t purchase without the pedigree. The seller should have the pedigree available to you at time of sale. If they say, “I’ll mail it to you later,” insist that they at least jot down the sire’s and dam’s names, colors, and ear numbers for you. Also make sure to get the seller’s name, e-mail address, and phone number before you go. Unfortunately, many buyers have been promised a pedigree in the mail and then never received it. If we were talking about pet or meat rabbits, it wouldn’t matter as much, but a show rabbit loses almost all its value when you lose the pedigree. Ideally you should see the pedigree before agreeing to the purchase. That way you can spot problems such as color genes in the background that will clash with your existing herd. One time I paid $200 for a rabbit, only to find out, once I got the pedigree, that it was five years old. Don’t waste your money like I did.

Most importantly: be patient

Although these pointers should help, still don’t despair if your first rabbit purchases turn out to be treasured pets instead of your top show bunnies. It takes time to not only learn how to pick out a good rabbit, but also figure out what you need to improve your herd. Everyone gets there if they stick with it – I’ve seen it happen dozens of times.

If I may offer one parting tip, it would be to spend as much effort picking out your rabbit cages as you do the bunnies that live in them. Not all cages – not even all wire cages – are created equal. You could buy cheap, assembly-line type cage that might have rough corners, or you could buy heavy-duty, hand-crafted cages that are individually sanded and inspected to make sure they have no sharp edges before leaving the shop. If that’s the kind of cage you want, check out the Supreme Rabbit Home. You won’t regret it.


How to Identify the Color of your Junior Bunnies

September 20, 2013

This post about rabbit color genetics can help you identify the color of the young rabbits in the litters you raise.

Identifying the Junior Oddball

Did you have an “oddball” in your last litter of bunnies?  I call rabbits “oddballs” when they turn out to be a color you didn’t expect and can’t identify.  Our book, “About Bunny Colors” has a whole section about how to identify the junior oddballs — and here’s a quick checklist to point you in the right direction.
odd colored rabbit

“What Color is my Bunny?”  Checklist

[ ] Check the ears—the fur here is short and dense and very useful for telling the color. Agoutis have ear lacing on the outer rim of the ear which is one of the best places to determine the basic (black, blue, chocolate, lilac) color. Agouti and tan pattern markings are easy to spot on the insides of the ears.

[ ] Check the eyes—black based colors usually have dark brown eyes. Chocolates often have lighter brown eyes. Dilute colors have blue-gray eyes. Sable and chocolate colors often show a ruby glow to the eye in correct light. If your rabbit has red eyes, it is a REW or a pointed white. Also, all agoutis and tan pattern colors show light eye circles.

[ ] Check the muzzle—again, dense short fur and a good place to tell basic color. Nostrils show agouti or tan pattern markings.

[ ] Check the triangle—on agoutis and tan patterns, the triangle of color at the back of the neck tells you a lot. First off, if it’s not there at all, the rabbit is a self pattern. If it is orange or fawn, the rabbit has the gene C_. If it’s silver/white, the rabbit is cchd or cchl.

[ ] Check the underside of the tail—Sure place to tell a tan pattern Himie (marten)—if tail is not all colored.

[ ] Blow into the fur—Normal agoutis show ring color, that is, bands of color on each hair shaft that form rings when you blow into the fur. The middle band of the agouti coat is a light color: orange or fawn on C_ based colors, and silver-white on chinchilla or sablebased agoutis.

[ ] Look at the ticking or tipping —  On agoutis, dark ticking is a good way to tell basic color. If tipping is light, your rabbit is a steel or a silver.

[ ] Is your rabbit shaded looking: darkest on the points and over the saddle and lighter on the sides and chest? Does the rabbit show sepia or smoke tint? Suspect the sable gene. Shows even in agoutis.

[ ] Would you describe your rabbit as brindled or having oddly placed dark spots or harlequin markings? Suspect the ej gene.

Click the image below to download the checklist!

rabbit color genetics checklist

Download this checklist to help you identify the colors of your bunnies

rabbit 4h showmanship guide and tips

April 1, 2013

What is 4-H Rabbit Showmanship?

*Click here to download this post as a PDF that you can distribute to your club members*

Rabbit Showmanship is an excellent activity for young 4-H members.  The purpose of the contest is to recognize youth who have taken proper care of their animals, learned important information about them, and become proficient at handling them correctly.  The spirit of friendly competition appeals to kids who thrive on challenge, and 4-H shows offer opportunities for kids to make friends who share their interests.

Unlike ARBA breed classes, which are based solely on a rabbits’ appearance, Showmanship is a team effort between bunny and owner.  To develop a line of show rabbits that will excel in breed classes takes years of trial and error, multiple generations of breeding, and a sizable bankroll.   But all that Showmanship requires is one bunny, the supplies to properly care for it, and a dedicated youth who is eager to learn.

In 4-H Rabbit Showmanship, contestants show off their ability to properly handle and care for their rabbits.  Contestants must demonstrate that they can pick up, hold, and carry a rabbit.  Sometimes they are even required to remove it from a cage.  They must examine it for signs of illness and for ARBA showroom disqualifications.  Judges give points for the cleanliness, health, and condition of the rabbit, as well as for the personal tidiness and professionalism of the contestant.  Lastly, participants must answer verbal quiz questions about rabbit husbandry and their breed’s standard.

The exact guidelines for rabbit showmanship contests vary from region to region.  For example, some counties require the 4-H’er to verbally explain their actions while examining the rabbit.  Other formats expect the exhibitor to be silent unless the judge asks them a question.  But though some of the details are different from place to place, all showmanship formats require the same basics from the contestants.  The tips below will apply to pretty much every 4-H member who hopes to take home the showmanship rosette.


Youth Rabbit Showmanship Contest Tips and Guidelines

  • Take your time.  Showmanship is not a race.  Don’t rush your examination.  If you do, you may forget steps, or even if you do them all, the judge might miss them. Calm and steady wins the prize.
  • If while you’re holding your rabbit upside-down, it flips back on its feet, don’t worry!  Simply turn it back over and pick up where you left off.  You don’t have to apologize to the judge or anything like that.  Don’t act distressed.  It happens.
  • Use a small to medium-sized breed.  We’re talking Dutch, Havana, Mini Rex, Thrianta, Florida White size.  Though many winners have used dwarf or giant breeds, my opinion is that the small-to-medium sized ones work best.  They are small enough to handle without difficulty, but large enough that the judge can see each step clearly.  My state has us “feel the meat” on the shoulders, midsection, loin, and hindquarters separately.  If you ask me, that’s kind of ridiculous on a Netherland Dwarf.

Rabbit showmanship tips

  • Take extra good care of your showmanship rabbit.  Keep his cage clean so there is no chance of him getting dirty from droppings.  Don’t use a white rabbit: he could suddenly pee his coat the day of the contest and you’d be in trouble.  Before the contest, trim his toenails.
  • Trim his toenails.  Trim his toenails.  Trim his toenails.  (Got that?  A lot of kids don’t seem to!)
  • Know your breed’s Standard of Perfection.  This is essential.  Memorize the schedule of points and the min/max/ideal weights.  Know the disqualifications.  It helps if you know other breeds, too, but it’s crucial to know your own very well.
  • Look the judge in the eye when you are speaking to him or her.  Really, this is important!
  • Make sure your rabbit has a legible tattoo in its left ear.  And please, make sure you know what its tattoo is in case the judge asks!
  • If you have long hair, tie it back so it won’t fall in your face.  Do not wear jewelry or sandals.
  • On the day of the contest, keep your rabbit in his cage or carrier as long as possible.  While you are waiting for your turn, don’t hold your rabbit in your arms.  The longer you hold him, the more antsy or hot he may become, and he will be less willing to sit still on the table during the contest.

Click here to download this post in a PDF Format

Click here to download an additional article: “Seven Essential Qualities of a Champion Rabbit Showman”


Get the Extensive Youth Contest Study Guide

Rabbit showmanship 4H study guideIf you liked this article, check out the book  “The Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide” for more like it!  Available from Rabbit Smarties Publishers, this book is written to help young 4-H and ARBA members excel with their rabbit project.  The Study Guide is rich in advice on rabbit care, health, showing, and breeding, and includes expert study tips for contests like 4-H showmanship and ARBA royalty.  Designed to be a 4-H rabbit leader’s aid, the pages may be reproduced for use in a club setting.  Includes an abundance of charts and color photos.  72 pages.  Full Color.  $20.00


Conditioning rabbits for show

August 21, 2012

How do you prepare a rabbit to do its best in a show?

Conditioning rabbits for show means a lot more than just giving them special foods.  Housing, sanitation, selection, genetics, primary diet, and handling each have just as much to do with a rabbit’s success on the show table as extra food supplements, maybe more.  So let’s cover some of those basics first:
Baxter - Black Polish Winning Rabbit
A fresh, good quality pellet and clean water are really the most important things you can give bunnies.  Many breeders have success on the show table feeding just pellets and water.

No supplements can beat a clean cage and the sanitary, well-ventilated environment that produces general health.  Proper ventilation is essential to keeping healthy bunnies.  A buildup of ammonia in the air will result in a suppressed immune system, making your rabbits vulnerable to snuffles and other illnesses.  In the warm months, rabbits rely on moisture evaporating off their noses to keep cool, and good air flow helps this process.  Empty trays often.  Use a product like Sweet PDZ to keep the smell down.

Temperature and daylight also play a role in conditioning rabbits.  A colder environment is better for fur condition than a warmer one.  Although does produce best if they have 16+ hours of daylight in a day, show rabbits have better color quality if they receiving only about 8 hours of daylight.   Light fades self colors such as black, blue, and chocolate most easily.  One time I heard a judge talk about how his daughter got perfect chocolate color by keeping her rabbits in a closet.  Of course then you have ventilation issues…

Cage size matters.  Rabbits should have enough room to exercise for good flesh condition.  Be careful not to overcrowd juniors; they grow into best condition if given individual cages  by eight weeks.

Does feeding conditioners help at all?

Without the basic requirements of diet and environment, adding supplements to the rabbit’s feed won’t do much good.  However, a lot of breeders add a little something extra in an attempt to get the best condition.  There are lots of different “recipes” out there, but oatmeal, black oil sunflower seeds (the kind you feed birds), barley, and wheat germ are common ingredients.  You can also buy commercial conditioners called “Showbloom” or “Doc’s Rabbit Enhancer” that work well for some people.  A feed rep once told me that one of the reasons Showbloom is effective is that it encourages rabbits to drink more, and lots of water keeps them in good condition.   So you can sometimes get the same effect by putting a tiny sprinkling of salt or a tiny bit of molasses on the feed.

But in every case, conditioners should be used with moderation, never fed in a quantity that would keep the rabbit from getting balanced nutrition through the pellets.  Also, the younger your rabbits are the more dangerous it is to feed them high-energy conditioners.  Young rabbits of course need lots of energy to grow, but it also has to be balanced with lots of fiber.  Fiber is essential to keep a rabbit’s digestive tract running smoothly.  Timothy hay is also a very good thing to feed bunnies because of its fiber content.   This article at the National Jersey Wooly Club highlights the importance of fiber in a growing bunny’s diet.

Also, feeding high-energy conditioners puts your rabbit at risk of getting overweight, which isn’t healthy for the bunny or good for its show condition.  You should always be able to feel the bumps of the vertebrae when you run a hand down the rabbit’s spine.  You should be able to feel individual bumps, but they should be smooth and rounded.  That indicates a healthy body weight.  If you can’t feel the individual vertebrae, the rabbit is probably too fat.
Top quality national winning broken chocolate polish
Fur growth is connected to the rabbit’s metabolism.  So if you need to get an adult rabbit to molt, feed a high-energy supplements such as calf manna.   You can continue the supplements to bring it quickly into fur condition.  Then once it is in condition, you want to cut out the supplements so it will hold that coat.  If your rabbit seems to be “always molting,” you are probably feeding too much energy.

Forget Not the Details: Tattoos, Posing, and more!

There are a few other important things.  One is keeping the cage clean.  This is not only important for health purposes, but also to keep white rabbits from staining fur and feet.  Use solid dividers between cages so rabbits cannot chew and spray each other.  If you have stackers, make sure the drop pans fit properly so rabbits on the bottom cannot be stained by those above them.  The tattoo is also important.  Tattoo WELL ahead of the show, in case you get ink on the fur.  Keep tattoos in good shape.  All your conditioning efforts will be completely wasted if your rabbit gets DQ’ed for an illegible tattoo.

Handle your potential show bunnies.  Train them to pose.  A rabbit should be accustomed to sitting for the judge, so that it will pose as soon as a judge touches it.  Some people also keep a talk radio running on low in the rabbitry to get the rabbits used to some background noise, so they won’t be as frightened at a show.  As you can see, feeding conditioners is a relatively small part of turning bunnies into winners!

Above picture:  Baxter, BOV Black 2009 Polish National Youth

Below picture: Rustic’s Forego, Broken Chocolate Polish rabbit with 25+ legs and multiple national wins including BOS in 2012.


July 16, 2012

In the midst of the commotion over the new APHIS proposal, I have one major thing to say to rabbit breeders, and all animal breeders:

Don’t quit.

Don’t stop raising rabbits.  Don’t do it!  We can’t back down.  I know that laws are sketchy and hard to understand.  I know that cases like Debe Bell are frightening and threatening.  But we must not stop till they make us.

Here’s what I honestly think: there are so many rules now, so many loopholes, so many gray areas in the wording of things, and so many Animal Rights groups influencing local Animal Control officials, that if someone really wants to take issue with ANY animal breeding operation, they can and will.  This recent proposal doesn’t make it any more or any less likely. There are hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of animal breeders out there.  The chance that they will target a small scale rabbit breeder like you and me is microscopic.  (Note – I am not, not saying that it will not happen.  I don’t think we should ever just “rest assured” that the government won’t enforce the laws!)

However, animal rights activists WILL succeed in knocking out dozens of small breeders using their one big weapon: fear.  They target a big breeder, make a scene, and knock out lots of small ones who are afraid of the same thing happening to them.  There are already too many regulations to enforce, yet by constantly revising old ones and making new ones, they keep breeders concerned with them. It’s a scare tactic.  It’s terrorism.  We can’t let that succeed.  Can’t, can’t, can’t.

Animal breeders can’t quit, and can’t go hide in closets.  We need to be active and out in the open to keep the public properly informed, and prevent brainwashing by animal rights groups as much as possible.  See how the cycle works?  ARA’s make an example of one breeder, and dozens of others quit because of fear.  Breeders who don’t quit often lay low, wanting to escape detection.   They hide their rabbitries; they stop promoting rabbits to the public; they take down their websites.  Fewer and fewer people learn about the enormous benefits that raising livestock offers.  That means fewer and fewer people will be on our side.  While I totally sympathize with wanting to protect ourselves by laying low, in the long term, it’s shooting ourselves in the foot.

We are doing a good thing.

It’s important to raise rabbits.  We need to provide for and protect our families by being self-sufficient.  Raising rabbits is a way to keep the government OUT of our business — so we don’t need to depend on it for necessities.  We’ve got to live like we have constitutional rights if we expect to keep them.  We can’t let people take them away from us through terrorism if not through actual laws.  We have to do what’s right and trust God with the results.

It troubles me so much that America has gotten to this point.  I stay in touch with a community in central Africa that is trying hard to start up a rabbit project. It’s so cool how they all work together, and the difficulties they face with poor equipment, thieves, etc. The birth of every kit matters so much. Here we’ve become so spoiled that some Americans think we can afford not to breed or own animals.

What we should not do:

Stop raising rabbits

Take down our websites

Stop educating the public about the value of rabbits as livestock

Live in fear


What we should do:

Keep the websites up!  Keep promoting rabbits at fairs, community events, youth clubs, etc.  Keep informing the public of the tremendous benefits of rabbit meat, and how raising rabbits for show can bind families together, and about how bunnies can make such fun companions.

Abide by the laws.  I highly recommend keeping accurate records and following the new ARBA minimum care standards.

Keep fighting.  We as Americans live in a democracy, remember?  Government for the people by the people.  Resist big government.

And take heart.


“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  –Jesus in John 16:33

APHIS and Rabbits – Will proposed change affect bunny breeders?

July 12, 2012

Last Updated: 8/18/19

Licensing Requirements for Rabbit Breeders

This post has gotten quite long, so let’s break it into a Table of Contents.

1. Introduction

2. Background and definitions

3. Do breeders need a license currently?

4. Original changes proposed by APHIS

5. What will the changes mean for rabbit breeders?

6. What can we do to help? Suggested talking points.

7. FAQ

8. Links for further reading

9. General Notes

Does a person need a license to breed and sell rabbits in the United States?

This is an excellent question to which every breeder should know the answer. We need to know if we are following the laws of our government, and if we are, why, so that we can respond to anyone who asks.

The short answer is that under current regulations, most rabbit breeders do not need a license to raise and sell rabbits. However, these regulations are currently undergoing revision, so we need to keep a close eye on what happens with them, and speak up to protect our rights. Most breeders are not aware of even how things stand now, but ought to be, especially if we want to understand the potential changes.

At this point, we need to look at these regulations on three different levels:

1) How things are right now. These are the regulations that are currently in place and we currently need to follow.
2) How things would be if the changes that APHIS recently proposed were actually instituted, and
3) What the final wording of the changes might be if they pass.


USDA is the United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the production, care, transportation, and sale of animals in the United States.

The AWA is the Animal Welfare Act. Signed into law on August 24, 1966, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, this federal law lays out regulations for minimum standards of care for warmblooded domestic animals not used for agricultural purposes, or those used in exhibitions such as zoos or circuses. States also have their own regulations in addition to AWA. You can learn more about it or even read the full text at the APHIS website.

APHIS is the USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service. The job of APHIS, and more specifically, the “Animal Care” division of APHIS, is to make sure that individuals are complying with the Animal Welfare Act.

The AWA “requires that all individuals or businesses dealing with animals covered under the law must be licensed or registered with APHIS.” Source:

It does, however, provide a number or exemptions from licensing. If you raise animals that are covered under the AWA, you are required to be licensed unless you are exempted.

So is a rabbit breeder exempt from licensing with APHIS or the USDA?

Currently there are a number of exemptions which cover most rabbit breeders.  This all applies to cavy breeders as well.

Rabbits only used for food or fiber:

“The rabbit business is exempt from regulation if the rabbits are intended only for food or fiber. If any rabbits are designated for use in the pet, exhibit, or laboratory-animal trade, the business is regulated.”  Source: Guidelines for Licensing Registration

Rabbits sold for pet use are currently exempt under the following conditions:

Direct Sales – You are exempted if you sell pet rabbits directly to the final buyer, such as an individual pet owner. That final buyer must not be a research facility, or an “exhibitor” under the AWA definition, such as a petting zoo or circus. You may not sell to a pet store or other retailer and still qualify for the “direct sales” exemption.

(Note: The AWA’s definition of an exhibitor is not what we think of as a “showman,” or someone who shows pedigreed animals, but rather someone who puts animals on display to the public, like a zoo or animal act.)

Under $500 – If you do sell rabbits to an “exhibitor,” research facility, or retailer, you can still be exempted only if the total sales income does not exceed $500. Please understand that this is gross income, not profit.

The $500 threshold confuses people, so let’s look at it this way. Most of us sell over $500 worth of rabbits in a year, right? But the good thing is, most of those sales don’t count. Most of those sales are not regulated by the USDA, because they are “direct sales” right to the buyer. Those are not sales regulated by the USDA, so they don’t count toward the threshold.  If you do sell “regulated” animals – like to a pet shop or research facility – you are required to be licensed after you pass the threshold of $500.

If you think about it, you realize that this cap is there to divide commercial pet producers from those that breed pets for a hobby and sell a few to a pet store or research facility.

Rabbits sold for show or show-breeding:

Under the current wording, it’s not very clear where show rabbits stand. Livestock sales are not regulated by the AWA, and to most breeders, show rabbits are much more livestock than they are pets. Pet rabbits don’t usually produce rabbits that are eaten (livestock) but our show rabbits do.   However, both ARBA and SRPS have confirmed to me via email that the USDA considers show rabbits to be pets until they are used for food or fiber.   Therefore when we sell show rabbits to each other, the way it’s legal is because we are selling directly to another owner.

The rest of this post is based on the belief that show-only rabbits are considered pets.  My rationale for believing this comes from reading the Animal Welfare Regulations.   If you’d like to read that rationale, please click here. 

There’s another exemption called “retail pet store” that may also cover rabbit breeders. The Licensing Guidelines state:

Retail Pet Stores: Anyone whose entire business consists of selling domestic animals to pet owners is exempt.

Currently, rabbit breeders don’t usually need to fall back on this exemption because there others such as the direct sales one that cover most of our transactions.  (Note – see the Animal Welfare Regulations, page 13, points i and vii.  You’ll see that direct sales and retail pet store are separate exemptions.)

Perhaps you have heard about a maximum number of breeding females that an owner may have and be exempt from a license. This minimum is for dogs, cats, and exotic or wild animals, and has no bearing on rabbits or cavies.

In summary,

if you are selling rabbits for meat or fiber you do not need a license.

If you are selling directly to a pet owner or another showman, you do not need a license.

If you are selling to a retailer such as a pet store, and exhibitor such as a petting zoo, or a research facility you do not need a license as long as you make no more than $500 gross from this type of regulated sale in a calendar year.

That’s how it is now. That’s probably not how it will always be, but that’s how things are now.

So let’s look at how things might become:

In May this year, APHIS proposed some changes to their regulations about who can sell animals for what purposes without a license from the USDA.

You can read about the effects of the change as it was originally proposed on SAOVA’s website.   The proposed changes remove the “direct sales” exemption altogether. That means the “retail pet store” exemption suddenly becomes important for rabbit breeders.  As it was originally proposed, the change would limit the definition of “retail pet store” to mean that a buyer has to physically enter the seller’s place of business to buy a pet (or show rabbit) in order for the seller to be exempt from licensing. For most rabbit breeders, that means having buyers come right to your home.

What will it mean for rabbit breeders?

Thankfully, through the efforts of ARBA, SRPS and many other dedicated animal-raising organizations, APHIS has changed their tune on the proposal, to some extent.  APHIS is now telling people that the “enter place of business” idea will be replaced with (or will be defined as?)  “face to face contact” between buyer and seller, in a place of public oversight, prior to the sale of the animal. If this is the case, breeders could be exempt as a “retail pet store” if you sell rabbits directly to final owners, as long as you meet the owners face to face in a place of public oversight.

The proposed change does not affect the $500 threshold. As we understand it currently, under the proposed change, all rabbit sales will be regulated unless

-The rabbit is intended for food or fiber purposes

-The rabbit is intended for pet (or show) purposes, and the buyer and the seller meet face to face in a place of public oversight, so the buyer can examine the rabbit before purchasing.

-The total gross of REGULATED sales does not exceed $500. Realize that face-to-face sales and food/fiber sales are not regulated and therefore do not count toward the $500 threshold.

*Remember – The maximum number of breeding females rule has no effect on rabbits!*

If the proposal is changed to “face to face” sales, it will affect rabbit breeders in only one big way.  The original intent of the proposal is to stop sight unseen pet sales, where the buyer does not have a chance to examine the animal before purchasing.  All in-person sales will not be regulated, but all sales where the buyer and seller do not physically meet would be regulated.  To use an example, if I sold a trio of rabbits based on pictures to a person on the other side of the country, and then sent them to convention with a third party where the buyer could pick them up, that would be regulated by the USDA.  If I wanted to ship rabbits by air to someone on the west coast, that would be a regulated activity.  I would need a USDA license to do these things if I sold more than $500 worth of regulated animals in a calendar year.  (Remember, you can sell up to $500 of normally-regulated sales each year without needing a license.)

Obviously, not being able to share stock around the country without meeting the seller face to face could put a significant crimp in certain breeding projects.  Take my breed, the Silver.  Despite its unique history which dates back to the 1500’s, the Silver today is a very rare breed.  There are a few Silver hot spots in the country; a few states where you can find one readily.  But I often hear of people interested in the breed who don’t live in one of the “hot spots,” and they find it very difficult to locate stock for sale.  The only sure place I know to find some Silvers for sale is the ARBA convention each year.  Not everyone can travel to convention, but almost everyone can find someone nearby who is going and will transport rabbits.  If suddenly people couldn’t even get rabbits that way, this breed would be even more likely to die out.  We might lose one of the very first breeds that people raised domestically.  Okay, not the end of the world, but it’d be a shame to have it happen for no good reason.

What can we do about the situation?

We won’t know exactly what the new wording of the proposal will be until it passes congress.  At this point, APHIS hasn’t even decided what the final version will say.  The comment period on the proposal closed on August 15, and now APHIS will review the comments and make a final decision.  Then the proposal must pass congress.

Don’t stop there.

So send your comments to your Congress representatives and to the Congressional Ag committees and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  Click the link – the Cavalry Group has a form that makes it super easy.

Frequent Questions & Answers

Have the changes already taken place?  No!  Not at all; we are still working from the “old rules.”  Don’t adjust your operating procedures yet.

When will the changes go into effect?  Maybe never.  If they do, it will be at least several months as APHIS needs to come up with a final proposal and then it needs to be approved by congress.

Will it affect transporting rabbits to Convention this year?  No, the changes will almost certainly not be in effect during Convention 2012.

So will I have to meet buyers at my house?  According to how the proposal was originally written, yes – at your house or other “place of business.”  But right now APHIS is telling us that that will not be in the final proposal.  Instead sales must be made with the buyer and seller meeting face to face in a place of public oversight.  But even that may change by the final revision.

Can I sell to a pet store without a license?  Yes, if your income from such a sale is not over $500 annually.  This applies NOW, not just if the proposal passes.

Could I sell a rabbit and send it to convention with a transporter, even if I am not attending myself?  Under current rules, yes.  Under the proposed rule, you would have to get a USDA license to do this, unless you do not exceed $500 in gross income from this type of sale.

Under the proposed change, could I ship rabbits by air without a license?  If the buyer did not see the rabbits before purchase, that would be considered a “sight-unseen” sale and be regulated.  You could do it without a license if your income from that type of sale is $500 or less each year.  Rabbits shipped outside the United States are not regulated.

Is the $500 threshold added up per-sale, or on a yearly basis?  On a yearly basis.  Your total gross income for a year for ANY sale that is normally USDA regulated must not exceed $500 or you would need a license.  That means if you sell $200 worth of rabbits to a pet shop in March, and $350 worth of rabbits to a research facility in November, that would cross the line.  Realize, the $500 threshold applies NOW – it’s not just a “if this passes” thing!

Can I not have more than four brood does?  Yes you can have more than four.  The breeding females limit has no effect on rabbits or cavies.

What if the buyer and seller chat on Skype?  What if they exchange pictures of the rabbit?  Can that count as face to face?  I don’t think that counts.  However, APHIS needs to clarify what “face to face” means exactly.  Put the question in your comments.

I thought ARBA told us not to worry about it? As much as I appreciate the ARBA, believe that it is underestimating the effect that this proposal would have on its membership.  True, by the time the proposal passes congress it may be modified to the extent that it will have virtually no effect on rabbit breeders, but we aren’t to that stage yet.  Please consider carefully what I’ve said in this post, do your own research, and see if you think that the proposal will have any effect on rabbit breeders.  Other animal-breeder organizations such as the AKC, the  Cavalry Group, and the Sportsmans and Animal Owners Voting Alliance are not taking this proposal lying down.  The very fact that it was started by the animal rights-oriented Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) proves that this proposal is of no small concern to animal breeders.

Should I just go get a USDA license?  No, there’s no reason to do that, at least right now. Wait to see if this proposal passes, and what the final wording will be if it does.

What does it take to get a USDA license?  You need to comply with the Animal Welfare Regulations.  Check them out to see what the required conditions are for keeping rabbits.  In addition to other requirements, licensees need to have an adult on the premises during all businesses hours.

If I had a USDA license, would my rabbitry need to be inspected?  Yes.  Last week I heard with my own ears Dr. Rushin of APHIS say that they currently do inspect all facilities before issuing a license. Also, we know that APHIS does not always announce their inspections in advance, and may show up anytime.

This is all so confusing.  Should I just quit?  No!  No, no no!  Don’t give up your rights as US citizens to raise animals.  Don’t give up to the minority: squeaky-wheel animal rights activists that just want you to quit.  We can work through these concerns and keep our critters.  Don’t give up.  And if you have any questions, feel free to email me.


Related Links:

Washington Animal Watch   – Detailed information about what legislation mean to animal breeders, and rabbits in particular. – An organization providing legal defense for animal owners.  They offer very affordable membership rates.  I highly recommend checking them out  – Three important steps to help fight this proposal  – Stay up to date with the Show Rabbit Protection Society  – Facebook group to stop APHIS.

The Rabbit Ed Society’s Legislation Info Page – Links to info for every state

General Notes

Please do not consider anything I write to be the final or official word on the subject.  I am still learning like most other breeders, but in an effort to fully understand this situation, I have spent many hours reading the Animal Welfare Regulations and related documents, and talking with informed persons including taking part in a teleconference with Dr. Gerald Rushin of APHIS, one of the people that helped write the proposal. I’m pretty sure that what I have written is accurate.   In this article I have simplified things as much as I can, but licensing requirements is not a simple issue, and can’t be fully covered in an easy-read article such as this.   I’m definitely open to any questions, suggestions, or corrections.

Remember that this page is only about FEDERAL requirements for raising and selling animals.  State and local authorities have their own rules as well.  The Rabbit Ed Society has helpful links to related pages in every state.


Find a Rabbit Breeder in Michigan

March 31, 2012

If you haven’t seen it already, I have a very cool website to share with you:  The MRBC.  (Molty Ragged Bunnies Clique?)  No.

Find a rabbit breeder with bunnies for sale in Michigan

The Michigan Rabbit Breeders Connection brings free exposure to rabbit and cavy breeders, clubs, and businesses in the Great Lakes state.  If you are looking for a rabbit for sale in Michigan, this is the place to go.  Listings are categorized by breed name to make it easy to find the kind of bunny you want.  Although the MRBC can’t guarantee that your experience with these breeders will be positive, its operator Briana strives to maintain quality and integrity in the rabbitries that are listed.  In her words, “Only listings for rabbitries that are trying to better their breeds will be posted!”

Besides, isn’t the site wrapped in such an attractive layout and color scheme?    I’m definitely offering Briana a round of applause for this effort.

Submitting your link to a breeder’s directory, such as the MRBC or the Nature Trail, is a very effective way to bring it more exposure.  I spend quite a bit of time looking at rabbit website stats and can tell you that directories are often the biggest sources of incoming traffic for rabbitry websites.

In closing, thanks to Grace of Happy Farm Bunnies for the sweet picture below:

Cute blue Netherland Dwarf bunny small kit




Keeping Baby Bunnies Safe – Touch them, keep them warm and dry.

February 13, 2012

I received some questions via email from a breeder who I believe is taking very good care of her first litter of Holland Lops  I thought some of these tips would be helpful to other new rabbit rasiers as well.  As this was originally an e-mail, it’s written in second person.

Touching newborn dwarf rabbit

It's just fine to handle newborn rabbits. Photo by Grace of Happy Farm Bunnies

Will the Mom Kill Baby Holland Lops – or any breed –  if you Touch Them?

It’s a myth that even some wild animals reject their young when people touch them, let alone your rabbit who is very used to human smells, and associates it with food and petting.

It IS important to touch your baby rabbits.  Very important.  There are several reasons.  You need to make sure there are not any dead ones that can contaminate the nest.  You need to see if they are being fed.  You need to make sure none have gone missing.  I’ve had kits crawl out of the box and out of the cage and I found them, still alive, in the drop pan beneath the cage, or somewhere else on the barn floor.   Also, you need to check their bottoms.  Newborns cannot go potty without help.  Usually the doe licks their genitals to stimulate them, but still they can get a blockage.  If caught early, you can clear it away easily.  If it’s not cleared it can lead to a nasty buildup and even infection.

Also, handling your kits from the time they are very little gets them used to human interaction.  This will make them more friendly as adults and better companions.


ARBA Standard of Perfection 2012 Changes – New Varieties and More

February 8, 2012
Announcement! If you are a youth member studying for the 2013 ARBA Convention, we are having an online group quiz/study night on every Sunday evening leading up to Convention. Dates are Sept 22, Oct 5, and Oct 13. Anyone is welcome. The place is Contact me if you have any questions.
Silver marten Mini Rex Rabbit blue

A lovely blue Silver Marten Mini Rex - Now Fully Recognized. Photo by the Fuzzy Patch



Happy February!  That means  that this year’s updates to the ARBA Show Rules and Standard of Perfection are now in effect. (As of Feb. 1).  If you’re planning to compete in 4-H rabbit showmanship, royalty, breed identification, quiz bowls and so forth this year, you will want to know this stuff.

As you may be aware, five new varieties of rabbits and cavies were recognized by the ARBA at the convention last fall, and as of this month can now be shown in regular competition.  If you’ve purchased the Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide in the past year, you will want to make note of this in the appropriate places.   The most notable change is in the Rhinelander breed, which now recognizes blue/fawn spotted bunnies as well as black/orange.  The original black/orange color, which to this point was known as “standard,”  is now called “black” as the REGISTRATION variety.  The new variety is called “blue” as the registration variety.  However, both colors are shown together as “Standard”so the showroom classification is still “Standard.  Here’s a quick chart:

2012 New ARBA-Recognized Varieties of Rabbits and Cavies


New Variety

Showroom Classification

Registration Name

American Cavy Martenin colors black, blue, beige, chocolate, and lilac Tan Pattern Marten
American Cavy Gold Any Other Self*NOT shown separately, but in the Any Other Self Group Gold
Mini Rex Silver Martenin colors black, blue, chocolate, lilac Silver Marten Black Silver MartenBlue Silver MartenChocolate Silver Marten

Lilac Silver Marten

Netherland Dwarf Blue Torotiseshell*note that it’s tortoiseshell Tortoiseshell*shown with the regular torts as tortoiseshell.  NOT shown as shaded group. Blue Tortoiseshell
Rhinelander Blue Standard Blue
Blue Tortoiseshell Netherland dwarf bunny

Blue Tortoiseshell Netherland Dwarf Rabbit. Photo by the Fuzzy Patch



You can download the Standard of Perfection for these colors from the ARBA website,and I highly recommend you do so if you’re studying for Breed ID, royalty, showmanship, or a judges/registrar’s exam.

You’ll also want to download the ARBA show rules and read them.  As you may have heard, there have been some recent changes that are listed on the ARBA announcements page.  As this stuff is “news,” it will likely be in royalty exams this year.  The most recent change now allows Legs of Grand Championship for Reserve in Show, Best 4-class, and Best 6-class wins when they are awarded.   All shows are required to pick BIS.  All shows are NOT required to pick Reserve in Show, Best 4-class, or Best 6-class.  However, when shows choose to offer these awards, the ARBA now allows it a leg.

If you haven’t seen them yet, check out the corrections to the first printing of the 2011-2015 ARBA Standard of Perfection.

Details, Details!

Rabbit 4-H Showmanship Guide, Breed ID and Judging Contest Tips and More

If you haven’t seen the Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide yet, I welcome you to take a peek at the sample pages below!  This book is based on my experiences as a 4-H’er and ARBA Royalty participant. When I was in 4-H it took me a very long time to learn how to successfully raise rabbits and compete in contests such as showmanship, breed identification, and team judging.  When I did get to successfully competing on the national level, it just came naturally to produce materials to guide other kids there.

For more information, check out the Study Guide’s Own Page. Here are a few sample pages for you to look at:

rabbit breed id guide

Click for larger image

Rabbit 4-H Showmanship Guide Sample Page

Click for larger image -- Showmanship Guide

Rabbit Meat Pen Project Tips

Click for larger image -- Meat Pens

Rabbit Body Type Judging Information

Click for larger image -- body types

Additional Book Features in the New Edition

  • Guide to choosing your course in the project
  • Judging contest tips from an ARBA judge
  • Expanded Breed ID Guide
  • Additional leader’s tips
  • Polish Breed Judging Handout
  • Rabbit Royalty Practice Questions
  • Updated to reflect 2012 Standard of Perfection
  • Still reproducible within your 4-H club.

Hoppin Circle Blog Network – January Round-Up

February 5, 2012

Hey have you checked out the new Rabbitry Blogging Network, the Hoppin’ Circle?  It’s a pretty cool deal, connecting bloggers and introducing people to the breeders behind them.

I was honored to be the first “Blogger of the Month” for the Hoppin’ Circle.  You can check out the interview here if you’re interested!

Bloggers’ Top Posts from January:

Fisher Farms shows us her wonderful
show results and ribbons. Congrats Clint on your first leg!

The Kelfla Project shares some scientific tidbits centered around rabbits.

Bella’s Rabbitry tells us about
new stock she has coming in, and announces that she isn’t selling out completely, after all.

At Home Pets tells us of a nice experience she had with a buyer.

4 Kings Rabbitry gives us a peek inside her extremely organized rabbitry by showing us her binder.

The Rabbit Shepherd shows that even rabbits can be supermodels.

Breeding goals are always important to have in a rabbitry. Hendricks Hearth shares some of theirs.

Rabbit Smarties is back to blogging with her post on the Rocky Syndrome.

The Fuzzy Patch shares some great changes they have planned for their herd.

The Nature Trail shows off an adorable picture of a Smoke Pearl Netherland Dwarf.


12 Unlikely Useful Items in the Rabbitry

January 14, 2012

Be sure to keep these items on hand in the rabbitry…just in case you need them.
Dancing bunny graphic1. Marshmallow Creme. Spread on cage door to distract a chronic cage chewer.  Temporary fix.

2. Surveillance Camera in the Barn. Useful when you forget where you last put the toenail trimmers.

3. Extra storage card. For when it feels you just HAVE to take more video of those sweet little babies…even if you never end up watching it.

4. Standard of Perfection. Um.  Uhh…..  Everybody else has one!

5. Super duty triple-action Fort Knox quality combination lock and chain. To wrap around the cage once you realize that you have your first keeper in nine litters.

6. Metal saw. For when you forget the combination to aforementioned lock.

7. A dish of mints on a table.  Bunnies have no more excuse for bad breath.

8. Brick wall. To forcefully apply one’s head against when you realize you just bought a rabbit with buck teeth.

9. Amazing odor neutralizer: turns bunny smells into the scent of daffodils. Sorry, product no longer available due to manufacturer facing charges of false advertising.

10. Wire snips. For when a kit gets its head stuck in the wire and you have to cut it out.  (This one is serious — it has happened to me!)

11. Air conditioning. For when you have an older junior growing hotter by the day.

12. Bottle of Bubbles. For when a bunny’s sneezing, a doe is nesting on the wire, and you just want to go out and pretend you’re seven years old again to relax.

2011 ARBA Convention Indianapolis – What are you wearing?

October 12, 2011
Announcement! If you are a youth member studying for the 2013 ARBA Convention, we are having an online group quiz/study night on every Sunday evening leading up to Convention. Dates are Sept 22, Oct 5, and Oct 13. Anyone is welcome. The place is Contact me if you have any questions.

*Update!  Are you looking for 2011 Convention ResultsClick Here!*

The dates of the 2011 ARBA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana are October 29th- November 2nd.  Yikes!  That’s coming up soon!  Convention is so much fun, and so much work, both before and after.  In all the busyness, don’t forget to think about something special you might want to wear to any banquets you would like to attend.

At Convention, there’s a general open banquet and a special youth banquet, and most breed clubs also have their own banquets.  Awards for the year are passed out at these events, and it’s usually worth attending to support your clubs and spend some social time with bunny people.  If you don’t mind sitting through a speech or two at the ARBA open banquet, you are usually rewarded with some entertainment.  You don’t need to be a youth to attend the youth banquet, and they always have a DJ come to put on a dance.  But what should you wear?

ARBA royalty queen dress youth banquetNational Breed Club banquets are not usually formal, and a decent looking shirt and pants set will do.  As you might imagine, the more popular breeds have bigger banquets and you’re more likely to find someone in formal dress at the Mini Rex or Holland Lop banquet than the backyard silver breeders’ meet-up.

Attendees to the ARBA open banquet usually dress up more.  Think “church clothes.”  But they’re not going to turn you out at the door if you come under-dressed.

The ARBA youth banquet can be more like a homecoming dance, especially for the kids who are competing in royalty.  You’ll see everything from plain skirts and tops to prom dresses and elaborate hair-do’s.  Again, dressing up isn’t required for attendance, but if you plan to compete in judging, breed ID, or royalty and hope to go on stage, you will want to wear something nice, or even very nice.  See the picture at the left of the girls with their awards at the youth banquet 2008.

As you may know, I am working on rebuilding the Nature Trail rabbit information website.  I came across a post written by Laurie Stroupe on this very topic, written right before the ARBA convention in Indianapolis…in 2005.  For interest’s sake, here it is:

ARBA Convention Youth, Open and Breed Banquets Dress

If you are going to ARBA Convention, you are probably going to a banquet, whether to the ARBA banquet or to your breed specialty banquet. If that’s the case, pick out what you are going to wear now.

If you don’t, time will sneak up on you. And just when you are neck deep in pressure cleaning carriers and checking who has blown a coat, you will need to stop and go shopping.

And they won’t have what you want at the first 9 stores you visit – or at least not in your size. The tension will mount up and you will panic.

Not that I’ve ever done that myself . . .

You don’t want that, do you? Noooooooooooo. Of course not. So take a minute now and think about it.

While you are at it, make sure you locate your jacket or sweater and other fall clothes. Just because you are experiencing Indian summer where you are, doesn’t mean that you won’t need long sleeves in Indianapolis.

According to NOAA, the average high for Indianapolis in October is 65.6 degrees and the average low is 43.6. The average temperature is just 54.6. And the average SNOWFALL is 0.4 inches.

Personally, my fall clothes are still in the attic and I’m still wearing shorts every day. I guess it’s take to get them out and see what I need for my trip – before I’m neck deep in pressure washing carriers and checking to see who has blown their coats.

Laurie Stroupe
The Nature Trail Rabbitry