Archive for the Rabbit Shows 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.

 

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.

Starting in Show Rabbits – Part 1

April 30, 2012

An Introduction to Raising Show Rabbits

Rabbit shows are judged differently from horse or dog shows.  Instead of taking only 1-3 animals to a show and entering the ring with them one at a time,  the rabbits are placed on a table in front of the judge.  Placements are made based on the rabbit’s physical appearance, not their performance. In order to be successful in showing, you usually have to be a breeder as well as a showman, always producing the next generation of juniors.   You improve your performance on the show table by selecting breeding pairs that will produce offspring with proper body type, color, fur, and condition.  The American Rabbit Breeders Association publishes a book that tells what you should look for in each breed, called the Standard of Perfection.  Of course, it’s always a learning experience and can take a while to understand what the desired traits look like.

Which breed should I choose?

The most common breeds these days are the small ones, because they take less space, less feed, and are the cutest!  I am partial to Polish, but other common breeds include Netherland Dwarfs, Holland Lops, and Mini Rex.  I love Mini Rex as well.  Raising a popular breed has its pros and cons.  You get plenty of competition, which is good when you are winning, but can be frustrating when you are starting out.  A good way to go is to pick a competitive breed, such as Mini Rex, but a less common variety, such as tortoise or chocolate.  Some breeds show all the colors together, such as Holland Lops.  This results in enormous classes, where you’re happy to place in the top 5 of 20.  Some breeds — like Mini Rex, Polish, and Netherland Dwarfs — separate the colors on the show table.

Larger breeds can make excellent show rabbits, as well as provide a meat source for your family.   Medium-small breeds such as Mini Lops and Dutch

Where can I buy show rabbits?

You should definitely go to an experienced show breeder rather than a pet store.  Your  first rabbits don’t have to be from champion bloodlines, but they should be pedigreed.  A rabbit from a pet store will probably not come with a pedigree.  Even if it does, it’s in the pet store for a reason — breeders usually only send rabbits to the pet store that are of little value on the show table or the breeding pen.

How much do pedigreed show rabbits cost?

When buying pedigreed bunnies, you often “get what you pay for.”  In other words, the more you spend, the better chance you’ll have of winning faster — but that’s not always the case.  Unfortunately there are some highly overpriced rabbits out there for sale.   They might have champion parents, but a pedigree doesn’t mean very much if the rabbit doesn’t have desirable characteristics itself.  In other words, buy bunnies — not pedigrees.

At a rabbit show you will find bunnies for sale, usually between $20 and $75 each.  Top quality rabbits of the most popular breeds, such as Netherland Dwarfs, Mini Rex and Hollands, can sell for as much as $200 and up.  Is a rabbit ever worth that much?  That’s a topic that breeders often debate, and I will probably blog about sometime. I do not recommend spending that much initially.  You should be able to get a nice quality starter herd for $150 to $200, maybe even less.  Often breeders will give you a discount if you buy more than one from them.  In fact, there are several good reasons to buy your stock from the same person.  When you buy rabbits from the same line, there’s less chance that you will get unexpected results in the litters due to the hidden genes from mating two totally unrelated rabbits.  It’s definitely a good idea to buy a trio from the same established breeder.

How many should I start with?

I think a good number to start with is a trio — two does and a buck — or two pair.  That way you can show the buck(s) and put the does into breeding.  Or, if you start with a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors, you can breed the senior doe and show the juniors, to see see how things go.

Always start small and grow as you learn.   Many breeders, I could probably safely say most breeders, go through a period where they sell off most of their stock and restart their herds, because they have by that time learned what to look for in show rabbits, and know that their herd isn’t what it should be.  It’s much easier to start over if you only have 10 rabbits than if you have 30 or 50!  If after a year or so you decide that breeding rabbits isn’t what you want to do, you don’t have so many to care for or try to sell.

Part 2 will cover what to look for when purchasing your starter stock.

 

The Rocky Syndrome – btw: Back to Blogging!

January 8, 2012
Show quality Polish rabbit in the woods

Rocky's brother CQ - also had "the syndrome"

I once knew a girl whose AIM screenname was “Always2ndBest.”   Do you ever feel like that?   Yeeeaah…

In rabbits, Tiffany and I call it the Rocky Syndrome.  Those bunnies — usually bucks– that you can rely on placing in the top five in a large class, but never grand.  They rarely, if ever, come home with a win.  They’re always second-best.

Ever had one of those?

Rocky was a broken black Polish buck.  I bred him, but Tiffany showed him his whole career.  I would need to get the exact stats from her, but when Rocky finally retired he had one or two legs and at least 20 2nd or 3rd place finishes, in large classes.

His younger brother Conquistador had the same complex.  When I stopped showing CQ he had chalked up prestigious finishes such as second place at the ARBA convention AND Polish Nationals, but only had one leg to his name.

Why does this happen?  I think it happens to rabbits that are of very good quality, but just not quite great.  There’s nothing that jumps out about them that’s wrong, but they don’t have the flare of a BIS winner either.    Sometimes you can get a rabbit that looks just stunning…if you ignore all the scattered white hairs.  Or has some standout fault but is otherwise fantastic.  That kind of rabbit might win sometimes, and might not even be in the top five: it depends on how much that prominent fault bothers the judge.  Rocky and CQ weren’t like that.   They were all around good Polish rabbits:  short, round, deep, with good coats and a sort of “in the middle” head shape that could appease both the judges who like dwarfy heads and the ones that want longer, more refined heads.  But their patterns were plain, and they just didn’t have that edge.

So I’m curious to hear what you think: would you rather have a buck with the Rocky Syndrome, that doesn’t have any major issues and can rack up sweepstakes points (confess, you do care about sweeps points…), or would you rather have a rabbit that is flashy and almost amazing — but has a single glaring fault.

Polish rabbit body type

Not bad type on CQ

My answer:  Whichever makes better babies.

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By the way —  I’m back to blogging!  Going to try to post twice a week.  If you haven’t added your breeders listing to the free directory at the Nature Trail, send me a note and I’ll put up your info!

Next post planned:  12 Unlikely Items to Keep in the Rabbitry in Case of Emergencies.