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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Evaluating Babies

When I first started out in hollands, I heard over and over again "keep your babies until at least 4-5 months old, then sell them!" I tried that, but I discovered something- at 5 months old, you can definitely see promise, but so can everyone else! If you keep a pet-quality rabbit hoping it will pop, you've wasted months feeding the animal, wasted valuable cage space, and at 5 months, it's much harder to place a pet rabbit.

So what are a few tips you can use to help cull a litter of four down to one or two to grow out?

Check teeth first. Anyone that has butting teeth or teeth that don't overlap properly should be removed from the herd. This can be genetic, so watch that in the rest of the animals in the litter! I've never been able to cull for this, but I always make sure to check!

Next, grab the rabbit and hold it in front of you, with it's feet facing you. Do those feet look like this \ / or worse \/? Or do they look more like | | ? Guess which one we're going for? Yep, you want the feet to be as straight as possible! This is an indicator of better hindquarters. Feet that stick out at odd angles, with the heels pointing inwards indicates the rabbit is lacking in HQ and/or undercut. This is a great way to move a rabbit out fairly young, especially if HQ is a problem in your herd.

Check for eye spots, miscolored toenails and unshowable colors. Unless your unshowable color has amazing type, most folks don't want to bother with them and pet folks usually don't care if the adorable bunny is a blue fox or not.

Has that helped cull down your options? If not, consider your lines. Are they late bloomers? Lisa in CA, who I got my woolies from, claims she can tell at weaning which babies to keep and which to let go- because what they look like at 6 weeks is how they will look as adults. I have to say, with only one exception, I've found this to be very accurate! The only exception was the doe turned out slightly bigger than I thought she would.

In mini lops, I've ended up with litters of 11 before. Imagine keeping ALL of them! At 6 weeks old, I posed them all and culled the worst looking doe and the worst looking buck. In a litter of 11, the odds were definitely with me that if I had just done an "eenie meenie mienie mo" I still wouldn't have picked the best animals to cull anyway :).

At 8 weeks, I posed them again. I ignored the head, unless the ears were super thin and overly long. Again, I culled out the worst three . So my litter of 11 was down to 6! I tried to concentrate on things like "What do I need in my herd and what am I willing to give up to get it?"

After looking at the herd, I decided I needed a doe more than anything else. So, I reevaluated the bucks for sale purposes, number their ears and let them roll! That left me with four does to take care of, instead of 11!

From there, you can take a leap of faith, cull to one or two and hope you didn't let the best one get away, or you can feed the four for a little longer and get another experienced breeder to help you check them, take them to a show, etc.

A lot comes from knowing your lines. If you know that holland baby with the ears dragging the ground will grow in to them, you won't cull it. However, if experience has taught you that ears that long STAY that long, you'll know you want to cull.

Keep's Rabbitry

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