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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Going Whole Hog

One of the biggest problems I see in new breeders or folks getting in to new breeds is the tendency to go whole hog. It's all or nothing, gimmie 30 rabbits or I don't even want one! That's a problem!

Take some friends of mine- two years go at the Greensboro, NC show, I invited a pair of friends to come see what I do with the rabbits. By now, they had three pet rabbits, so I thought the might enjoy seeing all the different kinds, how a show works, etc.

As their eyes got bigger and bigger, and their hands started straying towards their wallets, I warned them "Don't get anything off the raffle and don't buy without me there". Perhaps a little snobbish, but we all know there are folks that will sell you a cat and tell you it's a rare breed of rabbit.

I turned around to speak to someone and when I turned back, there they were- buying a trio! Luckily, they didn't get sucked in by a breeder with no morals but their pets included a mini lop and two holland lops- and they were buying MINI REX!

They broke the first rule for new rabbit owners: If you know an experienced breeder, take them with you! Barring that, DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Pretty soon, they stumbled across another breeder who had otters, which they decided they liked better than what they had bought (color wise anyway, they still didn't know anything about body type)! Should have looked around more, rather than buying from the first person they saw! I don't think it hurt that an otter she bred had just taken BIS for the youth either. So, they start making plans to buy from her in the future, they bought cages, etc.

When they got their new trio home, it brought their number of rabbits up to six. Not unmanageable and they loved them very much, although again, they wouldn't heed my advice about feed and the rabbits very quickly lost condition, due to crap feed one month, good feed the next, a totally different one the month after that.

Fast Forward to the next show they came to- the one they showed up an hour late to and were too late to actually show. They caught up with the second breeder they met and ended up bringing home six new rabbits. So now they have 12 rabbits!

I suggested that perhaps they would want to sell the original pets to make room in their breeding programs- they didn't and that's fine! Lots of us have pets in the barn, I still have my first guy, Scout. The next few shows they didn't want to attend because the condition of the rabbits was bad, they wanted to breed their own to show, etc, etc, etc. Ok. I'm a big fan of showing your starter stock, so you learn what to look for in the animals and get the experience, but some folks aren't.

They did end up making it to one final show, where their rabbits did all right- lack of condition killed any chance the animals had of winning.

They retired from showing, they won't breed the very nice animals they spent so much money on because they are afraid of dead babies and they ended up with 12 pets they don't have time to spend with, on top of the two cats they already owned.

Later, when one was busy working a lot of overtime, the other neglected to give the rabbits the basic care they needed- food and water, for instance. Two ended up dying before the first one discovered what was going on and they are lucky that's all they lost.

I told you that story to make this point- too many new breeders, or those of us going in to new breeds, are too eager to go whole hog before we discover all the facts. We get excited and want to buy, buy, buy. Someone is giving us a good deal on a bunch of rabbits, someone is selling out, someone just has some cute ones, oh that will go good with my buck, I like you, I like you, etc, etc. Then we end up with 12 rabbits or 12 in a specific breed and realize showing is too expensive, too time consuming, we're not willing to cull, we are afraid of dead babies, we aren't winning immediately or the breed just isn't for us. Then what? We're stuck with rabbits we have to get rid of that we invested a lot of money in.

Imagine having thirty angoras before you realize you're allergic to wool? Or thirty hollands, before you realize you don't really like floppy ears!

Go for moderation. Pick up a pair or a trio, try them out, breed them, show them, decide if you like the breed, like the people you'll be showing against, if you have the time for those breeds that need special grooming or care.

I'm so thankful when I got lionheads, I stuck with a pair. I decided they simply weren't for me, so now I have only a pair to sell, instead of a herd.

Keep's Rabbitry

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