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To Breed or Not to Breed Your Rabbit

By: Betty Chu

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There are 45 recognized breeds of rabbits, ranging from the Netherland Dwarf at two pounds to the Flemish Giant, which weighs in at as much as 18 pounds. Some breeds are more docile that others, and they have different kinds of coats. But they all share a well-known ability to reproduce.

To Breed or Not to Breed

It is not particularly difficult to breed most animals, but it is much harder to be a responsible breeder. There are right reasons to breed and wrong reasons to breed. The first concerns are these:

  • The law. Make sure that your local government allows you to keep the number of rabbits and other animals that you plan to have.

  • The space and the set up. All of your new rabbits will need a proper cage, shade and protection for their safety and comfort. A litter of six bunnies is very cute when they are young, but they will need six individual cages when they are three months old.

  • A plan for the bunnies. Why are you breeding them? For pets? For wool? To improve the breed and to show?

  • The market. Are there people who want your stock and are you willing to share it with them? If you do not have inquiries for placement, breed only enough for your own showing.

    Wrong Reasons to Breed

  • You want to breed because the bunnies are soooooo cute. Keep in mind they will grow up quickly and may be not so cute anymore. What will you do then?

  • You want to let your kids experience the miracle of birth. After the "miracle," are you prepared to care for the result?

  • You want to breed so that you can sell them. Unless you are serious about promoting a particular breed, it is unlikely that buyers will knock at your door to buy. Prepare to house your new rabbits for a long time.

  • You just want to see what you'll get by putting an English Angora with a Mini Lop together. Don't let this be the case. Animals are not experiments; they are not created to satisfy one's curiosity.

  • You just want to see what color you'll get. You can learn colors by reading color genetics. You don't need to actually breed the rabbits to see what the result will be.

    The Responsible Breeder

    To be a responsible breeder, consider every aspect before proceeding. For the best experience, remember that "small is beautiful" and "less is better." So go slow. Each bunny has physical and emotional needs. With a small number, you can pay attention to each rabbit. Regularly handling them will help them develop trust in people and bond with them. With smaller numbers, you will have enough time and energy to maintain a clean and disease-free environment for your rabbits.

    Consider carefully what you will do when the bunnies grow up. Each will need a roomy cage if new homes are not found. If the bunnies are still housed together when they reach sexual maturity, which could be as young as 3 1/2 months old, they can produce more bunnies. A litter could be as many as 10 or 11. If you have a buck and three does in the same cage, you can end up with 30 additional bunnies in no time. You are better off with empty cages waiting for the next litter than having bunnies who have no empty cage to go in.

    A responsible breeder will not jump into selling. Not everyone is suitable for all breeds. Interview prospective buyers; ask them about (a) the purpose of having the bunny, (b) the set-up for the bunny, (c) their lifestyle (for instance, if they travel a lot, who will be the caretaker), (d) whether they have the time, patience and tools to groom the bunny properly.

    If the answers tell you that this person is a suitable mama/papa, a new home is found. If not, it will be better for you to turn down the sale regardless how much money is involved.

    Rabbit Registration

    A pure breed rabbit may be registered with American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). A rabbit with a pedigree of three generations, six months or older, and free of disqualifications as listed in the Standard of Perfection is eligible to be registered. The registration process costs $4 and is to be done by a licensed ARBA registrar.

    The official ARBA publication, "Domestic Rabbits" devotes a pet column which is specifically designed for owners of pet rabbits. Even if you are not a breeder, joining ARBA will be beneficial to the better care of your beloved pet rabbit.

    Organization

    The national organization for rabbit breeders is the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). Visit them at www.arba.net

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