Every breeder is going to make some wise and unwise decisions in our hobby. I'm sure each breeder will tell you there is something they would have preferred to do differently. From running out of cage space, to selling a rabbit when out gut is going against it. I'm not the wisest breeder you'll ever find; I have a ton of litters planned and due, and I want to keep many babies from these upcoming show litters. The problem? I have one empty cage. Sure, some of my adults are for sale to make more space, but I could have planned that a lot differently and I could've been a lot wiser in planning my litters and putting adults up for sale.
These following topics are what I continually remind myself of. Being a wise breeder is not something that comes naturally to anyone. It's a practice that has to be learned.
Tips on Breeding Rabbits Wisely -
- Have a means of supporting your hobby until it can support itself. In theory, we all want our rabbits to be able to pay for themselves. But when you're first starting out, you'll need a job or some way of making money besides the rabbits. Rabbits aren't a potential business that you can dive right into without an overhead cost. And if you're unprepared, and don't have enough money to spend on it all, you'll find yourself enjoying it a lot less than you anticipated. It'll often be several hundred, to even thousands of dollars to develop a nice rabbitry with enough cages and rabbits for you wants and to achieve your goal. Of course it doesn't have to cost that much, especially if you start small enough for just one litter, but if you intend to be breeding for the next 10+ years (or even over three years, for that matter), you'll need to spend more money then you make with the rabbits, at first.
- Have a plan of action. Know the why's, what's and how's when you're first starting out. This can be anything from how many rabbits you want to start with, to why you're breeding and what you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years.
- Know the laws of your state and city. Rabbits are classified as "livestock" currently, which usually makes it illegal to have more then (x) rabbits over (y) weeks old if they aren't considered pets.
- Know the market for rabbits in your area. If you plan on breeding long-term, you will have rabbits that you cannot keep. These are called culls. If you kept every rabbit you produced, you would not be breeding for very long. What you do with your culls is completely up to you; however, if you mean to sell them as pets, you might have a rough time if there is just no market for pet rabbits in your area.
- Have room to keep babies until you can sell them. If that is what you intend to do. If you don't want to terminally cull your rabbits, you need to have the space to keep each rabbit born until homes are found for them. This is one I'm really struggling with right now!
- Study genetics. Spend time learning about rabbit color genetics as well as body genetics. If you breed that rabbit to that rabbit, what kind of ears will the babies have? Will they have red eyes?
- Research lines. Some bloodlines don't work well together when it comes to breeding and raising rabbits, especially show rabbits. Some rabbits just will not produce live kits together. Usually this has to do with the lines intermingling in a bad way.
- Breed to the Standard of Perfection. The best way to breed wisely is to breed for show, though this isn't the only way to breed rabbits. But when you breed to better whichever breed you're working with, you're contributing to the whole breed. If you breed solely for pets, you may even be dirtying the breed population, and hurting the breed and the breeders that work hard to better it.
- Never stop learning, and always ask questions. There is not one breeder that knows all the answers when it comes to the complicated species we call rabbits. :) And while this can sometimes be frustrating, when we're trying to ask a question no one seems to know the answer to, it can also be strangely comforting.