Buying a Rabbit

So you want a pet rabbit?
There are some things to consider before taking an animal’s life into your hands. Do some research, find a breed to like not just because of how it looks, but because of your availability to care for it, as well as the breeds known temperament. Some breeds are not pet friendly but do occasionally have an exception.

One thing I cannot stress enough, try to purchase a rabbit from an actual breeder. If the breeder is helpful and willing to take the time you need to have things explained to you, than this is a good person to buy an animal from. If the breeder is willing to offer a health guarantee that is even better. If they’re acting like you’re a waste of their time, don’t have answers to any of your questions, and/or their barn is very unclean be wary of the possibility of being sold a rabbit who may be sick or hasn’t been handled and is not tame.

Something to note, some breeders do operate a closed barn. This can be because of past incidents (wild children misbehaving and causing damage or stress is a large one.) or perhaps they have does near to giving birth who stress easily. Maybe they haven’t had time to empty trays yet this week or sweep the floor. Having a closed barn is not a bad thing. Just check out the rabbits you are shown and if they’re healthy, tame and free of any obvious signs of injury or disease, you should be good to go.

Pet stores are usually more expensive than a breeder will be. They also frequently house sexually mature males with all ages of females. Breeding occurs and I have heard of many horror stories of people finding their new pets dead from having babies too early, or a cage full of dead babies in the morning. Often pet store employees do not know how to tell the sex of a pet rabbit and lead many folks to believe it can’t be determined. I have even tested employees and heard that they have to be DNA sexed like parrots. This is simply not true, they don’t have the proper training to be selling these types of animals and you won’t get the right answers most of the time.

Rabbit Sizes
Rabbits can be small as adults, anywhere from a 2lb Netherland Dwarf, up to a 20+ lb Flemish Giant. If you are buying for your young children, a 20lb rabbit may not be the best choice for them to be able to carry around and snuggle with. (Though I hear Flemish Giants make wonderful dog-like pets!)
The most common small to medium breeds ideal for pets are Netherland Dwarf, Holland Lop, Mini Lop, Dutch, Himalayan etc. These all weigh between 2-6lbs as adults, have good temperaments for the most part and make excellent pets.

Temperament and Sexing
There are some breeds known to be hard to handle and I would not recommend them for pets. These include Britannia Petite, Checkered Giants, Tans, and running/jumping breeds. When faced with purchasing a breed you don’t know much about (which should not happen, please research it before you put your money out on an animal that may not be ideal!) ask the breeder questions.
People most frequently ask me for female pets. They fear bucks may be more aggressive, and spray. While this is not always the case, males make good pets too. They are cheaper and safer to neuter if spraying does occur. (Females can spray too, just not as often as males.) Often times males are more adventurous and loving where-as females can get moody over 6-8months.

Finding a breeder
Lots of people email me from all over the country looking for pets and show stock. I usually respond with:
“Sure, I’d be happy to sell to you. Are you coming my way anytime soon? Are you interested in showing and could possibly afford airline cargo shipment?”

The answer to these questions are almost always, NO. I direct them then to my Breeders Directory which has hundreds of listings worldwide of rabbit breeders.

Shipping rabbits is not cheap. You cannot do it via mail, or a company like UPS or Fedex. The only way as of now is via the airport. I most frequently use a company called Pet Air / Fly Pets. We ship via Delta Airline Cargo. It has always been the cheapest. However while I say “cheapest” it’s still very expensive. The things to consider are (along with prices as of March 2007):

  • Cost of rabbits, which for my show rabbits, they run from $35-200 each.
  • Cost of airline ticket. Varies due to weight, for up to 12lbs (including carrier) is around $169.00
  • Cost of vet health screening. Many airlines require this, some do not. Usually it is $35 per animal
  • Cost of kennel, water bottle, food dish. Usually around $20 for a small to medium sized kennel. When picking one you don’t want it to make you go over your weight limit, or your ticket price may go up. You also want to make sure there is enough room in it for the rabbit(s.) I usually try to ship 3-4 at a time, however they must almost always be juniors. Seniors will fight and/or mate during the transit.

    So as you can see, this is not ideal for the pet owner, or even the small scale breeder or youth breeder. Since 1997 I have shipped rabbits to buyers a total of 4 times.
    So your best bet is to find a local breeder.

    Why do you want a rabbit? Are you ready to care for it?
    You must want a rabbit because you immediately think it’s going to be a cute cuddly thing. Or maybe you’re interested in spinning wool from an Angora into a nice sweater. Or maybe you just want to raise them for their meat. The breeder in me thinks “That would be a fun and interesting breed to show.”

    Rabbits will live between 8-12 years. Sometimes longer life is possible. All breeds can live these years, none have a shorter or longer lifespan then others on average.
    Consider why you want a rabbit when it comes to what breeds you narrow it down to.
    Many families have come to me to purchase a pet for a child going off to college. They don’t take up much space or make any noise and can be a huge comfort to a child moving out of the nest.

    Interested in showing your bunnies?
    If you might want to get into showing, buying from a breeder is a must, so you can get information about future shows, as well as obtain the rabbits 3 generation pedigree. Rabbits without pedigrees but are full bred can be shown, but not registered with ARBA and offspring will be hard to sell to other breeders if you’re missing parts on a pedigree. You can’t usually sell show quality rabbits without papers unless someone is willing to overlook this and start their own. Newly accepted breeds and rabbits that are exceptional body type and quality are the exception at times.

    The rabbit will also need to be tattooed in the left ear for identification purposes in showing. A breeder can tattoo your rabbits for you, until you’re on your way and able to purchase your own tattoo kit.

    Showing rabbits is excellent for children. You may be able to get them involved in a local 4-H rabbit club to help. Shows usually have a lot of youth participants. It’s an excellent way for them to bond and make lifelong friends and learn about teamwork, agriculture and sportsmanship. For information on shows in our District visit the ARBA D6 Website.

    Housing Tips and Techniques:

    Outdoor/Indoor Hutch Building
    Hanging Cages for your barn
    How to feed and water your rabbit