Rabbit_info by DrWctO



 This web site is being provided by Pat Lamar, currently the President of the Professional
Rabbit Meat Association (PRMA) and the Chairperson of the Commercial Department
Committee for the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). This site has been
developed specifically for providing information on the many commercial aspects
involved in raising rabbits.

 The information contained in this web site is intended to give a simple overview of the
various industries available to rabbit breeders and/or the potential rabbit breeder in an
effort to point out the pros and cons of each industry. To date, there is a severe lack of
information pertaining to the commercial aspects of raising rabbits, resulting in many
misconceptions and an aura of mystery surrounding these fields. Hopefully, this site will
help to alleviate these problems and provide the direction needed, particularly for the new
potential grower and breeder.

 The information contained within is NOT intended to be a complete and thorough guide,
nor to take the place of the in-depth manuals and books written on the individual topics.
Readers are encouraged to contact the ARBA Commercial Department Committee for
further information or to give comments and suggestions.

 To best understand the broad scope of the different rabbit industries, it is suggested to
begin with the "What Is Commercial?" article, first.

                    WHAT IS "COMMERCIAL?"
                                 by Pat Lamar, President,
                           Professional Rabbit Meat Association

In the world of rabbit raising, the word "commercial" is commonly interpreted to mean
"raising rabbits for meat"; however, "commercial" can also pertain to other aspects and
industries of rabbit raising, as well. Webster's New World Dictionary defines theword
commercial as "made, done or operating primarily for profit." This, then, leads us to the
next question of "what determines a profit?" According to the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA), "anyone who receives $500.00 or more annually from the sale of
rabbits or rabbit-related equipment, products, etc., is commercial." The USDA does not
state "from the sale of rabbits specifically for meat purposes" or any other limitations.
Thus, the word "commercial" entails the following rabbit-related industries:

   Show Rabbits
   Pet Rabbits
   Meat Rabbits
   Worm Raising

Each of the industries is separate and unique, although a breeder may be involved in one
or several at a time. Often, for the breeder to be able to make an actual "profit," it is
highly recommended to tap more than one of the available marketing resources. These
pages will attempt to give a basic explanation of each industry with particular emphasis
on the pitfalls to watch out for and in some cases, information not commonly found in

                                  SHOW RABBITS
                                 by Pat Lamar,President
                          Professional Rabbit Meat Association

 There are currently 45 recognized breeds in the United States, today, and several more
are under Development Certificates. It takes several years of intense development to
create a new breed, followed by a stringent 3-year evaluation period performed by the
American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) before the new breed can become a
"recognized" breed and is included in the ARBA "Standard of Perfection."

 Rabbit shows have gained considerable popularity and the raising of the "fancy" (show)
rabbit can be a profitable business in itself. ARBA-sanctioned rabbit shows are held
year-round --- not just at summer fairs, and are judged on the American System, not the
Danish System used in 4-H and FFA classes. The American System places only one
first-place animal in each class and awards only one First, Second and Third place
regardless of how large the class is, except at national competitions. ARBA-sanctioned
Youth Shows will often place down to fifth place. The Danish System, however, awards
each exhibitor or rabbit either a first, second or third place.

 Success in the show rabbit market is highly dependent upon "winning" at the rabbit
shows. Establishing a reputation for having winning stock will bring sales and everyone
will want to buy your rabbits. Competition can be very keen and requires considerable
knowledge and skill of the breeder in evaluating potential winners and breeding for
quality show rabbits. Prices for top quality breeding stock from winning lines can often
be in the hundreds of dollars, particularly if they are national winning lines. Depending
upon the breed, however, local winning bloodlines may be purchased for as low as
$25.00 and sometimes even less. In all cases, it is important for the new show breeder to
buy the best they can afford if the desire to win is important. Even so, many excellent
bloodlines have been destroyed by haphazard and careless breeding. The new show
breeder will need to read everything available pertaining to the chosen breed in order to
learn what qualities to breed for. The ARBA "Standard of Perfection" is the book used as
the Rabbit Judge's guide for judging all the breeds, and the show breeder uses this same
book as a guide for learning what qualities to breed for. A popular saying amongst rabbit
breeders states "Anyone with enough money can buy a winning rabbit, but it takes skill
and knowledge to breed and raise your own winners" --- and a lot more prestige in doing
so, as well.

 A word of caution when purchasing quality breeding stock: please remember that
"breeding stock" does not necessarily mean that the individual rabbits being purchased
will win on the show tables, but if they are from winning bloodlines, they can and will
produce winners IF a carefully planned selective breeding plan is used. Buying quality
stock from winning lines is one thing --- but what the breeders does with those rabbits
after purchasing can be a totally different matter!

 The best advice for the novice show breeder is: READ, READ, THEN READ SOME
MORE! The more you know, the better your chances are of becoming a consistent and
successful winner.

                     THE PET RABBIT MARKET
                                  by Pat Lamar, President
                           Professional Rabbit Meat Association

                                   The pet rabbit industry is varied and controversial. The
                                   "professional" pet rabbit supplier is an actual business
                                   licensed with the USDA/APHIS for abiding with the
                                   Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations, requirements
                                   and inspections. This allows the provider to sell large
                                   quantities of pet rabbits at wholesale prices to the pet
                                   stores on his/her route. Often, the wholesaler will deal
                                   with a variety of live animals and has his own contacts of
                                   individual breeders for providing the needed animals for
                                   the stores. Thus, the wholesaler is a "middle man"
                                   between the grower and the pet stores, and the prices paid
for the pet rabbits are low in order for both the store and the wholesaler to make a profit,
since the wholesaler will up the price to sell to the store, and likewise, the store will also
raise the price to sell to the customer. Selling to wholesalers generally does not appeal to
the average rabbit grower since large quantities must be provided at low prices in order to
make a profit or the necessary facilities, licensing and stringent inspections required for
dealing directly to the pet stores in large quantities, and resulting in what is termed as
"bunny mills." $500.00 or more in annual sales to pet stores requires an AWA license.

 Likewise, the majority of live animal wholesalers and pet stores have little to no
knowledge of rabbits and often request 4-week-old baby bunnies, simply because they
are "cuter." Weaning at 4 weeks under controlled conditions may be satisfactory for the
rabbit meat breeder, but certainly not advisable for all rabbits nor for rabbits in conditions
that offer undesirable living accommodations and few controls. For this reason, few
breeders care to cater to the pet stores. Due to lack of space, all pet stores want the
"dwarf" and small breeds, only.

 Often, however, a breeder may have some control over the conditions provided by local
pet stores and is able to "work with them" in educating the store employees. Likewise,
some will even provide printed materials or "Rabbit Care Sheets" for the stores to give to
the customers. Unfortunately, most stores don't wish to be bothered and the printed
materials are often tossed aside in the waste baskets. Until pet stores are willing to
cooperate with rabbit breeders in educating their customers on the proper care of rabbits
and are willing to provide proper accommodations for keeping the bunnies until sold, pet
stores will always have trouble finding sources of baby bunnies for resale purposes.
Selling to pet stores is often frowned upon by many breeders.

 The majority of rabbit breeders catering to the pet industry do so individually, directly
with the customers and usually from their own rabbitries, rather than to stores. This
requires advertising in local newspapers and the provision of printed materials and
education of the customer is strongly encouraged, recommended and advised. The lack
of knowledge by the general public on rabbits is quite incredible and many
misconceptions abound, such as has been promoted by the cute and unrealistic children's
stories and cartoons. A lack of customer support and education often leads to pet rabbits
being "abandoned" once the newness of an unique pet wears off and the rabbit is no
longer as "cute" as it used to be, or the customer is disillusioned and simply is not able to
accept the normal behavior of a rabbit when they expected the rabbit to behave like a dog
or cat or they or a family member has been severely scratched or bitten by a "cute, fluffy,
harmless" rabbit!

 For the breeder that is willing to work with and educate their pet bunny customers, the
pet market is an ideal market for getting rid of "culls." Few breeders are able to keep
every rabbit born, nor will every rabbit in every litter qualify for show purposes.
"Culling," to the rabbit breeder, does not always mean "to kill," but rather, "to separate"
from the ones they wish to keep. Many show and hobby breeders are adverse to killing
unwanted rabbits and the pet market provides a nice outlet for these bunnies. Again, the
smaller breeds tend to be more in demand as pets than the larger breeds. Likewise,
breeders should be willing to take the rabbit back if it is no longer wanted.

 The new rabbit breeder wishing to partake in this market needs to be aware of the
existence of an organization known as "The House Rabbit Society." More will be
discussed about this organization in a special section entitled "Animal Rights Activists."

                          THE RABBIT MEAT INDUSTRY
 The first thing that a new rabbit grower needs to know is that the rabbit is NOT
recognized by the U.S.D.A. as an "agricultural livestock" animal (i.e., intended for human
consumption). Rabbits are a multi-purpose animal that have gained considerable
popularity as pets and show animals. Animals that are officially recognized as
"livestock" are illegal to keep within city limits, which would severely and negatively
affect pet rabbit owners and many show breeders. The last effort to have rabbits accepted
by the U.S.D.A. as a livestock animal failed in 1972 due to a lack of support.
 This unique limbo status of the rabbit has resulted in problems in the way of rabbit
processing plants, since U.S.D.A. inspection of rabbit meat is merely a very expensive
option and without the government subsidization as provided for the processing of beef,
pork and poultry.

 Guidelines for the processing of rabbits intended for human consumption are often
confusing and not well understood, even by the individual U.S.D.A. and/or state facility
inspectors. Some will use the guidelines for "wild game," while others are processed
under "poultry" classifications as dependent upon individual interpretation.

 The "backyard butchering" of rabbits intended for retail stores, restaurants and the
general public is illegal by law since this gives little, if any, assurance of consumer
protection. Processed rabbit meat intended for resale MUST be processed in either an
U.S.D.A. licensed plant requiring inspection of the meat, or a state-inspected facility as
required by the individual state (and in some instances, counties) of residency. Some
states require all meats to be U.S.D.A. inspected; others require only a licensed state-
inspected facility, while still others require U.S.D.A. inspection only in specific counties
and allowing state facilities in other counties. For example, King County in Washington
state requires U.S.D.A. inspection of all retail meats, but other counties in the same state
require only that the meats be processed in a licensed state-inspected facility.

 Likewise, not all state processing programs are alike. Some are equal to or surpass the
qualifications for an U.S.D.A. plant and also have their own state meat inspection
program. Again, some states will allow meats processed in state facilities to be exported
across state borders, while others, like Ohio, do not. In all cases, all plants, whether
U.S.D.A. or state, must have a current "rabbit license" that must be renewed annually.
Only U.S.D.A. inspected meats may be exported to other countries outside of the U.S.

 Meats processed in the appropriate facility for that state qualifies the meat to be sold
"wholesale," only, such as to retail stores, restaurants and distributors. Selling directly to
the public at full retail price requires the same equipment, licensing and inspections as
butcher shops and meat departments in retail stores and restaurants.

 Due to the obvious confusion on the processing of rabbits, not all processing plants will
accept or buy rabbits to be processed, nor do all plants have the special rabbit license for
processing rabbits. This has resulted in a severe shortage of available processors for the
rabbit meat industry. Details on selling live fryer rabbits to an available rabbit processing
plant will be covered in the next article.

JULY 6, 1998
                          WHAT IS A "MEAT RABBIT?"
 In the United States, there are 45 "recognized" breeds of rabbits, ranging in mature, adult
weights from 2 lbs. up to over 20 lbs. These breeds vary in body type and structure, as
well as size, color and markings. For obvious reasons, either due to size and body types,
not all breeds of rabbits are suited for the rabbit meat industry. Of the 45 recognized
breeds, 18 different breeds of rabbits are classified as being of the "commercial" meat-
body type and size. However, even within these 18 breeds, emphasis has been placed on
other non-meat qualities rather than the meat-bearing qualities of some of the breeds,
such as the wool-bearing abilities of the French, Giant and Satin Angoras and the unique
markings of the Harlequin breed.

 This, then, leaves the remaining 14 breeds as being suitable for the rabbit meat industry.
Although any rabbit may be eaten, some breeds, such as the tiny dwarfed breeds, would
not be economically feasible to raise for meat purposes. The remaining 14 breeds are as

                         Champagne d'Argent
                         American Chinchilla
                         Creme d'Argent
                         French Lop
                         New Zealand
                         American Sable
                         Silver Fox
                         Silver Marten
 Of these 14 breeds, the New Zealand White rabbit holds the title for being the top breed
to raise for meat purposes due to overall practicality for both the processor and the
grower, and closely followed by the Californian. This determination is based on size,
growth rates, feed conversion ratios, dress-out weights and meat-to-bone ratios.

 Please also take note of the fact that the popular Flemish Giant is not included in the
Commercial classification due to a different body structure, heavy bones and low meat-
to-bone ratio that does not lend itself well to the rabbit meat industry, even when crossed
with a New Zealand rabbit. The Flemish Giant is a Semi-Arched breed which results in
an extremely long, unattractive and bony carcass. The New Zealand White - Flemish
Giant cross is commonly referred to as the "Short Cut" strain, as it was originally used as
a "short-cut" for faster growth rates over the preferred methods of selectively breeding for
size and growth rates within the meat breed, itself, but at the expense of sacrificing meat
quality. "Bigger" is not always "better!"

 There is one more "breed" that has been developed specifically for the meat industry, but
has not applied to ARBA for recognition as a new breed. With 13 years of development,
the ALTEX Commercial Terminal Sire breed definitely qualifies as a "breed" by itself.

 "Commercial Lines" within each of the meat breeds have been developed by individual
growers for various purposes, such as for faster growth rates, improved meat qualities,
larger litter sizes, breeding and conception consistency and disease resistance, and this is
where we run into problems.

 Larger litter sizes, for example, are always in demand. A commercial meat grower needs
to maintain at least 8 kits per litter in order to be economically feasible. A popular
misconception is to have does that consistently throw 10 to 14 per litter, or even more, as
growers become disillusioned into believing that larger litters mean more profit.
Unfortunately, this results in smaller kits with slower growth rates and requiring a longer
time span to fatten the fryers for marketing. Feed costs money and is the growers' largest
on-going expense! Too large of litters is not economical.

 Crossbreeding for meat purposes is very popular and often desirable, since
crossbreeding improves the hybrid vigor in the fryers. This, however, requires
maintaining two purebred breeds and marketing the offspring. Replacement stock from
the crossbreeding of two breeds should never be kept as each generation deteriorates in
disease resistance, breeding consistency, litter sizes and hybrid vigor. The only exception
would be in the case of developing a new breed or variety and requiring extensive
knowledge on the development of a new breed or variety. The most popular use of
crossbreeding for meat purposes is in the use of a Californian buck on New Zealand
White does. The resultant fryers are called "Smuts," and are often highly desired by

 "Commercial strains" are often longer in body than the show-quality rabbit of the same
breed. The longer body allows more room for the doe to carry the larger litters needed
for a commercial venture. Commercial strains do not do well on show tables. A
commercial strain often has longer hair shafts than the show rabbit, due to the faster
growth rates. Since growers are most concerned about the aspects that affect them,
directly, commercial strains are often severely lacking in meat qualities when the
emphasis has been put onto faster growth rates and larger litter sizes. The rabbit meat
grower needs to concentrate on providing quality meat rabbits in order to secure a solid

                      FRYERS, ROASTERS AND STEWERS
The rabbit meat industry operates much the same as the poultry industry in the
classification of meats. Rabbit meat is available as fryers, roasters, stewers, and in rare
cases, even capons. For the novice grower, an understanding of the different
classifications and reasons for those classifications is essential for a successful rabbit
meat business.

All rabbits sold to a rabbit processor are sold "live." The rabbits are slaughtered at the
processing plant, graded or sorted accordingly, packaged and sold. The greatest demand
is for "fryer" rabbits that are young, tender and meaty, and the prices paid for fryer
rabbits are higher than for roasters and stewers.

Depending upon the individual processors' needs, the average weight of a "fryer" rabbit is
5 lbs. However, the rabbit cannot be over 12 weeks of age and with some processors
preferring fryers not over 10 or 11 weeks of age. There is very good reasoning for this

At 12 weeks of age, the hormones in rabbits begin activating. Testicles appear on the
bucks, while the doe's reproductive system begins to blossom. At this point, rabbits will
begin "practicing" breeding, even though they are too young to reproduce. The hormones
involved in this process has a direct bearing on the tenderness of the meat. If a buck has
testicles, it is too old to be a "fryer." Even with slow-growing and slow developing
rabbits, a processor is able to recognize an overaged rabbit during the processing
procedure. Since premium prices are paid for "fryer" rabbits, the grower needs to pay
attention to this stipulation, since overaged fryers will detrimentally affect the processors'
market. Growers are highly dependent upon the processor for their own business and
need to abide by these stipulations for ensuring his own market for live fryer rabbits.

"Roaster" rabbits are under the age of 6 months, but have not been sexually active,
meaning they have not been used for breeding purposes. "Stewer" rabbits are the same as
old hens and roosters --- over the age of 6 months, have been sexually active and
productive, and are tough. "Capons" are bucks that have been castrated. To date, there is
little market for roaster, stewer and capon rabbits, but that may be changing in the near

Since there is currently very little market for roasters and stewers, the majority of
processors simply consider both to be "stewers," and thereby paying the same stewer
price for both. Stewer rabbits are generally used to produce processed specialty meats,
such as rabbit pepperoni sticks. Due to the lack of demand for stewer rabbits, processors
will usually place a maximum on the numbers of stewers that each grower is allowed to
ship, such as 10% of the number of fryers shipped. If a grower sends 100 rabbits in one
shipment, 10 stewers may be included in the same shipment.

The average goal for the grower is to have 4 to 5 lb. fryers by 8 weeks of age. Fryer
rabbits will gain an average of 1/4 lb. per week. The average feed conversion ratio is 4:1
(4 lbs. of pelleted feed to produce one lb. of meat).

July 8, 1998
                                COLOR VERSUS WHITE
The rabbit meat processing business is quite varied throughout the U.S. and prices paid
for fryer rabbits may be different from processor to processor. Likewise, each processor
may request different weight ranges on the fryer rabbits. Along this line, some will take
both colored and white rabbits, whereas others want white rabbits, only. This is often
very confusing for the new rabbit grower entering the rabbit meat industry, and as can be
imagined, many misconceptions abound as to the reasoning for these differences.

The rabbit processor is a privately owned business. The processing plants are not owned
or regulated by ARBA or any major corporations. These plants are individually owned
businesses and as such, the processor runs and develops his business in accordance to
what his own customers want. Prices paid for live fryer rabbits may vary in accordance
with the regional standard of living, just as wages, rent, utilities, etc., will vary from state
to state.

The sizes of the fryer rabbits are determined by what the processors' customers want or
need. Restaurants generally prefer smaller fryers, while meat departments often prefer
the larger carcasses or packaged half-fryers. A processor whose distributor deals mainly
with restaurants, or deals directly with the restaurants, will naturally prefer the smaller
rabbits. Thus, it is totally dependent upon what direction the processor has chosen for his
markets or what markets are available to the processor.

With the constantly increasing cost of overhead, most processors will attempt to market
as much of the by-products from the rabbit as possible, particularly to the biological
markets, such as rabbit brain powder and blood serum. Rabbit brain powder, and in some
cases, blood serum, must be completely devoid of pigmentation. In the case of blood
serum, again, it is totally dependent upon the intended use of the serum. Some markets
will accept serum from colored rabbits, while others will not.

To simplify the matter, colored rabbits have pigmentation. However, it cannot be said
that all "white" rabbits do not have pigmentation, as some, like the Hotot, are pigmented.
Thus, when a processor requests "white fryers," it is generally understood to mean "white
albino fryers." The albino whites will always have pink eyes, whereas the pigmented
whites will have dark colored eyes. This explains the additional popularity of the New
Zealand White and Californian breeds in the rabbit meat industry, both of which are
albino whites with pink eyes.

In some cases, a processor may simply prefer the cleaner white meat from the albino
breeds. Rabbit meat is an "all-white" meat, but the carcasses from colored rabbits will
have a slightly darker hue. This darker hue is most obvious when placed side-by-side
with the carcass from an albino rabbit. Rabbit processing not utilizing mechanized
methods of removing the pelt is strenuous on the hands and wrists of the employees, and
colored pelts are generally more difficult to remove.
It will be essential for the new meat rabbit grower to know what the processor whom
he/she intends to sell to wants and prefers. Respecting what the processor needs for his
own business ensures a ready market for both the processor and the grower.

July 8, 1998

                                Selling to Processors
 Not all states have rabbit processing plants. Thus, many growers are forced to "ship"
their fryer rabbits to the nearest processing plant, which may be several states away.
Very few rabbit processors are able to hire "route men" to pick up fryer rabbits, resulting
in the rabbit meat industry being highly dependent upon volunteer "Bunny Runners."
The "Bunny Runner" is a grower that is willing to haul other growers' rabbits along with
his/her own in order to get the fryers to the plant. These runners will pick up rabbits all
along the route traveled to the plant. It is the growers' responsibility to deliver the fryers
to the plant for processing.

 The majority of "Bunny Runners" will charge a small fee for hauling rabbits. Each
grower pays only for their own individual fryers. The fees charged are generally between
$.05 to $.25 per lb. live weight, depending upon the distance required to travel to the
plant. The fee is intended to pay only for travel and maintenance expenses. Examples
would be: Montana growers shipping to the coast of Oregon would pay $.25 per lb.,
whereas an eastern Washington grower shipping to the same plant with the same runner
would pay $.10 per lb. for a 5-hour drive. This hauling fee is most often simply deducted
from the amount the processor owes each grower for the fryers so that no money
exchange is required "up front" at the time of pickup of the fryers. In some cases, the
runner may choose to simply pay for the rabbits at the time of pickup, minus the hauling
fee. Generally, however, payment will come directly in check form from the processing
plant within a week after shipping the rabbits. Shipping schedules are usually based on a
two-week schedule for each area.

 Once a buying processor is located, the new grower needs to contact the processor in
order to find out who the "Bunny Runner" is for that specific area. Thereafter, all contact
will be with the runner. The runner needs to be contacted for the specifics of shipping
dates, schedules, time of pickup and location of pickup, as well as any other details
required. Unless a grower is able to guarantee several hundred fryers for EACH
shipment, runners will NOT come directly to a residence to pick up the fryers. All
growers in the same area will meet at the same place and time for pickup of their rabbits.

 Few runners will weigh the rabbits at the time of pickup. It is enough that they have
volunteered for the tremendous job of hauling rabbits and the rabbits need to be delivered
to the plant by the deadline. Therefore, "barn weight" slips are most often required and
the grower needs to have an accurate scale for weighing the fryers before pickup. The
rabbits are weighed, again, upon arrival at the plant.
 Differences between "barn weights" and "plant weights" have caused considerable
controversy with many processors and growers. Each processors sets the minimum and
maximum weights for fryer rabbits according to what their markets require and with
premium prices paid for "fryer" rabbits within those weight requirements. Underweight
rabbits are generally returned, and overweight rabbits are considered to be "stewers" with
lower prices paid. The average weight requirement is to have a 5 lb. fryer rabbit that is
not over 12 weeks of age. Further details on this will be discussed in the next article.

 Almost all processing plants will allow as much as 1/4 lb. of weight loss per rabbit
during transport and simply "eat" the loss. Problems ensue when the differences between
"barn weights" and "plant weights" are greater than 1/4 lb. per rabbit. Since processing
plants require legally certified scales, the grower has no option but to accept the plant
weight readings as true. Few growers have certified scales in their barns. Growers
should always allow at least 1/4 to ½ lb. OVER the minimum weight requirements in
order to avoid these weight problems.

 Locating the nearest rabbit processing plant can be difficult. Participating processors are
listed in the "Market Report" listing in the Domestic Rabbits magazine, produced by
ARBA, and the PRMA Journal, produced by the Professional Rabbit Meat Association
(PRMA). However, since these listings are a free option for the processor, and likewise,
not all rabbit processors are members of the ARBA or the PRMA, then not all rabbit
processors are listed. However, the majority of them are listed. Not available on retail
magazine shelves, the publications are a membership benefit of their respective
organizations. The PRMA has a complimentary sample issue available for public
viewing on their web site, and which includes the "Market Report." For more
information on joining the ARBA and/or PRMA, please see their web sites at:
<http://www.arba.net/> and <http://www.prma.org/>.

Pat Lamar , President, Professional Rabbit Meat Association
% Finley Fuzzy Farm Rabbit Ranch
24104 S. Haney Rd.
Kennewick, WA 99337
Tel: (509) 582-8369
Fax: (509) 586-0903
e-mail:     <fuzyfarm@3-cities.com>

                          INDEPENDENT PROCESSING
Often, a meat grower may live in an area that is simply too far away from any available
"Bunny Runners" or processing plants for selling meat rabbits to a processor or live fryer
broker, or the grower simply gets "fed up" with fluctuating prices and demands,
unreliable runners, and a multitude of other things. Likewise, the grower may not be
interested in becoming a "Bunny Runner" and hauling other growers' fryers along with
his/her own in order to get them to the plant in a safe and economical manner.
Meanwhile, the grower may have noticed that rabbit meat is not available in the local
stores and sees the opportunity for a viable business. But --- the grower cannot afford or
does not wish to build a processing plant!

Existing plants that are already licensed will often process poultry and rabbits for
additional income. Likewise, some plants are specifically for processing animals for
others and are not interested in buying live animals and/or marketing the processed
meats, and this includes the facilities that advertise their services for the processing of
wild game for hunters. A grower only needs to ensure that the facility has a current
"rabbit license" and is willing to process rabbits.

A small fee is generally charged per rabbit processed, with an average price around $1.00
to $1.25 per rabbit. Bags for packaging the whole fryers may or may not be included,
and in the majority of cases, the grower needs to provide his own ice for transporting the
processed fryers from the plant to the markets. In addition, the grower needs to provide
the proper labels, since every carcass leaving the plant and intended for resale must have
a label attached.

Labels must be specific in these ways: They must clearly state the name of the product
(i.e., "Rabbit"), must carry basic cooking and storing instructions, and must also state the
name of the processing plant AND the valid rabbit license number. Label material comes
in a variety of colors is available in stationery and office supply stores. Attractive labels
can be easily produced on a home computer. Likewise, the grower will need to have a
local business license in the chosen name of the grower's business, both of which may
also be included on the labels. There is an unique sense of satisfaction in seeing one's
own fryer rabbits displayed in retail stores and bearing the name of the grower's rabbitry
on the label.

As mentioned in previous articles, not every state will have the same laws in regard to the
processing requirements of rabbit meat for resale purposes. Each grower will be
responsible for obtaining information on the requirements for the resident state, and there
is no better way to start than to visit a local butcher shop and start asking questions.
Butcher shops know their inspectors and can often direct the person to the appropriate
inspector or nearest licensed processing facility.

Occasionally, a plant may not wish to do the actual processing, but is willing to "rent" or
"lease" the facility by the day or hour for the processing of rabbits when needed. Often,
this expense can be lessened by sharing the facility and labor with other growers also
wishing to be "Independent Processors" and sharing the expenses and labor. The grower
will need to provide the labor needed for the processing procedure and likewise be aware
of the guidelines, restrictions and requirements involved in the processing of rabbits. The
facility owners should be able to provide that information. In particular, however, there
may be a problem regarding the transport of the processed meats, since most, if not all,
states require that the processed meats cannot be transported in the SAME vehicle or area
in which live animals were transported. Extended cab pickup trucks are of particular
value since the live rabbits may be transported to the plant in the bed of the truck, and the
coolers containing the processed meats may be transported in the back seat of the cab.
Other options entail the use of trailers in addition to a truck, or devising an ingenious
method of successfully dividing the truck bed so that the coolers do not come into contact
with the live animal area.

The grower will be responsible for locating and approaching potential markets to buy the
processed product, and the grower is advised to "feel out" the potential for the new
business FIRST before proceeding. In many cases, previous Independents have left a bad
impression of the rabbit meat industry by which the stores have been burned by trusting
in the grower/processor, and they may not be interested in taking that chance, again.

The largest complaint received is in the area of the grower suddenly "quitting" without
warning after the stores have built a steady clientele for rabbit meat. Growers wishing to
quit should make an attempt to locate another interested grower to continue servicing the
stores. The stores, customers and the rabbit meat industry will appreciate this considerate

Approaching the potential stores for possible orders entails salesmanship. As with all
salespeople, it is not advisable to wear "grubbies" or "barn clothes" when approaching a
potential market. Meat departments place considerable emphasis on cleanliness and
sanitation in accordance with the food handling laws, and the grower is advised to follow
suit. This does not mean that business suits are called for, but a clean and neat
appearance is, as are business cards.

A very simple and highly accepted method is in the use of "show coats" commonly seen
and worn by rabbit show exhibitors. The white coats are the same as the coats worn by
the food handlers in meat departments, but with one very important and beneficial
difference.... "show coats" generally have the name of the grower's rabbitry on the back!
This is highly visible and great advertising when delivering processed rabbits to a busy
store! Quantities of business cards should be kept handy in a pocket to give to store
customers inquiring about pet rabbits or the availability of stewers and roasters that the
store does not carry, or other items of interest.

Some stores prefer to weigh the processed carcasses upon delivery, while others prefer to
have them pre-weighed before delivery. Stores requiring pre-weighed will "spot-check"
the weights periodically to ensure honesty.

An Independent Processor can further aid the stores in selling rabbit meat by providing
cooked rabbit as "samples" to pass out to the customers. Most meat departments offer
samples of cooked meats for the customers to try.

Most of the stores will request a preference for "fresh" rabbit meat over frozen. This
entails having to deliver the processed meats as quickly as possible after processing, since
the stores rely heavily upon the ability to display the fresh product in the meat cases.
"Fresh" rabbits under refrigeration have approximately a 6-day shelf life. Rabbit meat
not on display will be frozen and thawed as needed.
The majority of stores accepting "fresh" rabbit meat will usually repackage the rabbits
onto Styrofoam trays or other special display items. The Independent Processor may
wish to use inexpensive "dummy" labels (such as "card stock" or mailing labels) for
transporting the fryers to the stores, and simply provide the more expensive and attractive
"stick-on" labels to be used after repackaging.

An Independent Processor can further aid the stores in selling rabbit meat by providing
recipe pamphlets, rabbit cook books, diagrams for cutting up rabbits, and promotional
computer generated signs. "IT'S RABBIT BARBECUE TIME" is an excellent sign to
place on a meat case during the slow-demand period. Marketing strategies are bound
only by the imagination.

Chain stores are often able to buy from local growers, so long as the meats have been
processed in the appropriate facility. Others require that providers sell directly to their
own regional distributors, which requires large quantities for providing ALL the stores in
that chain for that region. Unless a grower has abundant fryers and an ample year-round
surplus, it is not advisable for the Independent Processor to consider selling to a chain or
individual distributor. Some chain stores, however, require only that the grower contact
the main headquarters of the chain in order to establish a "contract" for the specific store.
It never hurts to check.

The key to this business is to NOT rely on hearsay. The grower should take the time to
find out for themselves. One grower's experience from years ago may no longer apply.
Laws and situations are constantly changing, and every state is different.

This option may also be a consideration for the grower seeking an alternative market to
the selling of live fryers to a processor or live fryer broker, as is mentioned in the
"Alternative Markets" section.

                           THE RABBIT FUR INDUSTRY
At one time, the rabbit fur industry in the U.S. was a thriving market that offered an
additional and substantial income from both backyard-butchered and processed rabbits.
Unfortunately, this is now referred to as "the good old days!" With the advent of the
influx of inexpensive imported rabbit pelts, the rabbit fur industry in the U.S. took a
dramatic nose dive. Tanned, imported rabbit pelts could be purchased and sold at prices
lower than what it cost Americans to tan the hides, and this situation still exists to this

With few exceptions, there is very little market for quantities of U.S. grown rabbit pelts at
reasonable prices. A small market continues to exist for fryer pelts to be used for the
making of felt for hats, but, again, this has been largely replaced by synthetic man-made
materials. In order to compete with the inexpensive imports, the prices paid for fryer
pelts are extremely low and with the additional expense of shipping to the buyer placed
upon the shipper. Stretching, drying and removing the larger clumps of fat as required
can be labor intensive for an extremely small income and, thus, proving to be impractical
for most.

One market, alone, still remains in good demand, but growers are strongly cautioned to
examine the economics before pursuing this venture. The Rex rabbit fur pelt remains in
short supply, and for good cause. To understand this market and the resulting small
supply, we need to first examine the requirements for this market.

Rex rabbit fur is a "luxury" fur, unlike any other rabbit fur aside from its smaller version,
the Mini Rex. Likewise, for the making of exquisite garments, accessories and crafts,
only "prime" pelts are in demand -- and "prime" pelts do not come from "fryer-aged"
rabbits! Prime pelts come only from fully developed and mature, adult rabbits in prime
condition (not molting). "First prime" on a Rex rabbit normally occurs between 6 to 7
months of age.

As specified in the section on the Rabbit Meat Industry, there is very little market for
roasters, stewers and capons at this time. The grower, then, is faced with the problem of
finding a market for the quantities of stewer carcasses after taking the pelt. Likewise, in
order to use the resulting carcasses for the rabbit meat industry, the rabbits would need to
be processed in the appropriate licensed facility. The live rabbits cannot be sold to a
processor, since the processor pays for all rights to the entire rabbit and including the pelt
for his own marketing strategies. The pelt would, then, belong to the processor. Often,
however, smaller processors will process a grower's rabbits for a small fee per rabbit and
return the processed carcasses and raw pelts to the grower, since the processor has been
paid only for his services. Still, the grower will need to find a ready market for the
stewer carcasses.

In almost all cases, the demand for Rex rabbit pelts is strictly for primed, finished and
tanned pelts. The grower, then, needs to either pay to have the pelts tanned, or tan them,
himself, and involving more labor and expense. Again, the shipping of the pelts to the
buyer is at the growers' expense.

At the time of this writing, the average wholesale prices paid for top quality tanned and
primed Rex pelts are $12.00 to $14.00 per pelt. Since feed costs and overhead expenses
fluctuate dramatically across the nation, many growers profess to barely breaking even on
the Rex rabbit fur market. Until such time that a ready and reliable market for roasters,
stewers and capons becomes established, the Rex fur industry will remain in short supply.

The greatest demand for rabbit pelts of all descriptions is as a finished garment or
product. The majority of growers raising the specialty fur breeds or involved in the rabbit
fur industry will tan the hides and make them into garments and craft items for resale,
themselves. Fryer-aged rabbit pelts are commonly used for trimmings on doll clothes and
craft items, while "prime" pelts are made into garments and accessories. These items
may be marketed directly to the public, or sold wholesale to retail stores and gift shops.
Obtaining a local business license will be a necessity for the marketing of quantities of
rabbit pelts, garments, accessories and crafts.
Again, the potential new grower is cautioned to carefully examine the economics and
labor intensive aspects of the rabbit fur industry when planning to enter this market.

                         THE RABBIT WOOL INDUSTRY
Among the 45 recognized breeds in the U.S. are six wooled breeds ranging in length and
texture of the wool and size of the rabbits. These breeds are:
                   American Fuzzy Lop
                   English Angora
                   French Angora
                   Giant Angora
                   Jersey Wooly
                   Satin Angora
The wool on the American Fuzzy Lop and Jersey Wooly are generally too short to be of
practical value for the wool industry, as well as the size of these two breeds being quite
small (dwarfed) and resulting in a much smaller yield. This leaves the beautiful Angoras
for producing the wool used in knitted and crocheted garments.

The Angoras are beautiful rabbits with long, silky wool, and the length and texture of the
wool varies between the breeds. Gathering the wool does not require having to dispose
of the rabbit, since the wool may be taken by several different methods that are not
harmful to the rabbit. Wool may be sheared, plucked, combed or clipped. The method
used is mostly dependent upon each individual's market preferences and usage. "Raw
wool" is generally sold to spinners, whereas spun wool is ideally sold to yarn shops and
knitters. Prices vary according to quality, length, texture and manner of gathering, and
whether or not it is "raw" or spun. Regional standards of living will also have a direct
bearing upon pricing.

Another European breed not recognized in the U.S., the German Angora, is commonly
used for "commercial" wool production, even within the U.S.

The major problems involved in this market is the requirement of constant care of the
wool on each rabbit, thereby making the potential for large herds impractical and the
production of large quantities of wool unlikely. Angora rabbits require constant
grooming and considerably more than the normal- furred breeds. Although well-known
for their sweet dispositions, Angoras do not make good pets for small children due to the
need for constant grooming. A badly matted Angora is a sad sight, indeed!

Likewise, Angoras require special feed and care for wool production and preventative
maintenance for the potential of "wool block." This is basically the same thing as "fur
block" in other rabbits and "hair balls" in cats, but is much more prevalent in Angoras
due to the longer length of the hair/wool.

To date, there are very few known co-ops for producing and marketing Angora rabbit
wool. Major garment manufacturers require large quantities that individual growers are
unable to provide. The majority of Angora breeders participate in the popular "Fiber
Fest" expositions, spinning clubs and related activities for the marketing of their

Many breeders are active spinners and users of the wool, themselves, and will often sell
hand-made finished garments made from the wool of their Angora rabbits. A common
sight is to see a breeder sitting at a spinning wheel and spinning the wool directly from
the contented rabbit relaxing on the spinner's lap.

Although labor intensive, the Angora breeds are delightful animals that can be safely
loved while still providing an income. Profitability is totally dependent upon the
individual breeder's skills in the gathering of the wool, marketing techniques and the
availability of markets, as well as feed and overhead costs.

                              ANGORA WOOL MARKET
                                     by Candy Haenszel

The market for Angora wool is primarily with hand spinners - usually a market that each
producer builds for themself. There haven't been any large commercial mills, buyers or
processors of Angora wool in the U.S. for many years. Most of the people who raise
Angora, today, do it for the love of the rabbits, not with hopes of making a living.
Raising Angoras for wool production is not a good choice if your primary goal is to make
a lot of money. It's a wonderful hobby that many people love. It's a hobby that can more
than pay for itself if you're willing to work on marketing. Many people do enjoy hand
spinning, and raise Angoras for the fiber and sell to other spinners. This is mostly a
"make your own market" type of thing. "You" find the spinners, "you" set the price,
"you" make the sales.

There are a few small commercial enterprises that buy raw Angora wool, but sometimes
only want certain colors and will not usually take an unlimited quantity. Some resell the
wool to hand spinners, some process the wool by mixing it with fine sheep wool, some
even spin it into yarn to sell. This market is limited, but a very real possibility for selling

Since everyone's market is individual, the price varies a lot. When I sell retail (direct to a
spinner), I charge $4.00 per oz. for clipped wool (cut from the rabbit with scissors), and
$4.50 for plucked wool. Some people who live in a higher market area sell for $6.00 to
$8.00 per oz. Others have a hard time finding a market at any price. If selling to a
middleman, the price, of course, will be less - usually less than $2.00 per oz.

Wool production varies a lot, too, depending on breed (English, French, giant, Satin,
German), care, genetics, harvest method and schedule. Wool per rabbit per year could be
anywhere from 8 oz. to 3 pounds, or even more. Those who want the highest yield
possible and are more "commercially minded" will probably raise Giant Angoras or
German Angoras that produce the most.

Raising Angoras for wool is pretty much like raising any other rabbit, except for the
wool. They need a wire-bottom, sheltered cage, protection from temperature extremes,
high roughage diet, small amount of grooming about once a week, and wool harvesting
on a regular basis (about ever 3 to 4 months).

Angoras CAN generate a profit on a small scale, but it's not a case of "if 10 Angoras
profit $100.00 per year, 100 Angoras will profit $1,000.00 a year." Angoras take time to
care for and harvest the wool. Many people have jumped in too fast with too many
Angoras, too little information and experience, and with disaster as a result.

I recommend that anyone wanting to raise Angoras for the wool to get a lot more
information from people who are raising Angoras in your country, today, and start out
with a pair or trio. If you're interested in raising Angoras for wool production, or for any
reason, I recommend that you join the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club (NARBC)
menu.htm for their informative Guide Book, Newsletter, and Fiber Guide. The Club has
a Commercial Wool Chairman, a wool buyers and sellers list in the newsletter, and
sponsors a skein/garment/wool contest twice a year for the promotion of the fiber aspect
of the breeds.


                            TANNING ANGORA PELTS
                                    by Candy Haenszel

Basically, I use the "Canadian Home Recipe" from an ARBA pamphlet, with a few
changes. I have tried several other methods, but like this method by far the best.

This recipe works equally well on Angora or any short-haired breed. Tan only prime
pelts for best results. Tan the Angora pelts when the wool is as long as you want, but
before the wool starts to shed and/or mat.

Soak and rinse hides in cold water. Do not stretch or dry. Squeeze out excess water and
dry with a cloth. Remove all fat. Hides can be put on a stretcher to remove fat if this
makes it easier for you. Don't remove the layers of membrane, just the fat. Slit the pelt
down the belling and legs, so it lays flat.

Mix together two parts salt, one part saltpeter, and two parts powdered alum. Measure
parts by volume, not weight. Saltpeter and alum can be purchased at the drug store.
Sprinkle on the skin and rub in well. Roll up the skin starting at the head end. Roll
individually in several layers of newspaper to absorb the excess water. Place in a plastic
bag and fasten with a twist tie. Keep in a cool place for fourteen (14) days. I put mine in
the back of the bottom shelf of my refrigerator.

After fourteen (14) days, rinse well several times. Squeeze out as much water as you can
and immediately begin peeling off the membrane layer. It seems easiest to start at the
neck edge and work your way down. This is the only hard part of the entire process. Use
your fingers to separate and pull the membrane. If the hide starts to dry, it will be
harder. In this case, rinse and squeeze, again. Be careful not to tear the hide. On some
hides, there seems to be an especially difficult spot at the pin bone area.

Now, allow the hides to dry very slowly by putting them hide-side down on a sheet of
plastic (a large garbage bag works well), or a vinyl or oilcloth tablecloth, and on a large,
flat surface such as a table or the floor. Be very careful NOT to put them in the sun or
wind where flies or animals can get to them.

The drying and working process takes about a week. Once or twice, or even three times
each day, turn the hides over, one at a time, and rub with a pumice stone. You can
purchase a pumice stone at the drug store, also. Get a natural pumice stone --- not on a
handle and not synthetic. The first day, the hides will be so wet that not much will be
accomplished, but as they begin to dry, you will see how pushing and rubbing with the
pumice stone stretches and softens. As areas become almost dry, pull with your fingers
and see the leather turn white and soft. After working each hide, immediately return it to
its hide-side-down position on the plastic. If it dries too quickly, it will get hard before it
can be worked soft. It should take about five to seven days to dry and be worked smooth
and soft.

On Angora hides, brush the wool with a slicker brush just as you would on a live rabbit.
Surprisingly, this tanning process does not mat the wool, but produces a beautifully
tanned hide.

                               LABORATORY RABBITS
The laboratory rabbit market is often difficult for the grower to locate information on.
This is mostly due to the "low-key profile" required for the laboratories and growers for
avoiding conflict with Animal Rights Activists (ARA's). This marketing area, in
particular, is of considerable concern to the activists and caution must be taken to avoid
advertising and to screen private inquiries.

Although considerable harm to humans, animals and facilities have been effected through
the years by violent ARA's toward laboratories and providers, the Animal Welfare Act
(AWA) has come about as a result of the activist organizations. The AWA ensures the
humane treatment, housing and care of all animals used for laboratory, exhibition, travel
in commerce, and to protect the owners of animals from the theft of their animals by
preventing the sale or use of animals which have been stolen. All laboratories must hold
AWA permits.
Likewise, through the pressure of ARA organizations, alternative methods to the use of
animals in research are being sought. However, until such time that successful
alternative methods can be devised for all areas needed, the rabbit will remain as a
valuable research animal. Rabbits are used for medical research, product testing and
educational training purposes in medical curriculums.

The use of successful alternative methods to the live animal, such as with the Draize Eye
Test, has had a direct bearing on this once flourishing market. Within the past 20 years,
the numbers of animals needed for laboratory use have decreased dramatically and
leaving the larger and steadier markets located on the west and east coasts. Growers
located far from the available markets need to consider the economics of providing to this
market due to shipping expenses.

As a specialized market, the provision of laboratory rabbits can be quite difficult for the
average grower. Not every laboratory will require rabbits every week or month, and the
grower would need to be able to cater to several laboratories for ensuring a steady
income. Some laboratories need only a few, while others require large numbers. Most
providers also cater to the rabbit meat industry as a more reliable source of income
between laboratory orders.

The greatest problem in providing laboratory rabbits lies in the specific requirements
dictated by the laboratories in accordance to whatever research is being conducted. Few
growers are able to provide 100 New Zealand White bucks at 6 months of age with only a
30-day or less notice! In addition, the laboratory may request the rabbits to all be further
classified as "Conventionally Raised", "Specific Pathogen Free " (SPF), or even of the
"Barrier Specific" class! A brief description of these classifications will explain the
difficulties involved.

"Conventionally Raised" rabbits are, simply, rabbits that have been raised in the same
way as for any other purpose. Facilities may be fully enclosed, open-ventilated, or even
outdoor caging. The rabbits need only to appear in good health and with no obvious
external parasites. These rabbits bring the lowest prices for laboratory use.

"Specific Pathogen Free" guarantees that the rabbits are free from a specific pathogen,
with Pasteurella Multocida and Bordatella as the more popular pathogens, but the rabbits
may carry others. The grower would need to maintain a sterile and "closed" rabbitry
facility for ensuring no contact with potential carriers of the specific pathogens. A
"closed" rabbitry does not allow outsiders to enter the rabbit facility. Workers must
change all clothing before and after entering the facility.

"Barrier Specific" rabbits are born by caesarean section and hand-raised to ensure no
contamination to pathogens through the birth canal. Facilities are enclosed, sterile, and
workers must wear apparel resembling space suits when entering the facility. For
obvious reasons, these rabbits bring the highest prices.
A grower wishing to sell to the laboratory market needs to also hold an AWA permit and
be subjected to unannounced inspections. Specific guidelines are provided for the raising
of laboratory rabbits, which may be found on the USDA web site (see links page).

                           CONVENTIONAL GROWERS
As stated in the AWA requirements for providing laboratories with rabbits, any grower
earning $500.00 or more in annual gross sales to pet stores and laboratories must hold
current AWA permits. But, what about those whose sales fall below that amount?

Just as many chain stores are allowed to purchase rabbit meat for resale purposes from
local small growers that meet the qualifications instead of each grower having to provide
enough for the entire chain, likewise, some laboratories and universities are able to
purchase smaller quantities of conventionally raised rabbits from individual growers that
do not hold AWA permits.

The most popular market for the smaller quantities is to universities that use rabbits for
training medical students. These rabbits are anesthetized and opened up to enable the
students to view the internal organs actually working. In the majority of cases, while the
rabbits are anesthetized, other research information is also being gathered and giving the
rabbits a two-fold purpose. The rabbits are then given a fatal dose and disposed of by

The New Zealand White in the five-pound range is most often requested for this market.
Lop-eared breeds are not desirable due to an automatic association with "pet" rabbits, as
well as the thinner ears causing difficulties in applying the IV.

With gross annual sales under $500.00, this is obviously not a viable market for year-
round sales for the non-AWA conventional grower. However, it can fit nicely into a
program for alternative markets. Most often, the universities require rabbits for one
semester, only.

The grower is strongly cautioned in approaching universities for this potential market.
Inquiries can be easily mistaken for ARA's seeking information for targeting the
university for a protest... or worse. The grower will need to provide authentic and
reliable references for his/her credibility. In some cases, a licensed AWA broker may
solicit conventionally-raised rabbits for laboratory use from several individual growers in
order to fill the larger orders.

Likewise, this market is not recommended for "under the table" sales, since it requires
paperwork and record-keeping and the sales are reported to the IRS.

Not surprisingly, several rabbit equipment companies have originated as a "side-line"
business to a private rabbit-raising venture as the growers learned to make their own
cages, feed hoppers and other equipment in an effort to save money. In several cases,
this "side-line business" has outlasted and been more profitable than the rabbit raising
venture, and branching out to include equipment for other animals, as well.

These businesses have always started small and grown as the owner learns the specific
requirements for the making of rabbit cages and other equipment. If catering to the pet
rabbit market, customers will often ask if cages are also available, since the general
public most often has no idea where to find ready-made cages, and this is how this kind
of a business usually begins.

The majority of rabbit shows welcome commercial vendors, which provides an excellent
opportunity for a beginning equipment business. Few (if any) local retail stores carry
suitable caging needed by the majority of rabbit breeders and thusly, this provides a
service for both the new equipment business and the breeders that normally must resort to
mail-order for obtaining the needed equipment. An accurate listing of available rabbit
shows is a necessity, as well as a truck or trailer to haul the equipment to the shows.
Rabbit shows are held year-round and each state has their own local vendors that depend
upon the shows for their business.

For the grower that may be considering this option, please bear in mind that it is a
"business," and as such, requires a local business license. Inventories, sales and sales
taxes (if applicable) all apply and must be reported. Bookkeeping is a must. However, a
business license is also an advantage when purchasing materials for the making of
equipment for resale purposes by qualifying the license holder to purchase at wholesale
prices. Likewise, this provides an additional savings on equipment for personal use, but
the amount used for personal use must also be tracked and reported.

Special tools will be required for the mass production of cages and are available in a wide
variety of prices and models ranging from the occasional cage builder tools to the
professional that needs mass production ease. For example, hand-operated wire cutters
(scissor type) may be suitable for the occasional cage builder, but is hard on the hands of
the mass producer that needs a mechanized pneumatic professional wire cutting
machine. Likewise, a length of a 2 x 4 serves as a "wire bender," but the mass producer
will need a special wire-bending machine. As the new business person grows, these
special machines can be purchased as needed.

This type of business is easily expandable simply by producing an attractive catalog and
advertising in rabbit magazines, which means a mail-order business. Many begin with
just a simple home produced flyer showing cage dimensions, variety of sizes and styles
and the prices. The scope of the business is entirely up to the owner, but keep in mind...
the bigger the business, the greater the need to hire employees.

For the new grower, it is not advisable to jump into such a business, since much will
depend upon individual skill and knowledge in the making of rabbit cages. Different
sized wires are used for the cage bottoms than for the sides and tops, and one must learn
which side is the "top" side for cage bottom wire. This alone can make a major
difference in the prevention of sore hocks with rabbits. Likewise, rabbit wire is available
in non-galvanized and galvanized before and/or after welding as well as different
"gauges" (thicknesses). Purchasing quantities of rabbit cage wire "by the foot" from local
hardware stores is not advisable... the mass producer should preferably order the wire
direct from the company that makes the wire for economic reasons, or shop around for
the best prices available from other equipment dealers willing to honor wholesale orders.
Rabbit wires are sold in 100-foot rolls.

Ordering materials wholesale also means ordering quantities. The majority of companies
require minimum orders to qualify for wholesale prices in addition to a business license
number. The larger the quantity on one specific item, the lower the unit price for
additional savings.

A small, family-owned and run business may not be able to expand to include a mail-
order business, or simply may not wish to be that big and busy. Others have all the
business they can handle just from local sales and local shows. Again, it is totally
dependent upon individual choices and goals as to "how big" the business will be.
Likewise, this business goes hand-in-hand with the Supply Industry.

                             THE SUPPLY INDUSTRY
The supply industry often goes hand-in-hand with the equipment business as most
vendors will carry both. However, some will specialize in "all equipment," while others
prefer "all supplies." In order to understand the difference between "equipment" and
"supplies," we need to turn to our tax forms for a description.

"Equipment" are assets intended to last a minimum of seven (7) years. This would
include cages, machines, office equipment, furniture, swamp coolers and/or air
conditioners, automatic watering systems, fans, barns, electric bug zappers, vehicles and
etc. as an example.

"Supplies" are items that are "used up" on a regular basis. Medicines and drugs,
grooming aids and tools, clothing, crocks, water bottles, salt licks, books, show
paraphernalia, odor-ridding compounds, spray bottles, rabbit pelts, arm wraps, pine
shavings, and so on. Even feed, hay and feed supplements fall into this category, but the
feed industry will be covered separately.

Competition among equipment vendors at rabbit shows can be keen. Often, if there are
two or more equipment/cage vendors present at the rabbit shows, the new business person
may wish to consider offering only supplies as a means of not only lessening the
competition, but accenting the equipment vendors. Too many vendors offering the same
products can cause hard feelings. For the new business person, the key is to offer
something "different" and thereby respecting the other businesses by not competing with
them for customers.

Likewise, some vendors specialize only in specific products, such as odor-ridding
compounds, and may have a distributorship with the company that makes the product. A
distributorship generally guarantees the vendor exclusive rights to selling the product
within the residing state or region and other applicants must deal through the distributor
or in some cases, be denied since a distributor is currently existing for that area.

As with the equipment industry, a local business license will be a necessity in order to
sell at retail prices, and to order quantities at wholesale prices. This requirement also
holds true for vendors specializing in jewelry, knickknacks, photography, clothing, etc.
Anyone selling retail to the general public needs to hold a current business license.
Business licenses are renewed annually. Likewise, such a business requires detailed
inventories, bookkeeping and paperwork and all sales must be reported.

For obvious reasons, the offering of medicines and drugs is very limited to the average
vendor. Only "over the counter" medicines may be offered, the same as can be found in
feed stores and not requiring prescriptions. There will be very few available for rabbits,
since no drug base has ever been established for rabbits, and rabbit breeders are often
forced to use over-the-counter products intended for other animals. The more popular
medical supplies not requiring refrigeration that are commonly used for rabbits would be:
VetRX for Rabbits, powdered Terramycin, Mitacides, Coccidiostats, Nutrical,
Electrolytes, vitamins, cat flea powder, Sevin, bag balms and first aid ointments.
Books about rabbit raising are hard to come by, but are always in great demand.
Likewise, ARBA materials are excellent sellers, particularly the ARBA Guide Book,
Pedigree books and the Standard of Perfection as well as the smaller pamphlets produced
by ARBA. New rabbit breeders are often unaware of the existence of ARBA and don't
know where to find these items, but may have learned about a local rabbit show.
However, please be aware that all ARBA printed books and pamphlets are updated every
five (5) years and the vendor needs to plan the quantities in accordance, since everyone
will want the most recent versions. Outdated versions may be donated to 4-H clubs or
local libraries.

Providing supplies is not as labor intensive as in the making and selling of equipment.
The majority of supply vendors/dealers simply buy wholesale and resell the products at
retail prices, whereas the majority of the equipment vendors make and sell their own
cages, etc. However, the opportunity for expanding into a large company or corporation
is not as opportunistic as it is with the equipment companies.

It often comes as a surprise to the new grower to learn that rabbit manure can very
quickly pile up! Just because the rabbit is a small animal and the droppings are neatly
and naturally pelletized, manure removal is an on-going fact of life. Experienced
growers have been known to claim "for every ton of feed I buy, I get three tons of manure
back!" Although this may be an exaggeration, it really isn't that far from the truth.
Rabbits are perfected manure machines. Even the single pet bunny owner will lament the
fact that the rabbit cannot take three hops without leaving a trail of droppings. Much to
their dismay, the rabbit has very little control of the anal muscles and litter-box training is
limited to urine control in the majority of cases.

For the grower with the larger herds, the manure can be either a profitable asset, or a
problem. The days of "creating a pile behind the barn" may soon be non-existent as the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthens restrictions on the storage of
manures, and rabbit manure is no exception. In the U.S.A., the EPA concerns are mostly
concentrated on potential metal contamination, while in Europe, nitrogen contents are
creating problems with manures stored in direct contact with the ground and
contaminating ground water. Growers will need to pay attention to proper manure
storage for avoiding potential future problems as the rules continue to change.

Methods of manure removal range from shovel-and-wheelbarrow to ingenious
mechanized conveyor belts underneath the rabbit cages. Storage ranges from the "pile
behind the barn" to special manure pits as used by cattle and hog farmers. Likewise, the
uses of the rabbit manure will also vary.

                            USES FOR RABBIT MANURE
Rabbit manure used as a plant fertilizer is superior to other manures due to its unique
composition. Often referred to as "super fertilizer" or "Bunny Gold," gardeners revel in
the fast and abundant growth of their crops, plants, gardens and produce. When the
manure has been aged and air-dried, rabbit manure will not "burn" the plants when
applied directly to the plants. "Fresh" manure, however, is extremely high in acid content
from the urine and should not be used.

Composting with rabbit manure is also popular and rabbit manure ranks among the finest
of all manures to use for this purpose.

Worm farming (Vermiculture) has additional benefits as the worms thrive in properly
maintained worm beds and rabbit manure is the favorite manure to use for raising
worms. Although not recommended to keep worm beds underneath the cages in a fully-
enclosed facility due to the need for a higher humidity in keeping the worm beds moist,
the raising of worms under cages can be used to eliminate odor in the barns. Open-
ventilated barns are ideal for this venture.

Worm farming also provides additional income by selling the worms for bait or
composting, and the worm "castings" as potting soil.

Occasional, even the urine can be used, such as "scent" for masking human smells for
                            SELLING RABBIT MANURE
This is where this industry starts to get a bit tricky. As with just about everything else,
each state will vary to some degree in its requirements. Overall, however, most of the
states are quite similar and standard when it comes to the selling of animal manures for
fertilizer. It will be essential for each grower to check with their state's Department of
Agriculture (usually the Pesticide Division) for the current regulations for selling manure
as fertilizer.

The majority of rabbit growers will sell bags and even truck loads of manure directly to
the individual customer. The customer may be a farmer, gardener, worm farmer, or
someone wanting fertilizer for a flower garden. Many rabbit breeders with the smaller
herds will gladly give away the manure, just to be able to get rid of it. Prices vary
according to who loads the manure... the provider, or the customer. It is not uncommon
for customers to willingly collect the manure from beneath the cages and saving the
grower the effort of cleaning.

So long as the manure is "un-manipulated," the growers can sell it directly to the
customer. "Un- manipulated" means nothing done to the manure before selling it. Even
shredding it is a form of manipulation! The manure needs to be exactly as it came from
the animal.

Problems arise as soon as the grower either attempts to enhance the manure, or wishes to
professionally bag it to sell to stores for resale purposes, and this is the reason why rabbit
manure fertilizer is not generally found on retail shelves. Some of the requirements for
marketing fertilizer for resale purposes entails the requirements of nutrient analysis and a
proper metals analysis, obtaining a Unified Business Identification (UBI) Master License
as a manufacturer, and registering the fertilizer (a separate annual permit). Likewise, the
label must be very specific in the information it contains. Copies of both of the analysis
reports must be submitted in order to register, so it's not just a matter of copying general
information. Likewise, nutrient analysis may vary from herd to herd depending upon the
type of feed and/or supplements used. Fertilizer manufacturers are subjected to an annual
inspection of the manufacturing facilities and procedure. Stores carrying fertilizer
products are also inspected to ensure proper labeling for that state and includes products
brought in from other states.

There are no ways of "getting around" these requirements for wholesaling fertilizer for
resale purposes. Manure is manure, regardless if it is called "potting soil" or "a soil
enhancement." If it improves the growth of plants, then it is a legitimate fertilizer and
subject to all regulations. Few rabbit growers are able to produce the quantities needed to
make the expense of professionally manufacturing rabbit fertilizer worthwhile and
profitable. It is highly unlikely that a small operation for catering to local stores, only,
would cover the overall expense of manufacturing rabbit fertilizer.

                                  A Near Perfect Solution
                                    by Renee' Barefoot
                           Barefoot's Rabbitry & Worm Farm

Vermicomposting allows nature to work at its best, even on a small scale. Worms
recycle organic waste back into a useful soil additive. Castings (used up worm bedding)
are undoubtedly the best organic soil conditioner there is.

Worms thrive in manure-rich bedding; they are the best little garbage disposals. Rabbit
manure is perfect for the red worm (Eisenia Foetida). Rabbit manure does not go through
a heating stage like other manures. Well tended worm beds either under the rabbit cages
or in another location will keep the odor and flies to a minimum. Gardens will benefit
from worms and castings in ways of increased moisture retention, better aerated soil,
increase in soil fertility and helps to break up clay soil.

Tests performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that soil worked by worms is
ten times richer in plant nutrients than soil that was not worked by worms.

Worm Soil Nutrients % Increase Than Non-Worm Soil

          Nitrate of Nitrogen      500
          Available Phosphorous       700
          Exchangeable Potassium 1200
          Exchangeable Calcium        150
          Organic Carbon        200
The castings are used in our greenhouse, garden and flower beds. For the castings to be
sterile and weed-free, it has to be heated to a temperature of 160 F. Unfortunately, this
will kill any remaining worms and egg capsules. It may be more beneficial to pull a few
weeds and keep the worms doing their job. Castings can be applied on top of the ground
around the plants or mixed into the soil. For potted plants, mix ½ castings with your
favorite potting soil.

Getting back to rabbits and worms, rabbits and red worms are a near perfect
combination. For the rabbit and worm grower, not enough emphasis can be put on the
fact that good management of the worm bed is the only way that Vermicomposting will
work to its greatest potential. Even if a grower never sells one worm, the rabbitry will
benefit greatly with this natural combination.

What has been done at the Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm is to build frames in the
rabbitry to support each row of rabbit cages. Some rabbitries have the cages hanging
from the ceiling. Either way works. Under each row of cages, a 1" x 2" wood board
placed 6" wider than the support frame will ensure catching all of the waste and including
strewed rabbit food. Between the rows of cages and worm beds is a cement walk. The
worm beds were started with peat moss, grass clippings, raked leaves, soiled rabbit and
horse hay, shredded newspaper and waste from the garden.

A better description would be to simply start with anything "organic" to help keep the
cost down. Do not use any meats, fried or greasy food or dairy products, which will
cause problems that are explained later in this article. With easy access to two nearby
cotton plants, we have access to all the cotton balls anyone could ever need. Cotton balls
are a great worm bedding and are usually free for the asking. Cotton is very difficult to
completely saturate; it needs to be wet frequently at first until moist enough for the
worms to live in.

All of the worm beddings are changed out once a year. This is done in February when
the weather is cold. The worms are less active and there is fewer loss of any unhatched
capsules and small worms. The use of bright lights will also help to drive the worms
deeper into the ground. The castings are stored for later use in the spring.

To start a new bed, place the bedding material inside the worm bed frame and taking care
not to fill the worm bed more than half way to ensure enough room for mixing the
bedding. If the bedding material is "green" (fresh), it needs to be wetted thoroughly and
allowed to go through a heating stage before introducing worms to it. This heating will
take at least a week. There also needs to be room for the rabbit manure. The worms will
compost the manure, but the volume is still there. After the bedding material is in the
worm frame and mixed, thoroughly wet the bedding material, mix again and wet, again.
Allow it to set overnight and repeat this procedure every day for one week. This will
ensure an even dampness and comfortable home for the red worms.

On the beginning day of starting the worm bed and following up once a month thereafter,
apply one quart of dolomatic lime to every two square foot of surface bedding, taking
care to wet down the lime after each application to keep the dust down to a minimum.
Prolonged exposure to lime dust has been known to cause respiratory problems, which
rabbits are susceptible to. Lime is safe for the rabbits only if the dust cloud is kept
down. Lime will not hurt the worms in any way. Lime keeps the worm bedding PH level
neutral, or at level 7. The worms cannot and will not live in acidic soil. The lime also
helps to keep foul odors and flies to a minimum.

Later on, a place in the worm bed may be noticed where the rabbits have urinated
frequently and is lacking worms in that spot ("hot spots"). The bedding in that spot is too
acidic and needs to be removed to a compost pile where it can properly break down. Do
not discard this part of the bedding as it is very rich in calcium. These urine spots will
more than likely be where a buck urinates. Buck urine is much higher in ammonia than
doe urine and creating a higher concentration of acid in one spot. The bedding
underneath a cage of a weaned litter of rabbits will also be higher in acid. An extra
application of dolomatic lime to these spots will help with the high acid content.

The bedding is completely aerated every two weeks by turning or mixing the bedding
material. The red worm only lives in the top 6-8 inches of bedding; there is no need to
mix the bedding under 8 inches until it is time to clean out the worm bed and start over.
It is crucial for the bedding to stay moist, but not soggy. Red worms travel better and
reproduce better in bedding that is not overly wet. However, the red worm will be much
larger if the bedding, or at least some part of it, is very wet. The rabbits do not need to be
where the humidity is very high, which wet worm beds will cause. Separate worms beds
with a higher moisture content for "fattening" the worms may be kept. Rabbit cages with
pull-out sliding trays may be regularly emptied into separate worm beds that have no
rabbits over them.

The waste that is used on these other beds is used only on certain beds for research
purposes, such as the use of guinea pig waste emptied into its own worm bed. For all the
cavy lovers with more poop than you know what to do with, here is the ideal use. Red
worms love the waste from guinea pigs. If cedar shavings are used, it takes a little longer
for the worm to compost it. Otherwise, treat the bed just like a regular vermicost bed.

Only after everything is ready can the red worm be introduced into its new home.
Worms can either be dug or purchased from an already established worm farm. There
will be a need for about two pounds of worms for every four square foot of surface
bedding. Bed run red worms are recommended to start with since you get more worms
for the money and they adapt much better than mature breeders. With Bed run red
worms, you will receive large and small worms, egg capsules and any very small just-
hatched out worms. Go with what you can afford and nature will help you with the rest.
Just remember that quality is better than quantity. Be very wary of the so-called "buy-
back" plans or the "superworms." Ask for and check references; you may come out much
better off by doing this. Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm takes pride in having built
and still building a business on quality and honesty.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Happy Vermicomposting!

                                  WORM FARMING
                          Vermicomposting, A Simple Overview
                                  by Renee Barefoot

Here at Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm, we have been vermicomposting for 30 years.
Twenty of those years we never knew that there was an exact name for it. We do know,
as my grandparents knew, that vermicomposting and composting produce superior
quality plants and vegetables.

For those of you who don't know what vermicomposting is, don't feel bad --- a lot of
people don't. Vermicomposting is simply composting with worms. It is a very rewarding
feeling knowing that you have done a part to help the earths growing waste problems.
Vermiculture is not a total solution to waste reduction, but, as more people become aware
of the worms' mighty composting power, the earth will be a cleaner, greener place to live.

Something so worthwhile is very simple to do. The first thing that needs to be decided on
is what kind of container to use, what size and where to keep it. Many people start out
with 10-gallon plastic containers. They are kept in kitchens, laundry rooms, garages,
basements and any place where there is easy access to.

The easiest material needed is the organic waste, which all of us have plenty of. There
will be a need for organic bedding material. This can be peat moss, leaves, grass
clippings, shredded newspaper, etc. Whatever you use, it needs to be 100% organic.
Don't fill the bin up; keep it at ½ to 3/4 full. Waste will be gradually added to the bin and
there needs to be room to aerate the bedding. The bedding needs to be moist and turned
every day for at least one week before introducing any worms or waste into it. This will
ensure an even dampness and the bedding will have gone through a heat stage if the
material used was green when put into the bin.

 Next comes the fun part --- digging or purchasing the worms (source provided at the end
of this article). The best worm for the job is the Eisenia foetida, commonly known as the
Red Worm. A good way to tell how many worms to start with is to weigh your food
waste for a couple of days and excluding any and all meats, fried foods and dairy
products. You will need 2 lbs. Of worms for every pound of food waste. For example, if
there is a food waste of one lb. per day, then there is a need of 2 lbs. of worms or
approximately 2,000 worms to start with.

 The worms will need a few days to adjust to their new home, so don't become alarmed if
they seem not to be eating. Wait about two days after introducing the worms to the fin to
feed them. Be sure to completely bury the food wast in a new location every time. Keep
the bedding moist, but not soggy. Do not overload the bin with food waste. Either of
these will create a foul smell and attract rodents, flies and other insects.

  The PH level needs to be kept at around 7 or neutral. To achieve this, apply about one
quart of domestic lime to a 10-gallon bin. Mix thoroughly and keep it moist. Do this
once a month and there should be no problems unless the bins becomes overloaded with
waste. The lime will not, in any way, hurt the worms. Worms prefer darkness and any
light to them is like a sunburn to us. Laying a few layers of newspaper on top of the
bedding will achieve enough darkness to keep the worms happy and composting.

As the worms multiply, they can be used to create new vermicompost bins. Larger,
outside beds work on the same concept as the smaller ones. If there is no desire to create
new beds, why not share your new worms with a neighbor and teach someone else the art
of vermicomposting?

Every 6 months, the worms will need to be removed from the old bedding and started
back in fresh bedding. This used up bedding is called "castings." Castings are very dark
and rich in nutrients and make a wonderful organic fertilizer for all types of flowers and

Even if there is an abundance of worms, they will live in flower beds, potted plants,
gardens, pastures, lawns, etc., provided that all is organic. During extreme hot or cold
weather, the worm will burrow down into the ground until it is comfortable. Here is a
tip: you know the worms are happy if they don't leave!

These are the basics to vermicomposting. We hope you enjoyed it; any questions or
comments, please feel free to contact me.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Happy vermicomposting!

Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm
Att.: Renee Barefoot
570 Mamie Rd.
Bensen, N.C. 27504
(919) 894-3990


Offering "services" as a business or for additional income can also be advantageous.
Veterinarians and research scientists also fall under this category, but the average rabbit
breeder can likewise take advantage of the provision of an intangible product, and often,
it is limited only by one's imagination.

Tattoo services are widely needed by 4-H rabbit project members, youth breeders and
new show exhibitors. Although licensed registrars are able to tattoo rabbits with
identification numbers, they are often too busy registering rabbits at the shows for which
they have been consigned. To set up a separate tattooing service at a rabbit show, please
check with the show superintendent well in advance of the show, first, since this may fall
into the "vendor" category and may require a small fee for setting up a table. The
standard fee for tattooing is $1.00 per ear or rabbit.

As a breeder becomes more experienced and knowledgeable about rabbits, it is not
unusual for others to take note of this fact and the breeder's opinions are valued,
particularly in regard to evaluating a rabbit for show purposes. Many of the smaller
county fairs are unable to hire licensed Rabbit Judges and seek out these more
knowledgeable breeders for judging the 4-H rabbit classes. This is a paid position as well
as an opportunity to gain valuable experience for the breeder wishing to work toward a
registrar or rabbit judge license. Since 4-H judging uses the Danish System instead of the
American System of judging, a licensed ARBA Rabbit Judge is not a requirement for
judging the 4-H classes.

With the advent of popularity of the pet house bunny, there is also a need for experienced
and knowledgeable rabbit care for boarding pet rabbits when the owners go on vacation
or trips and must leave bunny behind. A pet sitting service or boarding business can
easily be developed, but there will be regulations and licensing requirements.

Many feed and pet stores offer assemble-your-own rabbit cages that need to be put
together. The new rabbit owner is dismayed to discover that special tools are required for
assembly... and they don't come with the cage! Nor do they have any idea as to what the
cage is supposed to even look like and which pieces are the bottom, top or sides. So, they
go looking for a rabbit farm to assist them. If the bunny was purchased from the farm,
they will automatically ask for help to assemble the cage. A small fee can be charged for
the cage assembly.
Although a "tangible" product, breeders with the larger herds will buy their feed by the
ton. It is not unusual for feed stores to carry rabbit feed that is available only in 50-pound
bags, which is way too much for one pet bunny to eat within three months time and a
waste of money for the pet bunny owner. After three months, the feed will lose its
nutritional value, which can endanger the health of the rabbit. Offering smaller quantities
in 5 or 10 lb. bags from the breeders own supply of feed will reap many happy and repeat
pet bunny food customers.

For the breeder that is particularly skilled and knowledgeable in a specific area of
marketing or rabbit raising, there is a need for honest and truthful seminars, particularly
in regard to the rabbit meat industry, for combating the "get rich quick" and "buy-back"
scams and myths. Although entire rabbit clubs most often put on local seminars for 4-H
youth to educate about rabbits, there is a definite need for a separate seminar specifically
for adults interested in entering a rabbit raising venture. Such a seminar needs to be well
planned and arranged complete with handouts, overheads, advertising and the rental of a
conference room. As with most "business" seminars, a registration fee should be charged
for attendance purposes. Additional books, videos and other related items can also be
offered for sale at the seminar.

Magazines, Journals and newsletters also fall under the "service" category. With the
popularity of computers and desktop publishing software, the production of a rabbit
magazine is limited only by the individual skills of the writer/publisher. Although most
rabbit clubs offer newsletters with membership, there is a severe shortage of available
rabbit magazines. This, however, also classifies as a separate business and requires a
business license.

Likewise, there is a shortage of accurate and current rabbit care books on the retail
shelves. The majority of available books are either severely outdated, contain false
information, or were written about European breeds that do not exist in the USA.
Ironically, a "new" book by a popular USA author incorrectly identifies a photo of a
Silver Marten rabbit as a "Silver Fox." Another popular book found in pet stores clearly
states the importance of the rabbit's top and bottom front teeth "meeting together evenly,"
which is not only incorrect, but a form of simple malocclusion commonly called "butted
teeth"... an automatic disqualification in rabbit shows. There is an obvious need for a
talented and rabbit knowledgeable writer to provide an accurate rabbit care book to be
available to the general public.

A word of caution when considering charging for intangible services. Experienced
breeders are often approached by new or unknowledgeable rabbit owners when a bunny
becomes ill, and likewise, many will offer to pay for the breeders' opinion and advise. It
is strongly advisable not to accept or charge for this service unless the breeder is also a
licensed and practicing veterinarian! To charge or accept payment for a non-professional
diagnosis is called "malpractice" and can lead to legal complications.
                            ALTERNATIVE MARKETS:


When catering to the Rabbit Meat industry, the grower quickly learns that this industry is
basically a "seasonal" market that simply does not correspond with the natural prolificacy
of rabbits. What this means, then, is that rabbits are more prolific, abundant and easier to
breed during the early spring to the late fall season when consumers are either on
vacation or simply too hot or busy to want to cook. However, the demand for rabbit meat
is higher during the more difficult early to late winter period when breeders are having
problems with the "Winter Breeding Slump," and the supply of rabbit meat is lower.

Catering to the rabbit meat industry requires regulating the growers' business in
accordance with the processors' demands. Processors will attempt to regulate their own
business in accordance with the seasonal demands, and this is effected in different ways.
At least one processor is known to simply "shut down" during the summer months, while
others may simply accept fryers only from growers that supplied fryer rabbits during the
previous difficult winter months. Still others will lower the prices paid for fryer rabbits
to discourage growers from selling to them during the low demand periods. The summer
months is not a recommended time for a new grower to attempt to enter the rabbit meat

For the grower whose livelihood depends upon the rabbit meat industry, this situation can
cause considerable problems. Processors expect the growers to either not breed their
rabbits, or to cut back during the low demand periods, which directly affects the growers'
income that is depended upon for a living and resulting in a "feast or famine" situation.
To ensure a steady, year-round income, the grower is faced with finding alternative
markets during the low demand seasons to take up the slack in income and enable
continuation of the desired breed-back schedules. Once a breed-back schedule has been
disrupted, it is often difficult to get the rabbits "back on schedule," again.

This section will attempt to provide several different options for the grower to consider as
additional outlets during the low-demand periods.

Ironically, the best selling season for pet rabbits is during the low-demand rabbit meat
season, and particularly during the Easter season. Although the smaller breeds are the
most popularly requested, there is still a demand for the white "Cadbury Egg Bunny" for
pet purposes. Some of the larger meat breeds, such as the French Lop, make wonderful
pets for small children. Although large, this breed is generally of an even temperament
and large enough for a child to literally wrap their arms around the bunny without
causing harm to the rabbit. The grower, however, may wish to raise a smaller breed
specifically for the pet market for tapping the best income for this market.
A few words of caution, however: As stated in the "Pet Rabbit" section, there is little to
no market for "mixed breeds," and it will likewise be essential to provide printed rabbit
care materials with every pet bunny sold. Care must also be taken in choosing the small
breed for pet purposes, since a "nasty temperament" is often a survival trait for the tiny
breeds, just as in Bantam roosters and Shetland ponies. "Small" is not always "easier to
handle" for a pet bunny, and especially for children. Exceptions apply only in those
herds that cull on disposition problems.

A basic understanding of training a "house bunny" to a litter box is also recommended
along with a willingness to honestly "educate" the new pet rabbit owner on the true
natural behavioral traits of rabbits. Too many people expect rabbits to behave like a dog
or a cat and are disappointed when they discover otherwise. As with all animals, the
"key" to having the "perfect pet" is in the understanding and acceptance of what is
NORMAL AND NATURAL for that animal. Honesty and truthfulness will be important
to ensure satisfied customers, repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising.

"Feeder rabbits" are in great demand year-round as food for carnivorous pet reptiles and
the larger pet snakes. Today's pet choices have no bounds and the more "exotic" pets
have become popular. Owners of these exotic reptiles generally rely upon pet shops
catering to a reptile clientele for a source of food for their pets. However, a lack of space
in the pet stores for keeping the larger food animals creates a definite problem for the
owners of the larger reptiles and snakes.

Likewise, the prices of the more commonly used food animals, such as rats, have
skyrocketed. The owner of an 8-foot Python would need to purchase up to ten rats at one
time for one feeding, and snakes generally need to eat every two weeks, except when
shedding. This, then, has become economically impractical for the larger snake owners
and forcing them to seek other alternatives.

In the wild, the rabbit is a natural prey animal for all predators and including reptiles and
snakes, and the rabbit is the food of choice for feeding the larger pet snakes. Chickens
have proven to be dangerous to snakes due to the talons and beaks causing damage and
requiring removal of the legs or feet and sometimes the beak on these birds.

Today's trend is toward the "pre-kill" method of feeding food animals to reptiles and
snakes. Rabbit growers can also help to educate the new snake owner and to dispel the
popular myth that "live food is necessary for maintaining muscle tone" in snakes. It is
not necessary for a snake to have live food in order to maintain muscle tone. However,
the area of difficulty is in attempting to change from live food to the "pre-kill" method.
Once a snake has tasted "live" food, it is very difficult to change them over to dead meat.
Many rabbit growers prefer to sell only to the "pre-kill" reptile market, which is strictly
an individual choice.

Ideally, reptile feeder rabbits should come from the same cages intended for human
consumption. Pet snake owners are just as concerned as other pet owners in the quality
of food for their pets and do not want sick or diseased rabbits. The most popular sizes for
snake feeders is 3 to 5 pound rabbits, but it is not uncommon to sell up to 10 pound
rabbits as snake food. (BIG snakes!)

Naturally, snakes do not care about the color, sex, age, size or breed of the rabbit, but the
owners will want a rabbit large enough to satisfy the snake for convenience in feeding.
Prices charged for feeder rabbits should be the same as for live fryers intended for human
consumption to the general public.

For obvious reasons, it is not advisable to advertise the availability of "Feeder Rabbits"
except in magazines catering to a reptile clientele. Quantities of business cards provided
to the pet shops will glean referrals of the large pet snake owners, and the snake owners
will share information with other pet snake owners on the availability of food for their
unique pets.

Although many may cringe at the thought of feeding rabbits to snakes and reptiles, even
if the rabbit is dead, it is a very viable market resulting in year-round repeat business.
An often over-looked area, growers wishing to cater to the reptile market should watch
for carnivals and circuses that have reptile displays for additional occasional sales.
Owners of these reptile displays will compile their own lists of "local" sources of rabbits
in each town they schedule, and will return for more rabbits whenever they are in the

This market goes hand-in-hand with the Reptile Feeder Market and for the same intent,
but the reptiles and snakes are much smaller. The remarkable attraction of this market is
in the profitability of a small income from what would otherwise be a total loss to the
grower. A brief description will explain why.

"Pinkies" are newborn and naked (no fur) rabbits that were born dead, and it happens to
all rabbit breeders. The "Pinkies" are cleaned and frozen in zipped freezer bags and later
sold to individual customers, or to pet stores catering to a reptile clientele. Rabbit
"Pinkies" are ideal for the snakes that are too small for the larger "feeder" rabbits, but
require something larger than a rat "Pinkie." Rabbit "Pinkies" can be packaged six to a
baggie as an ideal amount for resale purposes or individual use.

"Fuzzies" are older rabbits that have fur. Often, a young rabbit will become trapped and
squashed behind a nest box, die from hypothermia, drown in a water crock, or a multitude
of other unfortunate causes, but excluding disease. These may be cleaned, packaged,
frozen and sold individually. Occasionally, a snake or reptile owner may request a much
larger "Fuzzy" in which a rabbit that has died from heat or heart attack will be
satisfactory. Simply check the local pet stores for the current prices of "Pinkies" and
"Fuzzies" for establishing both wholesale and retail prices on rabbit "Pinkies" and
Again, the emphasis will be on providing healthy food for pet reptiles. A rabbit that has
died from scours or enteric (diarrhea) problems is too messy to bother with, and the cause
of the problem would be questionable.

The North American continent has set up special reservations for the careful protection of
endangered carnivorous species. In particular, the Eagle, the Condor (Peregrine),
Alligator and the Wolf. Emphasis is in breeding these species with the long-term goal of
being able to repopulate the wild population, again. The animals are dependent upon the
caretakers for a plentiful food supply. Naturally, the food needs to be as close to
"natural" as possible, and this is where the rabbit comes into play.

Certain species, such as the Condor, are "scavengers" wherein the rabbits are fed pre-
killed due to the Condor's natural preference for dead meat. As with reptiles, Condors are
not concerned with color, age, sex, size or breed of rabbit, and likewise, sick and diseased
rabbits are also accepted.

Often, considerable quantities of rabbits are needed year-round to provide food for the
endangered species, and dependent upon the numbers of breeding pairs of the endangered
animals or birds. In some cases, the growers with the smaller herds are not able to
provide the quantities needed on a regular basis.

A simple request to a Fish and Game or Wildlife department will reveal the locations of
these reservations.

Military bases often use large quantities of rabbits for survival training purposes.
Although the Domestic Rabbit is not native to the North American continent, there is not
a plentiful supply of the wild cottontails, jack rabbits and other native rabbit species
needed for this purpose in the specific area required for the training. So, the Domestic
Rabbit is used.

These rabbits are sold live and will be eventually killed as each participant must track
down, kill and prepare his own food (rabbit) during the training. Although color, age,
sex, size and breed seldom matters, there is a preference for the up-right eared rabbits.
For obvious reasons, the grower should make every attempt to ensure healthy rabbits,
since they will be consumed. Likewise, this is a year- round market that requires
moderate to large numbers and is not recommended for the small herd growers.

Greyhound dogs are trained to race. While a fake rabbit will be used in the races, the
greyhound preferably needs a live rabbit for training purposes since speed is essential.
Greyhound trainers will often request "rabbits that can run fast!" For best results, fryer
rabbits are ideal due to their youth, speed and agility, and it will be important that the
rabbit NOT be tamed, accustomed to being handled, or raised around dogs. Again, the
upright-eared breeds are preferred.

Every state has at least one Raptor Rehabilitative Center for rehabilitating injured or
abandoned carnivorous birds of prey and returning them to the wild, again. These birds
are totally dependent upon the caretakers for food, and the emphasis is, once again, on
providing food that can be found in the wild, which is the rabbit.

Requests may vary and be dependent upon the specie of birds on hand. Some will prefer
rabbits that are as close to a natural "wild" color and size as possible, and may be either
dead or alive depending upon the circumstances. A severely injured bird would not have
the energy or means to kill its own food and may need to be hand-fed.

Many of these centers depend completely upon donations for their existence and much
will depend upon each individual center's funding as to whether or not they are able to
pay for raptor food. Many breeders will donate unwanted rabbits to the raptor centers.
However, when desperate, they will pay for suitable rabbits to be used as food.

A zoo consists of a large number of animals, many of whom are carnivorous and natural
predators. Since these animals are not intended to be released into the wild and many
have been born in captivity, the food animals (rabbits) are always pre-killed before being
fed to the intended animals. As one can imagine, the quantities needed can be a very
viable and year-round alternative market for the serious grower.

Not surprisingly, show dog owners have discovered some unique benefits of feeding
rabbit meat to their show dogs. Many claim that rabbit meat improves the coat quality of
the dogs and report "the best coats ever" for show purposes! Not all have caught onto
this, however, but there is at least one commercial dog food that uses rabbit meat.

Show dog owners will often create their own dog food and/or supplements, just as show
rabbit growers often do. The rabbit meat is cooked, deboned, and mixed with the
appropriate vegetables. For the smaller growers, the provision of "backyard butchered"
rabbit meat would be quite sufficient for this market. Simply contact the local AKC and
dog clubs to establish potential customers, or place an ad in a dog magazine or

Breeding stock for the meat breeds is always in demand and particularly for the new
potential grower wishing to enter the rabbit meat industry. The most popular "beginner
kit" consists of a "trio" of one buck and two does, preferably unrelated. Mixed breeds
and "Smuts" are not recommended for this market as the new grower should be given a
choice of whether or not to produce fryers with the hybrid vigor by crossing breeds,
which requires maintaining two separate purebred breeds. This will also decrease the
possibilities of complaints from "small litters" or others from attempting to produce from
mixed breeds. Most prefer to stick with the purebred breeds instead of mixing in order to
also further tap the show and pet markets.

In order to ensure the "purebred" status of the rabbits, pedigrees are required for this
market. It simply does not come as a pleasant surprise to suddenly get a "colored" litter
from what was "assumed" to be a purebred white rabbit, particularly if the processor
wants ONLY albino white fryers or pays higher prices for the whites.

For tapping the meat rabbit breeding stock market, it is also advisable to provide
"Production Records" on the dams (mothers) of the rabbits being sold if the rabbits are
young. Production records give a lot of information, such as consistency in breeding
conceptions and litter sizes. This is important information to a meat grower and often
makes a difference in a satisfied customer for repeat sales.

During the slower demand period, the grower may wish to simply butcher his/her own
rabbits for their own personal consumption. Likewise, this gives the grower the
opportunity to play with tanning rabbit pelts and the making of craft items, such as rabbit
foot key chains. The smart grower will freeze and stockpile these pelts and feet to be
worked on during the slow demand meat seasons. The craft items can be sold to gift
shops and creating an entirely separate business. Don't overlook the popular airport gift
shops! Adding a small "souvenir" tag to the smaller crafts and key chains will add
additional appeal, and be sure to specify "Made in U.S.A.," since many will go out of
their way to purchase U.S.A. products over imported products. Again, this will require a
local business license for wholesale and retail sales.

There are two more highly viable markets, but these have been included in other
sections. See the "Conventional Growers" article under the "Laboratory Rabbits"
category, and the additional "Independent Processing" article in the "Rabbit Meat"

The purpose of this site has been to educate and direct the grower for all the industries
available to the raising of rabbits. Each category shown in the index is a viable market in
itself. A word of caution, however: It is not advisable to attempt to tap ALL the markets
at the same time. Each market can require considerable attention and focus and the
grower can easily become overwhelmed by the details involved in each.

                          THE RABBIT FEED INDUSTRY
The rabbit feed industry, by comparison to other animal feeds, is not considered to be a
"large" business when compared to the production of other livestock and/or pet feeds.
Thus, the majority of the companies producing rabbit feed will also produce feed for
other animals. This business is basically divided into two separate categories... pet and

Since the rabbit is unique as a "multi-purpose" animal that defies any specific
categorization and likewise, can also fit into either category, the types of feed produced
for rabbits vary between the two specific categories. The pet food companies produce
their own formulas to be sold in pet stores and packaged specifically for the pet rabbit
owner, whereas the livestock feed companies produce rabbit feed for a variety of
purposes entailing totally different formulations and in larger quantities intended for the
serious rabbit breeder. Since the quantities provided and sold by the livestock feed
companies are greater, by far, than those produced by the pet food companies, then, the
livestock feed companies tend to be more knowledgeable on the proper nutritional needs
of the animals. Rabbit feeds commonly found in pet stores are often of poor nutritional
value and are good only as special "treats" for rabbits. Too often, they are more suitable
for other small "pocket pets" like the guinea pig and/or hamsters and mice, and the
company simply "assumes" that it is likewise suitable for rabbits. This may be due to the
old myth that rabbits are "rodents," which is incorrect.

Although it is not uncommon for rabbit breeders and growers to become quite
knowledgeable on the subject of proper nutritional values of feed for rabbits, this rarely
mushrooms into an actual "business" of providing pelleted rabbit feeds. Most often, a
grower simply becomes "involved" in some way by either paying a local mill to have
his/her own preferred formulas milled, or by accepting employment with an existing feed
company that provides rabbit feed.

Not all brands of rabbit feed are available nation-wide. Many are milled in local mills
and have no desire to expand beyond local markets. Others are simply "working their
way," one marketing region at a time, toward becoming nationally available. For
feasibility in the provision of rabbit feed that is available on a nation-wide basis, separate
mills must be available in distinct marketing regions for servicing each specific area or
region. Some of the larger companies, like Purina, may have their own strategically
located company-owned mills, while others will simply "contract" an existing mill to mill
their formulas under their brand name. It is not unusual for an existing mill to be milling
feed under several different brand names, different formulations and for a variety of
different animals. This type of mill, of course, is an independently owned "business."

                        PROBLEMS WITH RABBIT FEEDS
Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems, and enteric problems can often be directly
related to the commercially pelleted feed. Unfortunately, the majority of breeders and
growers are often too quick to blame the feed company before investigating their own
management methods. Feed contaminated with pesticides and/or by rodents and insects
and even mold can be a contributing factor.
One of the most common signs of a problem with the pelleted feed will be seen in
"scrabbling," where the rabbits will "scrabble" the feed in the hoppers and/or feed
container onto the ground. This simply means that the feed is not "palatable," and the
rabbits don't like the taste. This can often happen when changing brands of feed, or with
feeding "old" feed and should be taken as a "warning sign" of a potential problem. Feed
over the age of 3 months has a tendency to lose its nutritional value and a rabbit can
literally starve to death on it. Rabbit feed may be successfully frozen to ensure freshness
for up to 6 months. Growers are advised to learn to read the "date codes" on the bags of
feed for determining the age of the feed. Using old hay when milling rabbit feed will also
produce a "brown" pellet. The fresher the hay, the greener the pelleted feed will be.
"Scrabbling" is often overlooked by breeders, and nothing is noticed until the onset of
severe diarrhea and/or death from diarrheal problems.

Other problems involving the commercially pelleted feed would entail "residue" left in
the bins from milling other animal feeds requiring different ingredients, such as corn.
Corn can be quite dangerous to rabbits by causing carbohydrate overload of the hind gut
and is often fatal. Likewise, corn has a waxy epiderm (skin) which is hard to digest.

Each mill in each marketing region is dependent upon the availability of "local"
ingredients for formulating the animal feeds. Thus, even though the "same formula" is
used in each mill for a specific brand, the quality of the ingredients can vary
dramatically. Likewise, each mill may also be dependent upon the expertise and
knowledge of its employees. For example, cows are able to consume and digest moldy
hay, but moldy hay is highly toxic to rabbits and cannot be used for milling rabbit feeds.

If a problem with the feed can be traced to the feed, itself, and not due to the grower's
management practices (or lack of), the first place to look would be at the mill where the
feed had been milled. Too often, the brand-name company is contacted, first, which
results only in the feed company standing by their formula and giving the impression of
"denial of a problem." The formula is still good... but the grower needs to look at other
potential causes in the actual milling of the feed, instead. The company's headquarters
can only give assurance of the nutritional values of the formula used.

Likewise, growers should also check with other local breeders using the same feed to
ensure that the problem is being caused by the feed. If other growers are not
experiencing problems with the same feed and in the same marketing region, then the
problem is most likely due to other factors that have nothing to do with how the feed was

No company that produces rabbit feed is exempt from the occasional outbreaks of
problems and complaints from rabbit breeders. These complaints and outbreaks can
often be traced to specific regions at a time, which automatically points to the mill for
that marketing region.
Unfortunately, too many breeders tend to simply "change brands" instead of working
with the mill to correct the problem. A problem cannot be corrected if the mill simply
doesn't know there is a problem! Naturally, changing brands temporarily will be
essential, but growers are strongly advised to work closely with the feed mills and mill
representatives to correct any problems. Likewise, feed stores that stock quantities of
feed should not be overlooked for the potentials of improperly kept feed and/or "old" feed
(outdated codes).

An interesting note that may be of value for a mill to consider is, although the sales of
rabbit feed may be lower than other animal feeds, rabbits do not "graze" during the
summer months. Rabbit feed sales are steady year-round sales in contrast to most other
livestock feeds, and deserving of a higher priority.

                               RABBIT FEED PRICES
Prices for commercially pelleted rabbit feeds vary according to the brand name, formula,
availability, regional cost of living standards, and quantities purchased. Likewise,
purchasing the feed directly from the mill will eliminate the "middle man" (feed store)
that needs to make a profit, as well.

Whether buying from a feed store or directly from the mill, itself, discounts are often
available for purchasing quantities of bagged feed. In the majority of cases, discounts
begin at the one-ton mark. The more tons of feed that are purchased, the greater the
discount. This is most advantageous for the commercial grower with the larger herds. 40
bags, each weighing 50 lbs., constitutes a ton of feed. Some mills and feed stores require
two or three ton minimum purchases to qualify for discounts, and a few will not offer
discounts at any amount.

Some mills are able to offer "bulk" (unbagged) feed at even greater discounts, but the
grower needs to have the proper facilities for transporting and storing the loose feed.
Some mills require the "renting" of a special reusable canvas "bulk bag"for transporting
the feed. It is not unusual or uncommon for several growers to "go together" in ordering
large quantities of feed in order to take advantage of the discounts.

Some mills and stores may offer a delivery service, but usually at an additional price.
The feed is delivered to the growers' residence and stacked in the designated storage area.

                                RABBIT FEED SALES
Rabbit breeders often cater to the Pet Rabbit industry by selling to individual customers.
A Pet Bunny owner often has no knowledge of what to feed their new pet, or where to get
the feed. Since the majority of rabbit feed companies bag their feed in 50 lb. bags, this is
obviously too much for one little bunny to be able to consume in 3 months time, and
there is a need for smaller quantities.

Some feed stores will offer "bulk bins" for the customer with only a few pets. However,
if it is not the preferred brand of feed that the rabbit owner wants or prefers, then the
customer has a definite problem! Although a 50 lb. bag of feed may be divided into
smaller quantities and frozen to ensure longer lasting freshness, this requires ample
freezer space that may not be available to the pet owner.

Breeders can take advantage of this potential for additional sales by offering quantities of
feed in 5, 10 and 25 lb. bags from their own personal stock of rabbit feed. Offering this
service reaps steady repeat customers and ensures that the rabbits sold are being kept on
the same feed with which they were raised.

                               ANIMAL RIGHTS
This section is not being promoted as an "industry," but is herein included due to its
strong affect and impact on the breeders of all animals. Often complex and confusing, a
basic understanding of the various Animal Rights philosophies is required in order to
differentiate between "animal rights" and "animal welfare" organizations that are often
and erroneously grouped together. As with many organizations and including religion,
each organization will have different groups within themselves that, although they may
be similar, will likewise have varying beliefs on specific aspects.

As an example, consider the practice of vegetarianism, wherein some will not eat or use
anything that is linked to animals in any way, whereas others will consume eggs and
milk, and still others will eat fish. Yet, they are all considered to be "vegetarians," even
though they differ in their own personal opinions as to what should be allowed. Animal
Rights proponents are, as a majority, vegetarians, with the basic belief that all animals
share equal rights with humans.

Likewise, we see different opinions among the anti-animal breeder philosophies, with the
more militant Animal Rights Activists believing that all animals should be returned to
their wild state, not kept in captivity for any purpose, nor to be used by mankind in any
way. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is the organization known for promoting the
release of animals held in captivity, often by force and with disastrous results to humans,
animals and property. Regardless of personal philosophy, ALF presents a threat even to
the pet owner as well as to the breeder.

Other organizations allow animals as pets, but do not believe in caging them, eating
them, or otherwise using animals in any way to benefit mankind, or variations of these
beliefs. Occasionally, individuals may become militant and use the more radical methods
promoted by ALF. People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is one such
organization, but prefers to work through legislature for changing laws to restrict and/or
prohibit the breeding and use of animals. As with all organizations, there will be radicals
that take matters into their own hands or simply "go overboard" with extreme measures.

Within all these different groups are found individuals that do not agree with the total
philosophy of the parent organization, but they have no group of their own to belong to
and the parent organization comes the closest to their own personal beliefs with only a
few exceptions. As a result, we will find PETA members that simply wish to ensure that
animals are being humanely treated when kept in captivity, used for food or for
laboratory use. These individuals are gaining in popularity as "Animal Welfarists," a
much better term for them than "Animal Rights" proponents.

It was through the original efforts of the animal rights proponents that the Animal
Welfare Act (AWA) became a reality. The AWA regulates the treatment and care of
animals used in laboratories, slaughtered in USDA processing plants, transported in
commerce, and used for exhibition purposes. Also, it is through the efforts of these
organizations that successful alternative methods to the use of animals in laboratory and
product testing are being sought and developed. As we can see, some good has come
about as a result of these "dreaded" organizations.

As with the Animal Rights organizations, we find varying degrees within the existing
Animal Welfarist groups. Some, such as the Humane Society, are devoted to combating
the over-population of known companion animals (mostly dogs and cats) through
neutering and spaying and the re-homing (adoption) of abandoned or unwanted animals
as well as humanely destroying the vicious animal that cannot be rehabilitated.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of available space, animals suitable for adoption purposes
are also destroyed if not adopted or claimed within a specific time period, often as little
as three days.

Other groups of Animal Welfarists have developed their own adoption centers that do not
destroy the animals regardless of the time held. Unfortunately, these centers are few and
space is limited since funding for animal maintenance is often lacking.

Unfortunately, we will also find the true Animal Rights proponent involved with the
Animal Welfarists, and it is often difficult to tell the difference. By working with and
through the Animal Welfarist organizations, the Animal Rights proponents are often able
to obtain their own end means through legislature or filing complaints on certain breeders
by which the organization must investigate or act upon. A serious lack of understanding
of the nature of specific animal species can often result in the animals enduring worse
treatment and fate in the hands of a Humane Society center than if they had not been
confiscated from the breeder. Unfortunately, this happens much too often when it comes
to rabbits, since the centers are not set up to accomodate numbers of a specie of animal
that is highly territorial, breeds year-round and must be kept in separate cages. Serious
injuries and even death from fighting, wanton uncontrolled breeding and living in their
own excrement are conditions that are often seen in Humane Society centers that have
confiscated rabbits.
The House Rabbit Society (HRS) is an organization devoted to the popular "house rabbit"
and "rescuing" abandoned and unwanted rabbits. As harmless as this may seem, this
organization maintains a very active "anti-breeder" policy by placing the blame of the
supposed "over-population" of abandoned rabbits onto rabbit breeders. Thus, neutering
and spaying is strongly stressed by this organization for preventing breeding as a means
to end the claimed over-population problem. As with all organizations, again, we find
varying degrees of philosophies within the members of this organization, simply because
there are no other organizations devoted to the pet house bunny.

Although they attempt to maintain an Animal Welfarist appearance, they are much closer
to the classification of the true Animal Rights proponent with the "exception" of keeping
rabbits only as INDOOR house pets. Devoted to the rabbit specie, this organization can
present a serious problem to the rabbit breeder, regardless of the purpose for the breeding
and raising of rabbits.

Due to the anti-breeder philosophy, the HRS refuses to work with the American Rabbit
Breeders Association (ARBA) in any way, even for the benefit of the rabbits, themselves,
such as the sharing of research on rabbit diseases, information, etc. Likewise, they fail to
place the "abandoned rabbit" blame where it truly belongs... on the unknowledgeable pet
owner that originally obtained the rabbit without any understanding of this unique
animal, and then abandoned it when the animal didn't measure up to their own
expectations for a pet. For this reason, the ARBA places considerable emphasis on
breeders providing educational materials to their customers. There is a tremendous
difference between just "breeding" rabbits to show or sell, "responsible" breeding (breed
only when you have a ready market for the offspring), and being a "reputable" breeder
(providing information, taking back unwanted rabbits, etc.).

Although the professed numbers of "abandoned" rabbits are questionable, ARBA sees the
cure for this problem through the education of both the breeders and the new rabbit
owner. Few new rabbit owners are aware that rabbits are highly territorial and will fight
once the hormones begin developing around 12 weeks of age. Meanwhile, in their effort
to re-home more abandoned rabbits, the HRS promotes and encourages house rabbit
owners to "adopt a companion" for the existing house rabbit and without informing the
adopters of the dangers and difficulties involved in attempting to "bond" two naturally
territorial rabbits, even when they have been neutered or spayed. When the "bonding"
fails, one of the rabbits usually winds up on the doorstep of a breeder or is, again,
abandoned, since the owner is either too disgusted, disillusioned or embarrassed to take
the rabbit back to the HRS adoption center.

Again, we find a wide variety of personal philosophies in the HRS organization. A vast
"silent majority" have no complaint with breeders, but enjoy the camaraderie of other
house rabbit owners. They are verbally silent regarding their personal opinions for fear of
being ejected from the organization or drawing the wrath of the more verbal anti-breeder
It is not unusual for HRS members to be active PETA members, and likewise, we find the
more radical individuals and groups that will stop at nothing to vent their anguish or force
their opinions and actions upon rabbit breeders and often employing Animal Rights
methods. Rabbit shows have been picketed due to the "inhumane" treatment of keeping
rabbits in cages, showing, or the selling of rabbits, etc. "Rescue" operations have
included the actual theft of rabbits from breeder residences, and the filing of complaints
about breeder conditions to Humane Societies is common. The "flaming" of rabbit
breeders on the internet by HRS members is extremely common. Again, the majority of
the more radical members are vegetarians.

No effort has been made to attempt to "slander" any organization, but rather, to explain to
the rabbit BREEDER the reasons why they may experience the unexpected wrath of an
Animal Rights, Animal Welfarist, or House Rabbit Society member.

Since this web site is devoted to providing guidance to the rabbit industries for potential
success in the raising of rabbits in the purpose desired, it will be essential for the rabbit
breeder to know of the existence of these organizations that can cause problems for the
active rabbit breeder.

Potential breeders entering the rabbit raising venture are strongly stressed to obtain as
much information as possible for the provision of proper care, sheltering and feeding of
rabbits. Providing unsanitary, unhealthy and improper conditions for the animals only
ensure eventual interference from the more militant and radical members of the above
mentioned organizations. Likewise, healthy, thrifty rabbits cannot survive very long in
such undesirable conditions, and the venture would not be economical for the breeder.
Proper ventilation and a strict sanitation program will be essential for maintaining a
successful rabbit enterprise.

                           RABBITS AND MAGIC
The rabbit has long been the symbol of magicians, as typified by the classic "pulling a
rabbit out of a hat." Although not a large, viable market as an outlet for the raising of
rabbits, there is a need for education for both the magician and the breeder as it applies to
rabbits being used in magic routines. Most breeders that have been around for several
years have been approached by magicians looking for an appropriate rabbit to use in their
routines. Confusion abounds as the breeder has little to no inkling as to the specific
needs of the magician, and the magician has little to no knowledge of the specific needs
and/or behavioral traits of the rabbit! Thus, the purpose of this category.

The first thing that rabbit breeders need to understand is that magicians do NOT pick up a
rabbit by the ears! The antiquated method of pulling a rabbit from a hat by the ears,
alone, has long been frowned upon by the various magician fraternities. Likewise, in
preparing for a routine, magicians will typically research their subject well in order to
successfully and professionally perform an illusion or effect, and which includes the
potential of anything that can possibly go wrong. Dealing with an unpredictable live
animal will naturally raise questions and concerns that the magician will need to pursue.
Magicians have their own "Bunny Book for Magicians" to help them to understand how
to use rabbits in their routines, and this book also includes basic care instructions.
However, this is where the breeder can give valuable assistance, along with additional
information on the proper care and handling of rabbits.

The magician's rabbit will be a pet that may often be subjected to attention from children
when used by the popular childrens' party magicians. Therefore, good dispositions will
be important, and this is where both the breeder and magician may run into a bit of a
problem. It is a well-known fact that, as a general rule (and allowing for exceptions), the
larger the breed, the better the disposition. Larger breeds tend to be more "laid back"
than the smaller, more nervous breeds. However, unless the magician is capable of
building his own "props" (such as a production drawer) to accommodate the size of the
rabbit, or is willing to pay the higher prices for the professionally made larger props, the
average livestock prop is very small and designed for use with doves, guinea pigs,
hamsters, rats, mice and very small rabbits.

Since magicians generally must pack a good supply of props and materials used for a
routine as they travel, space requirements are also a consideration. As such, the majority
of magicians will seek a "very small" rabbit to be used for his/her purposes, and most will
request the typical "white" variety, which may be either a Ruby-Eyed albino white, or a
Blue-Eyed White. Another requirement will be the ears, as they usually prefer the
upright ears... the longer the better, and with normal fur. Obviously, these requirements
will limit the available breeds to only two... Netherland Dwarfs, and Polish.

The one last requirement is a tough one, and is essential to the magician. The breeder
needs to give assurance that the rabbit will STAY "small" when it matures! What this
means to the small breed grower is that the normal "pet quality" rabbit that has a
tendency to go overweight or structurally over-sized will NOT be satisfactory for the
magician! "Pet quality" will be fine if the rabbit simply does not measure up to show
standards in body type, such as being too low in the shoulders, or having the longer
"summer ears," but the actual mature size will be the determining factor for the
magician. This, then, will ordinarily necessitate the magician to seek the grower's show
quality stock, instead.

The magician must first understand that there are MANY different breeds of rabbits
available in the white variety (color). These breeds may range in adult sizes from 2
pounds up to over 18 pounds when mature. Most of the breeds have reached their full
adult size at 6 months of age, which will give a good rule-of-thumb to use as a guide in
determining how large a young rabbit will be when fully grown if the age of the rabbit is
known. Also please bear in mind that rabbits can be over-fed and become fat and over-
sized if size is an important consideration in the routine. Therefore, proper feeding care
will be essential.

Hopefully, the magician has read the information above as it pertains to the breeder that
needs to know the specific requirements of the magician. Naturally, the magician cannot
be expected to know everything about rabbits and will be highly dependent upon the
information provided by the breeder. Likewise, the magician may only be pursuing the
potential and viability of using a live rabbit in a routine, and may not have fully
investigated this field. It is highly suggested that magicians obtain the "Bunny Book for
Magicians" (may be ordered or obtained from magic supply companies) along with other
materials on the proper care of rabbits. Please remember... rabbits are not "clones" of
each other, and are quite different from other species of animals. Rabbits cannot be
expected to behave like a dog or a cat, and a basic understanding of their needs and
behavioral traits will be important.

As stated in the breeder section, the most popular breeds used for rabbit routines are the
tiny breeds of Netherland Dwarfs and Polish rabbits. Of these two breeds, the Netherland
Dwarf is the smallest, averaging around 2 pounds when fully mature. A "medium-sized
production drawer" is ideal for the Netherland Dwarf and small Polish breeds. Other
breeds are typically too large for use with this particular prop. Unfortunately, as is often
typical with tiny species, these breeds may exhibit aggressive behavior. For this reason,
if a tiny breed is necessary, it is recommended that the rabbit purchased be a male (buck)
in order to eliminate the hormonal surges of sexual cycles that the females (does)
experience (e.g., "Rabbit PMS"). When old enough, the buck may be neutered by a
rabbit knowledgeable veterinarian in order to further decrease the natural high libido of
sexual activity (rabbits will attempt to mate with anything and including inanimate
objects), and the habit of "spraying" (like Tomcats). "Nipping" is also a common sexual
behavior of male rabbits. Simply ask the breeder for a recommendation to a rabbit-
knowledgeable veterinarian. Not all vets know how to work on a rabbit, and many have
died at the hands of well-meaning, but rabbit-UNknowledgeable, veterinarians.

Rabbits are an animal of choice for magic routines due to their ability to remain quiet and
still when in small, dark enclosures. However, due to ventilation needs, magic routines
using live animals requires careful planning so as not to leave the rabbit in close quarters
for long periods of time. Pocket use should be planned early in the program for avoiding
possible embarrassment from the natural bodily functions. The rabbit may then be
removed and placed in a small cage for further use in vanishing effects or other such
similar ploys requiring the obvious visual placement of the rabbit.

Rabbits have sharp nails which cannot be retracted like a cat would do. Therefore, it is
not advisable to allow the audience, and especially young children, to "hold" the bunny,
as the rabbit may attempt to scrabble for a foothold and may accidentally inflict serious
scratches. For this reason, most rabbit breeders will wear long sleeves or arm protection
when handling rabbits. Likewise, if a rabbit smells something good to eat on a child's
hands, it may try to eat the child's fingers. Bananas, especially, are of particular interest
to rabbits, and bananas are a favorite fruit for children to eat. The rabbit may be "petted,"
of course, but the magician or assistant should always hold the rabbit for them and the
child encouraged to pet it on its head or back. This will ensure complete control when
interacting with the audience. Do NOT allow children to poke their fingers into the
rabbit's mouth, nose or eyes.

For ease in handling, the rabbit should ideally be tamed, either by the breeder, or by the
magician. A young rabbit can be easily tamed within two days time, simply by
constantly handling the young rabbit. Young rabbits are quite willing to trust humans and
merely need assurance that the handler does not intend to harm it. Rabbits can be very
affectionate animals and can also be trained to use a litter box. However, rabbits tend to
have very little control of the anal muscles and "litter box training" is most often confined
to the urine, only. Normal "Bunny Berries" (rabbit feces) are easily picked up by hand,
as they are not "messy" like other animal feces.

For eliminating the chances of possible urination during a performance, access to water
may be removed for a period of time before the show. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)
requires that rabbits have access to water every 4 hours, so timing will be essential and
the time length of the performance should also be included. If the opening act involves
the rabbit, and the rabbit is not used for the remainder of the performance, then the time
limitation may be near the end of the full 4 hours and with the water waiting for the rabbit
in the transport cage.

If the size of the rabbit is an important consideration, the magician should be prepared to
expect slightly higher prices for the rabbit needed than they would pay for a "pet quality"
rabbit. All breeders of the small breeds of rabbits constantly battle the problem of "over-
sized" rabbits. The ones that "stay small" are most often used for show purposes, since
there will be maximum weight restrictions for showing the small breeds, so "small" is a
definite requirement for show purposes. Simply ask for "show quality," but specifically
request that low placement would be preferred for your purpose, as this should give the
magician a price break when selecting "show quality" rabbits for a small size

A close association with the breeder from whom the rabbit was purchased will be an
important asset to the magician. Reputable breeders are always willing to answer
questions and help with any problems involving the rabbit. The wise magician will take
advantage of this for ensuring a successful routine and ownership of a healthy, happy

For help in locating breeders of the specific breeds, contact Pat Lamar at: fuzyfarm@3-

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