So, you have either decided to raise rabbits or are considering it? That's wonderful! Rabbits are special creatures that will steal your heart in an instant, and nothing is more satisfying than seeing your hard work as a breeder who is trying to improve breed pay off when a home bred bunny wins a prize at a show. However, getting to that step requires some effort.
DECIDING WHAT BREED
Before you get started, you obviously have to decide what breed of rabbit you wish to raise or show. Each breed of rabbit is a wonderful breed, and each has its good and bad points. Before choosing a breed, make a list of what you can realistically have and what you need. If you don't have much space, it might be best to get a smaller breed. If you want to use your rabbits for dual purpose showing and meat or fur, get a commercial breed such as New Zealand, Satin, Rex, or Californian. Ask yourself following questions:
1. How much space do I have to keep rabbits? 2. Do I just want to show, or do I want to use rabbits for meat and/or fur as well? 3. How will I get rid of my culls (the rabbits that you can't keep)? Will I sell them, give them away, use them for meat/fur? 4. How much of a challenge do I want? [Some breeds, such as marked breeds, are far more challenging than others]. 5. Do I want a lot of competition or do I want a rarer breed? 6. Do I want a laid back breed or a more energetic breed? 7. Do I want a breed that produces a small amount of babies per litter or a large amount? 8. Do I have time to spend on a lot of grooming or extra care? 9. What do I like? 10. Anything else you can think of.
One you've answered those questions, start researching breeds. Go to a local show [show dates and locations can be found by going to www.arba.net], and ask breeders about their breed. Watch judging of breeds that you are interested in. Make sure to ask a lot of questions from breeders.
Once you've picked a breed, get equipment you will need for it. Get right size cage, food dish, and water dish or bottle. If it is a wooled (long-haired) breed, you will need a brush. You will need nail clippers as well. Talk to breeders of your breed and ask what, if any, special equipment or care your breed needs.
Once you've decided which breed to raise, fun really starts. Now you get to find a bunny or two! Go to breeders of your chosen breed and ask them to show you what to look for in a good show rabbit of that breed. Purchase American Rabbit Breeders Association (here on out referred to as "ARBA") Standard of Perfection which can be found at most shows, then study your breed's standard. Also look at general faults and disqualifications from competition. I can't emphasis enough how important knowledge of your chosen breed is.
Once you have a good understanding of your chosen breed, look for a reputable breeder. Said breeder will be glad to answer all your questions, will not have a problem with you getting a judge or registrar (or even another breeder of same breed) to evaluate rabbit you wish to purchase, and will have healthy pedigreed rabbits. Make sure to get best rabbits that you can afford. If you just want one or two rabbits to show, and don't wish to breed, it is a good idea to purchase a rabbit that is 4 to 7 months old, with a win or two to its name. If you wish to breed, purchasing a compatible pair or trio is usually best way to go. I usually recommend getting a show quality buck (4 to 7 months) and proven producing breeding doe (7 months to 1 year) if you're getting a pair. For a trio, I recommend purchasing a show quality buck (4 to 7 months), a show quality doe (4 to 7 months), and a proven producing breeding quality doe (7 months to 1 year). That way you will have at least one rabbit to show until you have produced your own show bunnies.
Depending on breed you have chosen, price for show and breeding quality rabbits can be anywhere from $10 to $200. Usually a decent quality show rabbit that is good enough to win a few classes and maybe even a variety (colour) win will cost between $20 and $50.
If you can, get some of food that rabbit is used to from breeder. That way you can transition it to new food. Make sure that you get pedigree for each rabbit when you purchase rabbit. Many people have purchased a rabbit with promise that pedigree will be sent and never got pedigree. Note: Rabbits do not have to be pedigreed to be shown, but they do have to be pedigreed to be registered or to become a grand champion. Rabbits do not have to be registered to be shown or to produce show quality offspring.
PREPARING FOR THE SHOW
When you get home, put rabbit in its cage with some food and water, then leave it alone for first day. The second day you can handle it some, third more, and gradually work up to more and more time handling it until your rabbit is used to you and trusts you.
Rabbits need fresh, clean water all time. The cage and dishes should be cleaned frequently. The amount of food given to your rabbits will depend on its breed, age, and size. Be sure to ask original breeder about feeding.
Grooming is usually pretty easy. The nails should be kept trimmed, and occasional brushing may be required for short haired breeds (except Rex and Mini Rex, which can be groomed with a horse slick pumice block). Wooled breeds will need more frequent brushing. Loose hair on a short-haired rabbit (Rex and Mini Rex included) can be removed by dampening your hands with water until they are just sticky then running them through coat to pick up loose hair and kill static. Loose hair can also be removed using a horse slick pumice block.