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Raising Rabbits for the County Show

Raising rabbits for your county show is a great project.  In some counties you are allowed to buy the bunnies.  In our county you have to raise the bunnies yourself.
I am going to list tips for raising the bunnies if you have purchased them.  Please remember that you have to find out what works best for you and your bunnies.  I have shown what worked for us and these are recommendations for you and your bunnies.

You will need a cage to house your rabbits.  If you get 4-5 bunnies, I suggest having two 24x30 cages to house them.  You can keep them together for the first week or so and then separate out the larger ones so that the smaller ones will be able to get their share of feed.

You will also need something to put their feed in and something for water.  Our recommendation for a feeder is a 7 ½ or 9 ½ inch Fine X feeder.  The Fine-X feeder has a screen bottom so all the fines and dust from the food will sift out.  You can use a feed cup or bowl but the Fine-X feeder is attached to the side of the cage so they are less likely to be able to mess in their feed or dump it out.
For water you can also use a bowl or crock but we recommend a water bottle or water system.   The Edstrom Water Buddy Flip Top waterbottle is great.  It attaches with a spring to the side of the cage and does not have to be removed from the side of the cage to fill.  It is easy for the rabbits to operate. The Edstrom Standard valve water system is the easiest of all.  You can purchase a starter system with a 5 gallon bucket and your rabbits will always have a fresh water supply.

Once you have your cage, water system and feeder you are ready to pick up your bunnies.

When you get your rabbits home, place them in the cage and leave them undisturbed for 18 hours.  This allows them time to get used to their new surroundings.
If your rabbits are not eating, they may not be getting water.  So check to make sure that the water supply is working properly.  They will normally not eat their regular ration for a day or two.  

First things first-find out what brand of rabbit pellets the bunnies have been raised on.  Try to stick with this brand or get enough of that feed to mix with whatever brand you are planning on feeding.  When switching brands you should mix the 2 brands 50/50 for about a week.  Any change in diet should be done gradually.

Below is a list of what we fed our meatpen bunnies’ everyday.
We fed the conditioning mix, Enhancer and calf manna in the morning and the rabbit food pellets in the evening.   It usually takes a week or two to build up to these amounts.  5 week old bunnies do not eat as much as 6 week old bunnies.  If your bunnies have not been receiving a conditioning mix or calf manna, you need to introduce these gradually.
1/4 cup crimped oats/barley 50/50 conditioning mix with black sunflower seeds
The conditioning mix we used contained 50%  crimped oats + 50% crimped barley + 7-10 black sunflower seeds per ¼ cup. (start off feeding 1/4 cup for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 1/4 cup each)
1 tablespoon Docs Rabbit Enhancer
(1 tablespoon for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 1 tablespoon each)

3/4 to 1 cup rabbit food pellets
(start off feeding 2 cups for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 3/4-1 cup each)

Check every day to make sure that your bunnies are getting plenty of fresh water.

After a few days, you can start removing your bunnies from the cage one at a time.  Take the bunny out and set it on the grooming table or other table you have for it.  Make sure the surface is not slippery.  You can use a carpet pad to set them on.  Set the bunny on the table and try to pose them in the proper position.  Hopefully you have been taught this at your 4H or FFA meetings but general posing guidelines are:  
The front feet should rest under the eye and the back feet should rest under the hip.
Set your bunny in this position and stroke them a few times.  The young ones will not stay in this position long but if you are consistent they will learn to sit for longer periods of time.  This position is a natural resting position.  You should brush your bunnies several times a week.  It is easy to brush their fur in this position.
Take each bunny out separately and work with them for a few minutes every day.

We recommend purchasing an ARBA Standard of Perfection book.  It lists all the breeds and a point break down for how each breed is judged.  It also lists how meatpens are judged and the point breakdown. There is also a section on Basic Handling, Posing, Disqualifications & General Faults.  If you are planning on competing in Showmanship you will need to know all this information.
FYI the point breakdown for meatpens is:
Meat Type……………….……   40 points
Condition of Flesh……………   30 points
Uniformity of body & weight….  20 points
Fur……………………………..   10 points
TOTAL………………………...   100 points
The ARBA Standard of Perfection describes how each of these categories is judged.
Note the fact that Meat Type contains the most points not Uniformity of body & weight.

Good luck with your rabbits.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask us.  If we don’t know the answer we will try to find out
J   -  Pat & Ken Vanecek

If you have any questions just email me.  If you have any tips you would like to share please send them to us.

this page last updated 9/20/06