I recently read a discussion where a person wanting to purchase rabbits was very frustrated that the breeders they contacted had a “closed rabbitry” policy and wouldn’t allow visitors. I found it really interesting for a few reasons, one of which is that we also practice a policy of a closed rabbitry!
In our case we have several reasons we believe a closed rabbitry is best practice:
1. Babies. When we have new litters on a regular basis, we do our best to make sure our mamas have as little as possible to make them nervous. Unfamiliar voices and noises equal stress to a mama protecting her babies.
2. Disease. We know horror stories of people coming into a rabbitry and inadvertently introducing disease because they happened to be carrying a germ on their clothing or shoes.
3. Theft. More than one person has had their animals stolen shortly after they’ve been kind enough to give a guided tour of their facility.
4. Activists. We’ve received hate mail from people telling us we’ll burn in hell for having rabbits we raise for meat (although I believe our hell-bound status – or lack thereof – has much more to do with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ than our desire to eat healthy meat and participate fully in the food chain!). I’d rather not offer an open invitation to those who might not have our best interests at heart.
5. Privacy. In a blunt and non-friendly way (which kind of makes me cringe except it’s true), it’s really no one’s business to visit our home without an explicit invitation.
Additionally, recent stories of murders that can be traced to sales meetings off of Craigslist have also given us a reason to pause about meeting people for rabbit sales. We’re not to the spot where we will only sell at shows… but we’re also not far off. Rabbits are just not worth putting our lives in danger!
That being said, I do understand a potential buyers’ desire to see how other people have their rabbitry set up. Visiting other set ups can absolutely be an educational experience for a rabbit breeder. It’s interesting! Additionally, a site visit helps a prospective buyer know if there’s sickness in the Rabbitry. (In the past I visited a place that was filthy and had lots of sneezes. It made an impression!)
I think it’s reasonable for a buyer to be cautious and not want to get stuck with sick stock. However, buying any stock from anyone is always a risk, even for the simple reason that your husbandry style differs from someone else’s! There is a reason rabbits are at the bottom of the food chain – they’re intended to be a building block and provide sustenance for others. They aren’t the hardiest of all creatures and even under absolutely perfect conditions you occasionally have a rabbit die. (I have a veterinarian friend who says rabbits are frequently riddled with cancer…)
So what to do with this conundrum?
We firmly believe that it’s best for our rabbits — and by extension our buyers — to keep a closed rabbitry policy. But here are a few ideas for those new buyers who are wanting to also protect their investment:
- Check the Sales Policy. Study a rabbitry’s Sales Policy and under what circumstances they’ll replace a rabbit. This gives you an assurance of replacement or refund and reasonable expectations. If a rabbitry doesn’t have a sales policy posted, don’t be shy about asking what kind of guarantees go with the animal you purchase.
- Ask around. Attend shows and watch how people interact with your seller. See if you can talk to people who have been customers of the rabbitry in the past.
- Utilize social media! Join Facebook groups that are relevant to your breed and do a search for the breed, rabbitry name, or the owner’s name. You’ll likely be able to find out a lot about who is considered knowledgable about the breed in that group, how they raise their rabbits, and any issues they’ve had that will help inform your decision about whether you want to do business with them. There is a facebook group called FBI – Rabbit FeedBack and Inquiry that is similar to an Angie’s List. (Remember, not everything you read on the internet is true… so try to see several sources before you make a firm decision.)
- Accept the risk. In anything you do you’re going to have a risk. Make sure you aren’t spending so much on a rabbit that the risk is unacceptable to you!
- Relax. Remember… it’s a rabbit. At the end of the day, it’s still a rabbit. A rabbit is a wonderful thing… but it’s a rabbit. Relax a little!
What tips do you have for finding a reputable breeder? What do you think about the closed rabbitry policy?