How to Enter a Show and Show Organization

Recently we were asked about how we manage our show entries with five breeds and five show exhibitors – so, with trepidation (because I’m pretty confident you’re going to think this is insanity), I am happy to share with you… the

Rabbit Brain Excel Spreadsheet


This is a sample of the excel spreadsheet we’ve been using, along with our pedigree program, to manage our rabbitry. We have some additional pages on the spreadsheet I didn’t include because they contain the contact information of people on waiting lists for our rabbits, but you could be free to take this spreadsheet and make it your own if you find it useful!


Even though we all show different rabbits at the show I tend to be the manager of all paperwork! Here’s how we’ve made the spreadsheet work for us:


On page 1 I have the rabbits and their tattoos for those coming and going to the current show. This is so I don’t try to take more rabbits than our car can hold! (We’ve played rabbit carrier Tetris before and it tends to make the spouse a tad grumpy!) If we are selling rabbits at the show I will make note of it on the side, who they’re going to, and whether they’ve already paid/has the pedigree been delivered, etc. This “Load Sheet” is what I print when we’re getting the rabbits into carriers before we leave the house to be certain everyone who is supposed to go… Goes!

On page 2 you’ll find an exhaustive list of the showable rabbits we’ve ever shown that might currently go to a show at any point. I keep even our retired animals on this list. They don’t move off it unless they’re permanently removed from the herd. I also never fill in the “class” column unless they are a SR, as this class assignment will change!


All of this information is organized the way the show entry form asks for the information:

(Name is only for our family’s purposes)



Variety (find specifics in the Standard of Perfection as they are breed specific)

Class (clarity is in the Standard of Perfection, this is also breed specific)


(who in our family shows them)



The third page contains the actual entries we make to any particular show. This is filled after we take the time to go through each of our rabbits and assess which ones are show-ready. I can easily copy and paste their information from Page 2, fill in the class, and have it ready. This allows me to easily sort the list by the person who is showing that particular rabbit, then by the breed, then by the sex, then by the class using the Excel sort function.


Once the entries are sorted by exhibitor I’m ready to do a copy and paste from the spreadsheet to the email for the entry in the show.


The only thing wanted for the show entry is:

Exhibitor Name, address, phone number, email

Which show(s) will be entered (many shows have more than one showing and identify this by A, B, C, etc.)

Whether they will be shown in OPEN or YOUTH

Rabbit Tattoo

Rabbit Breed

Rabbit Variety

Rabbit Class

Rabbit Sex


It’s easy enough to copy and paste this information into the body of an email addressed to the show secretary. Then I hit “enter” on that email and we’re registered for the show!
Now, once we’ve actually arrived at the show I have a whole different level of tracking I employ. (I stole this idea from a very seasoned shower and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this method!) We have a simple little spiral notebook where we keep all of this information and it allows us to track how each rabbit has done at each show, under each judge. Brilliance!
Show Page

This is our brain while at the show!

You can see that the columns represent the specific show (in this case show A and show B) and the last column is comments. I always separate by Breed and try to have the rabbits grouped by sex and class because that’s how the judge will rank them.
All those smudged-out spots are the rabbit’s tattoo number. Since we call them by name around our house, most of them look very similar, and the judge will rank them by tattoo number, it’s wise for us to have both name and tattoo number written on this show page.
Finally you’ll notice the ranking that the specific rabbit has and how many rabbits were in that particular class. If they take home a Best of Breed or Best Opposite of Breed I can note it to the side and that allows us to see which rabbit will be called up for which show during the Best in Show judging.
I hope these provide some useful visuals for you! It’s only one way of management and it’s working for us, but I’d love to hear what works for you!


2015 ARBA Nationals, Portland, OR

ARBA Nationals 2015 in Portland, Oregon

ARBA Nationals 2015 in Portland, Oregon

We have arrived home from 2015 ARBA nationals in Portland, OR! What a crazy, wonderful experience!

Last year was the first year we even attempted to send rabbits to the ARBA National show. It was in Ft. Worth and we were nervous that we would be blown out of the water by the stiff competition. Imagine our joy to discover our Silver Fox doe, Zelos, took Best Opposite of Breed for Silver Fox! Emboldened by this success, we prepared to send rabbits again this year.

We sent our rabbits up via vehicle while we flew. Portland was in the midst of a strong rain storm, apparently more than usual!, and so it was a bit dreary, but the Portland Expo Center hosting the event was always cheery and full of people having a good time and loving rabbits.

When it was all said and done, our three breeds we entered did pretty well, although we didn’t come home with top honors in anything this year.

We took a break from the showroom for lunch one day.

Blanc de Hotot:

1st 6/8 buck in Open

2nd Junior buck in Open

1st and 2nd Junior does in Youth

Champagne d’Argent:

2nd and 6th 6/8 does in Youth

Silver Fox:

4th 6/8 buck in Open

13th 6/8 doe in Open

6th 6/8 doe in Youth

We learned so much from the experience and loved meeting the breeders we usually read about on Facebook.

Fun at the synonym park in Baltimore, MD.

Fun at the synonym park in Baltimore, MD.

Next year is San Diego – we’re already planning to attend with the whole family this time!

County Fair!

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7 Ways to Improve a Rare Breed With a Gene “Puddle”

Ways to Improve the Rare Breed Gene PoolLet’s face it: In some breeds we don’t see a gene “pool,” we see a gene “puddle”! This can be extremely challenging, especially if you don’t have the luxury of an extraordinarily large rabbitry and unlimited bank account! Recently there was an interesting conversation going on the Rare Breed Rabbits facebook page. In a nutshell, the original poster asked, “How do you improve a breed when the gene pool is tiny to begin?”

This is a great question, and one we have faced ourselves raising our rare breed rabbits. For example, when we started raising Blanc de Hotot there were only about six breeders we could find in the continental U.S. raising them. Every rabbit we have has one particular buck in their pedigree – and we’ve worked to bring as many diverse lines in as possible from all areas of the continent!

7 Ways to Improve Your Rare Breed Gene PuddleHere are some excellent suggestions generated by the discussion:

  1. Get other breeders involved. I am a firm believer that if you’re raising a rare breed your first step should be to work your hardest to get your breed OFF the rare breed list! While there’s a certain amount of prestige to raising a rare breed, the reality is that a rare breed means you don’t have the volume of rabbits being bred and culled. Over time this can significantly, negatively impact the overall health, appearance, and efficiency of the breed. So, recruit, promote, and network with others to widen the impact of the breed!
  2. Be willing to travel/transport. Raising rare breeds means you’re going to have to be willing to either travel yourself to get rabbits or jump through the hoops necessary to have rabbits transported to you. When we started our rare breeds the closest breeder to us was seven hours away. If you aren’t a fan of buying sight-unseen rabbits off of the internet or going off of the reputation of other breeders… don’t choose a rare breed.
  3. Buy new stock whenever possible. Utilize larger shows, like the ARBA national show, breed nationals, West Coast Classic, or PSRBA, or Ohio Mini Convention to purchase new stock. (Trading for new animals is even better!) Don’t miss any opportunities to widen the gene pool. The larger shows are great because with the number of people moving across the country during those times it’s easier to find transportation. (And don’t forget to institute a quarantine area for at least six weeks whenever you bring a new rabbit into your rabbitry.)
  4. Take risks. It’s absolutely possible you’ll add a new line to your rabbitry and end up breeding a lot of animals better suited for the stew pot – some genetic lines just don’t play well with others. It’s still worth it to try. We have a general rule that every doe has a litter with every buck before we make a decision, and our bucks typically represent different lines. Also, perhaps the original parents don’t create beautiful animals that are an improvement, but their offspring crossed back might make some show stoppers! Don’t be hasty in your judgements.
  5. Breed hard. We tend to keep our rabbits working all year round because we don’t want fat rabbits! You’ve got to breed the rabbits in order to see whether you’re making any progress in the breed, as well as know your lines and what they produce.
  6. Cull HARDER. We are personally experiencing this right now! This spring we had five of our Blanc de Hotot does have two litters each. That resulted in 50+ hotot juniors! (And a general feeling that our rabbitry has gone monochromatic with all the black and white rockstar bunnies! Haha!) So far we have already filled our freezer with 42 of those juniors. At this point we are actually excited about three of the juniors (although we’ll be saving more than that back for genetic diversity and the breed backs to lines I mentioned above). We’ve also kept rabbits we can’t be absolutely certain about to see how they look with a few more weeks growth on them. It is incredibly discouraging to see so many rabbits culled out of the program… but we can see a noticeable difference in the ones we’ve kept back and we’re hoping next spring we’ll have far more keepers because we’re making the hard choices right now to improve our breeding stock.
  7. Outcross. This is the last point of the options because it really stinks. If you have a rare breed rabbit you want to keep the bloodlines as pure as you can, right? Outcrossing to another breed shoots that philosophy in the foot. That being said, in wisdom, an outcross might be the best thing to improve the breed. (There is one longtime breeder who does an outcross every fourth generation in his rabbits to increase the hybrid vigor and type. The philosophy is working – his rabbits have won their class/variety so much their rabbitry is a legend in their breed.) If you do decide to outcross, make it to another breed that is compatible with the one you’re working with, and make sure it is a bang-up representation of the qualities you’re trying to improve upon. Keep accurate records and disclose the outcross to potential buyers.

What are your suggestions?

Six Options for Culls

Group of White Rabbits --- Image by © John Lund/CORBIS

Group of White Rabbits — Image by © John Lund/CORBIS

One of the ongoing issues of raising rabbits is that rabbits breed like… rabbits. Which means you might possibly run into a situation where you fee like you have rabbits coming out of your ears!

It’s a wise idea to have an end game in mind before you ever breed your rabbit at all. It’s not only unwise to indiscriminately breed a living thing, it can also be unethical to overload yourself past the capacity of your rabbitry. Rabbits are such a versatile animal there are several options for utilizing rabbits you want to cull from your own breeding program. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Help others get started raising rabbits. It’s always a joy to help others start their own urban homestead or make conscious choices about their food sources! Check with your local feed store to see if you can place an advertisement on their bulletin board about your rabbits for sale.
  2. Fill your own freezer. There is a beautiful sense of thanksgiving in knowing that you are providing for your own needs (and that all meat doesn’t come on a styrofoam tray filled with miscellaneous chemicals).
  3. Fill someone else’s freezer. We have a good friend who has an auto-immune disorder. Purchasing food that doesn’t cause their body to go into attack mode has become more and more challenging; our rabbits are one of the only meats she can eat at this point and providing them for her has been a blessing! Consider talking with your local food bank about families that might appreciate a healthy infusion of meat (be certain you’ve looked into the laws regarding providing food for human consumption in your area. In our area we can only sell the live rabbit without regulation.) There is a facebook group you might find interesting: Rabbit Breeders Feeding the Hungry.
  4. Raptor Rescues/Rehabilitation. Check to see if your area has a bird rehabilitation center or preserve. Many birds of prey live off of rabbit and donations could be considered a tax write off depending on your area and regulations.
  5. RAW/BARF Feeding. More and more dog and cat owners are turning toward non-processed foods for their pets. One of our friends has seen a life-saving turnaround in their dog after switching from a major name brand dog food to a “whole food” approach with her pet! Check your local Craigslist or ask around at pet shops for contacts of people who might have a need for rabbit.
  6. Snake Feeding. Snakes love rabbits in the wild or domesticated. The snake breeders in our area will not feed live animals so their snakes do not develop aggression, which makes me feel better about this outlet! While I am not a snake-lover in any way, my spouse is and has regularly reminded me snakes need to eat, too. {yuck!}

You’ll notice I don’t include pet sales in this list. Many people do sell rabbits as pets and we have done so on occasion. More and more we frown against it however, as rabbits really aren’t genetically inclined to be cuddlers and the closer breeders get to the pet market the more ground is lost against breeding in general and specifically for health, vitality, dress out percentages, and self-sufficiency. This is a personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt, but I would avoid pet sales. We have also discovered the expectations of a pet owner are quite different from those of a commercial breed rabbit owner and thus can be challenging.

We’d love to hear of your outlets for culls/excess rabbits in the comments!

Posing and Evaluating Commercial Rabbits

As a new breeder it was very hard for us to understand exactly what people meant when they would say “Commercial Type.” We started out by basically describing it as a basketball with a head!


We went to shows and did our best to listen and learn whenever any breed of rabbit that is supposed to have the body type of our breeds was on the table. We also discovered some really great resources, like this diagram of Commercial rabbit type:



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Even as awesome as photos and diagrams are, sometimes it’s helpful to actually see something, so I took a few (very amateur!) videos of our rabbits and what we look for when posing and evaluating them. The disclaimer is that we are not rabbit judges and we are not the be all end all of rabbit breeders – but we are pretty good listeners and active learners from those who will teach!


Here is a dialogue of a few of the things we have learned and try to implement in our rabbitry. If these videos can be helpful, we’re happy to share!


This is Triton. He’s a Grand Champion Silver Fox with six championship legs to date and has won Reserve in Show.
This is Dawn. She is a blue silver fox, which cannot win any awards as it’s not a recognized color yet, but you can see that we like her depth and don’t prefer her fur. There’s no perfect rabbit!
This is Lucy. She is a Grand Champion Cinnamon with six championship legs to date. She was kind enough to show you the difference between an unposed rabbit and a posed rabbit.
Here are a pair of two 10 week old Silver Fox kits.

BunnyVac: Two Years Later

BunnyVacLabelHi, friends.


At least once a month I get a message from someone who wants to know our experience with BunnyVac. I don’t blame them, whenever BunnyVac is mentioned on a facebook group there is a violent debate about those who are completely pro-vac and others who consider BunnyVac a horrible hoax at best and blatant subterfuge at worst.


We use BunnyVac. We’ve never had an outbreak of snuffles in our rabbitry and I feel confident that the rabbits we’ve sold have had healthy lives and done well for their new owners.

We are not pro-vaccination. In fact, we don’t vaccinate for anything else. We do our best to raise rabbits that are low maintenance and don’t require anything except humane treatment. We add Apple Cider Vinegar to their water daily, worm with grapefruit seed extract once every 4-6 months. When we have a mama with a brand new litter she gets a little calf manna as a treat. We’ve seen nestbox eye occasionally and treat it with vetricyn; every once in awhile we use Nutri-Drops as a supplement. That’s it. You now know our whole medicine chest for rabbits!


Because of our philosophy we don’t feel much angst about using BunnyVac, despite those people who are passionately speaking out against its use. BunnyVac is an insurance policy in our mind, a way to protect our investment in livestock.


At the beginning we vaccinated everything in our barn. Now, we only vaccinate a rabbit that goes out of our barn to a show. I believe it works – we haven’t seen any pastuerella here (knock on wood!) and I am aware that one of my rabbits who went to a large cooped show was definitely exposed to something, as the rabbit in the coop next to it was sneezing/snotting. Once that rabbit came home we kept it in quarantine for almost four months before putting it back in the main rabbitry. To date we still have seen no signs of any sickness.

We’ve written a few blog posts on BunnyVac over the years if you’d like to learn more about our personal experiences with it and more in-depth reasoning:

Snuffles, the Rabbit Boogie Man
Bunny Vac:
Bunny Vac: The 8 Month Follow Up


We’re always happy to answer any questions about this product, but honestly all of our answers are in these links! We’re almost two years into using it and have had good results. Just that simple!

Researching Raising Rabbits

More and more we are contacted by people who are interested in beginning their rabbit raising adventures! This is a huge kick for us, as we have found raising rabbits to be affordable, entertaining, and nutritious!


There are a few basic resources we recommend to anyone getting started in rabbits; ways to research the breeds and learn best practices from those who have been there, done that. Here are our favorites:


This is a first stop resource for beginning rabbit breeders.

This is a first stop resource for beginning rabbit breeders.

Read Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennett from cover to cover. This is a great resource! We found our copy at CalRanch but it’s also available on Amazon. His perspective helped us decide what design to use for our rabbit hutches, and gave us practical information on basic rabbit husbandry items. While it doesn’t go into great detail about every single aspect of rabbits, it does provide plenty of information to get you started well and understand what you’re doing and how to purchase your initial stock.


A subscription to the Domestic Rabbits magazine comes with your ARBA membership.

A subscription to the Domestic Rabbits magazine comes with your ARBA membership.

Join ARBA (the American Rabbit Breeders Association). Not only will being a member of ARBA give you access to their publication, Raising Better Rabbits and Cavies, you will also receive the Domestic Rabbit magazine! Every issue provides articles, district reports, veterinarian tips, and listings of individual rabbit raisers who are setting the bar high. This is a great resource for finding breeders who are showing, registering, and granding their rabbits – find the people who are serious about their rabbitry and you’ll find people who will help you get started well. The articles are top notch and relevant.


The ARBA Standard of Perfection gives the details of each breed.

The ARBA Standard of Perfection gives the details of each breed.

Purchase the Standard of Perfection. This is an ARBA publication that is invaluable to the new breeder. The SOP has vocabulary and definitions of different rabbit body parts, diseases, breeds, etc. Each recognized breed is listed in the SOP along with the expectations for weights and how the rabbit should look. If you want to raise rabbits that promote the breed well – and be reputable, you need to know what’s in the Standard of Perfection.


Rabbit Production is a comprehensive manual and excellent resource.

Rabbit Production is a comprehensive manual and excellent resource.

Consider Rabbit Production. Once you’ve fallen in love with rabbit breeding and you’re looking for a much more detailed explanation of best practices, diseases, etc., you will want to spring for Rabbit Production. This comprehensive guide is amazing in its scope! It’s a true asset to have in your library, although it does run on the pricier side.


Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories can give you great insight into the work needed to establish rabbit breeds.

Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories can give you great insight into the work needed to establish rabbit breeds.

Learn the History. Each of the breeds recognized by ARBA has a long and interesting history. While you might be most interested in your specific breed, it’s still interesting to learn the stories of how breeds came to be. The book, Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories by Bob Whitman is a beautiful book with really interesting stories. While it may not be on your “urgent” purchases, it’s definitely worth the read as you become more knowledgable about rabbits in general.

When do Rabbits Give Birth?

Babies bunnies are just as unpredictable as human babies in their arrival times!

Babies bunnies are just as unpredictable as human babies in their arrival times!

It’s day 31 and we’re waiting on four litters to be born. And, of course, there’s a storm front moving in, which makes checking for new babies an hourly event!


All of this baby-waiting brought a question to mind, “How do we know when a mama rabbit is going to pop?!”


The easy but unsatisfying answer is that we just don’t know. Rabbits in general will have a month-long gestation period. I have noticed that our larger breed rabbits will frequently have a 34 day gestation period (which is totally normal for them but completely irritating to us, as we’re anxious to meet those new babies!)


We’ve come to terms with the realization that it might be anywhere from 31-35 days of gestation and still be considered normal, but I’ve become a little bit bitter over the fact that I can almost guarantee if there is a storm or cold weather that could endanger the lives of newborn, naked kits… those mamas will give birth around 2 am!


There are a few clues we’ve noticed in our rabbits regarding their birthing tendencies:


  • Over the past several years I’ve made note of what time of day the initial breeding takes place. We have a fairly consistent pattern that our mama will give birth two-to–four hours after the initial breeding. It could be coincidence, but we typically breed our rabbits in the afternoon and almost always have babies born around dusk.
  • Our mamas will usually go off food in the 24 hours prior to giving birth.
  • If a doe poops in her nestbox she usually isn’t pregnant.
  • When our does are in labor they usually hold their ears at a slightly different angle and their eyes are unfocused. If they were humans I’d describe it as a look that says, “I’m a little concerned about this… and I’m concentrating on my body right now… and I’m doing what I know I’m meant to do.”
  • The vast majority of our does don’t start pulling hair until less than an hour before they give birth.


All of this is unproven and based on our observations, but our experience is that baby rabbits are almost never born in the middle of the day. Perhaps because they are more active at night, maybe because we tend to breed in the afternoons, but it seems that the rabbits will give birth at dusk or dawn. (The “earthy” part of me wonders if this has anything to do with the gravitational pull of the moon… but I honestly have no idea and haven’t kept strong enough records to be able to back this suspicion up scientifically.)


Most of our does are very predictable and pull tons of hair from their dewlaps and tummies; we can trust them to take excellent care of their babies outside even when the temperatures drop to the high teens. Between the shared body warmth of the litter and the insulating factor of the rabbit hair and hay, they can have quite a cozy little nest with temperatures in the 80s in the hole!


However, our first time mamas don’t get any free passes! If we have an unproven doe about to give birth and we have freezing weather we check the cages about every hour all night long to make sure those babies aren’t frozen just in case they’re born on the wire.


Now, back to baby watch… hoping for some new little munchkins by tomorrow morning!

A Closed Rabbitry and Caveat Emptor


Every struggle has two sides…

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?

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