Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 6
GETTING A START
GETTING A START
There isn't much choice in how to get a start with rabbits. One has to get the stock and start out that way. With poultry it is possible to start with old stock, baby chicks or hatching eggs, but such is not possible in the case of rabbits.
One either has to get the matured breeding stock or else buy young stock after they have been weaned and keep them until they have attained sufficient size to breed.
As to the breed which should be kept, that is a matter for the individual to decide for himself. While sentiment may not always be best for the pocket book, it is a true statement to say that unless you are interested in rabbits do not keep them. It is better never to begin at all than to go about it in a half-hearted manner.
And if you are not interested in a particular breed do not start with the breed you don't like. We all have our whims as to type and color and since there are so many breeds answering every purpose and desire, there is no reason why we should not have the stock that not only interests us but appeals to us as well.
There are two or three ways which one can adopt in getting a start. Young rabbits can be purchased from breeders when about three to five months for considerably less than they would cost when matured. Generally it is possible to get a good pair or trio of young stock for about half what the same animals would sell for if matured.
Of course, this will involve a wait of several months before you can get any returns from the stock in the way of youngsters, but the wait will be worth while in more ways than one.
It will give the beginner a chance to get acquainted with the rabbits and often an opportunity to prevent serious mistakes that would have cost him a lot of money had he started out with a large herd of matured animals.
You have an opportunity to get acquainted with the habits of the stock, what they like to eat, just what sort of care seems to produce the best results, and to acquire that confidence in yourself as a feeder that is so necessary for success. No matter how much you read about the care of rabbits there is nothing that equals experience, even if for a few months.
The start can be made by purchasing a doe of breeding age and have her bred to a good buck by the breeder from whom you make the purchase. This will give you a litter in thirty days at a very cheap figure and you can later have the doe bred to another buck and in this way start two strains for a very small outlay of cash. Buying a breeding age doe will probably be more expensive than buying small stock because of the value and scarcity of the does, but it will save about a year's time in the matter of getting immediate returns.
Where possible, it is best to buy either a pair or a trio of breeding age animals. This will give you returns at once and you will be in a position to get returns without the delay necessary where the start is made under any other method.
The ideal way to make the start is to buy two unrelated pairs of breeding age animals. This will enable you to start two distinct and unrelated strains and cross breed them for more than eighteen generations without inbreeding once. Where line breeding is to be followed, this is the only way to start, as it will give you two distinct lines and the characteristics of the two strains as shown in the parent stock will be perpetuated forever in the offspring.
It is necessary to be very careful in the matter of buying stock. We have already hinted at the operations of the dishonest dealer and sharper who is not a producer of blooded stock, merely a dealer, and who does not hesitate to do anything short of murder to get your money.
There is really only one way to be safe in buying stock and that is to go to recognized breeders and pay them the price they ask for their best stock. This stock will be pedigreed and by paying an additional dollar you can have it registered in the breed book of your breed. This will give you something of a line on its ancestry.
If your stock is not good enough to be registered, do not buy it, for it is poor policy to start out with such stock. The fact that it has been refused registration shows that it is not Standard in some particular. Breeding from such stock would be worse than folly.
Do not fall into the error of supposing that a pedigree is evidence of quality. It may be and it may not, for even the best thoroughbreds sometimes throw scrubs. Every one should know that. The pedigree is valuable only in giving you a line on the ancestry behind the animal, for blood lines are far more important, everything else being equal, than the individual specimen.
Stock should not be purchased unless safe delivery is guaranteed by the breeder and the right to return the stock is accorded if not satisfactory. A breeder who will not give you this right proclaims himself to be dishonest from the start or to have diseased stock, or both.
As soon as the rabbits arrive take them to some one in the community who knows something about good stock and have him pass on them, particularly some one who knows the breed you have bought.
If your rabbits sneeze and there is a white discharge in the nose or they wheeze when breathing, put them in the crate and send them back. They are too dear at any price In this condition no matter how nice a coat they may be wearing or how "cute" they are; likewise if they have crooked tails, feet, or if the hair on the inside of the front feet is matted and rumpled up. These are "weather signs" which all experienced breeders recognize at first sight, but which sometimes get by the novice and beginner.
But do not be unreasonable in your expectations. Remember that a railroad journey is hard on the bunnies; they always lose some weight on such a journey and will often look poor and scrawny and have rumpled coats when they arrive after a long journey. If they are otherwise healthy, a couple of weeks' rest and good feeding will put them back in good condition.