Herd Mentality

By Laurie Stroupe

Nope, I’m not talking about going along with the group without thinking. In this case, I’m talking about thinking about your rabbits in terms of being a herd, rather than being individual pets.

Most of us are familiar with the pet mentality, although there’s a lot of variety within that mind set. Pets receive regular vet care and have their own collar, house, pillow or cage. When you adopt a pet, you plan to have it for life. On the extreme side, people will pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars to keep that one pet healthy. And when they die, some pets even get a cemetery plot and customized headstone. All beloved pets are mourned and missed.

If you keep the pet mentality as you build your herd of rabbits, you will find yourself stressed, feeling guilty and financially burdened.

There’s a lot of variety within the herd management mentality as well.Some managers try to treat every condition and rehabilitate every rabbit possible. Others are more “survival of the fittest” in their approach. Probably more herd managers fall somewhere in between.

The big difference between the pet mentality and the herd management mentality is that with pets, you make the best decision for that one animal, the pet.

With herd management, you make the best decision for an animal based on the welfare of the herd.

It is important to give some thought to your philosophy before you have a sick rabbit or more rabbits than your rabbitry or lifestyle can comfortably hold. Before you are faced with the possibility of high vet bills, the decision to euthanize or have a C-section, or rabbits that you have no market for, give some thought to how you want to handle these types of circumstances.

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Here are a few situations to consider. If a rabbit is sick and the cost of veterinary care exceeds the rabbit’s value to you, do you have a plan for getting the rabbit care or putting it down? Do you know which kinds of care you are willing to give ailing rabbits? Will you treat snuffles? Wry neck? Other illnesses?

If you have rabbits that you cannot sell as pets, do you have an ethical plan for where they will land? Have you thought about what happens to rabbits that are bought at flea markets? Animal auctions? Raffles? Given away for free? Are you comfortable with those outcomes? Many people feel that it is more ethical for a rabbit to be euthanized than kept alive but not tended to appropriately. Think about where you stand on that issue before you have to make the call.

Once you have a basic philosophy that you will manage your rabbitry buy, you will feel much less stress and guilt when it comes time to euthanize, if that’s your choice. Or, if you decide to spend the money on the vet care, you know that the expenditure reflects your conscious, well-thought out choice, and you can keep your rabbitry to a size that you can manage on that philosophy.

There are many right ways to manage a herd of rabbits. Much depends on your values, resources, goals, and beliefs. But determining your guidelines is not something to be decided in the face of a crisis or emergency. Give it some thought soon.