Useful Tools for the Rabbitry

By Laurie Stroupe

Okay, so we’re not exactly a trade. But, just the same, there are tools that can help us reach our goals in raising rabbits. I’m not sure I can write an exhaustive list, but here are some tools that I think are very important:

1. Standard of Perfection (SOP)

 The SOP is not just for registrars and judges. Sure, the bulk of it is standards for rabbits and cavies you do not raise, but that one up-to-date standard for your breed is worth the price of the book. However, there’s much more in the SOP than just the breed standards. There’s a rabbit glossary, information on admitting new varieties and new breeds to the standard, a list of general disqualifications (if you just read your breed standard, you are only getting half of the story), diagrams of certain faults, photos of teeth problems and eye colors and much more. Some vendors sell the SOP, and you can also purchase it directly from ARBA.

2. Tattoo equipment

I hate tattooing. Absolutely hate it. I’ve tried the clamp, manual pen, and battery pen. I currently have an EZ-Tat. But when I can scrape a few dollars together, I’m going to buy a new battery operated pen. It’s sleeker and easier to handle than the EZ-Tat. A friend of mine has one and loves it. You can get more information at the LOV’s website where it says Cordless Tattoo.

3. Vanodine 

I think Vanodine is better than plain iodine, bleach, or anything else I’ve heard about or tried for general disinfecting. It’s better than plain iodine because it has a surfactant in it, making it useful for cleaning and not just flash disinfecting. It’s not approved for wound care, but I use it on my boo-boos and the rabbits’. It’s safer than bleach for disinfecting around the bunnies. It might seem expensive, but once properly diluted it’s not bad at all. I use it all of the time and go through about one $20 bottle per year. I keep a quart spray bottle, properly diluted, on my work table at all times. I also travel with a smaller version.

4. Grooming Supplies 

Nail scissors, slicker brush, flea comb, and peroxide: those four things can do just about everything you need to do to a rabbit. I just use the cheap cat nail scissors from Wal-Mart, though I’m always looking for a better pair. The metal slicker brush is my number one grooming tool, but I use the flea comb for long, tangled undercoats and for getting dried matter out of the fur. Peroxide is great for food stains. 

5. Anti-Static Spray 

Sure, it’s a grooming aid, too, but it deserves its own mention. I was a little wary about using it in the beginning – I’m such a rule follower and I was afraid it was a foreign substance. But when I was at the Judge’s Academy, I asked Glen Carr about it and was told it was okay to use. It really doesn’t do anything that water won’t; it’s just that it lasts longer. It’s especially helpful on longish fur and during the dry winter months. I purchased mine from Pandora Allen of Fox Allen Farms. It’s called Winner’s Edge. 

6. Software 

I cannot for one minute imagine running my rabbitry without software. Sure, you can write out pedigrees by hand. I know folks with large rabbitries who do that. But that’s not for me. I’m glad that I got my software early on so that I didn’t have a great deal of information to enter in the beginning. Currently, I have records for 1339 rabbits! Now it’s so easy just to click on the parents, enter the name, sex, birthday, and ear number, and I’m well on my way to having a complete record for rabbits born in my rabbitry. Once the rabbit is registered, I add the weight and registration number with the date registered. Hopefully later, I add a grand champion number and keep up with a growing leg count (as if that were automatic!). I also keep track of my breeding, which rabbits are in my herd, waiting to be evaluated for admission to my herd, or for sale (either as pets or pedigreed rabbits). I use Breeder’s Assistant, and I love it.

7. Scales 

Weight is such an important issue in our rabbitries. How many times have you seen someone so excited to show their rabbit, only to have it disqualified because it’s overweight?

You may think that you can use just scales at shows and that’s enough. But it’s important to keep an eye on the weight of your breeding does – the ones that may never, ever go to another show. Overweight does can have problems catching or kindling.

If you have a rabbit that seems to be off somehow, it could be very useful to find out that he’s lost 6 oz. or that his weight is fine. I know that rabbit scales are expensive, but take the plunge and you’ll be glad you did. By the way, if you go to a National show or Convention, you may find the very nice scales on sale for a reasonable price at the end of the show.

I use a kitchen diet scale for weighing kits. It can put your mind at ease if you can be sure your babies are gaining weight.

8. Your Hands 

Some people have highly skilled hands and others do not. But no matter what your skill level, you can improve by using your hands more often. Give your hands, one of your most important tools, as much training as possible. Always pose your rabbits first thing whenever you handle them. Pose first and then clip nails. Pose first and then check genitalia. Pose first and then check to see if the tattoo needs to be retouched.

Also, touch as many rabbits of your breed as possible. That advice is given time and time again, but I don’t see many people taking advantage of this very important activity, me included. Don’t be shy about asking. We all need to touch. We need to feel good examples and poor examples.

We also need to take good care of our hands. Sure, you want to treat scratches and cuts to avoid infection. But you also want to keep your hands protected from calluses and dryness so that you can retain as much of your flexibility and sense of touch as possible.

There are tons of other tools and supplies that we use: cages, watering systems, show tables, carpet samples, photographs, websites, feed, supplements, storage and cleaning tools, rabbit care books, and on and on and on. I could never mention them all, I’m sure. 

When I first started, I visited a rabbitry and was amazed at all of the “stuff” involved. I thought that I would never, ever have that much. But by gradually adding items, it’s not hard to find yourself surrounded by the very same things!