(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
There are plenty of ways that you can be a better rabbit buyer. Not to say that you aren't already a fantastic customer, but here are some tips and tricks that will not only make your purchase much easier on your rabbit dealer- er- seller, but make it easier on you as well.
Whenever possible, communicate in writing (email, text, FB messenger, whatever). This is a great way to keep track of the details, and you won't have to go back and forth trying to remember the deal. If you can't communicate in writing, take good notes and put them somewhere where you will be able to find them. Print out the details and take them with you to the sale to avoid any confusion or miscommunications.
If you have a chance, visit the rabbitry and see the conditions that the rabbits are kept in. Watch out for a lot of sneezing, that's a red flag and can indicate sickness (please note that some rabbits will get wet noses in the heat, and sometimes rabbits do sneeze for different reasons such as dusty hay or getting water in their nose). If the breeder has the rabbit's sire and dam, ask to see them as well. *PLEASE NOTE: Some rabbitries are "closed" rabbitries. This means that they do not allow visitors of any kind at any time for bio-security reasons. Rabbits can easily be exposed to diseases that only affect rabbits, and so please don't be offended if someone has a closed rabbitry. Closed rabbitries will usually offer to meet you at a public location instead.
Bring a carrier. A cat-style carrier works great if you don't have a rabbit carrier. If you don't have either, then a cardboard box, while it isn't ideal, can be an okay temporary carrier. Just remember that rabbits are stronger than they look, and they often manage to escape cardboard boxes. Totes and tubs with lids are not acceptable unless they have plenty of air flow. You don't want to suffocate your rabbit before you get it home! Do not expect your kids or a friend to carry the rabbit home in their arms or on their lap. Rabbits are prey animals, and even the calmest and sweetest rabbit can get scared and scratch.
Look over the rabbit before you commit to taking it home. If you don't know what to look for, ask the seller to describe to you why that particular rabbit is a good rabbit. Check the rabbit's nose to be sure it isn't snotty, check it's teeth to make sure they aren't too long, and check the vent (sex organs) to be sure that a) you're getting the right sex and b) the vent looks healthy and does not have any blisters, lesions, and/or scabs. These can be signs of vent disease or rabbit syphilis.
Be sure to understand the breeder's sales policy before you pack your rabbit up and bring it home. Many breeders, Edelweiss Ranch & Rabbitry included, do not guarantee your rabbit once it leaves their premises. Good breeders do not knowingly sell any sick rabbits, and they cannot guarantee that you did not expose the rabbit to anything. That being said, it's always a good idea to contact your breeder immediately if something does concern you about the rabbit.
Always quarantine new rabbits from your existing rabbits. 30 days of quarantine will ensure that the rest of your rabbits stay healthy.
Rabbits' digestive systems are extremely delicate, especially before they are 3-4 months old. A good breeder will send you home with a few days' supply of the rabbit's current food. It is important that you feed your rabbit only that food and good quality grass hay (orchard, coastal, timothy, a good quality local, etc) along with plenty of water for day one. On day two, add a small scoop of the new feed to the bag or container of familiar feed, then feed the rabbit. On day three, add another small scoop of the new feed to the bag, and so on until you are feeding only the new feed. This allows the microflora of the gut to adjust to the new feed. Young rabbits are prone to what is called enteritis, which is inflammation of the intestinal tract of the rabbit, and it can be deadly. A sudden feed change can kill your rabbit.
Minimize your new rabbit's stress level as much as possible. In addition to slowly introducing new food, your new rabbit has now left his or her familiar home and possibly litter-mates, and his or her routine has been interrupted. Young rabbits especially are very fragile and should not be handled a lot until they have had time to settle in. Stress alone can cause enteritis in your new rabbit.
If you decide the rabbit isn't going to work out for you, or for any reason you decide to sell it later, offer it back to the breeder first. Our sales policy here at Edelweiss Ranch & Rabbitry is that we retain the first right of refusal- this means you must offer the rabbit back to us before you may sell, swap, or gift it to anyone else. This is good business, and will ensure good relationships with your rabbit breeders.
If you have any worries, questions, concerns, or even nice words, please share them with your breeder as soon as possible.
Please remember that good quality rabbit breeders are hard to find, and that if you cross one or do an unethical dealing with one, then word tends to get around.