Finding a Good (ie Reputable and Trustworthy) Breeder/Seller
(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
If you are serious about getting started with quality rabbits, you will want to purchase directly from a reputable breeder. Long-time breeders with good reputations did not reach that status overnight. Years of hard work, enthusiasm, devotion to the breed and yes even a lot of money goes into making a successful rabbitry. High standards of sanitation and record-keeping, as well as successful marketing, are only some of the talents that a breeder must demonstrate to become reputable and recommended by other breeders.
Good breeders typically understand the importance of maintaining purebred, pedigreed stock. Purchasing from an established rabbitry can also give you the benefit of the breeder’s experience, who has likely been working with the bloodlines in their herd for a long time. They can suggest the best possibilities for brood does and help you to choose a buck who will complement your does not only in type and physical characteristics, but also in bloodlines.
Finding good quality rabbit stock can be difficult. In some cases, it may even seem impossible. In my area for example to find certain breeds sometimes you have to know someone who knows someone who knows someone and will put in a good word for you in order to find quality rabbits. While there are some breeders who are trying to change that it can be discouraging, especially when you are looking for a rare breed.
There are many breeders who take advantage of newbies to the rabbit world. Fortunately, many of them eventually go out of business. Unfortunately, by then they usually have ripped off a lot of beginners by selling them poor quality stock that costs an arm and a leg. A good breeder will make sure that you know what you are getting, flaws and all. They will allow you to ask questions and not make you feel dumb for doing so.
Good rabbit breeders are not in the business just to make money. A good breeder is personally involved in each and every sale. Too often, unsuspecting buyers purchase from so-called backyard breeders who are not knowledgeable about genetics and good breeding practices, and the result can be rabbits with health or temperament problems that may not be discovered until years later.
Knowing what you want before you start looking can help you not get fleeced. Know what breed or breeds will fit your criteria. Are you looking for a pet, a show rabbit, a pelt or fiber rabbit, and/or a meat rabbit? Some breeds can cover all the criteria in one shot, while some are better at some aspects than others. Do your research ahead of time to make sure that the breed you are looking to buy will be a good fit for you.
Once you find the breed or breeds you are interested in, learn the Standard of Perfection (SOP). If you know anyone with a copy of the current ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) SOP book, ask if you can study it. If not, make the $20.00 investment and order one from ARBA. Take the time to study the section about your breed or breeds of choice. If you plan to show, look up which colors are accepted by ARBA and which are not. Know your facts before you even contact a rabbitry or breeder. Even if you do not plan to show, the Standard of Perfection was designed as a guide to producing the perfect rabbit for its use. So, the SOP for meat breeds, therefore, is designed to create the most meat on a carcass. If you plan to sell your rabbits at any time in the future, then as a breeder yourself, it is your responsibility to produce rabbits that meet the Standard of Perfection as completely as you possibly can, whether your rabbits ever set foot on a show table or not. That means that your foundation stock should always be prime examples of their breed so that you will have a good base toward producing litters with good type and quality. Buying pedigreed animals is a good way to ensure that you are getting what you want, as well. (Please see our article, Is a Pedigree Important for more information.) Remember, though, that a pedigree is only as good as the breeder or breeders who created it. Unfortunately, there are unethical breeders who lie about their stock, which will affect all of the offspring about that rabbit for generations to come.
Attending local rabbit shows is an excellent way to begin your rabbit knowledge base. Seeing the best that the breeders have to offer and hearing what the judges have to say about each individual rabbit can be a fantastic and valuable lesson. Rabbits shows are also a great place to find breeders who specialize in the breed or breeds you are interested in. It's nice to meet face to face before committing to even looking at stock. Other good ways to find a local breeder is by looking up registered ARBA breeders, or contacting local breed clubs. The best way to find a breeder, though, is through a recommendation from someone you trust.
Whenever possible, take your time and talk to a selection of breeders before you decide on one. When you talk to a breeder, be sure to ask about common genetic problems in the breed and/or his or her stock. Ask them what their policy is if you have questions after you purchase your rabbit. A good breeder will be willing to serve as a resource and answer questions for the rest of the rabbit's life. Ask the breeder what clubs they are involved with, and ask what their guarantees or sales policies are (ours are listed here). If possible, visit their rabbitry to meet their stock. Examine the conditions of the rabbits, the cleanliness of the cages (just remember that it's almost impossible to keep cages spotlessly clean). Note that 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. They will often provide photos of their set up on request, but remember that those photos are often taken when the rabbitry is in its best condition. (For more tips of being a good buyer, please read our article, How to Be a Good Buyer.)
A good breeder will never try to pawn off poor quality rabbits on you. If you feel as if a breeder is trying to persuade you to purchase sickly or poor-quality rabbits against your better judgment, it would be better to look elsewhere. Well-respected breeders value their reputation above all else and would never do anything to tarnish it so selling substandard rabbits for breeding stock would never be in the best interest of their rabbitry.
Take the time to do a search on the breeders that made it to your list. There are some great groups on Facebook that help warn of unethical breeders. Be cautious about groups whose admins or moderators include the breeder(s) you are looking into- you’re not likely to read unbiased reviews about a breeder in a group they help manage.