Getting Your Rabbits to Look Sharp
After getting back from the NDS in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, I received a call from a lady that I had sold some rabbits to up in Minnesota. Her question to me was how I got my rabbits to look so crisp and slick? I told her that it was not secret at all, just common sense rabbit management. For her benefit, I will elaborate on what I meant by this.
First, BREEDING or genetics is very important. If you select for Dutch that displays the proper density and texture of fur in your breeding stock, you will likely have juniors that have fur of the proper length with the desirable fly back that you want. I do not like to keep breeding stock that has a long hair shaft and lacks density. This type seems to result in a dull finish also. Genetics will also produce a show animal that will finish out with a good hard muscling in the shoulder, loin, and leg area. Certain bucks will product that hard finish that is desired. I can not over emphasize how important it is to have a good strong potent buck in your herd. He can be a powerful force in improving your herd.
Second, FEEDING and nutrition is also a big factor in getting your animals to look sharp. By this, I don't mean going out and feeding sunflower seeds and calf manna about a month before the show. Both of these are very good feed ingredients, but I think they are over used and over rated for getting rabbits ready for show quickly. Rather you should bring your rabbits along slowly. I have formulated my own feed and have it made up and pelleted at a local feed co-op. My ration is formulated to 14-15%protein, 4% fat, and 20% fiber. I like to keep the protein low (like 14-15%) and I never change this through out the year. It is fed year around. Protein produces heat energy in rabbits, and when the temperature is like 95 degrees in August and I am trying to get my rabbits ready for an October show, the last thing I need is to have my rabbits get more heat energy from a high protein feed! I have seen some as high as 20% protein, wowzee! (think of the molt that would produce...) The fat content is a little higher than you would normally find in a feed, and that is because I add certain oils, sunflower seed, and flax to bring out the shine on the rabbits. A rabbit is an animal that likes roughage and therefore 20% of fiber is essential for good nutrition. With the proper feed, I think you can actually groom the rabbit from the inside out, instead of grooming them for weeks. I groom my rabbits very little prior to a show. It is all timing and they do it themselves.
Next, SANITATION in your rabbitry is critical if you want sharp looking show rabbits. You must have cages with solid dividers so that their neighbor can not spray on them or chew their fur. Also the dividers must be kept clean so that the rabbits do not develop hutch stain. This seems to be especially critical for me with my chocolate Dutch. For cleaning the cages, I like to use a cleaner disinfectant with a mint smell. It is called Spurtex and works great not only for cages but also for cleaning crocks and nest boxes. Sanitation also includes keeping the fly population under control in your rabbitries for your rabbit's comfort...and also your own.
The MANAGEMENT of your herd is also critical in putting sharp looking Dutch on the show table. It should be emphasized that it is very important for you to be consistent in your feeding. Feed the same time of day and feed the same amount daily (assuming the animals are consuming all of what you are feeding). Keep a watchful eye on each rabbit and note their eating habits, as some will eat less than others.
Now, when the next show comes up and you put your rabbits on the show table, you won't have to rely on luck, because you know that you have done everything for your Dutch and the rest is up to them!