WHERE DO YOU BUY A BUNNY?
There are many places to buy a bunny depending on your budget, your plans for a bunny and availability. I will list the possibilities and the pros and cons of each. But in any event, shop around! Don't just buy the first one you see...be selective in the process and you won't regret it.
Please select the bunny you like, not one that is pushed on you. Consider the sellers advice about which is healthiest or gentlest but use your own instinct and make a selection that you really love.
The first and foremost consideration that applies to wherever you buy your rabbit is............CLEANLINESS!
How clean is the operation? A clean rabbitry is a good indication of the health of the animals.
Would you feel comfortable letting your child play there? If there are piles of manure in the cage, and a strong smell of ammonia you may get a bunny with a high tolerance to disease but you may also take home a sick bunny.
Few sellers feel they can afford to guarantee the health of their rabbits because improper handling and care by a new bunny owner is beyond the control of the seller.
I have always guaranteed my rabbits and spend quite a good deal of time explaining the most important requirements for keeping the baby healthy. Replacing a sick bunny or one that dies, is just good business even if I am suspicious of the real cause of illness or death.
If the seller doesn't offer a health guarantee, consider asking for a 72 hour return privilege to allow you time to take the animal to a vet, at your own expense, for a check up.
You will save a bunny from certain destruction.
Many times the rabbits at shelters are someone's pet that got loose and picked up by the pound. These are frequently very gentle and loving.
It may have been turned loose by it's owner because of an aggressive attitude or because it was pregnant!
You won't have any way of knowing the age and the sex (unless the shelter staff are knowledgeable about rabbits).
You may not know the breed or how large it will become although most rabbits in shelters are adults.
No guarantee of health is offered by the shelters with whom I have dealt.
Not many shelters will even bother trying to place a rabbit since they aren't set up to house rabbits and the selection may be sparse.
We are fortunate in Manteca that the Animal Control staff will ask me to take rabbits if they can't place them rather than destroying them. I always make room.
There are organizations such as the House Rabbit Society that take in abandoned or sick rabbits. They have them spayed or neutered and ailments treated before placing them in homes they find suitable.
Cost. The House Rabbit Society will ask for a small donation to cover some of their costs.
The rabbits are usually altered so you don't have to worry about babies.
The rabbits will have been well handled by the foster parent and should be fairly tame.
The health and disposition of the animal will have been pretty well discovered and you will be so advised.
And last, but not least, you will have given an unwanted animal a loving home.
Unless you have access to the Internet such organizations may not be easy to find in all areas.
The rabbits are, for the most part, adults that may have pretty well ingrained behaviors although rabbits are pretty adaptable to love and affection.
Limited selection can also be a drawback.
Some livestock auctions have a section of poultry and rabbits.
Clearly the greatest advantage is price. Rabbits may be purchased for as little as fifty cents! Over-stocked breeders may offer very good animals although seldom with Pedigrees available.
You have absolutely no idea what you are getting! There are no guarantees and no way of telling the age or anything else about the rabbit.
The auction is an easy outlet for over-stocked breeders to unload excess rabbits, but it is also a way to dispose of poor producers or sick animals.
So "you pays your money and takes your chance".
BACK YARD HOBBYISTS
I refer to people who have a couple or a even a couple of dozen rabbits that they raised for the kids or grand-kids or for their own freezer as "Back Yard Hobbyists."
Price. These folks generally sell what they don't need or have room for and a sign out front or small ad in the paper is their only outlet. They are usually glad to make room and let them go very inexpensively.
Many back yard hobbyist have a selection of cross-breeds which can be remarkably hardy stock if cared for properly.
Frequently the hobbyist isn't skilled at sexing the babies so you may not get the sex you expect.
The breed may be of questionable origin, which certainly doesn't make it bad, it's just that you may regret later not getting quite what you expected.
You probably won=t get a health guarantee from these sellers.
4-H, FFA, SCOUTS
4-H , FFA and Boy Scouts groups are
always a good source for pet and/or
The proceeds go to a good cause...the children's reward for a diligent effort.
The kids in these groups are pretty knowledgeable about their animals and the rabbits are likely to be in good health.
None, that I can think of unless, the rabbitry isn't clean or the rabbits don't look healthy.
You're not likely to get any kind of guarantee but don't be afraid to ask.
RABBIT SHOWS AND FAIRS
It is probably the best way to see the largest variety of breeds and colors available.
You have the opportunity to talk to several breeders and ask questions about a lot of different rabbits.
At a show or Fair you can visit with the owner but they may be too busy with events to spend a great deal of time with you.
You can only see the rabbit, not the environment where it was raised.
If the owner lives in your area you might consider asking if you can go to their place at a later date to make your selection. This will ensure that you can take your time and can evaluate the health of the stock.
Most rural towns have feed stores that carry small animals.
Prices are usually more reasonable than pet stores.
The store owner may not know the age and may not be knowledgeable about sexing the rabbit.
They seldom have Pedigreed stock, many times only cross-breeds and culls are available.
Not likely to offer health guarantee.
Pet stores have gotten a bad reputation after the scandal of "puppy mills" but there are some very reputable pet stores, unfortunately, there are not enough of them! I only sell to a couple of stores where the owners are on site all of the time; are experienced with rabbits and agree to follow my recommendations on care and feeding. They do quite well as do the rabbits. I also insist that my rabbits are not mixed in with those of another breeder or housed with Guinea Pigs.
Easy access is the main reason to purchase from a pet store. Most cities and small towns have pet stores and many sell rabbits today.
Price can be comparable or higher than other sources depending on the store. Typically you pay more for a bunny there but you usually get added benefits of being able to purchase everything you need from feed and salt licks to leashes, books and brushes, in one place.
The better pet stores offer services like ongoing nail trimming at no charge. We are pleased to deal with a store that offers an adoption program for customers that can no longer keep their pet because they are moving or no longer have time to care for the bunny properly.
Many stores also offer pet sitting services to take care of your bunny while you're on vacation.
Pet store owners can usually recommend a good veterinarian.
The greatest disadvantage is that a great many pet store employees, especially in the big chains, have little or no experience with rabbits. With a large variety of pets for sale you can't reasonably expect them to be experts in the care of all of the pets they sell, but they should be smart enough to know what they don't know and be willing to refer your questions to a good book on the subject or someone (like the breeder) rather than making up an answer that may prove fatal to your pet.
CASE IN POINT
One day a woman came to see my rabbitry in hopes of purchasing her fifth Holland Lop. I asked how long she had rabbits for a pet (assuming her five bunnies were purchased over the years). She said "About six months, I can't seem to keep them alive!"
"Wait a minute!" I replied in horror. "How could five bunnies die in six months?" She didn't know.
This was an intelligent, articulate woman who was at a loss as to the cause of death. She had paid plenty for the animals at several different pet stores. She bought whatever feed, cage, toys, etc. that were recommended and still she lost the rabbits!
I told her unless she had some deadly virus or bacteria infecting her cage or was doing something foolish like feeding lettuce or celery to young bunnies, certainly that many bunnies from different places could not die!
"Oh yes" she said, "I've been feeding all of them lettuce! All of the pet stores said I should!"
She took home a Holland baby of mine with the promise that she would never have lettuce in her house again! Two weeks later she called to cheerfully report that the bunny was doing fine. Now more than a year later pet and owner are alive and well.
The point of the story is, don't believe everything you hear. Do some research! While one bunny might tolerate some foods quite well, to another it could be fatal!
Ask the pet store if pedigrees are available or if you may contact the breeder with questions. Many stores are reluctant to divulge their source but my stores do so with great success. It makes the customer feel comfortable that the store has nothing to hide and scrupulous breeders would not attempt to take a sale away from the pet store.
Also remember to ask for a 72 hour health guarantee to get a vet's check-up. Your bunny may still develop a problem that will appear later but you will at least feel certain that no one has willingly sold you a sick bunny.
Of course my favorite option is a breeder, not because the rabbits are necessarily sweeter, healthier or whatever, but just because of the flexibility it offers you in terms of breeds, colors, price, information etc.
Breeders typically have a choice of breeds and colors.
The Breeder can show you the parents so you get an idea of what your bunny will look like when grown. Baby bunnies change a lot as they get older.
Breeders can answer your questions more completely than most pet stores or back yard bunny owners. If they don't offer, BE SURE TO ASK. The hard part is knowing what to ask!
A responsible breeder will be available to answer follow up questions after you take your bunny home.
They should also offer advice on housing, feeding and veterinarians experienced with rabbits.
Pedigree papers are not necessary unless you plan to show the animal in Open competition or breed for future sale etc. but be sure to ask if they are available. Should you decide to sell or give your bunny away later you will find a Pedigreed bunny is easier to place.
If there is a charge for the papers, usually from $5 to $10, you might ask if it is possible to get them at a later date. Be sure to get the birth date of your bunny and the names of the parents to be sure the papers you receive are accurate. Breeders are people too and might forget to mail the papers. If so, a phone call reminding them which rabbit you need the pedigree for will jog their memory.
Breeders typically charge less than pet stores. Many have various price ranges based on whether they see the rabbit as "pet or show" quality. Don't be put off by "pet quality" it simply means that it's conformation, color or length of ear or width of head is not as desirable to the breeder as others available. Many "pet quality" bunnies have gone on to produce champions or suddenly develop into very showable animals.
A great number of breeders will guarantee the rabbits for health and some even guarantee show-quality.
I even go so far as to guarantee disposition! No one should keep a rabbit they aren't happy with because the animal will either be ignored or mistreated. I would prefer they return the bunny and exchange it for another. You must remember that rabbits are like children, you just never know what they will be like when they grow up. The advantage to rabbits is you can return them if they don't work out!
P.S. The good news about the cranky bunnies is they usually turn out to be great breeders!
Location: It isn't always easy to find a local breeder. You can check newspapers, yellow pages, feed stores, the Internet, pet store bulletin boards, local 4H & FFA groups. Don't overlook calling some local vets or check the yellow pages for pet product suppliers such as cage builders, pet food distributors etc.
Some show breeders might price you out of the market. Remember, you can love a $25 rabbit just as much as a $100 one.
Some breeders are reluctant to place their stock as pets, fearing mishandling by a novice. Some are afraid of competition from someone who might go into business down the street.
Then there are some who are afraid you might beat them on the show table.
If you don't feel comfortable and welcome, you might want to keep shopping.
Please bear with us while we are under construction. There is more to come!