I'm quite positive I have never shared how I started raising rabbits. Every breeder, as they reflect their previous years, have unique and interesting stories to tell.
I was about 10 years old, when my cousin had gotten a recent birthday present. She always had a couple of pet rabbits, but when I saw that chestnut Mini Lop, everything changed. I went home from her place one evening, and I asked my parents if I could have a rabbit. After debating every negative thing my parents could say about rabbits, they said "why not, she'll lose interest by the end of the summer anyways".
So the following morning I opened up our local classfieds newspaper, "The Nickel" [which name is most appropriate]. I came across the ad "Two 4-H rabbits, cages and accessories, $25". I had my mom call right away and to my surprise they were still available. We drove out to Provalt that evening to get them. When I arrived, I was sooooo excited! Since the paper didn't state what breed they were, I was ready to come across anything! But, they were a fawn doe and a bkn fawn buck, both Mini Lops!
So we shoved the huge cage into the back of our SUV, and drove back home. My dad hadn't the chance to make a frame for the cages yet, so we just set the cage on some plastic buckets for the night.
I had Butters and Carmel for a year and a half before we dived in for more. I was reading "The Nickel" again and came across a breeder selling out, who had cages really cheap. Going there primarily for the cages, I ran across a huge barn of beautiful Mini Rex! Well, we got the cages, and I came home with a Red Mini Rex doe too! Two days later, going there with my cousin [she was buying cages as well] she went home with an Opal Mini Rex doe and I went home with a Castor Mini Rex doe.
Lana's 1st bit of advice: If you are getting a "pet" rabbit, regardless of if you think you are going to start breeding rabbits later down the road, GET THE PEDIGREE! My biggest mistake was telling the breeder that these would just be pets [with all those empty cages she must have thought I was an idiot!] and didn't get any litter information on the two does I had just bought.
So, I settled with my 4 rabbits for a couple of months. Until I walked into a floral shop [who'd ever imagine there were bunnies for sale there...] and found the MOST adorable chestnut Holland Lop buck ever. He was begging for me.... he wanted ME! So we got him... Mr. Snuggles lived a very long, healthy and happy life.
Lana's 2nd bit of advice: Don't buy pet store bunnines! Where as I can say my experience with my only pet store bunny was a good one, I still never got his pedigree [even though I knew he was pedigreed and came from good lineage], he was still an unpapered buck. Many crossbreds, sick animals and pet quality animals end up in pet stores, so if you think you may do the rabbit business later down the road, don't even go there!
I now had 5 rabbits. Until I was obsessed with Dutch. I found a local breeder near me who raised quality Dutch. I e-mailed her and she told me that she had rescued many Dutch from a breeder and she was willing to give these rabbits to good homes. Now, this breeder was well established and a very sweet lady. The one doe I got, "Annie" was the sweetest Harlequin Dutch doe I've ever met. I even used her for my first showmanship event. The other doe, who came pregnant [knowingly went down that road, no mistake there] was a complete "sour" doe. She kindled a litter of 3 DOA in December, being mixed breeds now that I know what baby Dutch look like.
As my cousin was getting more Mini Lops from a breeder in Central Point, she was selling out of her barn, having a Dutch buck available. "Nibbles" came to me free of charge, and one of the nicest tempermented rabbits I've owned.
A month later, I picked up my Mini Lop "doe" from my cousin. A black baby from her first litter, I can announce I was her first buyer and boy was I ever excited! No sooner or later did "Cloey" and Nibbles get into a fight, that we checked "Cloey" and "she" had turned into a buck! Cloey then became Cole, an okay typed Mini Lop buck.
Wanting to find a mate for my little boy, I searched and searched for a quality Mini Lop doe. I came across the website of a girl in south western washington, who was selling a broken chocolate Mini Lop doe of quality lines. At only $40 for a pedigreed doe who I could breed, I jumped on the chance. Now, for the life of me I cannot recall who transported Lola for me..... I feel bad now..... but she was the cutest little bugger ever!
I never bred the Holland Lop, or the Dutch. I sold out of them while I continued to breed Mini Rex. I raised Castor, Red, Lynx, Lilac, Opal, Ruby Eyed White, Himilayan and Seal that I can remember, but running into walls of selling Mini Rex is what stopped us for good. As a young teenager, I couldn't compete with the big dogs, and I couldn't sell the babies that I produced.
So, never attempting to breed my Mini Lop buck and doe together, I decided that Cole didn't have the type that I wanted. So..... searching for another Mini Lop [buck or doe at the time, I didn't care] I came across a wonderful website of a Mini Lop breeder in Canada. I took one look at Rah's Venice Rain and knew I had to have her in my barn. I'm sure you're wondering how I got her from Canada to southern Oregon, which is really quite simple, she made it to a Washington show, where she then traveled to Canby, where then a breeder friend in Cottage Grove picked her up for me. Having her brother-in-law deliver the rabbit, she arrived in a cardboard box very late at night. I opened it up and took one stroke of her fur.... I have *never* felt anything comparable since.
Rah's Venice Rain came bred to Vail's Ganache, a bkn chocolate buck in which Karin Vail was the nicest lady ever to let Jenn breed Venice to him, not even having a clue who I was.
Venice kindled 3 kids which started my Mini Lop fever up. I sold off all the Mini Rex, all the other pets to just have Mini Lops in the barn :) Many generations later [I'm prettty sure I'm 5th or 6th generation now with my prefix] I have experimented with several lines creating a set of rabbits ideal to my intpretation of the standard. I breed Mini Lops primarily for type, but I also factor in temperment, color, heat & disease resistance, size, lineage and table performance. I carefully select what I use in my herd and expect that buyers understand that when I go to sell them, they they are not buying just "any" Mini Lop.
I raised Satin rabbits from March 2006-December 2007, selling out only because I'm going to school. Satins are one breed I love with all my heart, they are AMAZING and I cannot wait to begin to raise them again in my future years. I am keeping a small herd of Mini Lops while at college. This year I've kept around 21 with a few litters, but this coming year I will get down to 15 and no litters while I am gone, just on breaks. Currently I have let go, and continue to let go of awesome animals in which I have spent a lot of time with. Reducing for college, or selling out for that matter is NO easy task. While in school, with my registrars license I hope to get hired often at the Northern shows and continue going to rabbit shows, registering and helping out where-ever I can. I may end up becoming judge [we'll see about that with a few more years of experience] but at the least I will become a 4-H leader for Benton county and keep my rabbits at home. Unlike the horses, the dogs, the sheep, the beef, and all the other animals we've had in the past, the rabbits are here to stay. I just cannot sell out after all my hard work and determination to succeed further, I have made the best friends in the rabbit hobby who share my passion, I have some of the best judges and veteran breeders to look up to [you know who you are ;)] and some lovely rabbits to keep my bloodline going.
Until then, I have to continue selling. I have 7 cages, a lot of equipment [carrier bottles, j-feeders, random crocks, coop cups, reg. water bottles and more] and a handful of rabbits for sale. So, if you know anyone who wants a clean start, send them my way -- any help is appreciated!