Heaton Rabbitry

Type of Califorian Rabbit Meat Pen to Purchase From Texas Breeder

Selecting a Californian Rabbit Meat Pen For Texas Show
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Type of Califorian Rabbit Meat Pen to Purchase From Texas Breeder
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Frequently Asked Questions

Meat Pen, Show, Breeding, Commercial, or Pet Rabbit

You must decide the purpose of the rabbit before you buy it.  Is this going to be my FFA/4-H meat pen project, an ARBA show rabbit, breeding stock, sell the meat to a supplier, or a back yard rabbit?  This question must be answered because each one of these requires different research and different rabbits.
A Meat Pen Rabbit is usually purchased when it is 4 to 5 weeks old.  However, if you want to get a really good pen you need to call the breeder several months before your show.  Preferably 2 months before the breed date.  ( I will be putting breed dates at the bottom of this section)  The rabbits need to be either New Zealand whites or Californians if you want to win.  You may use some other breeds and New Zealand blacks but that will limit your chances.  New Zealand blacks are beautiful but it is hard to find the quality and they have numerous disqualifications that you will have to deal with before the show.  Try not to use a show rabbit for your meat pen.  Meat pen rabbits prime out at 10 weeks with very strong shoulders.  Show rabbits prime out between 5 to 9 months and usually do not have enough should for a meat pen.  You want your meat pen to look like a brick with depth.  Show animals have a taper starting at the shoulders which limits their ability to be good meat pens.  I am telling you this because my boys were National Champion with their Show New Zealands, Blacks and Whites.  However, when the boys  would compete with their meat pen for their county show  they would usually place below the 4th place spot.   We could not understand having  some of the best New Zealands in the Nation and not being able to place Grand at our county show, which was all New Zealands at that time.  A judge finally explained to me that there was two different types of New Zealands, one for the ARBA show circuit and one for meat pen competition.  Boy was he right.  We got that Grand spot as soon as we switched to the meat pen New Zealand stock.
Show Rabbits are for the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association)  sanctioned shows.  There are to many different breeds for me to tell you all about each one in this section.  The ARBA has a great web site and I have a link to it on my Home page.  The TRBA (Texas Rabbit Breeders Association)  has a web site with a link on my Home page.   This web page will have breeders names and information about shows in Texas.  You will need to go to a breeder that is showing rabbits at these shows to get good quality show rabbits.  But I will warn you that the person with the most TRBA points is not always the person with the best rabbits.  Many times they just go to more shows and put more rabbits on the table.  Go to the National web site of the breed your choosing and see who won Best of Breed.  The TRBA will also publish this information on shows.  These are the breeders that you want to buy from.  Joe and I do not travel to shows as often as we use to because of his job.   But we do win our share of Best of Breed when we show up.
Breeding Stock.  If you have to breed your own Does for your county show then you need to start looking at least 4 to 5 months before your show.  Please do not go out and try to buy proven Does.  Most people will not sell a Doe if she is doing everything right and throwing beautiful babies.  They will sell the Doe that is hard to breed, has her babies on the wire, or they just do not like her for numerous other reasons.  You do much better to buy 3 to 4 Does and a buck that are 5 to 6 months old.  Then when they are 7 months old let them have a practice litter before you have to breed for your county show.  Many first time Does will have their babies on the wire or just not take care of them.  Then the next litter she is a good Mom, usually.  Look for stock that has big strong shoulders, and full hindquarter, and a wide loin with some depth.  Most breeders are not selling the perfect rabbit.  The breeder usually keeps the ones that are close to perfect.  If you have to give up something do it in your Does and give up depth first.  Try to buy the very very best buck you can possibly buy.  This is why you start asking who is winning in the meat pen circuit and go and buy from them.    (There are some very good ethical breeders that sell good proven Does.)
A Commercial rabbit is being raised to sell to the processor.  You will need a rabbit that can reach 5 pounds as quick as possible with the least amount of fat.  Some can accomplish this in as little as 8 weeks.  These rabbits do not make good meat pen rabbits.  They are culled on number in litter, ability to hold up to numerous breedings a year, milking quality, body carcass, and numerous other factors. (Production)   The best place to buy commercial stock is from a commercial breeder.  Most met pen competion breeders do not care about the numbers in the litter being high or if they can grow out before that 10 week old competion date.  So buy your stock from a commercial breeder.  However, before you jump off into the commercial aspect of this business it is best to research research research.  You should have some experience with rabbits before trying to get big fast.  It is not as easy as everyone makes it sound or we would all be rich.  It is a rewarding job once you understand most of it.  No one ever understands it all, we all are learning every day.
So, be very careful if you find a real good price on a meat pen from a breeder that sells their rabbits for meat production.  They usually do not have the body type to put you in that Grand Champion spot. 
Pet rabbits are very special pets.  They will require the right type of cage and equipment just like a show rabbit.  You will need to give it love and attention.  Before you get a rabbit as a pet make sure you are ready for it.  There are many types of breeds that make wonderful pets.  Decide if you want a pedigreed one that could be shown or if you want one that the breeder does not want to put back into the herd.  You get a rabbit that may not have the right conformation or his coloring is off a little for a fraction of the price of a show rabbit.

This information is my opinion formed after breeding and showing rabbits since 1976.