When you get ready to select your rabbit meat pen your rabbits should be within
2 ounces in weight. This will require that you work on your rabbit meat pen project from the very
beginning. To get your meat pen within 2 to 3 ounces from the top weight to the bottom weight will require
you to usually seperate the animals and regulate their feed starting at 5 weeks of age.
The day you get ready to select your rabbit meat pen should be cool. If the weather does
not cooperate that day then select them early in the morning or late in the evening in the shade.
If you can seperate your pen into seperate pens like a carrier this will help to settle them down and give you a place to
mark their cage on the top.
You will need a long mirror. I suggest one that is used on the back of a door. A mirror will be your best
friend. It will allow you to see the back of the rabbit at the same time you are looking at the front end. You
can really see the lower hindquarter this way. It will also allow you to get a real picture on how all three rabbits
look like together on the table. A mirror is better than just looking at them with your eye.
I make a chart: weight, shoulder, depth, loin, rump, lower hindquarter, and fur. I seperate the rabbits into groups
within 4 ounces of each other. Many times I will have a heavy weight and a lighter weight class to look at when it is
time to select the pen. It does not hurt if the weights break down into three groups. Then I look at each rabbit
and give them a ranking in each class on the chart. I then pull together all the rabbits that have excellent in
all 6 classes. I try to get three to match out of that group, however, if that does not work then I pull the rabbits
that were marked the next best in loin, rump, and lower hindquarters. I do look at shoulders but it is the last thing
that I worry about. If you have trouble deciding if they are the same depth, lay a ruler across their backs and see
if they all touch the ruler. If one has a lot more depth than the others it will be easy to see. You will not
need the ruler after a few times using the mirror. It is better to go with the heavier rabbits for your pen.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association book of Standard does a really good job describing what the rabbits should look
like for your meat pen. However, I will try and tell you what I look for when selecting the best rabbit. I want
my rabbit to start right behind the neck and start rising. You do not want to be able to put a finger behind the neck
before they start their rise in depth. I like them to be so wide that it is difficult for my hand to reach across their
shoulder. There should be a little taper to their hindquarter but not to much because we are not raising show rabbits.
You want your hand to go down their midsection and across their hips without catching on their hip bones. It is best
to have a finger nail tight loin but one finger is acceptable. They should round over their rump and go into a full
lower hindquarter. You do not want to go over the rump and go straight down. This is called chopped on the show
table. A good description for looking at their rump in a army helmet cut in half. Their fur should have a fly
back texture. When you run your had on their fur from the rear to the head the fur should fly back.
Try and stay with the same litter because of the genetics. You can use different litters but you have to be careful
of bone structure and fur. If you do mix litters try and stay with the same buck as the sire of both litters.
Do not pick your pen more than 24 hours in advance because the rabbits gain weight each day and change body structure
as they grow. I usually pick my pen the night before the show and then check them an hour before they go on the show
Please check for ear canker about 5 days before the show. If you see just a little then use something for dogs
in their ear. If it is bad then use ivomec in their ears. It will be clear in a few days but may cause their fur
to slip if you use ivomer. Warning be careful you do not want to get the medication of their fur. They will sling
their head when you put medicine in their ears.
A Few Tips:
Find someone with lot of experience selecting meat
pens and invite them over.
If you get tired take a break.
If the rabbits get tired take a break.
Wear long sleeves.
Mirror, mirror, mirror
Seperate the rabbits before you begin selecting them.
Mark each rabbit with a tattoo or a sharpie.
Make a chart.
Judge each rabbit individually.
Have a digital scale.
Use a ruler for depth.
A wet cloth for their fur.
Select your pen within 24 hours of the show.
Try and stay within the same litter.
Good Luck and have fun.