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What to look for when purchasing your foundation/breeding stock

You will need to decide which breed you would like and searching the internet for more information, looking at books and pictures can help as to giving you an idea of the wide range of breeds available. Once you have an idea of the breed(s) you are interested in, it's a good idea to get out and about at some shows and actually see the rabbit in the flesh. Get a feel for the breed, looking at the rabbits in a show is a good indication of type and size and can help you decide. You might also see a breed that you've never seen before such as a Rare Variety and this may be something to consider too. Visiting breeders of your chosen breed, looking around their studs, handling their rabbits and talking to the breeder will give you a good idea of the temperament, space and care the breed requires. Many breeders will happily show you around their stud without any obligation to buy from them.

When you are sure which breed you would like and are ready to purchase your first rabbits, you should go for the best available stock that you can find and invest in two good proven does and a proven buck from related lines. This will give you a good start. Or you can purchase a young doe, proven doe and buck combination. This is known as purchasing a 'trio' and is the conventional and most recommended way of doing things. From these three foundation rabbits you will be able to start your line and then bring in outcrosses as needed.

Beware of where you buy your foundation stock! Just because a breeder is a member of the British Rabbit Council, this doesn't mean they are breeding for show, producing show quality stock or selling good foundation stock! The BRC is made up of many members, both pet and exhibition that advertise in the BRC Year Book. A good place to look is in the Fur & Feather magazine or ask other breeders/exhibitors for their recommendations. Join the National or Regional Specialist Club for your chosen breed and not only will the year book have breeder's adverts but the Secretary will often be only too helpful in pointing you in the right direction. Your Local club or District Advisor can help here too. When you find a breeder, ask questions and find out what their breeding objectives are? Do they show, if not, why? Have they sold rabbits for show, if so, how well have these rabbits done? There are many good questions to ask, but recommendations are a very good and reliable guide to a breeder's reputation. Don't be afraid to ask around, most breeders would not be offended if they have nothing to hide and you will get a feel for general opinions and constructive advice as to their stock and reputation. Even if they no longer show for whatever reason, they will still have that experience and be breeding towards the Standard of the breed.

Also beware of buying stock from shows. They may look good in the sale pen, but you will need more information than looks alone before buying the rabbit. If there is something that you really want to buy, ask around for who bred the rabbit, talk to other breeders and source their opinions on the rabbit. Talk to the breeder and get more background, why it's for sale and will it be any good for what you want it for. Examine it thoroughly when possible. You will not know where this rabbit has come from, will not have seen the parents and relatives or the conditions they are kept in. You could maybe exchange numbers with the breeder and visit their stud, they may be willing to take a deposit on the rabbit for you to collect it at a later date or have other more suitable stock for sale at home. But of course they may not, so think carefully. Be sure of what you are buying and get all the information you can before you part with your money. It's much better to actually visit a stud when you are starting out and purchase stock from your chosen stud after you have viewed the rabbits and talked to the breeder.

If you are lucky, you may find someone local to you who will be willing to not only supply you with good foundation (solid & proven line bred stock with which you can continue with) stock, but may be able to help you with choosing your matings, going through litters with you and helping you to look for the qualities you want in your litters and what to keep to continue breeding with, all with the sound knowledge and experience of knowing their line. They may also be willing to take you along to shows with them, introduce you to people and help with questions and support. A good breeder is invaluable in the first few months, even years of your breeding and can be the start of a very good friendship.

If a local breeder can't help you with stock, they can still be invaluable and offer a friendly face at shows, they may also be willing to come along with you to help you choose your foundation stock and show you what to look for and how to examine the rabbits before purchase. Also helping you with litters and matings in future.

Also remember there is good stock and better stock. A breeder will never be able to sell you their best, because of course, this is what all their hard work has gone into producing and would defeat the purpose of it all! You can't expect to be producing winner's overnight; it takes some hard work and dedication. They will however be able to supply you with good quality stock to work with and normally stock that is related to their best lines at reasonable prices. You may even be offered to mate a doe to a suitable buck of your choice, either included in the price (as previously agreed) or for a small additional stud fee. You may also be able to return to the breeder later on for an additional stud mating rather than buying in another outcross from an unrelated line or having to purchase another buck. These are all options that are open to you and can be discussed with the breeder. Some breeders may be reluctant to allow their bucks to be used by a doe of unknown origin that may unwittingly bring something into their stud and to their rabbits, so you should be aware of this.

Most of all, don't rush things! No matter how eager you are to get your rabbits and get started, rushing out and buying the first rabbits you see can be waste of time and money, along with heartache down the line. Everyone makes mistakes and it is what helps us to learn, but if you take your time, source a good breeder and don't rush into buying then these mistakes will hopefully be minimal and you can get on with enjoying your rabbits and hobby to the fullest.

You also don't have to start off with a shed full of rabbits. A trio for each line or colour would be sufficient and then you can keep some hutches spare for what you breed from them.