My Experiences in the Past 23 Years
My start in rabbits is probably not unique. It was Easter, 1989, when a neighbor called to tell me to bring my daughter down to see her because she had an Easter bunny for her. I was thinking about a stuffed rabbit or chocolate bunny. when we got there it was a little gray rabbit in the flesh.[American Chinchilla]' We brought the rabbit home. My wife was sure surprised! We found a milk crate and put the bunny (named Bunnicula after a favored bunny book) in it and put another milk crate on top of it. Off to the library we went and borrowed an ancient book on rabbits; the only one our library had! The book said to build the cage 2ft by 4ft. So I did. That cage was later partitioned into two cages.
After we got the first rabbit and some knowledge we began to get more. We met a wonderful rabbit breeder who introduced us to red Satins. She sent us to Brian Sawchuk, a well known Satin breeder in our area. Brian sold my daughter an excellent young three month old red Satin doe. When it was five months old my daughter entered it in our county fair where the rabbit won best of breed. Our rabbitry has grown since then from the humble beginning into Crescent Valley Rabbitry.
Later on I started to get more rabbits. I bought more reds and whites from Brian. I want to say that in the beginning when I was the "new kid in town" Brian was always ready to share his knowledge with me. He came to my house and taught me how to cull my rabbits, showing me what to look for in type, color and fur. I appreciate all of Brian's help, he was always there when I needed it most. For you professional breeders out there remember when you see someone trying to get their feet wet. Lend them a hand. Most will never forget it.
I have since bought rabbits from other breeders, who, for the most part are always willing to help you out and share their experiences with you. I have removed rabbits and added others as I have grown in the understanding of proper breeding and culling techniques. You never stop learning, there is always something new that if you are just open to hearing/seeing, it may aim you in another and possibly better direction. If you want to learn a lot about rabbits read all you can about them. In fact, I badgered our town library for more books on rabbits. They now have a much more diversified selection. I have built my very own rabbit library at home, and it continues to grow.too, it is of generous proportion.
Let every rabbit show be not only for fun, but also a learning experience. Expand your knowledge every chance you get. "Every person knows something you don't, learn from them"- H. Jackson Brown.
In the beginning I wanted to have every color of Satin. I had reds, coppers, chinchillas, blacks, Siamese, Californians, whites, and Broken colors! I didn't keep all the colors very long. Soon I had only coppers, reds, and some chinchillas. Eventually I learned that when you have too many colors, you will never have enough space to improve. I culled down my stock and kept only chocolates, blues, blacks, and a few whites and coppers. It's not easy. I now have only Chocolates and Blacks, and the four Otter varieties.
The blacks that I kept I consider to be chocolate blacks as they all carry a chocolate gene due to my breeding program. I breed chocolate to black to improve color and type. I also breed chocolates to chocolates and blacks to black. My black to black breeding will throw chocolates, because they all carry (b) for Chocolate, my blacks are all (Bb) which makes them appear black, but when bred, chocolates (bb) appear. It is possible to get a few blacks (BB), it all depends on which genes pair up.
At the moment, I have some very nice animals to work with. I am always looking for something to add to my line to improve it, however. I like to trade or purchase animals that I believe will benefit my herd either by type or color.
To develop the Otter Satins.I used a black otter Rex crossed to both black and chocolate satins. My herd has now produced quite a few Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac Otters. With my breeding program, I have achieved success in my endeavor. I retain a few Chocolate and black satins. A few Reds make an appearance every so often due to the fact that genes can appear from as far back a 45 generations.. I am seeing constant improvement in my Otters. Of course I am culling severely, and retaining only the best stock in an effort to keep my herd down to a manageable size. In my time spent with rabbits, I have found that you do not need large numbers in order to improve. I try to maintain a small Herd of 20 to 24 breeders, this does not count the litters still in the nestbox. Though I maintain a number of empty cages just in case I may need them to keep a promising Jr. Doe or Buck or two. Experience is a great teacher. Don't be afraid to try new things and ideas.
Improving rabbits is a never ending game. Strive to make the best better. With perseverance you will surely reach your goal.