Condition 101(Influenced by Fuzzy Lops 101: What is Condition? in Fuzzy Tales Autumn 2006 magazine)
I recently came across this article and found it very good reading for even a seasoned breeder as myself and realized I had not one thing on my website about condition. Now when I write this the Fuzzy Lop comes to mind, but it really goes for any breed of rabbit if you want good condition.
When most people think of condition they think only of the condition of coat. I know I went for years as a youth breeder unclear about this and didn't know what I could do about my rough flesh condition, which will cause a rabbit in the best of coat, to lose to another who has good flesh condition.
Condition includes the animals health, cleanness of coat, fur, and overall grooming. A full definition is in the ARBA Standard of Perfection 2006-2010 edition on pages 23 and 24. Everyone should read this and know this is the guidelines every judge goes by and takes into account when judging any breed of rabbit. Perfecting condition will make a huge difference in your winnings. If your rabbit gets commented good on everything but you hear "fails in condition, poor flesh condition, etc" you will want to read the rest of this article as well as the Standard of Perfection. If you use a little effort, your comments will change and you will start winning your classes more.
Always remember, that having good condition is solely the breeders responsibility. Good quality feed, fresh clean water, good ventilation and cleanliness are all the keys to condition. I also recommend the use of hay and oats here and there to add to your rabbit’s diet. Hay and oats often help young kits wean themselves over to food more easily and will result in fewer deaths.
Genetics sometimes will play a role in condition. If you are doing all of the things and should have good condition (truthfully) it could be a genetic problem and you should consider some serious culling. The way to avoid this is to always buy from a reputable breeder. Hang around the show table, see who gets the best comments and wins their classes. Ask them if they have anything for sale. Make notes on whether or not they're friendly and willing to offer you guidance with the breed. If you are ever unsure but want to purchase anyway, ask the breeder if you can have a judge look over the animal, or a registrar. If they decline, then they have something to hide, if they allow you, the more experienced eye can tell you any faults truthfully that you or the breeder could have honestly overlooked or had been hidden before. Once you find a quality breeder who is honest and sells good stock (not diseased! or with genetic flaws) stick with them and learn all you can and get advice from them. You will usually find they are eager to help.
Disease is one of the major causes of poor condition. This is something I had a problem with a lot. WORMS! I didn't know I had to worm my rabbits for the longest time. I soon realized worming with piperazine was a condition life saver! A way to diagnose if your rabbit has these pin worms is to look at the stool. If the round fecal matter has tiny white flecks in them, that is a sure sign of pin worms! The Piperazine clears it right up. These worms usually cause no problems but do rob your animal of good flesh condition and can make does less healthy when pregnant, as they are robbed of much needed nutrients.
Wool mites and coccidia also can rob your animal of condition. These are much more serious and passed along very easily. Wool mites can be cured by flea powders or Ivomec. Coccidia has many treatments. The quicker you catch it and treat it, the more chance your animal will live.
A rabbit who is molting will almost always lose to the top of the class if another rabbit isn't molting. I find that especially in the southern states, rabbits molt almost year long and some will molt and others won't. They never do it all at once or where you can predict it. I can't count how many times I'll enter in an awesome Fuzzy and the night before I see it's suddenly gone into full blown molt. Molting is completely natural and not a health hazard and should not be looked down to when purchasing stock. All rabbits do it!! Rabbits who are molting will usually have fair to poor flesh condition since they eat less food now. They are also at a high risk for fur balls, especially long haired breeds. It is recommended to feed the rabbits lots of hay during molting to avoid wool block. Watch them carefully and if your rabbit stops eating all together treat the animal for wool block. Not treating the rabbit will either force the rabbit to pass the wool (unlikely and very unhealthy) or eventually cause it to starve to death.
Finally, back to what most people thought condition was about: grooming.
Keeping your rabbit clean and free of urine stains, fecal matter, knots and loose hairs will go a long way. But it's also important to remember and keep all the other keys to condition.