|Eight easy Steps to Tattooing a Rabbit
All rabbits must have a permanent tattoo in their left ear before they can be
shown. Tattoos are the way you can tell your rabbit apart from all others on the
show table. If there’s 10 Black Dutch Sr bucks that all look the same, how are
you to know which one is your own? If you don’t have a tattoo kit yet, there
should be a registrar at the show who will be tattooing for a couple dollars. If
you just bought your clamp tattoo kit and need to learn how to use it, here’s 8
simple steps to follow of how my dad and I do it. It’s a messy way, but it’s what
works best for us. We use a Weston, but any clamp style tattoo kit will work the
same. My dad is usually the one who tattoos and I hold the rabbit firmly while
he does it. I do know how to tattoo and have done it before though. I just prefer
not to do it unless I have to. Plus he gets a better tattoo than me ;)
It's best to tattoo the rabbit while it's young, as the older it gets, the thicker the
ear is. If it's a senior rabbit that you're just getting tattoo, it most likely will not
last, as their ears are thicker, and have a waxy residue on them.
1. Decide what numerals/letters
I recommend using at least 2 digits, we usually use three or four digits on my
rabbits. It’s best not to use a word that the judge will remember each time they
judge your rabbit. I know somebody who once tattoo two rabbits “YACKO” and
“WACKO”. The first time the judge had the rabbits they thought it was funny, but
the second time the judge had them, they remembered who the rabbit was and
who it was owned by. It’s best not to have the judge remember your rabbit or
whose it’s owner is.
Most breeders have a rabbitry code that they use, so they know it's a rabbit out
of their barn. Usually by the code, they can tell it's from their barn, who the
parents are, and usually the sex of the rabbit.
If you have a small breed like a Netherland Dwarf or Polish, make sure that it's
not a long tattoo! When I was a registrar at shows, I would have people wanting
5 digits in their small breeds ears. I would have to turn them away, as my
clamp was too big to even fit that many digits in the ear.
2. Testing the tattoo
Before you tattoo your rabbit you always want to test it out first by punching the
clamp on paper to make sure that the numbers/letters you entered are correct.
This is to make sure you did not accidentally put them in backwards, the wrong
way, etc, so there will be no mistakes in the final tattoo. When I tattoo for
someone else, I always have them verify that the paper punch is correct, in
case I heard the tattoo number wrong.
3. Checking the ear
You always tattoo the left ear, the right ear is for if you get the rabbit registered
with the ARBA. Before tattooing you want to put the ear to a light so you can see
the major veins. You want to try to miss these veins, so the rabbit won’t bleed.
Sometimes however, there is no avoiding it.
4. Where to tattoo
When we tattoo rabbits, we like to do it on a clear, slick surface like the dining
room table. This way the rabbit cannot get into traction during the tattoo
process and hurt itself. It is also best to have someone hold the rabbit firmly
while you tattoo the rabbit.
I do NOT recommend tattoo boxes. I know there are some breeders who swear
by them, but they do not look very safe to me. If you do decide to use one, do not
use it on any small breeds. I know a 4-H kid who had several of her Netherland
Dwarfs break their backs in these boxes.
Some people like to wrap their rabbit up in a towel. I do not recommend this
either, as it scares me that they will break their back in it.
I find the best way is to just have someone else hold the rabbit. In the 17 years
I've had rabbits, my dad and I have only had one bad injury to a rabbit when
tattooing. When I hold the rabbits, I like to have one hand have a good grip on
the chest, and the other on the rump. As the rabbit struggles, I lift up with them,
to avoid injury. This also puts them away from the table, so they do not break
any nails or toes.
5. The tattoo
Put the tattoo pliers to the left ear of the rabbit keeping in mind the location of
the blood vessels. (Remember: The tattoo needles are to pierce the inside of
the ear going through it to the outside.) Do not be slow with this process. Pop
the pliers instantly and quickly. This way the piercing is over before the rabbit
realizes what happened. You can not do this slowly. Imagine your ear slowly
being pierced. That would hurt.
6. Taking the clamp off
Pull the rabbit’s ear of the tattoo needles. Be quick, do not procrastinate and let
the pierced holes close up.
7. The ink
You want to apply the ink immediatly to the pierced holes. We prefer to put the
ink on our thumb quite liberally and rub it into the holes inside the ear forcing
the ink through to the outside of the ear. Some people use the brush, but we
like using our thumb better, as we find we get a better tattoo this way. As soon
as the ink appears on the outside of the ear, the process is over.
Make sure your ink is not old, as it will fade out if it is and not last. Make sure to
use black ink only, as the other colors fade more so.
8. Cleaning the ear
I use baby wipes to clean it out right away, then I put Vaseline in the ear. The
Vaseline helps stop any bleeding, if there is any. Always make sure the ear is
clean before putting the rabbit on the show table, so the judge can read the
*NOTE* If you do hit one of the ear veins during the process, don’t worry.
Continue the ink process as stated in step #7. Have some paper towels handy,
apply to the inside and outside of the ear and apply direct pressure for a couple
of minutes. This will quickly stop any bleeding. Putting the Vaseline over the
tattoo also helps.
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