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Tattooing: Why and How

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Tattooing has several benefits and does not harm your buns when done correctly. Below we will detail why you should tattoo your rabbits and how to do it in a safe and painless way.

Why Tattoo

There are several reasons why you would want to tattoo your rabbit. The reason we (as rabbit show breeders) do it is because show rabbits are required have a permanent tattoo on their left ear. Another reason why breeders tattoo their rabbits is to keep track of which rabbit is who and for good record keeping habits. For example, if one gets sick or has some form of abnormality, then you can keep record of who had what problems or keep track of any characteristics you want. A final reason is with the rise of the RHDV2 virus, some states require a tattoo or microchip to keep record of who has been vaccinated. This required for both pet and livestock rabbits.

How to Tattoo

First thing we do is use this numbing spray on the left ear of the rabbit. Wait about 5 minutes for the numbing spray to take effect before tattooing.

In the meantime, prep your tattoo pen. We use the TB Tatt Tattoo Pen, which comes in a standard and deluxe package. Follow the instructions on how to put your pen together based on the instructions of your pen. Next, pour your tattoo ink into your in inkwell cup. Even though the tattooing process will not harm your bun, they may still squirm from the sensation of the vibrating pen and may move in general. So, wrap your bun in a cloth nice and tight to keep you and your bun safe.

When you first start tattooing, it may make you nervous as the tattoo will be permanent. We recommend using a practice parchment to practice on first. We practice tracing on these first to make sure we are comfortable with the feel of the pen before tattooing their ears.

Before tattooing, wipe the ear clean with an alcohol pad and add a thin layer of healing balm on the ear. The balm will make sure your ink does not spread and let you see easier where you have marked. Turn on your pen and dip the needle into the inkwell cup. Make sure not to touch the walls or base of the cup or else it can damage your needle, making it necessary to replace the needle tip sooner than normal.

Write your tattoo numbers and letters. A quick note is that straight lines are easier for beginners than curved ones. Go over your tattoo at least twice to make sure it is thick and permanent. Use a finger under the ear as a support surface. When you're done, use your alcohol wipe again, review the tattoo, and fix any spots that are not to your liking. When you are happy with your tattoo, place a layer of healing balm on the tattoo to quicken the healing process. Unwrap your bun and now you're done!

Deciding on the Tattoo Number

So, how do you decide on a tattoo number? It can be any combination of letters/numbers you like! Here are some common combinations for breeders.

Rabbitry name + rabbit number + color program. One way is to choose the tattoo number is based your rabbitry name, a number, and color program. An example would be "PL001B." PL stands for Pampered Lionheads, our rabbitry name. The number represents the first bun we raised, and the B stands for the Blue-eyed white color program. You can also omit your rabbitry name (001B) or color program (PL001) for a shorter tattoo number.

Shortened name. Another way is using a shorter version of their name. For example, Arceus can be "ARC." This will remind you of what their name is.

Sire initials + dam initials + rabbit number. Another method is to use the name of the parents and the number of rabbits from that litter. For example, "DMJ001" represents D for Dream Eater (sire), MJ for MaryJane (dam), and first one you tattooed from their first litter.

For fancy, show, and pet rabbits, any of the above methods works. For meat rabbits, we suggest using the first or third methods for an easier way to keeping track of them. Keeping good records will prevent you from using the same tattoo combination twice, which will make things less confusing down the line.

If you need rabbits tattooed for any reason, people at ARBA rabbit shows can help tattoo (usually for a small fee of $2 - $3 per rabbit). We used their services when we started out and now offer these services when we go to a show. So if you ever need tattooing services, come find us at a show!

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