Animal identification is important in rabbits as well as cattle, goats and sheep. What do these vastly different animals have in common? All use ear tattoo marks as a means of individually recording animals.
Some say a tattoo means they’re just a number but it’s quite the opposite! A tattoo gives a permanent identification that is unique to that individual rabbit. In a herd of 60 rabbits each unique tattoo number or letter combination insures that only one is accurately recorded for medical care, breeding and personal records much like an employment file. Tattoo marking is required to show your rabbit also.
A tattoo kit consists of pliers with letters and numbers that can be arranged in any way you choose. There are many ways to do this task but it’s important to do it at weaning…that way each rabbit is accurately recorded by pedigree and tattoo in their file. I get the tattoo letters and/or numbers loaded in the pliers and punch it in a piece of clean paper This allows you to double check that numbers are in the right order, letters aren’t reversed and the tattoo is really as you want it to appear. If it is wrong it’s easier to fix it rather than having a wrong number in the rabbit’s ear!
Some have a helper hold the rabbit, some use a sleeve or jeans – I use a towel or large clean rag. I place the rabbit diagonally, quickly wrap the corners, around the front and lastly gather what’s behind and pull it up to the shoulder. This allows you to hold the rabbit and keep him from backing up with one hand, leaving the other free to handle the tattoo pliers.
Carefully wipe out the ear. Some apply ink before punching the numbers others don’t. I do – it allows me to have a target area. Hold the towel and ear in one hand and using a cotton swab I spread the ink then hold firmly and quickly squeeze the pliers in the ear. Squeeze hard and firmly – done once right is better than having to fix it.. I then use the other end of the swab and a little more ink to rub thoroughly over the tattooed area.
Many rabbits don’t flinch at all while others will kick and jump. Some will squeal. This is the reason for holding firmly…there have been cases of a hard kick overextending and breaking the rabbit’s back. I have not had this happen, thankfully, but prevention is much better!
The tattoo is done in the left ear. The exception can be if someone sells a rabbit for pet or meat they may tattoo the right. If a rabbit is registered the registered tattoo goes in this ear. Many meat rabbits aren’t tattooed at all. From a pet standpoint a tattoo can also be a benefit if your rabbit ever should get out. Positive identification is important!
There are other means of tattooing but this basic one of wiping the ear clean, ink, tattoo, rub ink in and double checking the tattoo has worked well on hundreds of animals over the years. Ink comes in black, green, red and white – I have had the most luck with black inks. Green is used in the case of animals with dark ears – which is what the red and white was developed for. I’ve been told those have a tendency to fade, but have not used them myself. Black ink in a clean ear works well for me.
The important thing is find a routine you’re comfortable with. This one has produced clear, legible ear tattoo marks. Animal identification is important. Once you learn how to tattoo a rabbit it is very easy, but exacting to keep proper records.