Three Little Ladies Rabbitry, Jersey Wooly
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Tatooing Your Rabbit

Tatooing a rabbit can be a challenging and discomforting for new breeders. However, it is imparative to good rabbitry management. The proper identification of your rabbits protects you and the rabbit. Rabbits cannot be shown at rabbit shows without a tatoo. The most common type of tattooing equipment is the clamp style which we will show in this article.

What Number Should I Use?

Choosing a tatoo number is part of the tatooing process. All of our numbers are preceeded with TLL. This is short for Three Little Ladies. If you see a rabbit with those three letters at the beginning of a tatoo it probably came from our rabbitry. Although you do not have to uniquely identify your rabbits in this manner, we find it a nice touch. For us each rabbit is then sequentially numbered. So we started with TLL01.

Rabbits can carry the same tatoo number as long as they are not in the same class. For example we could have a broken tort holland lop buck with a tatoo of TLL34 and a solid black buck also with the same tatoo since they are not in the same class. We choose not to do that to avoid confusion within our rabbitry. However, in the future we will have rabbits of different breeds with the same tatoo.

Tatooing Supplies

tatoo supplies

Here are some of the supplies you will need for tatooing:

  • Tatoo Ink - permanent tatoo mark
  • Towel - For wrapping bunny
  • Isopropyl Alcohol - For cleaning ear prior to tatoo
  • Q-Tips - For cleaning ear prior to tatooing
  • Cotton Balls - Stop bleeding if neccessary
  • Tatoo Clamp - Create tatoo
  • Tatoo Brush - Applying ink before and after clamping
  • List of Rabbits
  • Paper Towels - Cleaning up any mess

Having everything together before we remove rabbits for tatooing, will make the process go much smoother.

Candling the Ear

candling rabbit ear

The first we do is test the tatoo on a piece of paper to make sure it is in correctly. Remember it will appear in the clamp backwards. We then candle the ear. This is similar to looking at a chicken egg to see if there is a baby chick inside. We do this by using a flashlight from the backside of the ear. This allows us to see where the veins are in the ear. We try to place the tatoo in a location where we will avoid these veins. This usually eliminates most bleeding in the tatooing process. Some bleeding will occur if this vein is hit.

Secure the Rabbit

Wrapping bunny for tatooing

We then wrap the bunny in a towel. For the sake of the bunny we didnt cover her face in this picture. Normally the only thing you will see is the bunny’s ears protruding from the towel. This keeps the bunny from moving while being tatooed. Should they move in the tatooing process they risk tearing their ear. I have seen registers keep a rabbit unrestrained and literally have the rabbit held up in the air by their ears using the clamp. Wrapping the bunny also protects us from scratches should the bunny decide it no longer wants to stay held down.

Inking the Ear

rabbit ear inked for tatooing

We then prepare to ink the ear. We use a q-tip to apply the isopropyl alcohol to the ear as a disinfectant. It is important that you throughly shake the ink bottle. We then use the brush to brush the ink on to the ear. The tatoo goes in the rabbit's left ear. Remember, where the vein was when you candeled the ear. Make sure the ink area is wide enough and long enough to cover the area that will be tatooed. Try to keep the tatoo out of the edge of the ear where the fur is, as this will make the tatoo hard to see later on. Do not put to much ink on the ear. If the ink runs into the ear the rabbit make shake its head causing it to splattering ink.

Performing the Actual Tatooing

tatoo clamping

Everything up to this point has been fairly easy. Its now time to actually tatoo the rabbit. We have one person restrain the rabbit, while another person tatoos. We take the clamp, and carefully position the tatooing pins in the inked area. We tatoo from the back so if you were to tip your head to the left the tatoo is upside right. When the tatooer is ready they let the person securing the bunny know. It is necessary to give the clamp a very firm squeeze. You want the pins to penetrate the ear. When you release the clamp, the ear may stick to the pins. If this happens gently remove the ear from the pins by peeling it away from the pins. We then use the brush again, without dipping into the container of ink. We briskly brush the ink in the area of the tatoo. We want to insure that the ink penatrates the tatoo area. We then check to be sure that the ear is not bleeding. If we notice bleeding, apply gentle pressure to the ear using a cotton ball.

Finishing the Process

The excess ink will wear off in a day or two. You can use isopropyl alcohol to wipe the ear clean of the ink should the excess not come off. If for some reason your tatoo does not come out clean and is difficult to read, there are pen type tatooers that can be used to fix a poor tatoo. Many breeders will do this for a very minimal charge.