Chester: 'So do you, dude! Dude, what does my tattoo say?'
Jesse: 'Sweet! What about mine?'
Chester: 'Dude! What does mine say?' -Dude Where's My Car (2000)
Mkay, now that we have my quirky elder millennial movie quote out of the way.... I give you all the blog post you have been waiting for... TATTOOS!
Per the Official Show Rules of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc. EFFECTIVE 12/14/2022 : "SECTION 26. All animals must be permanently and legibly earmarked in the left ear. The tattoo is to only contain numerals 0-9 and/or letters A-Z." This is in regards to showing rabbits, however, it serves multiple purposes beyond showing. The right ear according to ARBA standards is reserved for Registration tattoos done by an ARBA Registrar, which is an entirely different criteria.
For our personal Rabbitry tattoos, we prefer to use a clamp, and have system for all tattoo IDs... Every single rabbit born in our barn has an ID, and every single one gets a tattoo with few exceptions.
If you haven't heard how to read them, the picture to the left translates to: [RR] Rud Ridge's [F] Dam's Initial (Flower) [V] Sire's Initial (Valentine)  first litter of the pairing [D] 4th kit of the litter... this makes it super easy for me to find who belongs to who, who is related, set up particular trios or repeat customers barn assignments, and easily track growth rates of Dam/Sire pairings or just specific rabbits in general. There are occasional variations... such as if the Dam/Sire initials in a pair have already been utilized. In such cases, It would be [RR] Rud Ridge's [F] Dam's Initial  first litter of the pairing [V] Sire's Initial [D] 4th kit of the litter.
****Note: Ruth is an exception to this rule... she was hand raised and neither of her parents stayed****
"Okay, but... HOW?!"
Each and every rabbitry will have their own method and reasoning for their tattoo process. Ours is one born of two main themes: simplicity and economical. It is what has been efficient/quick, straightforward/at hand, methodical/routine.
You won't find a fancy setup here. A standard single carrier and a couple pieces of scrap wood are what we use as a tattoo box. This makes it relatively easy to do alone, as well as makes accommodations and changes based on the size of the rabbit needing to be tattooed super simple.
Through the setup looks a little barbaric, for the few moments that they will be in it, it is the safest, least stressful and most efficient way to get their tattoos done... particularly when an entire litter(s) are being tattooed on the same day.
The next several photos are a examples of older Junior/Senior sized rabbit that was being tattooed. On to the process!
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
The absolute FIRST thing you need to do before you even begin your tattoo day setup, is decide on a consistent tattoo identification system. Again, not such a big thing for your foundational breeders, as they *should* come tattooed from a reputable breeder.... but a VERY big thing for your first litters.
Let me reiterate... I do NOT recommend the pen tattooing system. Nearly ALL of the failed tattoos I have witnessed were awfully scribbled pen tattoos. In my personal opinion, the only need for a tattoo pen would be to touch up or add a missed dot to the healed clamp tattoo later. But really, I can think of very few past examples of when this was necessary, and you could accomplish it by adding a singular dot with a sewing needle.
So, then, what clamp? We use the 6-Space Complete Registrar's Set (.300) with one additional set of Stone Tattoo Numeric Figures 0-9 (.300) plus two additional sets of Stone Tattoo Alphabet A-Z (.300) and a handful of extra letters as need (R being one of them) Stone Tattoo Single Digit(s) (.300) . We got all of our tattoo equipment from KW Cages however I'm sure that there are other options. At the time we got ours, it did come with a plastic storage case, but I don't see that option on their website anymore. I do recommend getting a piece of cardboard in order to press the letters into to store them for ease of location when you are in the middle of swapping out letters for a litter. For the ink, the set we mentioned comes with ink, but we use Stone Tattoo Roll-on Black Ink most often.
You have your identification system, you have your clamp and ink... now what? Assemble your clamp with your letters AND DOUBLE CHECK THE ACCURACY... with EVERY * SINGLE * TATTOO *. A piece of paper works just fine for this. Ruth will be the example in the next several photos, and as mentioned earlier her tattoo does not conform to our ID rules... She is RRFF3 (Rud Ridge's Fantastic Fluffle 3), you can read why and all about Ruth HERE.
A few other readily available things we use are:
Single Use Alcohol Prep Pads (you can also use cotton balls and rubbing alcohol of you want, but these are individually packaged, pretty cheap, and convenient)
Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes
Stiff bristle toothbrush
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Samuel Goldwyn
Routine, practice and repetition is the ONLY way to get good, clear, long lasting tattoos. This is another reason why you should tattoo EVERY rabbit, even if you just intend to send them to Camp Kenmore.
First we position the Rabbit into the carrier cage, and align the pieces of wood so that they can not squirm out of position. Then pull the LEFT ear through the top of the carrier. You can see that Ruth (right) isn't exactly thrilled with the idea... but she is safe and secure.
Next we open the ear, and cleanse thoroughly with the alcohol prep pad. Some people utilize numbing agents after this step, however, we do not. The numbing spray can irritate them more than help them, so we just move forward as soon as the ear is clean and dry.
Now you take the prepared clamp, with letters and numbers inserted and double checked for accuracy, and position it in the middle of the open ear. Be sure to inspect where the veins are prior to this step. Try to avoid the major veins as much as possible, as well as the hairline at the tip of the ear. SQUEEZE the clamp, being sure to hold it (and the ear) as close to the cage as possible so if the rabbit wiggles, it does not tug on the ear. Hold the squeeze for about 5 seconds, the amount of pressure is hard to describe and takes some practice... it also depends on the age of the rabbit you are tattooing (youngins we find 12 weeks to be best, 10 weeks is eh, 9 weeks is probably minimum)
NOTE: The rabbit WILL wiggle and struggle in most circumstances. It is about a 50/50 split on if they scream or not. Most often, the ones that make noise are the younger ones. Whatever you do REMAIN CALM. I know it is a little worrisome as you feel like you are hurting them and the noise may startle you, but really the best you can do for them is be as quick and efficient as possible. THERE ARE NO DO OVERS.
Release your grip on the clamp, grab the shaken tattoo ink, roll it on the inside of the ear, then use the toothbrush (or a q-tip but we prefer toothbrush) to rub the ink into the tattoo. Get a wet wipe, squeeze most of the moisture out, and gently wipe the inside of the ear to reveal the tattoo. (pictured right) Then reapply the ink and rub in with the toothbrush again.
AND YOU'RE DONE!
Pop the top off, scoop them up, give them some snuggles. Sure, they are going to give you salty face. It isn't uncommon for them to hold their newly tattooed ears kind of funny. But they do recover and pick them up just fine.
If you have grow outs still with their Dam or their siblings, they will groom the extra tattoo ink out of each other's ears. If not, they will groom some out themselves and what they can't reach will wear off on its own.
We don't do any special follow up, other than to keep them in clean living conditions that are dry. As you can see from Ruth, the clamp tattoos stay and wear fantastically!
And now you know our process! I hope that you find this blog helpful. Please feel free to swing on by our Facebook page or shoot us an email if you have any questions!