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Anyone raise rabbits ?

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

I'd like to learn about raising rabbits. I'm thinking that maybe a few meat-type would be a good idea.
I understand that their droppings make great garden compost also. Anyone have experience with these ?

I went to a poultry auction last week and saw some registered pedigree breeds, but I don't think they were for meat purposes. Their fur looked like velvet, they were beautiful, but very lean and small. Bred for pets or show purposes I assumed.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

someone offered me two rabbits last week, and i turned them down. don't have a place for them yet. one was a giant, 18 lb male, the other a female mini lop ear.

but i odn't know much about them yet either, so i will be watching this thread...

when i get rabbits i was thinking of getting the ones who shed their fur...

Culpeper, VA(Zone 7a)

I used to breed/raise rabbits, but just for pets. The droppings do make fabulous garden compost.

The "velvet" rabbits you saw were most probably "Rex" rabbits. That "velvet" fur is what they're knowns for, & they are raised not only for their pelts, but for pets & show.

Please, please, please - before buying any rabbits, do yourself & the rabbits a BIG favor & read up on it. Research both care & breeds. Not just by asking questions on an internet forum like this, but via books & by talking to any rabbit breeders in your area. Keep in mind that males & females must be kept separate, their many separate cages must be kept clean, & someone will have to get past those cute bunny faces to butcher them (rabbits are way cuter than chickens).

I've lost count of how many people post: "I just bought 2 rabbits. How do I take care of them & breed them?". After the fact is not the time to find out about it.

Caistor, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

True to what Breezymeadow said, we used to raise rabbits for meat and had California Giants and a CG/cross and a mutt buck. Also you have to have a seperate empty cage to put the babies in when they get to eating good at about 4-5 weeks old. They have to be kept cool in the summers as they will die from heat stroke. Our breeding times here were short and then to feed them all year was expensive, tho I do miss the poo for the gardens and flower beds. Lauri

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

I am doing some research on these things concerning rabbits. I do know that they are all kept seperate. That's not a problem, as I would be able to keep them in mini kennel-type cages. If I decide to go with it, I would like to get the Storey Raising Rabbits for a handy manual to keep on hand.
But I would like to hear from as many people as I can about their experiences. It's good to hear from each of you with so many helpful points to ponder. Thank you for your reminders.
I like to find out as much as I can before I make a commitment to a helpless animal of any kind that will depend on me for it's well being. That's only fair and right.
We had a pet rabbit when our DD was little, but never had a buck to breed. So that's a new concept.

Pinellas Park, FL(Zone 9b)

I raised them many years ago but only as pets. If I want something to eat, it comes from the garden or grocery store. No way could I, personally, look at a bunny and do it in.

Culpeper, VA(Zone 7a)

Tamara - all rabbits "shed their fur" at some point during the year, like all furbearing animals.

Perhaps you're thinking of Angora Rabbits, where the hair is harvested by plucking & then spun into yarn?

If so, these rabbits require quite a bit more care then regular pets. The hair must be brushed/combed regularly to keep it from becoming matted or encrusted with bedding/droppings, & you have to either know how to process/spin it yourself, or package it so it's suitable for sale to other spinners.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

yeah, that's what i meant. just one more reason why i'm not getting any for a while yet!

Florence, OR(Zone 8b)

I used to raise Meat rabbits when i lived on the ranch ..

I also use there droppings as put for my garden talk about 10 ft tall tomatoes its not hot like chicken manure and can be put in ground (dirt ) wet or dry great for growing everything plus awesome for worms ..

I have some books ill send ya if interested Or maybe email me and ill send ya the link to arba and some gardening info ..local rabbit raisers around you would be on arba might be able to just get manure If thats what ya want ..Tammy

Goldendale, WA

i have raised rabbits for 25-30 yrs of my 61 yrs,on a small scale,the most i had was 40 does at one time. my kids were raised with learning to take care of them.i to have seen so many people who want those cute little rabbits!they can be very time consuming,but you can learn,if you want to .they have to be fed every day,and watered the feed can make them very thirsty,and with summer heat can kill .rabbit meat is very healthy for you better than chicken.rabbit manure is your best fertilizer you can get also for worm beds.most people canot butcher rabbits into todays world,if you are a hunter or lived on a homestead where you are used to livestock butchering ,it sounds cruel but the main way most old timers do it is to give what was called a rabbit chop on the back of neck to nock them out then slit thoat,skin out.you can cook it the same way you do chicken.heat can be a real killer for rabbits.i have raised in sheds and out under trees with cages on 4 ft tables made out of 2x4 with tin on top and clear plastic over them in winter.i have mainly raised new zealands and californian breed they are a meat rabbit.it takes 30-31 days for them to have a litter.in short order you will have a mess of rabbits if you dont watch!also what somepeople dont know,unless they get a very hard lesson like i did, a few rabbits can become mean,yes,those very cute fuzzy poor helpless little critters can become a very mean attack rabbit!i have had my finger bit thu,scatched yes it hurts,i have not had many because they become my next dinner!just do your homework before you go out and buy rabbits,for your sake and the rabbits.they are not diffulcult to raise they just have to have someone to take the time to do it!in my books they are worth it.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Thanks poverty, lots of good information there. I think it would be much easier to butcher those rabbits that have a nasty attitude. That's what happened to our mean rooster. I had never butchered a chicken before and didn't know if I would have the heart for it. But after a couple of painful (for me) encounters with him, it got pretty easy.
Yes I agree, they would be a lot of work to care for, but that's kinda what I need. I have the proverbial "empty nest" since my kids are all grown and gone and DH says I gotta 'mother' somebody, and it's not going to be him.
I really enjoy hovering over and caring for my pets................keeps me from being a hovering mother in law...........LOL.

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

PeggieK, I have a book on raising meat rabbits that I will never use. Dmail me if you want it and I'll pop it in the mail.

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

We raised meat rabbits for a few years. Very small scale operation- maybe 5-6 does at the most. Never rebred the does until the babies were at leat 4 weeks old. Usually 6. Then I shot them in the head point blank with a .22 pistol. I finally just couldn't do it any more so that was the end of that venture. I just kept the breeders around until they died of old age.

We have a mini Rex male now who is about 4 or 5 years ago.He is a sweet heart. Has lived in the utility room for the past 2 winters for my conveinience.

Edited to correct strange type. The cat must have stepped on the keyboard while I was in another room & I just turned it off forgetting I had a post in process.

This message was edited Feb 7, 2006 9:59 PM

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

I got a new book in the mail, (thank you Zeppy) and it has a wealth of wonderful info. about raising rabbits. The more I learn about them, the more I think I would like to have some. I would like to have one doe and a buck.
But, I can't find anyone that has New Zealand Whites anywhere even close to my area. I found a couple of breeders in neighboring states, but they don't ship rabbits. I will continue my search. If anyone hears or knows of someone who I can contact, please let me know.
I found a couple of breeders listed online for areas within 40 miles, but both of those breeders have stopped raising them. Maybe some of you know of links I can go to. thanks.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

try your local freecycle.org you would be surprised how many people have FREE rabbits, and i have seen many breeds listed...

how are those eggs?

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Thanks TamaraFaye, I'll try them. Is there a freecycle for each city? I've not ever heard of it. I learn something new every day !!!!

So far the Sumatra eggs don't look very promising. They still don't show anything when candled. :(( However............................ the bantam eggs that I set along with the Sumatras (3), two of them I can see the baby chicks inside the egg, it's so exciting. I think the others were not fertile. I can still see the egg yolk as if nothing has changed at all. I will give them a few more days, then remove them and crack to see what's going on inside.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

neato!

and yes, they are listed by city. i think you have ot sign up for yahoo groups, then search for it...

getting ready to order my Buckeye Chickens, just as soon as i hear whether i can get all pullets or not...

Portland, OR(Zone 8a)

I raise angora rabbits. I have some Germans, French, and 1 Satin doe. I'm getting a few more Satins as well.

One thing about angoras - they need to be SHEARED every 90 days. Not plucked, which is cruel. In France, they pluck their angoras, but they feed them a depillatory first that makes their wool loosen up so that the wool can be plucked easily and without distress to the animal. And you do need to keep up with the 90 day schedule, because they can mat up and/or become wool bound if you wait too long. I would recommend that you talk to some local angora breeders and ask them to teach you how to shear, because it is so easy to cut the poor rabbit (been there, done that, and I still feel so bad every time I think about it. My poor babies!) One breeder told me that, before you start shearing, you should use your shears and cut some bologna slices first, so that you know what cutting into flesh feels like. And get good shears from the start, because angora wool will dull your scissors fast.

You may want to consider German angoras, if you are interested in angoras. Their wool does not mat easily after the baby wool is off, and they are generally very gentle and sweet. Also, the body type has been bred through the years to be more easily sheared than others, so that helps, and they produce lots and lots of wool (which MUST be sheared off every 90 days.) If you are interested, check out the IAGARB web site (www.iagarb.org.) There's also an interesting article on that site about shearing vs. plucking.

Good luck with your rabbits!

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Thanks gooselady. That's very interesting about the angora rabbits. When you shear yours do you sell the wool ?
I must agree, shearing has got to be kinder to the animal than plucking.
Makes my eyes water to pluck my eyebrows. Imagine being plucked all over..........................ouch !

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

yes i appreciate the info too. i had thought [sopmeone told me] that you could just comb them, or pick up their hair as it shedded. now i know the rest of the story so to speak...

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Angora hair can be murder for contact wearers.

yowch.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

and maybe children with allergies to pet dander???

i was offered yet another rabbit today, this one with a nice cage. had a hard time explaining that this cage would NOT keep out coyotes and night time loose dogs! this one was easy to turn down, as it came with strings attached, and isn't cuddly at all...

Portland, OR(Zone 8a)

Hi PeggieK: No, I do not sell the wool, because I am a fiber hog and keep it all for myself to spin. Just can't have too much fiber! Someday I would like to sell some of my handspun yarn, but that day is not yet, because unfortunately, I also feel that a person just can't have too much yarn in her stash, either.

TamaraFaye: I have heard that English angora will release their wool and you can harvest some by plucking the loose wool every day for many days (maybe many weeks), but I still think it's better to shear it all off at once. It's certainly healthier for the rabbit to get the wool off, and I just don't have the patience to pluck a few loose locks of wool today, then a few more tomorrow...ARRGH! German angoras do not release their wool, and so must be sheared. And I don't think that the French release, either, at least mine don't seem to.

I read something about allergies to angora wool - the author thought that the allergy was actually to rabbit saliva, rather than to the wool itself. A good (gentle) washing might take care of that, but I don't know for sure because I don't seem to be allergic to them. Angora wool should not have any dander in it, though, and if a rabbit has a lot of dandruff that's a sure sign of wool mites and it needs to be treated with Ivermectin. I treat with every shearing.

I know what you mean about those offers of free pet rabbits from people trying to unload their unwanted pets. Learned the hard way not to accept other people's cast offs...I won't do that again. In the Storey book about raising rabbits, the author says that "the best eat as much as the worst" and he also advocates buying the best breeding stock that you can afford. Raising rabbits is not easy, as Poverty says, it's an awful lot of work - enjoyable, but still a lot of work - and you might as well be raising high quality stock rather than spending the same amount of time and money with poor or mediocre rabbits.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

So true. You often get what ya pay for. Might as well have quality.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

i wish i coudl convince a freind of mine of that. she wanted to save money by taking any and all free chicks and eggs to incubate. she doesn't know for sure what any of them are, so how does she know how fast they should grow, when they are the size for butchering, how many eggs a year to expect, or even what color the eggs should be. i am afraid she has so many mixed chickens now, she is in for a disorganized egg business... now, my opinion would be different if she just got a few for pleasure, but while the getting was good, she got a LOT. her feed bill is quite high too, cause she can't free range them yet...

oh, well. she will have more eggs than me, and sooner. maybe she will let me sample some LOL

tf

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

That's a little like what I've done. I'm going to have a bunch of mutts. Wouldn't be good for an egg business, but for now, it's eggs for us and a good learning experience. Some day, if I get this all down right, at least I'll have confidence that my investment of pure breeds will be ok. Yep, I hear ya on the feed bill. It adds up, especially in winter. At least I don't have very many though. :-)
It makes for a goofy collection of eggs too. Small, large, brown, white.
Like a box of chocolates.

With rabbits, I don't think I would want it that way though.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

oh, i think it's fine for you. she was SERIOUS about going into the business, but is putting all her money into feeding her milk goats. i understand how difficult it is to turn down free eggs. but now she has no way of tracking production. like you said, she'll be getting a box of chocolates every day LOL

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Too bad that goat milk can't be chocolate..................yum. :-)

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

I like the way PeggieK thinks.

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

Got baby bunnies!

Thumbnail by ByndeweedBeth
Walpole, NH

Awww, how cute. What kind of bunny?

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

Dutch, but we only had two in the litter.

Stanwood, IA

We raise White New Zealands and Florida Whites. We raise them for meat , but the kids also show them for 4-H. There are tons of breeds but they fall into two classes...Commercial (meat) and fancy breeds. Commercial breeds are going to be larger rabbits that have been cultivated specifically to yield muscle. The fancy breeds are going to be rabbits that are bred for their fur, or their ears, or maybe for a special marking or the way they hop.
If you are interested in meat rabbits I'd recommend either New Zealands or Californians. The New Zealand rabbits are a large rabbit that mature quickly for butcher. They come in different "colors" (white, black or brown) and the does tend to have large litters.
Californians are another good breed that we have raised in the past...(large white rabbits with black ears and noses) again, they mature quickly and tend to have large litters. If you are just raising them for your family for meat you can interbreed them..we raised New Zealand/Californian crosses for years, but have switched to New Zealands because "I" think they have larger litters.
I would not recommend Giants..they would be the 18 lb rabbits someone mentioned earlier. They grow slowly and consume a LOT of feed and in my experience they really don't yield that much more meat..just larger bones. They require more space than other rabbits too They do, however make INCREDIBLE pets. They are docile and loving and great around kids.

Couple things you should be prepared for:

1. Not all rabbits are nice..in fact some are downright mean. I have a scar on my wrist that required 9 stiches from a nasty buck who didn't want me to take his watering dish out of his cage. And does can get extremely aggressive when they want to mate. So, don't let the fluffy ears fool you. They have teeth and nails and they can hurt you.
2. Female rabbits are NOTORIOUSLY bad mothers. Sometimes they eat their young, often they stomp them. A doe can have a large healthy litter one time, and take great care of them, and the next time miscarry or kill her litter. We've had pretty good luck with our does and over the years have only had to butcher a couple for being really bad breeders.
3.No matter how attached you become to you breeding stock, it may be necessary at any given time, to cull them. We just had one of our best bucks come down with wry neck and we had to kill him. He was healthy one day and the next he was falling over. (Wry neck is contagious, and expensive to treat...and usually not successful)
4. A single doe produces about 40 young per year. (Average litter size is eight, and most producers try to get five litters out each doe). Make sure you like the taste of rabbit!
5. Rabbits can tolerate cold well, as long as they are dry and draft free, but they cannot tolerate excessive HEAT.
6. If you live where it gets cold in the winter, remember that you'll still have rabbit chores in the winter...that means chipping ice out of water dishes a couple times a day (unless you want to invest in a heated watering system of course). Multiply that times the number of rabbits you own, and it can be time consuming.

Some good things:

As mentioned previously, rabbit manure is not "hot". You can put it directly on your garden, and it does wonders.

Rabbit meat contains less calories and higher protein than chicken. It's also a denser meat, so it fills you up faster. In fact, if you were given nothing to eat but all the rabbit you wanted, you'd eventually starve to death (or so I've been told).

Rabbit pellets are pretty reasonable, but you can supplement a rabbit's diet pretty easily. In the summer we cut back on pellets and increase "green" feed. The kids go around and pull tons of weeds and tall grass from around the property and the rabbits live almost exclusively on it. We also give them field corn on the cob, small apples from our trees, and other garden castoffs.

You can get pretty attached to your breeding stock-and they can make great "pals". My last Californian buck just died this last winter and I'm still a little heartsick about it. I used to let him run around outside in the yard and he liked to chase the kids around. He'd hop along with me when I would weed the flower beds and eat all the weeds I pulled. You think you're getting a source for meat, but you really are getting pets in your breeding stock. One of my New Zealand bucks is the biggest,sweetest baby and just loves to have his ears tickled.

Interesting tidbit: rabbits eat their own poo-but it's not their "ordinary" poo..it's a special poo they manufacture once a day that contains special enzymes and bacteria to aid their digestion...they are called "cecal pellets". I know..eww.

Right now my husband and I run 22 New Zealand does and 8 Florida White Does..that's a lot of rabbit, but we co-op with a couple other families for pork, beef and venison.






This message was edited Jun 24, 2008 1:10 PM

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

I wish I could find a source for New Zealands but I just couldn't here in Oregon.

Stanwood, IA

Byndeweed Beth:
Here are some Oregon NZ breeders...maybe one of them is close to you:

Rebecca & Frank James
Sunny Day Rabbitry
PO Box 3030 Albany 97321
541-812-0341 Sunnydayrabbit@yahoo.com
New Zealand, Flemish Giant, Mini Rex
Hillhouse Rabbitry
The Gerouxs
Medford
rtgeroux@medford.net
Californian, Champagne d'Argent, New Zealand Red, French Lop, Dwarf Hotot, Himalayan

Deb/Doug Benson
42029 Marty Lane, Astoria 97103
grannydeb47@yahoo.com
New Zealand White, Californian

Jerry and Cathy Kelleher
Silver Pine Ranch & Rabbitry
2475 Graham Blvd., Vale 97918
541-473-3963 silverpineranch@fmtc.com
New Zealand White, Californiansilverpineranch@fmtc.com


Invictus Ranch Rabbitry
PO BOX 5517Central Point, OR 97502
1-541-944-9357 from Southern Oregon
1-877-944-9357 toll free if elsewhere
http://www.geocities.com/lotzabunnies/

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

Oh! that helps...the people I emailed before either didn't answer or were no longer breeding rabbits.

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

Hi!
I've been 'missing' for abit and I thought I'd chime in my two cents!! As a tip for keeping your rabbits cool in the heat-freeze gallon milk jugs(that have been cleaned and filled about 3/4 w/ water). I put one in the hutch and the bunnies snuggle up to it. You can use soda bottles as well.
I let mine free-range under supervision! Here's a pic of one of my newest babies and a young lop-eared male.
Sue

Thumbnail by saanansandy
Lodi, United States

AWWWW!

I use the frozen gallon milk containers too. Rabbits are so sensitive to heat.

Stanwood, IA

That's a great tip about the milk jugs. Couple of years ago at our county fair, I'll never forget, it was so hot and they lost 4 rabbits at the 4-H rabbit show due to heat...including the grand champion. I heard that three more kids lost rabbits afterward. Our kids show them for 4-H and we make sure we pack plenty of ice bottles for them and I even bring a fan and a long extension cord. My husband and I also travel separately so that as soon as the rabbit judging is over one of us can run the rabbits home so they don't have to deal with the heat and the noise all day.

Paris, TN

Is there a particular rabbit that is more heat tolerant as others as I would have to keep mine outside if I do get one.

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