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  #1  
Old 05-26-2011, 12:42 PM
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Equilibrium Equilibrium is offline
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Default Meat Rabbits

I took the plunge and brought home some pretty sorry looking but spacious rabbit hutches. They were from an elderly neighbor down the road who said he was going to burn them if he couldn't find somebody to haul them off. That somebody was me. Oh my.... they were heavy but 4 of us got them up and into my trailer with the legs hanging off the side and we did get them home. 1st thing I realized is that there's a big difference in height between me and Al.... like over a foot since he's well over 6' tall so I took my chainsaw and sawed off 12 inches of the legs to bring them down to my lowly level. Next thing I noticed is some of the wood was pretty rotted and we're working on that with scrap lumber from the chicken coop. I found out the nest boxes are leaking pretty bad so they're going to have to be fixed too but for now I tossed old vinyl table cloths over them. I did start sanding down the hutches and I'm going to prime them and paint them once we take care of the rotten wood.
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Anywho.... I brought these home 3 months ago or so and bought our 1st rabbit about 6 weeks ago. She doesn't seem to mind her rickety hutch and she stays nice and dry with the table cloth over her held down by some bricks so I had her bred about 3 weeks ago which means.... if all goes well.... we'll have our 1st baby bunnies real soon. I'm totally excited about this. Is anyone else raising rabbits for meat? Our rabbit is a California and it was bred to a New Zealand. We're not keeping any of the offspring but once I get the hang of caring for one rabbit, I would like to buy 2 more does and a male. I have 2 double hutches that are about 8' long by 4' complete with attached nest boxes so that's plenty of space.
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  #2  
Old 05-26-2011, 12:50 PM
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My wife and I raise Flemish Giant rabbits for meat. It is a good way to suppliment your meat supply when you live within an incorporated town as they don't make any noise like a chicken.

They love the scraps from our garden as well.

We raise the Flemish because in spite of the fact they take longer to finish, the meat is excellent, they are gentle to handle, easy to breed, and produce a substantial amount of meat per animal.
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  #3  
Old 05-26-2011, 01:18 PM
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Yes... it is a great way for city folk to supplement their meat supply but....it's a great way for folk like me too because we're not quite city but not quite country and lots of these neighborhoods have HO Associations that are picky about livestock so we can always pretty much say they're pets.
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I'd done some homework on meat rabbits before I bought the California. I bought it from a Korean woman because well.... I liked her on a personal level and I liked the condition of all of her rabbits. You could just tell by the cages they were in that they were very old but well maintained and cleaned regularly. Some of the other rabbits for sale looked as if they'd been standing in their own feces before they were transported and that didn't sit well with me.
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I don't know much about the Flemish rabbits other than that they have a higher ratio of bone to meat than some of the other rabbits and that some of them can get huge. I've seen them and they appear to be twice the size of the rabbit I've got and I was worried the hutches I'd picked up for free wouldn't be large enough for one of those to be comfortable or I would have bought one from her. Oh how I was tempted. The California is cute with its dark little nose/feet/and ears but none of them were exactly "friendly". Her Flemish were handsome looking rabbits that came right up to my hand looking for attention so I struggled not picking one of those.
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Do you feed one oz per pound or are you allowing your rabbits to self feed? I've read mostly cons about self-feeding but that's what I'm doing right now because my gut tells me that a pregnant and nursing rabbit should not have her food supply limited. We're also giving her a lot of kitchen scraps and hay and dandelion greens. Actually, we seem to be tossing everything but the kitchen sink in there from the weed department and she's munching away.
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  #4  
Old 05-26-2011, 05:08 PM
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are you not keeping your babies to grow and eat to?? isn't this why you breed them, to have lots of food coming in? or am I mistaking your posts as to not keeping meaning there not going to be pets but food??
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  #5  
Old 05-26-2011, 05:51 PM
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The Korean lady taught me how to humanely kill them.... she was such a sweetheart standing by my side helping me learn how to do something that is diametrically oppositional to who I am.... it's tough.... really tough.... for someone like me.... I won't lie to you. I don't have her Korean twine method down pat so I'm going to revert back to shooting them between the ears with a BB gun until I feel I can become as proficient as her killing them painlessly. I'm looking at a rabbit wringer as another viable option. We'll see.
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So no.... we're not keeping the babies per se unless keeping them in white freezer paper in our freezer counts. If all goes well.... I may give one of the babies to the 4H kid who owned the rabbit mine was bred to. She said I was new to rabbit breeding and only charged me $5 for stud services. I had to giggle on that one because I could have gotten "stud" services for free but.... I wanted to pay her. Anywho.... one of her breeders turned out to be a flop. Her rabbit is having all still borns. She's such a good kid.... she puts so much into her breeder rabbits that I felt really bad about the one she's got that she's decided to butcher. I think she's like 13 or 14 but what a level head this young girl has on her shoulders so I'll offer her one of our rabbit's babies for free.
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You want to come back out my way and have me make you some nice comfort food.... would you prefer hasenpfeffer or rabbit stroganoff?

adding- are you crawling the walls with this weather we've got too>>>>? I'm going absolutely out of my mind not being able to get out into the garden. It's so cold.... the winds are so high and... the rain won't quit..... the combo chills me to the bone.
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Last edited by Equilibrium; 05-26-2011 at 05:52 PM. Reason: adding something
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  #6  
Old 05-27-2011, 02:53 AM
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I raise rabbits for meat as well. Have 3 does, a Flemish Giant, a New Zealand and a Californian.

The Flemish is my favorite by far, I love her calm demeanor. The New Zealand tends to be a bit more flighty and she's prone to weepy eyes. Her first litter she had a very small litter and only managed to raise 1. She'll be rebred this week for a last chance.

I've recently bought a new buck, a jet black Flemish giant - he's a real sweetheart. The New Zealand buck is going to be a roaster. I'm just not impressed with this breed.

The Californian is smaller than I really want for meat rabbits, but she has attitude a mile wide that makes me grin every time I open her cage door. Rosie the Rabbit is such a character. We'll see how she does with her first litter, she's due in 3 weeks.
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  #7  
Old 05-27-2011, 04:09 AM
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The temperament on the Flemish Giants seems to be superior. I haven't run into one yet that was skittish. The New Zealands don't do that much for me either. The Californias are so so but I've seen some that are better. Ours is a little bit beneath so so but that's ok since it's not a pet. The breed I'm really liking would be the Champagne D'argent rabbits. Nice meat rabbits with the added bonus of an easy going disposition and a decent pelt.... not that I'd know what to do with it but the fur's nice and I'm sure somebody would want it. Too bad they're so expensive. How much space do you provide for your Flemish Giants?
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  #8  
Old 05-27-2011, 12:58 PM
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I provide a cage that is roughly 3 feet by 3 feet for the breeding stock, and only slightly smaller square footage for each of the meat rabbits. If one I am keeping gets large, I do have a couple of 4x4 pens, but that is not the norm.
The big thing is providing a floor that supports their weight instead of just wire mesh as their weight on a wire floor will cause sores.
I use a slatted wood floor for their hutches with wire over the top to prevent them eating through the wood but still provides the solid floor support they need.
I do have to clean the cages instead of just letting things fall through as it can accummulate, but I see that as a small price to pay for the benefits of raising Flemish.

I use self feeders and find they Flemish don't eat that much more than the smaller californias or New Zealands. They do have bigger bones, because they have a larger frame. They take longer to finish but once they do there is a lot more meat than on the smaller breeds. I have had rabbits of 20 lbs live weight.

One drawback to the breed, if you are selling live meat rabbits to a processor, they don't like any Flemish blood in the rabbits they buy.
If you sell processed rabbits or live meat rabbits to individuals, I have never had a complaint as the finished rabbit has wonderful meat, flavor and texture.
I roasted a Flemish for Thanksgiving one time whole that fed 6 people well with some left over

I think that the ease of handling them also is a big plus. Trying to move rabbits for breeding or to new pens or whatever is a lot more work if they are hard to catch and kick the *$(&#$ out of you when you try to hold them.
Plus the calm demenor helps the does not get excited and hurt their litters if a cat walks by or something. They are usually very easy to breed and have good litters too. I have had problems in the past with Checkered giants especially in this reguard, small litters, hard to breed, and the does killing the litter if they get upset.

JMO
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  #9  
Old 05-27-2011, 01:02 PM
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All the breeding stock I have are in wire cages that are 3'x3', and about 18" high. I've got them supported on wood frames, with supports running up to the rafters, and a couple of 4x4 posts underneath. Have about 14' of cages.

There are a couple of cages that are not quite 3' so we put a 2x6 on the flat in front - that has proved to be the handiest ledge. It's easier to hold a rabbit on it, to do things like nails, flip a young one over to sex them, etc. It wouldn't be practical for me to put a ledge in front of the 3' wide cages - I'd never be able to reach to the back of the cage to catch the rabbits.

My barn is a sloped addition, so it long & narrow. It isn't insulated and isn't airtight (but isn't drafty either). It was a slatted wall, with 1/2" spaces - to deal with that I got a whole whack of those plastic signs that look like cardboard. (After an election is a great time to get those). Screwed them on,on the inside of the building using wide flat washers so the screw heads don't pull through. The other great feature of using the coroplast material is that it keeps the rabbit pee away from the wood walls of the building. If the rabbits can reach the coroplast the little buggers will chew on it. My character rabbit Rosie is bad for doing that.

Couple of other things I do with my rabbits - I give them branches to chew on, they love it - and will chew the bark right off the bigger pieces, and eat the slim branches right down to nothing. I don't give them evergreens, but anything with leaves. Some rabbits like certain types of trees/shrubs over others. A couple of pairs of garden shears in the barn really helps, hand held set for small stuff, and a set with long handles for bigger branches. I'm slowly making walking/snow shoeing trails through our bush, so trimming back the growth, and giving the rabbits the trimmings.

If you have access to raspberry canes - the rabbits love them, and they are especially good for pregnant does. The rabbits can handle the thorns! I suspected raspberry was good for the moms - reasoning that if raspberry tea was recommended for women, it would likely be good for rabbits. So was going along with my instincts on that one, and then I found a hardcover book on raising rabbits from the 1920s...and it recommends raspberry!

When the rabbits are done with the branches/raspberry canes, their leftovers go into the burn pit for kindling. Everything is a big circle.
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  #10  
Old 06-02-2011, 03:14 AM
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As of this afternoon.... we have 6 pink new born bunnies. We're leaving her alone.
--
We had time to repair one of the hutches but... not the one she's in unfortunately. How old do you think the babies should be before I attempt to move them all into the repaired hutch?
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  #11  
Old 06-06-2011, 03:49 PM
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We actually have 10 baby bunnies. Here's a photo of some of them. The hutch momma is in with her babies is way too small to accommodate them once they start growing and hopping around and.... we've only had time to repair one of the hutches so far and basically all it needs is some caulk or filler and a final coat of paint and it's ready for move in.... does anyone know when we could safely move the momma and her babies into the other hutch so we can start work on the one she's in?
--
oops.... here we go again.... I hit my quota on photo attachments and I don't have a Flickr or anything like that. Sorry.... it was a really cute photo and.... here I was thinking baby opossums were the ugliest babies on earth. Baby bunnies look like bright pink rats all writhing around like worms under the momma's hair.
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Last edited by Equilibrium; 06-06-2011 at 03:51 PM. Reason: adding comment
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Old 06-07-2011, 01:15 AM
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I have been dealing with another "issue" since about lunchtime when I found 3 babies outside the nestbox. I thought momma was bringing em out but nope.... they're not even a week old and their eyes aren't open yet they bounce and they're moving toward the entrance hole then falling out into the main area. The hair she pulled out before she kindled isn't containing them any longer and Mom isn't bringing em back in. I've been running out there and checking every half hour to see which one rolled out this time that has to be put back in the nestbox. I need to get a sawzall in there to increase the height of the nestbox entrance hole so that I can nail a piece of plywood to the bottom so they'll stop rolling out. How old do these babies need to be before I can move them to make a temporary repair to the hutch they're in or move them all to the hutch that's partially finished? I was told to leave them alone or I'd have nothing but trouble on my hands.
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Old 06-08-2011, 04:23 PM
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I temporarily stopped them from boinging out. I stapled a paint stir to the bottom of the opening to the nest box. So far.... no babies falling out of the nest box.
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Old 06-09-2011, 03:15 PM
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I don't like to move the kits until they are pretty mobile on their own, for safety sake.
If you move them when they are really young the mother may kill them, but in a couple weeks when they start coming out of the box on their own with their eyes open and fully furred, then it is pretty safe to move them.

I would leave them alone right now unless where they are is more dangerous to their existence than taking a chance on the mother.

Rabbit does do not like anything disturbing their litters when they are really young. I have had does kill their litters from a strange cat or dog coming around the pens.
Not sure why they do it, but they do it so just be aware of it.
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Old 06-09-2011, 04:59 PM
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We're pretty good about keeping the stray and feral cats down where we live so none of those hanging out around the hutches. We do have somebody who lives a subdivision over who has a dog running through their invisible fencing but that dog's pretty old and it's not a barker or aggressive so I've just been putting it in my car and driving it back to where it belongs so they don't have to pay a fine. I don't know the people but I could probably ask them to please keep their dog inside for a few weeks. It does end up over here regularly checking out my composter which is real close to the hutch where the rabbit and the babies are. Again.... it's not an aggressive dog that would start a dog fight with mine and it's got current tags on it and everything so it hasn't been raising my hackles.
--
I pretty much figured it was best to keep the momma and her babies right where they were. One problem though.... today the big bruiser baby got over the paint stir somehow and I've got him in my shirt heating him up and.... we only have 9 baby bunnies this morning and I've no clue where the 10th one went other than momma killed it and ate it. There's no way it could have fallen through the hardware cloth that's over the metal grate that comprises the bottom of the hutches. I looked beneath the hutch.... just in case. No bunny #10 anywhere beneath the hutch or inside the nestbox and I looked. I think she did kill one and she must have eaten it. I had no choice using the staple gun that close to her. I could not keep going out there every half hour checking and I watched the weather report and saw our temps were going to take a dive into the 40's and 50's. It was either staple the paint stir to the bottom of the hole or move them lock stock and barrel over to the other hutch that's been repaired and primed.
--
So.... I take it the momma is gonna kill and eat the one that's in my shirt the minute I heat it up and put it back, right?
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:56 PM
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No guarentees that she will or won't, all you can do is give it a shot. It depends on the doe and how upset she gets about it.

Some breeds are very forgiving, some wig out over anything, other times it is just the temprement of the specific doe.

I hope it worked out ok for you.
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Old 06-13-2011, 01:27 PM
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She had to have eaten it. It was gone the next morning. The rest are fine from what I can see and their eyes have begun to open. They seem to be less jumpy too. Could be the cooler air temps.
--
I'm not going to breed this rabbit again until she's been handled more. I think she needs to become more comfortable with us handling her.
--
Since I've obviously got a rabbit that "wigs" out, I did stop in at the house where the dog comes from. I told them I'm the one whose been re-turning their dog and asked them to please stop it from running for the next few weeks because my rabbit hutch is only a few feet away from the composter their dog likes to "visit". They thanked me because their kids really loved the dog... they said it was a part of their family then in the same sentence the wife said it wasn't housebroken so they couldn't bring her inside and added that it would be cruel to leave "Maggie" in her kennel all day and night. I asked if they could "up" the charge on their fence.... no.... they couldn't do that either. The husband wanted to know if I couldn't move my rabbit hutch away from my composter. That floored me. I didn't think my request to stop the dog from running for a few weeks was unreasonable considering the fines for dogs off leash are stiff starting at $100 and going up from there plus the boarding costs of $30 a day until an owner claims their dog. You'd think they would have extended to me the common courtesy of keeping their dog in its kennel for just a few weeks but.. evidently they've got more money than brains.. I guess they're not thankful that somebody was taking the time to toss their beloved dog in a car to bring it back considering it's crossing a road where the speed limit is 55 to get to my house. My husband said the next time the dog shows up here to call animal control. It shows up every coupla days in this weather. I feel bad... it's not the dogs fault but.... I don't want to risk "wigging" out my rabbit with 8 plump and healthy babies left in her nest box.
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