Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Raising Rabbits

Raising rabbits can be a good way to supplement your homestead meat production. It is also a good way to produce your own meat if you live in town. Rabbits are not considered livestock so you don't have to worry about zoning laws. Two of the best breeds for meat production are New Zealand Whites and Californians. Rabbits also require a small amount of space to raise and are fairly easy to butcher, even for the first timer. One of the problems with raising rabbits is getting over the fact that they are cute. Even the ugliest rabbit is cute. So even though you think this might not be a problem, there have been many a first time breeder that chickened out of killing the meat and wound up with many many rabbits to feed. The best way to keep rabbits is in seperate cages and the doe (female) must always be taken to the buck (male) for breeding. Most does are territorial and can get very aggressive to another rabbit in their space. So an aggressive doe can kill a buck. Rabbits also need a nesting box, in which the doe will spend quite some time after giving birth. Rabbits usually have 5-7 offspring and provided the doe doesn't kill them herself, just a couple of does could produce a good amount of meat for a family. They have about 4 litters per year so average about 20 rabbits for the freezer from one doe. The average lifespan for rabbits is eight years although their production rates do drop off in the latter part of their years. It is easily solved by raised your own replacement does. Pelts can be sold to help offset the cost of feed and kitchen and garden veggie scraps along with foraging will help supplement feed costs. Rabbits are very susceptible to heat and a good heat wave can knock out quite a bit of your herd. This actually happened to us. We raised pet rabbits and had quite a few problems, but learned a lot from our mistakes. Our doe ate more kits than she raised and she was so aggressive toward the buck that it was hard to get her pregnant. Then a really bad heat wave hit and despite frozen water bottles, we had the hutches in the wrong place and the heat killed the rabbits. So we learned a lot. Now my husband is talking about meat rabbits. Despite all of this rabbits are one of the easiest and least time consuming animals on a farm. The meat can be used in any of the same ways that chicken can so it is very versatile. Rabbit meat is also very lean and that is one of the only problems with cooking it, as it can dry out rapidly. A good resource for tons more detailed information about rabbits, butchering, diseases, and all sorts of stuff is Rudolph's Rabbit Ranch. I highly suggest before you spend a lot of money on your setup and your stock that you take a look at his information and tutorials and decide whether you really want to jump into this. Good planning can save you a lot of headache and problems. Lack of proper planning did us in on pet rabbits. Now, we know better. Still not sure whether we want to try rabbits again, but it is a possibility.

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