Rabbits for dinner

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by J&MBixler, Nov 29, 2015.

  1. J&MBixler

    J&MBixler Monkey

    i am writing to find out what everyone's suggestions are in having rabbits for a food source. I would like to know what breed of rabbit is best. Also the best way to keep them and feed them. We are looking into getting some. What do you think. Rabbits are something new for us so any suggestions will be very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for any advice you may have.
  2. ditch witch

    ditch witch I do stupid crap, so you don't have to

    There's a lot of breeds out there that people use for meat. The bone to meat ratio plus the pelt coloring led me to raise Champagne d'Argents and Cinnamons for meat, along with some other breeds for the show fancy and extra $$ selling breeding and show stock. A friend of mine uses the smaller San Juan because they look like cottontails and he thinks he can pretend he just caught wild rabbits if TS ever HTF.

    The dominant breeds for the meat market and by extension the easiest to find very good quality breeding stock for reasonable prices are Californians (red eyes and marked like a Siamese cat) and New Zealands (these come in white, black, red, and broken which is basically like a paint horse, and blue is under development). Another good one, though a bit smaller than the Cali and NZ, are the Florida Whites (red eye whites, or REW). After that are Champagnes, Cinnamons, Palominos, Standard Rex, Satin, Silver Fox, and Americans. One issue with these is the litter sizes tend to decrease and health and fertility can be an issue sometimes due to lack of genetic diversity and available breeding stock. My Champs and Cins average 6 kits per litter, compared to my Californians averaging 10 kits a litter, and I've had trouble with the Cinnamons' immune systems that I NEVER had with the Cali and NZ. Rex can have issues with sore hocks if kept on wire and finding good quality stock can be difficult, though if you can the pelts are phenomenal.

    Others will disagree with me but I don't advise 100% Flemish, based on my own experiences breeding them and comparing pound for pound of meat (not bone) I and others have gotten at butcher time and the feed it took to get there. That said, a good California/Flemish cross can throw some banging feeder kits with fast weight gains and good size. Texas A&M's Altex is a combination of Flemish, Champagnes, and Californians.

    If you can find a show near you, (arba.net lists them) then go check it out. There is ALWAYS someone with Cali or New Zealand stock for sale, and if it's at the show table it's not gonna be some long low shouldered, narrow loined pile of junk either. And more than likely they'll have a few killer brood quality animals back at the barn who are unshowable due to some fault like fly bites (random black hairs where they should not be) or a torn ear or a black toenail and you can pick them up pretty cheap. I know a lot of people poo poo the show rabbit route, but it costs just as much to feed a crappy, wasp waisted rabbit as it does a big fat bottomed, thick shouldered one.

    As far as keeping and feeding, that's different for everyone as well. I always kept mine in hanging cages and on a commercial pellet, however I've transitioned them off full pellets and onto 20% cattle cubes, half pellets, hay, and whatever I can scavenge from the garden and yard in the interest of being more sustainable. I've also got a couple of groups in on-the-ground colonies, with mixed results. For a beginner, I'd recommend a traditional cage setup and pellets and then go from there. If you can keep 'em alive and breeding and raising litters doing it like that, then chances are you can keep from killing them with willow branches, blackberry leaves, and carrots. :D

    The main thing with rabbits is ventilation. Ammonia is your number one enemy of keeping healthy rabbits. Rabbits are prone to upper respiratory infections and there are few antibiotics they can tolerate. Pasturella is intreatable and highly contagious and once it gets a foothold, kiss your entire rabbitry goodbye. This is why Kingfish 's (I think it's his) setup is so awesome, he has this huge hutch system outdoors that protects them from wind and weather but allows them a ton of fresh air. I'm working off an indoor building in the winter and it's a real bear to keep the air flow adequate.

    I keep adding to this, and it's now a novel. One last consideration is heat. Rabbits do not do well in heat. Temperatures over 90 can kill... for years I just let mine live or die in the heat and now I have lines that tolerate 100+ well but it was a brutal few years before that happened. It's not unusual for males to go sterile when the heat stays in the 90s. So wherever you put your rabbits, be sure they're not in the blazing sun or a hotbox like a storage building with no air flow.

    OH one last thought. Call your county extension agent and ask who in your area breeds the FFA/4-H meat pen rabbits. If he's clueless, call the high school ag teacher if there is one. There's a number of breeders who never show ARBA but have big winners in the meat pens, and they would have some really good stock available as well as be able to help you understand what you're looking at when you're buying.'

    And don't be offended if a breeder refuses to let you "see the rabbits". A lot of us are pretty strict about biosecurity as well as steering clear of the PETA crowd and don't allow strangers back in the barns. Some are cool with you coming on in, others will arrange to meet you somewhere with the prospective buns. It's one reason you'll find so many for sale at shows, it's the ideal venue to get your sale stock out there without risking inviting some animal rights nut onto your property so he can come back later that night and steal them all. (it's happened to many)
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
  3. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

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  4. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey+++

    If you can get them, raise them. I never got technical with mine, and they grew.
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  5. J&MBixler

    J&MBixler Monkey

    Wow. This is so much great advice. Thank you so much.
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  6. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

  7. tacmotusn

    tacmotusn RIP 1/13/21

    Times 2 [applaud][applaud][applaud][applaud][applaud][applaud]
  8. Legion489

    Legion489 Rev. 2:19 Banned

    Well DitchWitch pretty much covered it all. I was raised on rabbits, ate rabbit six days a week. We feed our rabbits alfalfa pellets, alfalfa hay, pretty much anything green or plant based we had (apples, pears, lettuce, pretty much anything from our garden, including weeds, any produce the store threw out, any fruits that we had trees for or ones along the road - do not trespass!). We had New Zealand, Dutch and pretty much what ever someone sold or gave us. Keep an eye on them and weed out the non-producers, poor mothers, etc. We had a hutch three high by three wide (probably 2'x2'x2' each) and a smaller one in the back. Wood back, sides, floor, wire (screen like) doors, south facing, under trees on west side. Cleaned everyday and feed/watered them so they were used to people. Mothers need birthing boxes (low sided wood box big enough for mother and kits) and keeps bucks away from other rabbits when not breeding. Go to library and get every book they got on rabbits and raising same. Get more books through interlibrary loan system. After Easter put add in paper "we will take your rabbits if you don't want them" and see if you can get some free. Rabbits chew stuff to keep their teeth worn down so use only regular wood as treated lumber will kill them. Might get a few books on how to butcher and cook then as well.
  9. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Ill second that good show rabbits are thick loined and heavy. That is what wins shows :) I have New Zealand Whites. My does are huge 12 pounds. I have one buck who is a monster at 13 pounds. Big heavy loins and hind legs. They are from top of the line show winning rabbits . I have pedigrees on all of mine now as it helps pay the blls when I can sell breeding stock for 30 to 50 dollars each. I am really happy with my current lines. Lots of Rabbit pie here. :)
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  10. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

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  11. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Believe it or not this is an 8 week old Doe. She was almost 4 pounds at 8 weeks. Her parents are both from very good show stock. Note her huge round loins to hind legs. This is what you want in a quality meat rabbit.
    Ganado likes this.
  12. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

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  13. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    The second picture shows her size when compared to my hand. I sold her for 40 dollars as a breeder. Absolutely beautiful doe. All of my does are over 10 pounds. My big three are 11.4, 11.6 and 12.1 Walter is just over 13 pounds now. He has been heavier but I cut his feed back a little so he doesn't get lazy. I have two new Bucks that are coming along sweet. Thumper is only 7 months old and already over 10 pounds. Then there is Olaf , he is a stinky boy. Pees on everything in sight. He even tries to pee on me. He is a marking machine. He is full grown 1.5 year old and he topped out about 9.8 pounds but he throws big kits. His mamma won three shows for legs. I bought him from another breeder. I thought he would be bigger. Here are the hutches Ditch Witch told you about. KF Rabbit houses.JPG
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  14. ditch witch

    ditch witch I do stupid crap, so you don't have to

    That hutch system is awesome. If I ever move and have room to build, I'll be building something similar.
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  15. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Everything on our land is on a hill if its close to the house. Hence the 4 by 6 and 4 by 4 posts in the hill set in concrete. It really was a bitch setting those poles and getting the spacing right But we did it. The best part of the hutch system is that each 3 section pen slides out for long term repairs of the bottoms. We are planning another one right across from it just for the bucks so Ill gain 3 more pens for growing out meat rabbits. Also expanding our chicken runs so they have more area to bug in.
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  16. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant


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  17. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Those are the only other pics I have at the present. Each pen is a three section pen that slide into the rack and held in with a couple screws. I can pull them all out when its time to replace the bottoms. The roof is sheets of asphalt corrugated roof panels sold at Lowes. I made my own custom trusses. I still have to sheet in the back and sides . The big thing is even with 4 foot of sheeting along the back and sides Ill still get real good air flow around the pens . I am planning a rain gutter on the front to catch rain water in a barrel on each side.
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  18. ditch witch

    ditch witch I do stupid crap, so you don't have to

    Anyone looking to get started in rabbits, don't buy those wire cages from Tractor Supply. Just don't. They are shoddy beyond belief. I have 2 that were given to me, they're a year old and falling apart, wires are coming unattached, just crap. I just use them to set over plants I don't want the chickens scratching up now. I get all my equipment from Bass Equipment and KW Cages.. KW is higher priced but better quality. There's also Klubertanz, and they sell the rolls of wire if you prefer to build your own. You can Google any of those and find their websites.

    This is a little bit of my winter setup. It's convenient for me and warm for them, but there are a lot of drawbacks, namely I'm cleaning pans all the time and ventilation is a concern. I also have to deal with all those stinking water bottles, because the cages are stacked too high to set a water bucket above for an automatic system.

    In the summer the cages are set out around the gardens and covered with a high tech roofing system made from cut open feed sacks and assorted garbage to hold them in place. :D

    Weather permitting, all the weanlings go into portable pens that get moved around the yard, which helps my feedbill and allows me to see who does best on a limited pellet and forage type feeding which is part of how I pick my breeders now. It also adds a lot of additional work to the setup, but OMG they're so CUTE!!! :D
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2015
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  19. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    @ditch witch how much clearance or drop do you need? I see no reason why you could not mount a PVC tube overhead for water (instead of a bucket) and either charge it with a garden hose or lower on pulleys to fill with a bucket. It would be more water in less profile.
  20. ditch witch

    ditch witch I do stupid crap, so you don't have to

    I need the lowest point of water in the water tank higher than the highest water nipple, which would be halfway up the top cages.. eye level for me so about 5 ft. The ceiling is 6' and a few inches so I'd have to mount the tank on the roof, which would be nigh impossible for me to fill and it would freeze solid in the winter. Plus that roof wasn't engineered to hold more than the usual snow weight. PVC tube is an interesting idea but I have way too many for it to hold more than a half day unless I just ran it back and forth all over the ceiling. What I WANT to do, is set a 275 gallon tote on top of a platform just outside and use it as a water tower that is fed from the house's gutter system. I still have a problem with the lines freezing though. For now, it's a set of bottles inside and a set of bottles on the racks, and swap 'em out dusk n dawn.
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