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I'm hunting wabbits

 
Steve Nicolini
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We're looking into getting rabbits up here on the farm.  Does anyone know of good meat breeds?  Which breeds taste the best?  How about feed?  What do wild rabbits eat?  Is it possible to rotate them in with a chicken paddock system?  Any ideas on annual herbs that might feed rabbits and attract beneficial insects?
 
Leah Sattler
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rabbits subsist on grasses and do not do well on concentrates. I'm not sure about rotating them into chicken paddocks, predation by raptors may be a problem. I know people that run them in tractors just like chickens. I only know of the new zealand whites as being good meat rabbits but I'm sure there are other breeds out there.
 
Susan Monroe
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There is one main problem that I see with wascally wabbits:  confinement. 

I am of the opinion that a life trapped in a wire cage is no life at all.  I don't care if they're for meat. 

But if you try to keep them on the ground, they have a little rabbit-habit that can drive you crazy:  burrowing.  They are just large gophers.  How deep would you have to bury your fence to keep them confined?

The only other way I can see is what Leah said, a rabbit tractor, but it would need to have some kind of wire mesh on the bottom.  And if it has wire mesh on the bottom and you drag it to it's new location every day or so, I would think the grass will be lying down under the mesh (even 2" mesh), not easy for them to eat.

How about a wire dog crate, or two of them wired together to make a larger one?  My wire dog crates are large, 2x3 ft.  Would that be large enough? 

People with house-rabbits use multi-tiered cages with ramps.

Here's what looks like some useful info from a rabbit rescue site:  http://www.vrra.org/r101-care.htm

Here's some info on outdoor rabbits.  I didn't know it was only the females who dig the burrows. 
http://en.allexperts.com/q/Rabbits-703/Outside-Rabbits-1.htm

Maybe if they have a large enough area and enough natural food they don't dig out

Sue

 
Leah Sattler
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we had a bunny that we kept in a tractor and it didn't have a wire bottom it didn't dig at all which sort of surprised me. I have heard of people raising them in colonies in barns just pulling bunnies adn placing them is small cages when they had babies to protect them from cannibalizing (not uncommon in rodents). I think that would be the way I would do it if I got into it. a large barn with skylights and large rabbit stalls containing 5 or so does. move your buck around to cover all the girls and have some smaller individual cages for bunny babies and moms. once a day rake out the areas and toss in some more shavings. Our current rabbit is litter trained. it lives in a dog crate with a tray on the bottom. all  did was put a litter box full of wood pellets and left the rest bare. it automatically went to the litter box to do its business. I wonder if a whole colony could be done that way? start with a small concrete pen and a extra large litter area and then when the bunnies were using it enlarge the "Stall" that could really simplify care.
 
Susan Monroe
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Leah, was your rabbit male or female?  It surprised me that only females dig burrows.  I don't know why, but it did.  Makes sense when you think about it.

I have a friend who used to have a house rabbit that was trained to the litter box.  It wasn't her first, and she said that she has the best success when the young rabbit was confined to a dog crate with the litter box, so it got used to using it and only it.  Then it could be let to roam through the house.

If you could confine the droppings, it certainly would be easier to collect them.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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It was female. but. it was also a little mini kind and those instincts may have been bred out of it. keep in mind rabbits are very sensitive to heat. very. RIP peepers. we have new bunny now that lives in the house. cheeto.

here is cheeto. I dont think we could ever eat him. oh and don't tell my daughter its a him 



 
Steve Nicolini
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I suppose it would be tough keeping them confined.  We have way too much grass, however.  Do guinea pigs burrow too?  I think rabbits are lagomorphs, rather than rodents.  They may still eat themselves.  Cute picture.  I don't know if I could take a rabbit's life.  If we didn't use rabbits for meat, what other functions do they serve? 
 
Susan Monroe
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They produce a good manure.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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yep, fertilizer, thats how I justify having ours. but deep down I know the truth. they are just cute
 
Susan Monroe
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Oh, Leah, you're just like me!

Food animals should be ugly, so you would feel like you're doing them a favor to kill and eat them.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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absolutely! I am very careful about my goats bound for the freezer. I leave their horns on (I disbud keepers born here) and I don't play with them. I won't even touch them unless I have to move them for some reason. my little doelings on the other hand, I love to sit in with them and they climb all over me and they try to eat my hair and clothes. I call it my goat therapy. chickens are a piece of cake for the most part. I have a few that I like and would prefer not to eat for inexplicable reasons but man those ugly freakazoid cornish rocks. they really do need to be eaten.
 
Steve Nicolini
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So what is the ugliest, most deformed looking breed of rabbits?  Preferrably ones that have tasty crap!
 
Susan Monroe
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Okay, Steve, here's what you need to work on creating: 

MEAT RABBIT
Large-breed
Solid weight
Tasty meat
Very ugly
Not tempermental
Commits suicide at butchering time

Rabbit manure is tasty to worms as it is, and the combination makes an excellent fetilizer.

And when may we expect results?

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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When I see a rabbit commit suicide.

 
Leah Sattler
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my chickens commit suicide occasionally. I see them contemplating their unfortunate lot in life while sitting on the backyard fence before throwing themselves to the dogs. if we could get breed of rabbit following the image of the turken chickens (naked heads and necks) than they would certainly be hideous enough to butcher.

I disagree about the non tempermental part. mean roosters are the easiest to butcher. if the rabbit tried to attack you every time it had the chance it might actually be a satisfying experience to dispatch it.
 
Steve Nicolini
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HA!  That's just it. We should sharpen the rabbits teeth, feed them some amanita muscaria, and have them bite us once or twice.  There is some incentive to whack thumper! 

I mentioned going to a wilderness survival class... I was thinking of practicing snares, deadfalls, and traps made from wild materials on the rabbits.  A little harsh, I know, but I gotta eat!  Meat!  Rabbit Meat!
 
Gwen Lynn
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Dunno if this helps any, but I've been bitten by rabbits & guinea pigs almost every time I've held one or even petted one that someone else was holding. I have no idea why they bit me, but it hurts!

Consequently (& until recently), I've always been leery & avoided handling them. Needless to say, I could easily whack a rabbit or a guinea pig if necessary. Especially if I was hungry! I've never eaten rabbit meat, what does it taste like? I dunno about the ugliest breeds, but some rabbits are definitely cuter than others, and some are not very friendly!
 
Steve Nicolini
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The only rabbit meat I had was pickled.  My grandad used to bring a slingshot with him on hunting trips.  He was pretty dirty with that thing. (When I say dirty, I mean deft...)  He always pickled it.  Rabbit tastes a lot like squirrel. 
 
Kelda Miller
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I've been thinking a lot about these various topics. I posted a few months ago that I was trying to get a rabbit back on its cage. Whatever! First I have to have the heart to put it back in it's cage.

So anyway, we've had a feral rabbit in the yard that lives happily with the goats. And eats young brassicas.

Two thoughts on this: if I'm going to have a feral rabbit I need to make some kind of protective fence until the brassicas at least get big enough that a nibble won't hurt them. It was good to hear that he won't dig, I haven't seen him digging yet, and now I know why. He's a male

Second: Oh, I should probably eat him, to justify the loss of so much of my broccoli and kale. But how will I catch him. And he is cute!!
So then, hearing that rabbits are sensitive to cold, I might have it covered. The temperature is going to way drop this week. I'll just go out and check around the goats and rabbits favorite areas and see if I find a frozen rabbit. Then I won't feel guilty for eating him.

I don't know though. How cold does it have to get to freeze a rabbit?
(He doesn't sleep with the goats, just frolicks, he found his own little sleeping area outside where he won't get squished. Earlier this week I tossed a bunch of dry leaves over there so he could get snuggly. Maybe that was a mistake. Do I have the heart to take the leaves away from him so he freezes? Um no.)
 
Susan Monroe
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Ah, Kelda, the dilemmas of living in the country!

Cold is relative.  Bunnies have nice warm fur that they fluff out for insulation.  Bunnies that have had their heads stepped on by a cow tend to freeze right away.

I understand that the Wrist Rocket types of slingshots are a nice slingshot for hunting squirrels and rabbits.

Maybe you could make a 'brassica tractor' to protect them from the rabbit(s).

sue
 
Leah Sattler
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Susan Monroe wrote:
.  Bunnies that have had their heads stepped on by a cow tend to freeze right away.


sue


I almost ruined my keyboard by spewing coffee on it when I read that. I have only had rabbit once. wild rabbit. fried it up like chicken. chewy. bad idea. I was turned off by rabbit hunting when I was told how to gut it. squeeze until it pops out the back. why in my head is that worse than gutting and skinning a goat? i dunno. 
 
Kelda Miller
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well, the dilemma may be solved. i have no idea if he's crafty enough to get melted drinking water, we're changing for the chickens and goats a few times a day. It's cold. If he lives through this cold snap he's pretty amazing, so I promised the universe I wouldn't eat him. His children, yes, but not him.

How is he doing it? stay warm snuggled up in some outbuilding yes, but drinking water?
Maybe rabbits can do mini-hibernations in which case he'll be fine.

And yes, the 'brassica tractor' was definitely on  my list of things to do. We'll see if it's necessary though...
 
Susan Monroe
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I'm sure many animals eat snow, if it's available.

Sue
 
Kelda Miller
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I suppose they do, and he surely would to stay alive.

I remember hearing in some wilderness survival talk i went to, that for humans to eat snow when thirsty can actually just help to kill us faster. It's better to turn the snow to water first.  (I don't know why, thus all the questions I've had lately about frozen water and such.)

But I don't think a rabbit would be thinking about such dilemmas
 
Leah Sattler
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animals have and amazing drive to survive. If enough of his wild instincts are intact he will prob. make it. I remember reading something about the eating snow in an emergency thing too. Ithink the reasoning was something like, it takes more energy to melt the snow internally than externally, so it made more sense to find a way to melt the snow before you drank it. Maybe that was in the book "into thin air" maybe not.
 
Susan Monroe
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The survival thing about eating snow is that it can help lower your body temperature into hypothermia.  It's not bad by itself, but with the additional exposure from outside cold, it just makes it worse. 

Also, if you have firemaking equipment and a metal cup, you can melt enough snow to drink warm water, which will help your body maintain its normal temperature.

Odd survival tip that I ran across:  if you find someone who is hypothermic and they can still swallow, give them warm Jello instead of warm water or coffee.  The gel effect stays warmer longer, and the sugar may help kick-start their metabolism.  But they will still need medical help.

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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That is a pretty good tip.  If I have water, however, and no jello, I would give them some water. 

Rabbits, as well as other mammals, "hole up" in really cold weather.  They dig into burrows and stay there until they have to go out in the cold. 

None of my mammal books have anything on how they obtain water in freezing temperatures.  I would think they make their way to the creek if they don't get enough water from their food to hold them over.  When they can't get to the greens they will eat inner bark of conifers and also salal.  Those have a good amount of water.

Speaking of hunting, we had a bobcat in our pasture the other day.  We saw it and spooked it off, but I followed its footsteps to a part of the pasture where it had dug up a rodent, probably rat or vole, and ate it on the spot.  THe only thing left was a little stomach and some blood. 
 
                              
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Kelda O. wrote:
I suppose they do, and he surely would to stay alive.

I remember hearing in some wilderness survival talk i went to, that for humans to eat snow when thirsty can actually just help to kill us faster. It's better to turn the snow to water first.  (I don't know why, thus all the questions I've had lately about frozen water and such.)

But I don't think a rabbit would be thinking about such dilemmas




Because it makes your internal body temp take a nose dive. When you are out in the cold, warm drinks, MELTED snow water, and hot food help to maintain normal body temp, and keeps energy levels up.

Leigh
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I've heard of systems where rabbits are kept above vermicompost bins, to minimize the shoveling-out.
 
Jami McBride
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LOL such a funny thread (in places)!

Yes you can raise wabbits in colonies (Google search it).  Our rabbit's have a pen, edged by two foot rock wall half underground.  Yes our females will dig now and then, I just fill it back in with a rake when it starts to get out of hand, and they stop digging for many months (discouragement I guess)  But others who raise rabbits for food in colonies just allow them to dig and have their babies in the borrows.  They fence around the colonies area.

They set up an area fenced in within the pen, where they place the feed and water with a rabbit size door for access. When they want to capture a rabbit for culling or medical treatment they just close the rabbit door, trapping the animals inside.  Then they step over the short fencing to pick up the rabbit.  All our rabbits are hand-raised indoors so they come up to us when we go into their pen - easy.

Norwegian Whites make good 'meat' rabbits, but any large breed will do... not a lot of difference in the meat.

NO - rabbits and fowl do not mix well, as the rabbits can catch diseases from the droppings of chickens and ducks if allowed to walk in it and eat plants in it. 
However, in the summer we let our Norwegian's out in the backyard for the fun of it, and they haven't gotten sick even though this is our ducks home-turf and we let the chicken's out now and then.  What does this mean:  I try to keep a bio-diverse yard so this must go a long way toward controlling such issues


Young Norwegian is out and mini Rex is in.  Bo our Rex liked to fight when she was out, it just messed with her nerves... So she stays inside the paddock.


Pippa and Bo waiting for garden goodies



Our Norwegian is all grown up later in the summer, and the kitten getting to know her, Mrs. Honey-buns better. 

After working with a friend on butchering rabbits, and doing a couple of our own chickens we (my daughter and I) decided to just keep rabbits for fun and manure ♥  It's the killing with my hands that gets to me.... Oh well.
 
paul wheaton
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That is one of the best posts I've read anywhere! 

I like the fencing, the diversity of plants, the rock wall ... wow, what an excellent way to raise rabbits!
 
Leah Sattler
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"It's the killing with my hands that gets to me.... "

there is something about that. I can lop off a chickens head with a cleaver but when I watched a guy just wring the neck I didn't think I would ever want to do it that way. it just seems too personal. it worked just as well and he obvioulsy knew what he was doing. and it was alot less bloody but for some reason I want to keep the chop off the head method....


a very nice set up! what happy bunnies you must have.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I've read that in Europe, they're usually bled.

One source I've read advocates a .22 pistol, though I think a captive-bolt device would be a lot more sustainable
 
Jami McBride
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It is a nice set up - easy on everyone.

It works for some specific reasons, which I did not mention before.
The rabbit area/paddock is up against the house - one side buffered by house. 
This makes checking on the rabbits, taking care of their needs and deterring predators easy. 
I built a simple frame off the house over most of their area, which was originally a flowerbed.  I cover the top of the frame with a tarp in the summer to help block the sun, and clear plastic in the winter to block most of the rain.

Here's picture in early spring - not much growing yet, but you get the idea.


Another shot later in the summer with the tarp to block sun on


I cover their house, an old dog kennel, with hay in the fall to protect from the winds and cold.  Because the water table rises they prefer to tunnel in the hay pile and leave the ground alone all winter.  Then I use that hay all over their area in the spring and it grows some nice grass for them and acts as mulch for the upcoming flowers.



Even when rabbits tunnel they don't do it to escape, but just to build a house underground.  So when we let our rabbits out they don't dig at all, but instead explore, and run, kicking up their heals in the funniest way.....

They do potty in specific areas, but those are close to their house, usually at the back and mixed in with the hay.  So it does not cause the stink that raising rabbits off the ground does.  In the spring when taking the hay down and spreading it is easy to rake the ground even thereby mixing the droppings with dirt and hay which kills the smell.

A friend of mine who has raised & eaten angora rabbits for 30+ years says she can always tell a caged rabbit when butchering, not only do they have yellow feet from their urine but their liver is damaged by being in close proximity with their feces.  Not true of pen raised rabbits.

Catching - A good way to catch a loose rabbit if they won't let you get close is to use a piece of welded-wire, say 2'x3' to pen them up against something and then just reach in.  I have my daughter run rowdy rabbit down (around the yard really) - it doesn't take long for them to tire out and then they hold still for pick-up.

Protecting Plants - A good way to protect certain plants is with the same welded-wire.  Cut out the cross pieces of wire on one end leaving the vertical wire ready to stick in the ground like stakes.  Bend the wire in the proper shape, stab in the ground and poof no more rabbit, duck, dog or chicken access.  Another great tool for this is those small metal squares you can buy for shelving, I think they come 4 to a pk.  Simple zip-tie them in single file and place to section off areas you do not want small animals in.  I have made a long chain of these for my back patio to keep the ducks off, but still allow the cats, dog and us in and out.  I also use one for my strawberry patch.

Yup - I'm King of the Yard  Our Trimmed chocolate angora


A captive bolt device  (also variously known as a cattle gun, stunbolt gun, bolt gun, or stunner) is a device used for stunning animals prior to slaughter. Proper stunning is essential to prevent the pain and suffering of the animal during butchering. The principle behind captive bolt stunning is a forceful strike on the forehead using a bolt to induce unconsciousness.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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CurrentWave:

Excellent photos and advice! 

And thanks for the clarification on that device.  I don't think one designed for cattle or swine would be appropriate or even safe to use on a rabbit, but I think a similar design with smaller size and applying less energy could be more appropriate and more safe than a revolver, with the added benefit of not putting lead into food.
 
jeremiah bailey
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I was reading thread and came across the parts about killing rabbits. What about killer rabbits? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nvs5pqf-DMA&feature=fvsre1
 
Jami McBride
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Oh yes, Monty Python - that puts a whole new spin on things 
 
Leah Sattler
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a gentleman who came to buy and butcher one of our goats simply bled it out. the goat was obviously unconcious very quickly and I am not so sure it was any less humane then a .22. the auto reflex movements might have lasted longer. when we have butchered goats the animal drops, get gets its jugular cut then I walk away to get a piece of rebar or whatever to hang it. the reflexes might just have seemed longer when I was sitting there staring at it. unwanted newborn goats are put down with a .22 by some people and they probably aren't much bigger then a full grown meat rabbit......
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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AFAIK the kosher/halal method is to bleed out with a very sharp knife.

I would bet that among common methods, the skill and attention with which a particular method is applied may have more influence on humaneness than the choice of method.

I just remembered, one of the major authorities on this topic is Temple Grandin.  She pointed out to egg ranchers that their hens would experience a fraction of the stress if allowed to go through the motions of hiding eggs, for example.  She has shown that a good firm hug (which, for cattle, take some special equipment, but should be simple for a rabbit) on the way to slaughter can markedly reduce stress, as measured by blood chemistry.
 
Leah Sattler
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that is interesting about the "hug". I have heard reference to pressure being applied as a stress reducer even in people. I instantly thought of how a baby is calmed when swaddled. certainly all small animals are much more secure when held tightly to the body and I have had many a laugh watching people unnacustomed to critters try to to carry one held out from the body.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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