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alternative to a mesh cage bottom?

 
Gerrit Jan Brethouwer
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Please help me out,
I do want to keep meat rabbits, and I have read studies, and seen youtube videos.
Apparently there is nothing wrong with a wire mesh bottom for a rabbit cage.

But I would rather not do that.

Hence my question, what is a good alternative?
I went to a pet shop today, and the sales person gave me the idea of putting a rabbit toilet in the cage, and train mamma rabbit to use it, and she will teach her children.
I don't mind spending a few hours each day, to keep things clean.
The size of the rabbit farm will eventually, be 50 breeding rabbits, and I plan to start with three does and one buck.

Looking forward to any ideas.

ETA, the rabbit poo will be used for the rainworms I am going to grow as well.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Gerrit, how much land do you have ? Any room to have a larger area for them to be in?
 
Gerrit Jan Brethouwer
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Gerrit, how much land do you have ? Any room to have a larger area for them to be in?


Good question.
I have a space that is 60 square meters and has a ceiling height of 7 meters, I don't have any outdoor space for the rabbits.
The only way for me is to keep the rabbits inside, and although I will raise them for their meat, I still would like to give them a good life.

Thanks for your post.
 
Rex Nichols
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Location: Indiana, USA
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I've been looking for alternatives to the wire floor too. I tried rabbit tractoring, but lost a lot of rabbits. I'm starting to think domestic rabbits are best kept in cages. I build larger than normal cages so they have plenty of room to move.
While looking at a diamond mesh picnic table I got the idea it would make the perfect floor for rabbits. Much more comfortable than wire, but with plenty of holes for waste to fall through. The picnic tables are made out of poly coated expanded metal, but I haven't been able to find any at a reasonable price. When I bought my house, the previous farmer had pigs on a mesh floor that was similar. I now have three cages on a 5' x 7' section of the floor that I raised off the ground. It's better than the wire mesh, but I still would like to find some of that coated expanded metal. I think 3' x 2' would make a good cage.
 
Rex Nichols
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Location: Indiana, USA
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Here is a video showing my cage floor. Actually, may cage is about 5' x 2' x 30" tall. I like those dimensions. The rabbits have plenty of room to stretch.



 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Why is wire or mesh preferred in the first place?

Why not have a deep-litter culture sitting on a wooden tray (floor sections that slide out as drawers), as part of a large hutch that you build yourself. That way, when the wood starts to go, you can simply hammer out the bottom of the drawers and replace them.

My concern would be that the half-digested cud that they reingest gets passed the same way as poop, but if it falls through mesh, they might not be able to get it, leading to probable malnutrition, or at least a lag in growth because you're throwing half their food out with their poop.

-CK
 
Su Ba
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Years ago when I had about 60 rabbits, all my cages 2'x3' with wire mesh floors. Reason? Easy to keep the rabbits clean and to gather the urine and feces that fell through the mesh flooring. But now I maintain only 4 adults, so the housing is quite different.

My rabbit set up now is right beside where I grow the grains, primarily corn. With corn being a heavy feeder, the rabbit waste and litter gives the corn a good boost. With the rabbits right next to the field its simple and quick to move the waste to the corn. The cages are 3'x4', solid floors. Each cage has a litter box which is emptied daily, sometimes more frequently. The general pen litter consists of dried grass clippings which is changed weekly. It makes nice mulch for the corn. Training the rabbits to a litter box was easy since they tend to pick a potty corner anyway. Just put the box in the rabbit's preferred potty corner. They will still leave a few pellets scattered around the cage, thus the reason for changing the litter weekly. Also, the pen litter gets contaminated with uneaten food at times, so I like to remove the spoiled bits. They don't feed them commercial rabbit pellets, but instead have free choice hay cubes plus a wide assortment of fresh greens, veggies, and fruits.

Here in Hawaii it is illegal to have rabbits on the ground. No ground pens, no tractors, no wandering loose. So I built "playground" pens that sit 3 1/2" inches (standard lumber measurement) above the ground. The flooring is mesh so that the grass can grow through it. Most days of the week the rabbits have a chance to spend some time in the playground (2' high x 2' wide x 20' long - roofed) so that they can bask in the sun or nibble growing grasses and herbs.

Personally I feel that the rabbits prefer the solid flooring over the mesh. But it does require more work and time. So you may find that you are limited to a smaller number of rabbits in your rabbitry. I agree with you that even though I raise rabbits to eat, I want them to have a nice quality of life.
 
Adam Grant
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First off this is my first post , this is a great forum with a lot of helpful information. I raise American Giant Chinchilla rabbits. My cages are 48 x 32 I also dont like the wire floors but I dont like cleaning much either, plenty of other work on the farm.

My floors are rough cut oak boards that are 1inch x 1 inch with a 3/4 inch space between each slat, I am sure any wood would work just run through a table saw , still let's all the waste fall through and give's the rabbits a solid floor. My cages are ply wood boxes so I just cut the slats and screw in from each end/side. I have had some of those cages about 4 years and floors are still solid.

Hope that give you some Ideas.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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I have all wire cages just as a means of keeping things clean. I keep and eye on their feet and have had no troubles so far. My concern about wood is that it can soak up a lot of urine and harbor a lot of bacteria. Wood is just hard to keep clean and un-chewed. I place a solid board on one part of the floor so that the rabbits have a place to rest their feet if need be. They seem to prefer chewing the board to bits rather that sitting on it. On reall cold night's I'll also make little mats of hay for them to sit on.
 
Darren Collins
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I'm the same as Craig - wire floors, with wide timber boards for them to sit/lay on if they like. I've had no issues with feet. I like that the poop falls straight through - it's easy to keep the cages free. I'd worry that solid floors would soak up urine and spilled water, and would get smelly and harbour bacteria/disease.

Still, I'm interested in hearing if anyone has a better way of doing things.
 
Natty Zickuhr
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Thought I'd weigh in on rearing methods with my limited but positive experience with rabbit tractors.

My friend and I decided when we moved "up North" this past summer to Ashland area in WI that we were going to raise rabbits for food, fur, and the learning process and found ourselves in the housing quandry also. I found some rabbit contacts in the area including an old friend who had been raising rabbits in a rabbit tractor with success. I ended up borrowing his tractor and eventually making a larger one to house more rabbits.

This tractor I designed has the cross section of a child's drawing of a house (think triangle on top of rectangle) and is about 8 feet long. One side is two plywood pieces (for wind/sun/rain screen depending on season) and the other is 3/8 inch hardware cloth. For the bottom I thought about slats but was worried about weasels entering under the gaps at each end. Consequently, I instead surrounded the whole perimeter of the floor with about 5 inches of hardware cloth and had overlapping 2x4 inch mesh wire which sits on the ground. This leaves a pasture of 7 feet by 3 feet for the mother and young housed therein. Hypothetically a weasel could burrow under the hardware cloth, but this hasn't happened yet...knock on wood. (our cats did kill a weasel near the rabbits though!) On one end we have a nest box measuring about 3x3 feet and a foot tall with a hinged door.

This setup has worked remarkably well for us with no sickness (since starting in July) or any adult mortality issues. Pasture was not lacking on a friend's hayfield site, so we moved them around multiple times/day chasing the best mix of grass, clovers, and other good forage. We also fed the rabbits any "weeds" pulled from the garden and fed them about a cup/day of our sunflower seed/bread crumb/oat groat mix that we make up. Our original doe Nightshade kindled first in early August after living in these environs for the second half of her gestation. Nightshade raised nine healthy babies (she killed #10-the runt of the litter) all survivors of which grew with vigor. These young have never eaten pellets and besides the daily protein sunflower mix get all of their calories and nutrients from forage and household vegetable scraps. We routinely give brambles, willow, dandelions, catnip, wild strawberry leaves, lambsquarter, velvet leaf and a ton of other weeds and edge browse plants in season. This setup worked quite well, but we were a bit too slow to move the adolescent gang away from their mother which we learned the hard way when they smothered her next litter Despite this loss, all of the young grew to a decent butchering weight in about 20 weeks. I know that this is slower than a pellet-fed rabbit, but considering their food is largely free, they are consuming a large amount of healthful and medicinal plants, and their organs and internal health during butchering all showed perfect signs of health, I have no complaints thus far.

Now that it's winter, we have the tractor stationary with a tarp around it and about 18 inch deep snow piled over the whole structure but the plywood doors which we keep bundled with blankets. We've also added several inches of straw which we routinely add to and clean out about every three weeks. This winter arrangement has worked well for the surviving rabbits (now four does including Nightshade) though we now need to begin separating them as one of our young does just kindled for the first time (!) and she and her seven little ones need some privacy! Happy news, but we again have a need for additional housing which we will temporarily meet via an XL dog carrier.

Here are a list of my thoughts on the success we've had:
1) Nightshade is a silver fox and her babies are 1/2 sf, 1/4 new zealand, 1/4 flemish giant - Silver foxes are known for doing well on pasture
2) Nightshade, although previously eating a diet high in pellets and corn, was also tractored getting pasture as more of a supplement before
3) We weaned Nightshade off her pellets over the course of a week or two substituting larger and larger portions of sunflower seeds and breadcrumbs before removing pellets all together
4) I believe that all animals need great diversity in their diets for optimal health - pasturing the rabbits on an the old hayfield was the easy solution
5) Using a large mesh floor works well for the rabbits to harvest their own food and still keeps them from burrowing out

Here are some limitations our system has had so far by our reckoning:
1) The tractor took a bit of time and effort to make...we need more!
2) Despite being more room than the average hutch, we feel that these tractors are too small for very many adult rabbits and are ultimately better as maternity wards
3) Having only one nest box means that territorial disputes will enter into the box causing unnecessary stress for all the rabbits.

This upcoming spring, I hope that we will be able to make two or three more tractors each with two nest boxes attached. This would allow us to keep our four does - 2 each sharing a tractor, a buck, and young rabbits all with minimal competition. The buck will be alone only for short periods as he can cohabitate with the does well until they are ready to kindle. In this arrangement my hope is that we would also fence off a larger area to use for an exercise run that would have burrows, and interactive features for jumping, play, and exercise. Does anyone else have plans for a similar "playground"?

 
Rex Nichols
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Location: Indiana, USA
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Thanks Natty, for the detailed description. I have thought a lot about your playground idea and an even larger permanent fenced in pasture. because I never had problems with rabbits digging out of my tractors, I attempted to create a large fenced in pasture with chicken wire; thinking if they didn't dig out of the tractor, they wouldn't dig out of the fence. It took approximately one day for them to escape. They didn't dig, they just slipped under the fence.

With the tractor, I had PVC pipes running along the bottom edge. The weight of the tractor held the PVC against the ground. In the pasture, I could not stake the bottom of the fence in good enough. I tried folding the bottom of the fence in on the ground, but that didn't work either. I believe the fence could be buried a couple of inches to prevent escapes, but I gave up for now. I never saw the rabbits jump over the fence but they may learn that behavior once they are prevented from going under. I will probably try again someday. I really hate the cages, but they're what work best for me. By work best for me, I mean they help me keep the critters alive.
 
Bj Duif
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Location: the Netherlands
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Hello Gerrit Jan,

I've got four rabbits, they are housed in cages with solid floors. Álthough cleaning is more work I dont like mesh floors, rabbits tend to get sore hocks. As mentioned before an alternative could be to cover part of the mesh flooring with cardboard or wood so they have a place to rest their feet.

I don't want to spoil anything, but i've got a few concerns with your plan.
Two of my rabbits live inside as pets. Their cage is in a 25m2 room and is Always opened, they use their cage as a toilet. Especially in the summer i have to clean their cage every 5 days because of the smell and flies. Because of this I am a little bit worried about 50 rabbits in a 60m2 room, even when it has a high seiling. I think it wil be quite difficult to keep clean and to get propper air circulation, even with mesh flooring. I visited an animalshelter once were they kept a simulair number of rabits inside in quit a a big spage, the smell hurted my eyes and it was far from a clean place.

Why don't start with a smaller amount of rabbits and a smaller aim? You will not eat 50 rabbits at once I think? With 3 does you wil have about 50 rabbits within a few months. I understand you want to be self sufficient, but how are you going to feed 50 rabbits if you don't have a garden to grow their feed? Then you would still depend on others for rabbit feed and hay. If you buy your feed at a shop, rabbits will need about 25mg/kg of standard pellets feed a day. I think you want to have a meat breed of rabbit and not a standard petshop dwarf-mix. So say a 4-6kg rabbit? so it wil eat 100mg a day (a little bit more for the bigger ones and your breeding stock, a little bit less for the smaller ones) with 50 rabbits you will need about 5kg of rabbit pellets a day. In petshops around here i've seen low quality rabbit feed for 5euro's for 5 kg. This is food with antibiotics etc inside.


So i would think about ventilation, how you are going to feed your rabbits and at what costs, and how many grown rabbits you will need at a given time to feed your family. And perhaps there are lacal regulations about keeping such an amount of animals in, I guess, a city. It is probably easier to be self sufficient when you have a big garden


Greetings Bendina
 
Shane Gorter
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Location: Everson, WA
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I wanted to weigh in as well on the issue of cage floors. I have raised over 1000 rabbits if you include the fryers with all metal cages and have never had a single case of sore hocks. Having the appropriate wire size on the bottom is very important I have found the double galvanized .5"x1" wire works best for my New Zealands. I personally do not use wood for construction of the cages for sanitation purposes. I have stands they sit on made of conduit with the exception of the end vertical posts which are wood and in the future I hope to replace with steel. I believe sanitation probably plays a role in sore hocks, such as, standing in a urine soaked poop mat from where the cage bottom was clogged up by fur. Getting the rabbits urine away as fast as possible is critical for the health of the rabbits. Having them sit on a floor where the urine could potentially accumulate or wood that will soak it up can lead to many serious health issues including irritating the lungs with the ammonia "deadly" and also inviting many parasites and flies which will also may carry disease. If your rabbitry smells like ammonia your animals are suffering and your animal hygiene is insufficient. If you are having issues with your rabbits feet you can buy mats that sit on top of the wire and since rabbits tend to poop in a certain corner you can position them appropriately. The nice thing about the mats is you can easily remove them and wash them with out disturbing your rabbit. Also on the poop the rabbit likes to eat they will eat them as they are coming out the back end, Yummy!
 
Bev Huth
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Location: AR, USA
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I raise NZ meat rabbits on all wire cage floors, I haven't had to deal with sore hocks, but if I ever do, I have pieces of horse stall mat to use with the problem rabbits until thy heal or grow up enough to butcher as the case may be.

It's just easier to clean up after them and, keep the rabbits clean that way.

I do have isolation cages indoors for sick rabbits that need isolated during treatment. I modified some old dog carriers for that and, since those are already plastic and, I couldn't get suitable wire the day I needed an isolation cage. I used the plastic mesh grids meant to cover florescent lights. It works perfectly but, is just 18 in wide so, you have to plan supports for it accordingly. Still mesh but not wire and, each bit is wider so, may be a bit easier on the hocks than wire.

Yes, I'll pamper my soon arriving pet Flemish Giants a bit more, but those are to be pets with kits from them being NZ cross for meat. I want a couple of house rabbits so, that will be the giants - easier NOT to step on them when I'm half awake in the morning LOL.
 
Franco Rios
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Location: Central Calif, USA
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Here is a picture of a Continental Giant. This rabbit lives in England where wire floors are banned. The solid of this hutch is covered with a smooth rubberized fabric to make it waterproof. The floor is spread with straw which is changed out every other day. This type of solid floor works all over England were rabbit is still respected as a meat animal.

More pictures of Continental Giants at http://www.rabbitgeek.com/giantcont2.html

Have a good day!
 
Shane Gorter
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Location: Everson, WA
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Is that seriously a law in England? Take it for government trying to fix a non existents problem and creating a disaster. What kind of dim wit thinks that a rubber floored cage is better than wire? They are going to be standing in urine and feces! The cages are not big enough for them to avoid standing in their own waste. Even in the pictures on the website you can see in the third photo a fawn colored rabbit stepping into a urine puddle. We also all know there are days the bedding doesn't get changed, you can see the cage floor in these staged pictures, and hay is terrible at absorbing moisture.
 
Franco Rios
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Location: Central Calif, USA
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One thing I have learned over the the last 30 years is that there is more than one way to raise a rabbit.
There are wire floor cages and solid floor cages. There are colonies and warrens.
One thing about rabbit behaviour is the use of "potty" corners that they use most often.
Focus on keeping those corners clean and rabbits stay clean and healthy.
Not only England, but Sweden and many other European countries use solid floors.
Some people think it impossible to keep the rabbits clean on solid floors but they can do it with Angora rabbits!

Have a good day!
 
Shane Gorter
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Location: Everson, WA
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If you have a pet rabbit that you want to spend that much time and money on that you will change their bedding like a parent changes diapers thats great. I have a commercial rabbitry and have visited many others and one of the struggles a rabbitry has is keeping up with the urine and waste. I can say with 100% certainty that if the department of making you sad passed laws saying we could not have wire bottom cages the welfare of rabbits on whole would be dramatically reduced. Commercial rabbitries such as myself would probably have to kill all our animal do to a dramatic increase in the labor and material costs. As it is I am barely making money on my small rabbitry getting $6.50 a lb for meat.
When I read about laws like this it causes me to have a near panic attack, because my entire industry is shut down right now in western Washington due to idiots in government and academia making up arbitrary laws that do not increase the health of the animals or the safety of the food. Governments in all their incompetence have to pass a new law every time someone gets sick so that the stupid people who still believe in them will feel like they are doing something to address the problems which they typically created in the first place. As we speak the government just legalized the exporting of chickens to be slaughtered in china and sent back here in America because of the government interventions and stupidity. I can only imagine what kind of facilities they have over there that would make it profitable to send birds back and forth across the pacific. I am sure the same thing happened in Europe when they put in these law in effect all the meat rabbitries probably shut down, moved out of country, or the American way the big guys get exempted from the laws. I went into farming to fight for safe healthy food and knew what I was getting into, but this kind of stupidity gives me nightmares at night. I thank you for sharing this Franco, I seriously hope this does not come here to America.
 
Franco Rios
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Location: Central Calif, USA
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I am confused. Are you saying your rabbit industry in Washington is on verge of shutting down or some other industry?
 
Shane Gorter
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Location: Everson, WA
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The rabbitries are not shut down its the certified processing that is as well as for poultry at least west of the Cascades. There might be a place in Eastern Washington that you can have your animals processed, but I am not aware of any. In Washington rabbit slaughter is a rider on the poultry processing license which is required for sale to the public with a farm exemption that is really only applicable to hobby farmers. The last person west of the mountains processing poultry and rabbits for the public shut down last December. Before he shut down he took me on as his apprentice to replace him which I was planning on doing. One of the issues was that we needed a new location and to get that we needed to jump through all the arbitrary laws which we did and what ended up stopping us was a law stating that the processing unit had to have a flushing toilet that was not part of a residence. This law is arbitrary because the processing unit already had to have 4 sinks including a dedicated hand washing sink. So no one can tell us why that law is there just that its the law and we have to comply. Out of all our farms 3 of them were on a municipal water district and none of them had flushing toilets outside of a residence. Putting in a sewer connection or new septic would cost more than the processing unit would probably net in 3 years. The reason why no one processes for the public is the insane amount of gov required insurance and paper work to be filed that you can not really make any money even charging $4-$5 a rabbit. So as of right now there are industrial Purdue owned chicken houses and I think a farm a few hours south of me has a processing license for chickens, but they are not open to the public.
 
Franco Rios
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Location: Central Calif, USA
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That is serious. Lack of an outlet for meat rabbits is a serious obstacle.

Can you get some rabbit drivers who can take them to other processors?

You won't get as much money but it would something.


 
Shane Gorter
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Location: Everson, WA
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The outlets are not a problem the desire for non-gmo raised rabbit meat is more than I can produce. The problem is in order to sell the meat to the public you have to have a certified slaughter facility and they no longer exist in the state, at least none of them are open to the public. We have a guy up here who is build a mobile unit and I am trying to buy a farm that has a toilet in the shop that would qualify for all the BS, unfortunately the farm is owned by the government through foreclosure and their incompetence would blow your mind. I have been an entrepreneur for my entire life and the amount of bureaucratic incompetence makes Atlas Shrugged look good. It is for this reason why I get all freaked out when I see stupid laws like no wire bottom cages. If your not being subsidized by the government then you can't afford to have unhealthy animals. The industrial farmers using subsidized drugs and feed to compensate for their destructive practices, but us small farmer who refuse to accept stolen money needs to keep our animals as healthy as possible. I am afraid that the masses who have no experience in farming believe that the small farmer does not care about creating healthy atmosphere for their livestock and therefor should have the government regulate and micromanage our farms. The problem is the government has never fixed anything, except by leaving things they previously broke alone. If you want to see what government intervention does to farming look at the early Soviet Union when they nationalized the farms.
 
Franco Rios
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Location: Central Calif, USA
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I am trying to recall somewhere I was reading that in one case since there was no certified slaughter facility in the area the producer could produce at home as a farm to user operation. It was because the court decided unreasonable for the farmer to suffer loss because of the lack of slaughterhouse facility.

I wish I could remember what state that was.
 
Shane Gorter
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Location: Everson, WA
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Yup its the farmers exemption your talking about which requires less than 1000 birds and/or rabbits and the sale has to be directly to the end consumer with in 48 hours of the slaughter and the carcass has to be whole. This also requires licensing which is easier than the processors license, but the limitations make it only useful for hobby farmers if you do not have access to certified slaughter.
 
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