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Polyface Farms rabbits

 
Don Abbott
Posts: 5
Location: Kent Ohio
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Has anyone here purchased or at least seen the Polyface Farms rabbits? I'm starting my rabbitry next spring and was wondering if it's worth procuring these rabbits. It's my understanding that these have been bred for generations to be pastured and extra hardy disease wise.

Thanks,
Don
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 632
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Is your climate similar to Swoope, Virginia?
 
Don Abbott
Posts: 5
Location: Kent Ohio
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Good question. I'm in Kent Ohio, which is a little farther north and my elevation is 1000 ft vs 1600 at Polyface. I just did climate comparison between the two places and the average temperatures seem to match up pretty well with my place being a few degrees colder in the winter.

http://www.melissadata.com/lookups/ZipWeather.asp?ZipCode=44240&submit1=Submit

vs.

http://www.melissadata.com/lookups/ZipWeather.asp?ZipCode=24479&submit1=Submit
 
Justin Chaddick
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Joel Salatin talks about his rabbit operation in "You Can Farm" and it sounds like his rabbits are healthy, hygienic, and disease free so I'd give it a +1 but I haven't actually seen any first hand...
 
Don Abbott
Posts: 5
Location: Kent Ohio
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I have his "Folks, This Ain't Normal" book (signed!) but not "You Can Farm". I'll have to see if they have it at the library.

Thanks,
Don Abbott
The Snarky Gardener
 
Ferne Reid
Posts: 86
Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a
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Don, I'm not too far from you, and in my experience it's not hard to develop your own stock. Honestly, I started buying rabbits from the sale barn last year. We made sure they were healthy first, and then started putting them out on pasture. The ones who did well were kept. The ones who didn't were culled. We kept the best of them over the winter for breeding stock. The end result is that we have big rabbits that will eat anything we give them and maintain their weight pretty easily, and it only took a year.

If you are interested, I can let you know when we have kits. If you'd like a couple, we can probably meet somewhere. I periodically make runs to Salem.
 
Don Abbott
Posts: 5
Location: Kent Ohio
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Ferne,

Yeah, I've been thinking I would breed up my own stock but wanted to ask about the Polyface ones first. I'm putting together my rabbitry this Spring - first the housing structure and cages, then the rabbits. I'm just on 1 acre but there's plenty of fodder around for them.

What breed do you have or are they just "meat mutts"?


 
Ferne Reid
Posts: 86
Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a
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The ones we have look like gray Flemish giants. We don't have enough generations yet to see if there will be crop outs of anything else. Since they were auction rabbits, we don't know if there's anything else higher up the pedigree.
 
rosemary schmidt
Posts: 32
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Im in upstate South Carolina, wanting to raise rabbits too. No idea where to start and Im worried about the heat for them and how will they do here. I want meat and pelts and was wondering also, do people range them? Wont they dig tunnels and you can never catch them again? I have plenty of woods and the rabbits could be kept there in cages I suppose. Anyway, I am just flopping around here wondering where to start!
 
Justin Chaddick
Posts: 6
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people do range them, and yes if you don't put a barrier on the bottom of the pen they will tunnel. I've heard of people using wire mesh as the bottom barrier. Also sometimes people will hang their cage in the air (Joel Salatin does this over his pigs) and then the rabbit droppings don't accumulate and keep them more hygienic. If you don't want to hang them in the air then deep carbon bedding is a good investment to soak up all the pee an poo and prevent disease.
 
C Wilkes
Posts: 10
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I inquired at Polyface last year about purchasing rabbits and they do not sell their stock. Their rabbits are very healthy as they cull heavily. For instance, rabbits that routinely get ear mites are culled in favor of rabbits with better resistance. The breeders live in hanging cages above the chickens and litter while the fryers range in "rabbit tractors" with wood slatted bottoms. In my little bit of experience, rabbit litter collects very quickly and it is difficult to keep a cage on or close to the ground. Either raise them or move them to keep their cages clean.

And in reply to Rosemary Schmidt, I live in Charleston and have raised rabbits for a year now. My New Zealand/California crosses did find the heat difficult but none of them died as a result. My buck did go sterile during the summer as a result of the heat. All summer I gave them frozen liters of water which was a chore but it helped. And in the extreme heat, I hosed them down which they hated as much as a cat would. With your access to the woods, it would be easy to construct large wire cage in the shade. If you could run electricity to it, fans would not be a bad idea. My rabbits just adore being on grass and prefer it to their grain ration. Their rabbit tractor has wire mesh on it and I never had any problems with digging until winter when the grass stopped growing.
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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rosemary schmidt wrote:Im in upstate South Carolina, wanting to raise rabbits too. No idea where to start and Im worried about the heat for them and how will they do here. I want meat and pelts and was wondering also, do people range them? Wont they dig tunnels and you can never catch them again? I have plenty of woods and the rabbits could be kept there in cages I suppose. Anyway, I am just flopping around here wondering where to start!


Hi Rosemary! I'm on the coast near/north of Myrtle Beach. Heat is an issue but the first thing I'd advise is to decide if your rabbits are going to be in an air conditioned barn or not. Then, find rabbits that were raised in similar conditions as you plan to provide. This way, they are already acclimated. Second, shade shade shade. My rabbitry is under my pecan grove and honestly it is a good 10F cooler under the grove than elsewhere in the yard. Start considering your property and select a location that is shaded if possible.

Since you are talking about the Salatin rabbits, I know you are interested in feeding a natural diet at least in part. If you get your starter breeding stock from a show rabbit focused rabbitry (or ARBA trained/indoctrinated breeders) understand that they are not accustomed to anything but pellets and you will be told to feed nothing but pellets. (The breeder I got my stock from had a hizzy fit when she learned I was feeding HAY much less that I was moving toward no pellets. That attitude is common.) You can change their diet but it will take some time. Their digestive systems have to adapt but adapt they can.

I do not pasture my rabbits and I'm not 100% forage/fodder feeding because I'm still in the process of establishing the system and working out issues with mold (in trying to grow fodder).

A great book I'd recommend is Beyond the Pellet.
 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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I went to Polyface this previous fall for their "Field Day". High on my priorities for the day was their rabbit operation. I'll describe it as best as possible for anyone interested. Also, they do sell breed stock during Field Days so if you're interested in both a tour and breed stock, take cash, they refused credit cards that day.

They raise their breeding does in a high tunnel style barn they call a Raken. They call it that because the does are in suspended cages with chickens underneath. A very efficient system if you're into cages (I'm not!). Once the kits reach 6 or 8 weeks they're transferred to mobile pasture shelters for growout. The shelters (marketing purposes they don't use the cage word) are plastic coated chicken wire enclosures that have wooden slats on the bottom in the direction of the pull so as to not pad the grass down so badly and to avoid wire foot problems. The wooden slats are apx 1" wide with 1" gaps between them for grazing while preventing tunneling.

I was going to purchase breed stock but forgot cash and the apprentice working the Raken didn't realize that they were setup for credit until it was too late ( I later received an email but Swoope is over an hour from me). I purchased my stock from a similar operation who raises entirely in mobile shelters, from birth up. Good hardy stock of NZ Whites. The Polyface stock look more like tan Californians but they've been line bred for 30 years so appearances could be deceiving. Personally I like the suggestion from someone else to start with good local stock and put them on pasture and breed out the successful ones. That's what the place called Skyview acres where I purchased my breedstock did and they've done wonderfully. I have a doe on pasture and one in colony and they're thriving, throwing me great kits that are dressing out to 4-5lbs at 14 weeks.
 
Freddie Orcut
Posts: 25
Location: New England
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Computer crashed so here is the short version-
Buy local! Go on Craigslist and find breeders near you. If they survived down the street they can survive with you.
Visit and look at the rabbits. Look in their ears for mites and look at their feet for urine stains. If there are mites there is a chance they don't properly care for their rabbits. If there are urine stains they probably don't clean the cages properly. Look at previous litters of proven breeders.
There are rabbit breeders all over. Finding the good ones is the only challenge. Look for the passionate person and a clean environment and you are good to go!
Summer weather- Shaded area and 2 frozen waterbottles per rabbit for the high heat days to help cool them down. They will sometimes lay right on top of the bottles.
Winter weather- In the negatives I have gotten mites because of stress from the cold. (or it was the doe's wild rabbit boyfriend who she would kick food down to every day) You NEED to block the wind. Tarps if you don't have a shed for them. Also put a sideways nesting box in each cage to give further wind protection. I have hutches that are blocked on at least 1 side. The momma's hutch is 3.5 sided wood. No wind is getting to momma!
PS- For mites I used virgin olive oil. 10 days and poof! Every week 2 drops goes into the infected rabbits ears to ensure all eggs are dead.

Hope this reply helped someone out!
 
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