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rabbits - care and feeding

 
                    
Posts: 18
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Raising rabbits for meat...
Presently I have Rhinelanders and today added a California buck for bigger size.
I use the wire ( with hay layer over it) , solid floor  method of housing.
Since I have rabbits that are suppossed to  grow to  8- 10 lbs I do not want them walking  only on the wire
cage bottom  and hurt their feet.
I house males with males and females with females. Pregnant does get their own private area
in nose touch reach with the rest of the females.
I feed them a diet of gathered  wild fresh greens, vegetable pieces, good hay  and plenty of clean water.
Maintaining a clean area under their cages insures no foul oders...
Rabbits are a good healthy souce of meat that can be produced in small yards...
yet there is a lower consumption rate of this meat souce in the US than in other countries...
I raise  for our own table...  any one else out there raising rabbits, for food or anything else?

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I have never raised rabbits, but I did do a lot of reading about it.

Rabbits have the best feed to meat conversion.

One of the things I did a lot of research on was raising rabbits without the traditional cages.  A common technique was to have an area about 50 feet across with a 2.5 foot high chicken wire fence and a trampoline. 
 
                    
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I have been investigating using other methods than traditional cages also,
especially for the bigger  breeds that I hope to breed up to.
Since I live in a high predator area, I have been doing research on making an indoor warren
with covered runs going out into nature.
The Permaculture Activist mag. ( winter 07/0 has a good article in it by Katherine Kirby
on the subject.
I do not like having to house animals in cages... but until I get them a building safe to
live in I will have to keep them there.
For those new to raising rabbits, this is the time to stock up on food for the winter for them.
Dandelions, stinging nettles,  new leaves ( not big old ones) from trees, and other wild greens can be
gathered , dryed and stored for consumption in the wintertime.
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 19822
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
                    
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Paul,
on this property..
I raise sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits  in this area it is a must to have at least one LGD.
I have 5 dogs.. all expected to work..( also all beloved members of our family!!)
I have a  dog for my orchard to keep out the deer and protect the duck house situated inside the
orchard, I have an LGD for my sheep ( and home ).. she is very large and protective.
I have an Icelandic sheep dog for herding, and two rat terriers for mice ( mole and vole ) control .
However.. with all of these dogs, not one of them will protect from eagles, hawks, or owls..
and these are the predators that I fear when it comes to open runs for rabbits.
But since I want to get into the much bigger rabbit  breeds, I do need to figure out a way to house them
in a humane and comfortable and safe way.
 
Ben Souther
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Nina wrote:
any one else out there raising rabbits, for food or anything else?


I raise one for fertilizer.
My daughter would never permit him to be eaten.

 
                    
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Ben,
what kind of rabbitt do you excuse me, your daughter  have? 
I have ( now) Rhinelander ( 8/9 lb), California and California X ( 9-11 lb)  - and a Flemish Giant X New Zealand Buck and Doe ( 11- 15 lb).
I find the Rhinelander the wildest- least handleable- , the FL G.X NZ the gentlest and the California and the Cal. cross
somewhere in the middle oin temperment.
If I was choosing a pet rabbit  the Flemish X NZ would be my choice.
 
Ben Souther
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Not sure with this one.
In the past, we've bought dutch bunnies.

 
Leah Sattler
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Ben Souther wrote:
I raise one for fertilizer.
My daughter would never permit him to be eaten.




me tooo....and my daughter too. I have thought someday we might raise a few for meat. what is the meat like from a domestic rabbit? I have only had wild and I haven't been terribly impressed but maybe I just need better recipes. do you have any?
 
Charley Hoke
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Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
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There used to be a restaurant near me that served rabbit, the domestic variety, not sure what kind. As I remember it was very tasty, maybe similar to dark chicken meat.

I haven't eaten wild rabbit since I was a boy, I do remember that like squirrel we usually had it in a stew. I seem to remember that by stewing, it not only tenderizes the meat but also removes much of the wild gamy taste.

The only other ingredients I remember being added were carrots, potatoes and onions.
 
Leah Sattler
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I had someone tell me that I wasn't cooking it long enough and that you have to really let it cook a long time. That would be consistent with the traditon of eating it in a stew. next time I'll know!
 
Rick Wells
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Does anyone know.... What from the garden is not health for rabbits to eat? How do you ensure that the rabbits are getting a balanced diet without pellets?
 
Melba Corbett
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
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I raised rabbits for a few years, and managed to get them totally off the pelleted feed.  I gave them hay free choice, a mix of grass, lespedeza, clover and sometimes a bit of alfalfa.  They got fresh greens, such as apple tree prunings, mulberry or maple leaves, dandelion leaves, pigweed,
fresh clover, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes (well washed roots), and their leaves, and various grasses, including corn leaves and sunflowers,(whole plant except root).  Also gave them bean or pea vines, small quantities and dried these for hay for them.  They got some sunflower seed daily.  I even dried kudzu leaves for hay and they relished that.  Jerusalem Artichoke or sunflower leaves are easy to dry for hay, also vetch, maple leaves or mulberry. 

I never left fresh greens in the cage long enough to mold.  If they didn't clean them up in a few hours, they were tossed onto the compost pile.  I fed them fresh greens a couple of times a day.  They were actually much healthier on this diet, probably due to the high oil content in the sunflower and the fresh greens.  They became much friskier and their eyes and coat shined.  They conceived at every breeding.  

To get the big litters and plenty of milk to make them grow fast, they need good quality protein and lots of it, so emphasis is on the legumes and the oil sunflower seeds or another source of oil in the diet.  A varied diet they can choose from will balance them out very nicely nutrition wise.   

I watched the wild rabbits to see what they particularly loved and fed these things to my domestic rabbits.  Of course, I culled out the ones who did not gain well on this diet and kept the best producers and after a few generations, they were really doing well, producing big litters.  They always had a mineral salt block to lick and fresh water.  They were in wood and wire cages with hay on the floor over the wire and had more room than most domestic rabbits are in.  The pregnant does had a 4 x 6 or 8 foot cage. 

The downside of growing and gathering all this feed for them is the investment in labor.  If you have the time it is well worth it. 
 
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