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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Livestock, Rabbits » Rabbits – The Quiet Livestock

Rabbits – The Quiet Livestock

Rabbits – The Quiet Livestock
Raising rabbits on the family farm is one of the easiest and least expensive ways of producing meat for your family.  We have raised rabbits for over 10 years for meat.  They are impressive producers and have little to no health problems in our experience.  Let me tell you about them.
The requirements for housing rabbits is simple, easy to build and last through many, many years with just minimum upkeep.  You will need a hutch.  A hutch can be purchased but they are so simple to build why spend extra money.  Rabbits need protection from wind, rain, sun and animals.  Our hutches are about 3 feet off the ground and have 1/2 inch hardware cloth on the bottom for the rabbits to stand on.  The fronts and sides are covered with 1/2 inch hardware cloth as well.  The tops and backs of the hutches are 1/2 inch plywood and the tops are hinged at the back to open for feeding and cleaning.  Our Angora rabbits have doors on the front of the hutch instead of the top.
The meat rabbits that we keep are Checker Giant/New Zealand.  The buck we use for breeding is a Checker Giant.  They are large rabbits and tend be very calm and easy to handle.  We also have 2 Giant Angoras that are used for spinning their wool.  They are solid white and very soft.  The wool is just brushed out and incorporated into our sheep’s wool for spinning.
For feeding the rabbits, we use a general rabbit feed that we get at the co-op.  A 50 pound bag lasts us about 2 weeks – we have 10 adult rabbits that are very big and healthy.  We do give them hay every day and they seem to enjoy that.  I also put some wood chunks in their cages for them to chew on – this helps their teeth and they seem to enjoy that as well. Of course, they need a constant supply of water.  It should be fresh and the containers cleaned out regularly. You can get rabbit water bottles at any feed store or co-op.
The only real problem we have is with ear mites.  The minute we see any problem – crustiness in the ears or excessive ear scratching – then we deal with it.  You can buy miticide at the co-op as well, but here is what we do.  We use baby oil in the ear to loosen any crusts and then we remove it.  The we put neosporin on any scratches or raw areas.  Peroxide is poured into the ears to clean them and kill any bacteria that is there. We also cover the inside of the ear with Vaseline.  All I can figure is that it suffocates the mites as generally there is no more problem for quite awhile.  We have had to use the miticide from time to time when the above treatment didn’t seem to help. 
For breeding we put the buck in with the doe.  We do this at least 2 times to ensure she is bred and you remove the buck as the doe will become aggressive and could hurt him. The gestation period (time between breeding and kindling) is 31 days. They are weaned between 5 to 7 weeks and the doe can be rebred then.  You will need to have a nest box in place a few days before the doe is ready to give birth.  Add some hay to the box and she will make a soft nest for her babies.  When she begins pulling hair for the nest you know that she is about to “kindle” (give birth).
Paul will do a section on butchering and dressing rabbits later on.  Please keep in mind that it is hard for people to eat a pet, rightfully so.  Never name and pet an animal that is meant for meat.  Children need to understand the difference and be able to function non-emotionally on the farm.  Set aside certain animals for them to connect with and explain that the others are to provide for the family table.
It really is all in how you handle this as to whether the children will deal with it properly.
Mom and Baby

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"It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him." Lamentations 3:22-24

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