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Forum Description: The basics of raising homestead animals. What animals would be best for your situation and for the goals you have in mind? From breeding to health care, feed options and ways of raising.
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Old 03-05-2008, 11:31 AM   #1
dilligaf
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Rabbits
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For small scale farming ,even in the city, rabbits may be a good option for your homestead. For many raising our own rabbit may be a better option than raising a few chickens. They need less space overall and are definitely quieter. Rabbits are often times considered poultry in cities and ordinances rather than as "livestock". Rabbit can not only produce meat but make wonderful pets and can provide for a side income of either selling animal meat or fur/pelt.

Here are a few fast facts and rabbit terminology .

A male rabbit is a buck

A female rabbit is a doe.

baby rabbit is a kit.

When the doe gives birth her babies are collectively referred to as a litter.

The gestation period for a rabbit averages 31 days.

A rabbits teeth never stop growing.

A group of rabbits is called a herd

A group of rabbits live in a warren

Mothers typically only feed their kits about 5 minutes a day

Rabbits can be litter trained

A pet rabbit can live as long as 10 years

Bunnies get weaned at about 8 weeks old

Adult bunnies can weigh between 2 lbs - 20 lbs depending on breed

Rabbits can purr similar to a cat

Domesticated rabbits are born without fur

Domesticated rabbits eyes do not open until they are about 2 weeks old

Rabbits cannot vomit

Rabbits need hay to assist the digestive system and prevent fur balls in their stomach

Rabbit meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than chicken, pork and beef

Rabbit meat is all white meat

Rabbit droppings make an excellent garden fertilizer

Rabbits have 28 teeth

A 4 pound rabbit will drink as much water as a 20 pound dog

Bunnies love to chew

Rabbits do not hibernate

Rabbits can jump 36″ and higher

Rabbits can suffer heat stroke

Rabbits can see behind them, but have blind spot in front of their face

When rabbits are happy, they will jump and twist, this is called a binky

Rabbits can start breeding as early as 3-4 months of age

Predators can literally scare a rabbit to death

Does will pull fur when pregnant to assist in the building of their nest

Rabbits can have false pregnancies

Rabbits groom themselves

Domestic rabbits cannot breed with wild rabbits

The only place a rabbit sweats is through the pads on its feet

Rabbits eat their own night droppings called cecotropes

Rabbits are not protected under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, meaning it is not regulated as are other meat industries.

The State of California classifies rabbits as poultry.

Americans eat 8 to 10 million pounds of rabbit meat every year.

The American Rabbit Breeders Association has 45 recognized breeds of rabbits

Cholesterol level in rabbit meat is much lower than chicken, turkey, beef, pork.

Rabbit is lower in % of fat than chicken, turkey, beef, and pork
Unsaturated fatty acids is 63% of total fatty acids.
Rabbit is also highest in protein %.

The office of home economics, state relations of the U S Department of Agriculture has made extensive test and have stated that domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat known to man

Rabbit meat is seasonal any month of the year and is especially recommended during the hot summer months, as it does not contain the heating properties of most all other meats.

Rabbit meat has been used and is suitable for special diets, such as those for heart disease patients, diets for the aged, low sodium diets, weight reduction diets, ect.

A doe rabbit that weighs 10 pounds can produce 320 pounds of meat in a year (which is more than your average cows gains in a year.)

Rabbits will produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water as a cow will produce 1 pound

pound of meat on the same feed and water.

Baby rabbits feed off mothers milk so rich that they can double their weight in 6 short days

as compared to a pig at 14 days, calves 47 days, and humans 160 days.

It was decreed by law in the Roman Empire that all young maidens be fed rabbit meat because it would make them more beautiful and more willing.

The first recorded rabbitry husbandry was in early Roman times, Where rabbits were kept in walled rabbit gardens for food. This saved waste over bigger animals because the rabbit was all eaten. there was no refrigeration.

Sailing vessels distributed rabbits on islands in various sea lanes to be used as a source of food by sailors.

In 1859 a single pair of rabbits was released in Victoria, Australia, and in 30 years gave rise to an estimated 20 million rabbits

France is the world's largest producer and consumer of rabbit meat. In Hungary there are rabbitries with over 10,000 does producing rabbits for export to Italy.

Rabbit was the number 1 Export item of Red China.

Rabbits are known to be used for meat as far back as 1500BC

Some people use the heat from the rabbit's to heat green houses

Taken from the Domestic Rabbit magazine from the early 1990's rabbit manure
has the following percentages of dry material.
2.20% Nitrogen
.87% Phosphorus
2.30% Potassium
.36% Sulfur
1.26% Calcium
.40% Magnesium
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Old 03-05-2008, 01:09 PM   #2
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a few comparisons between raising a flock of chickens or raising a herd of rabbits


comparisons between raising a flock chicken and raising a herd of rab bits

A doe can produce up to 1000% her body weight in food per year.

Rabbits can be raised in confinement, whereas chickens need much more space.

Chicken reproduction is "light sensitive", whereas rabbit reproduction is opportunity sensitive.

It is much easier to raise food for rabbits than it is food for chickens.

Since rabbits are raised in confinement, it drastically reduces the threat to your herd from predators.

You can skin and butcher 5 rabbits to every chicken given the same amount of time.

Rabbit fur can be a separate barter item.
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Old 03-05-2008, 02:58 PM   #3
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some things to think about before committing to raising rabbits .

It is very important to decide how much room there is for raising rabbits. Think about different housing options . Do you already have a chicken coop on premises or perhaps a greenhouse with some leftover space? If there is only room for a few hutches, there is a limit on the number of rabbits which can be raised.

what kinds of breeds of rabbit are available. Some breeds of rabbits grow more quickly; some are better for eating. What is the availablitility of the breed you decide upon in your area. Will this just be a homestead , feed the family sort of venture or are you wanting to raise for profit or maybe both.

what are the costs involved in raising rabbits What sorts of feed is available locally Rabbits will eat a variety of foods, some are more important than others.Some will lead to faster growth; some are more expensive; etc. Will you free range your rabbits in a communal type situation (colonizating the herd)yourself rather than purchasing the feed .

** note ** for disease reasons this method is not recommended, however, in European countries this is still popular practice.


breeds of rabbits

there are over sixty breeds and varieties of rabbits in the world. These breeds, or different kinds of rabbits, can be put into three main groups, according to size. Medium sized rabbits will grow more meat in
proportion to the amount of food fed to them . For sake of time and space i would need to cover all the breeds i am only focusing here on meat type rabbits.
B] a list of the most common meat rabbits [/B]
American (Blue or White) 9 - 12 lbs
Beveren (Black, Blue, or White) 8 - 12 lbs
Californian (White with black ears, nose, feet, and tail) 8 - 10-1/2 lbs
Champagne D'Argent (Starts as black, mature is silver) 9 - 12 lbs
American Chinchilla 9 - 12 lbs
Cinnamon 8-1/2 - 11 lbs
Creme D'Argent 8 - 11 lbs
Hotot (White with black around its eyes) 8 - 11 lbs
English Lop (Many colors - giant lop ears) 9 - 14 lbs
French Lop (Many colors - regular lop ears) 10 - 15 lbs
New Zealand (Black, Red, or White) The standard meat rabbit 9 - 12 lbs
Palomino 8 - 11 lbs
Satin (Shiny coat - many colors) 8-1/2 - 11 lbs
Silver Fox (fur resembles fox) 9 - 12 lbs

Small breeds The Polish rabbit, for example, weigh a little more than 1 kg (2 -2 1/2 pounds ) as an adult.

Medium breeds The New Zealand, California and Palomino breeds have an average adult weight of 4 1/2 kg(8-9pounds)

The NZ white and california breeds are by far the most popular breed for meat raising purposes.

Heavy breeds The Flemish Giant can weigh over
6 1/2kg (13-15 pounds) as an adult.

Beware of rabbit breeders who want to sell Flemish Giants or other large breeds for use in a backyard meat operation. While Flemish Giants were used to produce some of the present day medium sized breeds like the New Zealand White, they should not be used by the casual
breeder for meat. These breeds do produce larger fryers faster, but their meat-to-bone ratio is not as favorable since the large breeds have bigger bones.

When purchasing

It is always best for the prospective purchaser to tour the rabbitry of a breeder from whom he or she is considering buying breeding stock. By doing this a buyer can see the conditions under which the rabbits are raised. Are the cages clean? Does the stock appear healthy? Do the rabbits have sufficient food and water? Is there much of an odor? Are flies under control? If a breeder does not allow visits of the farm i would be a bit wary of
buying from them.Are they hiding something? Many will use the disease carrying as a pretext of not allowing visits, I however know from experience that there are several ways to lower and virtually eliminate risk factors and by using such precautions encourage visitors and educating them in the process.

Those just starting in rabbits need to examine their reasons for getting into the hobby and what goals one hopes to achieve. A common mistake is to start with too many rabbits. A reasonable starting point might be one buck and three does. It is recommended that these rabbits be purchased while they are still young. This way they will have a chance to become acclimated to their new surroundings prior to breeding. As the new breeder gets accustomed to the rabbit hobby, then, and only then, should he or she decide to increase the size of the herd, and then slowly. A common error is to grow too big too fast,it is better to start with too few and grow than to dive head over heals into something find you dont like it and have wasted all the time and energy for naught.


When beginning your search for your initial rabbit stock you may be wondering "Where do I find rabbit breeders in my area?" Unfortunately it can be difficult to find true meat rabbits.

Following is a list of places to begin your search.

Check the classified ads in local newspapers. Dont forget "freebie" papers or online sites with classifieds. Perhaps place an ad looking for rabbits .

Call feed stores and ask if they know of any rabbit breeders, specifically of meat breeds.Post something on the local feed store peg board, most have them.

Check ARBA's (American rabbit breeder assoc) website and look at the "Local Clubs" section to see what groups are near your home.

In the United States, Call the local county extension office and ask for a (4-H) rabbit contact.
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Old 03-05-2008, 03:39 PM   #4
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housing needs

Enough space for the size of the rabbit,

fresh air and light, but exclusion of direct rays of the sun,

protection from wind and rain,

sanitary conditions and ease of cleaning,

sound but cheap construction; which is free of details that could injure the animals

convenience of handling,

a cage for each adult rabbit.


Wire cages of at least six square feet in area are preferable for breeding does and weaned litters.A recommended cage size of 36" X 30" X 18. This will give your rabbit plenty of room to run around and be a rabbit, while providing room for a nest box in the future. Bucks' cages should have at least five square feet of floor space. Cage height should be about 18 inches. All cages should be cleaned on a regular basis and those kept outside should be well protected from the weather. The use of older style all-wood hutches is no longer considered choice housing of rabbits because of the difficulty in thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting them. A benefit of older hutches is that they are easier on rabbits' feet, especially that of pregnant does. To help combat this problem with wire cages a small hard plastic mat may be placed on the cage floor. Old linoleum scraps also work well.

Rabbits are ideally kept where the temperature can be maintained at 62°F. In any type of building, ventilation is very important in order to reduce ammonia buildup and to help the animals stay cool during hot periods. While building or designing rabbit housing, remember that rabbits tend to gnaw, especially on wood. If plastic water lines are used to deliver water, attach them to the outside of the cage so the rabbits cannot chew them.

Cold weather is not usually much of a problem for rabbits. As long as it is well protected from drafts and has a constant supply of liquid water ,a rabbit can withstand temperatures to -20° F without additional heat. On the other hand, temperatures above 90° F, or 85° in high humidity can cause death. It is vital that rabbits be cooled on hot days. two liter plastic bottles of ice placed strategically placed in or near the rabbits quarters can serve as cooling agents A towel with ice cubes on top can also work in cooling overheated living quarters.

Using commercially made feeders with either perforated or screen bottoms are recommended but not a necessity . Rabbits will not eat feed with a lot of "fines(small particles)." Perforated or screened feeders allow the fines to fall through. Water bottles may be used for rabbits and if you are really cheap you can devise your own automatic waterer fairly simply

Keep in mind that if you are raising rabbits for meat purposes you will also need a nesting box for the mama and babies. These can either be purchased or made by your self fairly simply.

a couple links to some fairly easy plans

http://msucares.com/livestock/small_animal/pub1195.pdf

http://rabbit.purinamills.com/stelle...cmd0006531.pdf
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Old 03-06-2008, 12:12 PM   #5
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breeding and reproduction

Sexing young rabbits can be difficult, and even experienced breeders can make mistakes. Sexing older (greater than two months of age) rabbits is easier. A buck's head is more blocky than that of a doe. His testicles are also visible, especially on warm days. The doe has a larger dewlap, a fold of skin under her chin. Genitalia can be examined by carefully placing the rabbit on its back and gently pressing on either side using two fingers.

http://www.rudolphsrabbitranch.com/sexing.htm



Rabbits can begin reproducing at a tender young age of 3-4 months, however it is best to not begin a breeding program until they are atleast 6 months, for large breeds it is recommended waiting until 8 months. Rabbits are induced ovulators which means they do not release eggs until after breeding. Thus they show no signs of estrous (heat) as do most
other animals. Once mating occurs she will release eggs approximately 10-12 hours after the mating has taken place. Often breeders will put the doe back in with the male 10-12 hours after the initial mating session.

Always take the doe to the buck cage and put her in with him. They are territorial and if you put him in with her she is likely to try to defend her territory and attack him and he will be more nosy rather than frisky and just do a thorough checking out of her cage. Once you put the doe into the cage, the buck should attempt breeding within moments. Always
keep an eye on them during the mating in case fighting breaks out and you need to rescue one or the other rabbit. Once a pair has been known to mate with no problems, they can usually be left in the cage together for 12 - 24 hours with out any issues.

If the doe is ready then she will allow the male to mount her (this is called "standing") and do his deed. She will sort of raise her hindquarters to him in an effort to show she is ready. The male generally will squeal a bit a slide of t her backside if a mating has occurred. If the doe is ready yet she will most likely run around acting like an idiot. If she does this remove her and attempt again a while later.

The gestation period of a rabbit is 31 days (+/-2). As a doe prepares to kindle (give birth) she may seem more nervous and restless than at other times. Try to keep noises and other undue stress away from her at this point. (things she is not accustomed to). She should also begin to nest as her birthing time comes near. She will need a nest box in her cage for when the babes are born. ( the easiest way to make a nest box is out of
plywood.It it simply to provide a warm safe, cozy spot for her to have her babies in and care for them) . Place the nest box in her pen in the last week of gestation. Provide some nesting materials that she can use to build with (straw, shavings, cardboard pieces, shredded news paper). Some rabbits will begin the building process immediately and others may wait until the last minute in her preparations. As her delivery time nears you will
notice that the does begins pulling her fur from her belly as well as her dewlap(usuallywithin twelve hours before birth process). The fur provides warmth in the nest and the points where she pulls from is to expose her nipples so that babies can nurse. The last couple of days of gestation the doe may go off feed( slow down intake or quit eating), this is normal..

Soon after kindling, check on the doe, and make sure she is doing well, that she is drinking and eating etc. After 24 hours carefully and gently remove kits from nest box one at a time and count them. Check each kit's condition, see that it has been fed (it should have a large belly, if it is mostly shriveled or sickly looking chances are that the kit has not been nursed and will probably die soon). Look for stray kits away from main nest. Sometimes a doe will make two nests. If this is found, consolidate them.It is important to
make sure that there is fur pulled from mamas belly.If there isn't, you must pull some. This will not hurt her. Make sure there are no babies on the wire, and if there are, slip them into your shirt up against your skin to warm them. Then return them to the nest. Each time you are in the rabbitry, watch for bunnies out of the nest box , sometimes a doe will jump out of the box with a bunny still attached.

Babies do not open there eyes immediately. On average it takes about ten days for the eyes to open. At about three weeks of age the youngsters will begin coming out of there nest box and begin eating normal foods. Once they are all out and eating it is ok to pull the nest box out and shortly thereafter the babies can be weaned.This generally takes place somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Does can be bred back at 5-6 weeks post delivery
however, i tend to always give animals no matter what they are a little extra time to recover from the birth and delivery processes.( Perhaps it is because i would not enjoy being pregnant again after 6 short weeks) to wean simply remove the babies from moms cage and reduce her feed slightly over a few days to encourage her to "dry up".



Reproduction issues and troubles

Sometimes rabbits as in other animals have what is called a pseudo pregnancy, meaning it is a false pregnancy and only in the mind of the animal and thus the animal truly thinks she is pregnant. This happens when a young doe is sexually stimulated or has an infertile mating. She may appear to be bred, even to the point of producing milk and pulling fur to line her nest. Following stimulation, the doe releases egg cells, which cause the uterus to
swell, which, in turn, activates the mammary glands. Ovulation cannot take place until seventeen days after the initial stimulation which caused the pseudo pregnancy. After the seventeen days are up, put the doe (if she's to be bred) in with the buck, as this will be the point at which her fertility is highest. Once a doe has had her first litter, she is less likely to undergo another pseudo pregnancy.

Just like any other animal out there, sometimes things do not go as planned and we have a herd of baby bunnies without a mama to tend to them. If this happens and you have another doe that has just kindled ,rub the surrogate doe's nose in vanilla extract and put the bunnies in the nest. Usually, the doe will not notice anything amiss, but if she does, she may try to kill the bunnies or just refuse to feed them. If this happens, remove the bunnies immediately, and feed them by hand.

A recipe for "milk"
1 pint skim milk
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp Karo syrup
one tbsp bone meal
or
˝ C. evaporated milk,
1 egg yolk,
1 Tbsp. corn syrup.
Feed this to the bunnies with an eyedropper until they are full (usually they eat 5-7 ccs). This is not an easy task and failure rate is often high unless you have experience in doing this.

On occasion a mother especially first timers may eat there babies or parts of them. Yes its gross and kind of nasty, but most often this can be attributed to bad nutrition or undue amounts of stress. If a young first time doe does this, it doesnt necessarily mean dinner for you. Rabbits are simply not as instinctual in raising families as say a dog or cat is. (although any animal will kill its young if it is deemed unfit for survival) . Sometimes they believe in there heads that wild animals are coming to get her out her hind
end and eat them as they are born much like afterbirth.. If this occurs with her first litter dont fret, just attmept the mating process again. This is generally a first birth occurrence. However if this happens a second time i would cull her and she would become stew.There is no reason to keep feeding something that is supposed to provide you food and doesnt..



Illnesses and other issues

Prevention is integral when raising any animals. Keeping good clean dry quarters and clean food and water etc should prevent most diseases from ever becoming an issue . Disinfection of animal living quarters and supplies is needed on a regular basis.Stress on any animal causes more sickness than any other one thing. Keep this in mind when dealing with any animal..The calmer you are and the surroundings the calmer your critters will be.

However we all know at times things do happen here is a good resource for medicating if the need arises.

http://bunnyrabbit.com/price/med-use.htm

Drug use should be kept at a minimum to keep drug-resistant organisms from developing.Very few drugs have actually been approved for use in rabbits, information on how to treat any given ailment is often oral tradition.


Record keeping is also important. Not only for identification purposes but to keep an idea on who has what illnesses, breeding records, performance records as well as other reasons. This doesnt mean you have to use a data based software system, a simple recipe or index card will do the trick ..
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Old 06-12-2008, 11:57 AM   #6
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that sounds familiar. was it in backwoods home magazine?
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Old 06-12-2008, 12:05 PM   #7
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Also I noticed in another of your posts you said you were going to get rabbits as companion animals. Did you decide to eat them instead? By the way, I raise New Zealand White's for personal consumption. We have a doe and buck and currently 4 kits, but we are planning on expanding. I'm not sure if my rabbits are as big or yield as much meat as they should though. I need to find a bigger buck mostly.

I'm going to go give them some hay later, I didn't know they needed it for digestion.
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Old 06-25-2008, 08:19 PM   #8
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-Sorry, please delete this-
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Old 06-26-2008, 01:26 AM   #9
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why?

In a forum called survival/barnyard basics I don't see how this is off topic or unacceptable.

Granted, I'm not a mod, but I fail to see how this is inappropriate?
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Old 07-11-2008, 02:16 AM   #10
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My post I meant. There's plenty of good info here, I just made a mistaken post.
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