Rabbit Trio

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’m struggling with our rabbit endeavor, but we’re doing it, so I’m sharing it. Charlie has been researching raising meat rabbits for months. He’s checked out breeds, housing, feed, breeding schedules, butchering and processing their pelts. It seems like there’s a lot to it, but when he explains it, it sounds pretty simple.

There are several different meat breeds and the selection seems to come down to size. More importantly is the “meat-bone ratio.” If you have a big rabbit, and it’s all heavy bone, that’s not so great if you’re raising for meat. Charlie selected Champagne d’Argent rabbits. They’re known to be sturdy and have a good meat-bone ration, so you’re getting a good amount of meat for your efforts. The breeder Charlie bought them from says her rabbits don’t bite or scratch. I’ll have to take her word for it because I’m still afraid of rabbits.

Loaded up

Once he decided on a breed, he had to figure out housing. Rabbits don’t take a lot of space, but if you’re going to be breeding, you want to keep the bucks and does separated until you’re ready for kits. (You see how I used rabbit terminology there? Bucks = male, Does = female, Kits = babies). After looking at tons of different cage styles and set ups Charlie felt the 3 story cages would work best for him. Before picking up the rabbits, he made sure their home was all ready for them. Cage, water, feed, and little mats that they like to stand on.

Charlie and cages

Rabbits breed like rabbits, so there’s a little planning involved in scheduling. Rabbit gestation is 28-31 days, and a litter can be expected to be 8-10 kits. Butchering happens at about 11 weeks. The does can be re-bred the day after birth, but that seems harsh and unnecessary. Charlie will be re-breeding every 3-4 months. The standard home-breeding set up is 1 buck and 2 does, so there should be a new litter about every other month.New Home

I wanted to have names for the rabbits, so I would know who we were talking about. I call the buck Bucky, the junior doe is called Junior, and the youngest doe is called Kit. Pretty clever, right? So, here’s the rundown of how the scheduling works:

  • If Bucky and Junior are bred September 1, as planned, their kits will be born by October 1.
  • Bucky and Kit will be bred around November 1, with kits then due around December 1.
  • Junior’s kits will be butchered around January 1, and Junior will be re-bred to Bucky around the same time.
  • Kit’s kits will be butchered around March 1, at which point Kit and Bucky will be rebred.

Following this schedule, we should have fresh rabbit every other month, once they get going. None of the other bunny rabbits will be named, and Charlie will be in charge of caring for all of them. I almost cried when we were bringing the trio home. I don’t imagine I’ll do very well when it comes to butchering. I may or may not get over it. Everybody says rabbit is delicious, so I’ll just have to go through life believing the bunny fairy is delivering them to my freezer. I’ll post updates about butchering, pelts and recipes, but don’t expect a lot of pictures or details. I plan on going to the movies on the yucky days.

Since I’m such a wimp about it, we’re trying to make sure the grandkids are better farmers than Gabba. We introduced Raymond and Reta Jean to the rabbits and told them we’d be eating the babies. Reta Jean’s response was, “Yummy!” I think they’ll do just fine.

Kids meeting bunny

If you’re interested in raising rabbits, you can find the books Charlie has used at my Amazon store.  http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20

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Field Trip – Rabbit Show

Little known fact: I’m afraid of bunnies. Not the fuzzy part of them, the teeth part of them. Everybody says, “Oh, they don’t bite.” Yeah, until they do. Rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice. Any little critter with teeth designed to puncture skin will, at some point, puncture skin. And yes, I have been bitten by a bunny.

Being in farm country, meat rabbits are a thing. And Charlie wants some. He’s attended a couple of classes on rabbit raising and bunny butchering, and he feels like he’s ready to take it on. When this happens, I made sure he knows, he’s in charge of them. As much as I’m afraid of them, I still don’t think I could care for them, and then be responsible for them being butchered. That really is the main reason. The other reason is I’m afraid they’ll bite me when my hand is in there trying to feed and water them.

I have been making progress over the past year in overcoming my fears. When we go to rabbit shows, I’ll pet them, while their owners hold them. With their faces away from me. I’m seeing that breeder raised bunnies really are quite calm. The good ones breed for a calm temperament, and biters aren’t used for breeding. I’ve also noticed the great big bunnies act a lot more like a dog than a bunny. Little kids are carrying these bunnies around shows, just like a baby. We’ve even seen spinners spinning angora right off the bunny on their lap. That’s my motivation for getting over my fear. I want a giant angora!

AngoraRabbit

We’ve attended a few rabbit shows, and have learned a few things. There are show, fiber, meat and pet rabbits. You’ll see all of them at a rabbit show. The pet rabbits aren’t judged, but all the others are. They have standards that are very strict. I saw one bunny got disqualified because it had a teensy weensy white spot, that couldn’t even be seen, unless the fur was moved around. Here’s an example of each type:

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Rabbit shows also have a “cavies” category. In general, these are more rodents with sharp, skin-puncturing teeth. In shows, they’re mostly guinea pigs. I saw one that seemed to be supermodel quality, and another that looked like it was having a really bad hair day. Maybe it was supposed to look like that.

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Some of the patterns on the bunnies were stunning.

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And some brought to mind The Velveteen Rabbit. Just because I’m afraid of their teeth, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate their plushiness.

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The fuzzy ones are my favorite.

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The shows themselves, like any type of show, have their own culture and merchandise. There are grooming tools I would never have thought of. TV tray type tables, topped with carpet, used for making them look gorgeous before judging. Combs, brushes, clippers, blow dryers. Just like a beauty salon, except these clients will poop on you. And maybe bite. (EVERYBODY in the rabbit world swears they don’t bite. I’m still not thoroughly convinced.)

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Some families bring their other pets. See the dog on the ground? See the rabbits in the cages? Those are big rabbits!
0502151132a (800x451)In case anybody is looking at the little cages and noticing how tiny they are, these are not what they live in. The small cages are for containing them at shows, only. At home, that have much roomier accommodations, and some owners even bring play yards so their bunnies can stretch their legs during shows. Many owners have enclosed yards at home, where their rabbits get to play in the sunshine every day.

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Charlie checked out, and bought, a 3-hole rabbit cage. Spring rabbits have been born, and will be ready to go to new homes in a few weeks. By the time they’re ready, we will be, too.0502151131 (450x800)

In case anybody is wondering if any bunnies found their way home with us, meet Tori’s new friend Sir Franklin. And don’t worry, he’s a pet.

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