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.
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.
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.
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.
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