We have come a long way since I’ve last posted on this blog. Buckle up, cuz we’ve got lots of updating to do!
Meat Rabbit Update:
We breed New Zealand Whites, Californians and have mixes of the two, which is producing all kinds of colors. We get black and white spotted coats, red, & brown. These rabbits grow fast, are very healthy, and are loving our new rabbit set up.
As you see in the pictures above, our meat rabbit breeders are all in colonies now. These ones are nestled into our beloved orchard. We researched a lot of ways to build colonies, and came up with our own design that fits these slopes of ours. So far we have 6 mini-colonies, that house 3 does each (well, 4 of the colonies do, one colony is a big bigger and houses 4 does and one is smaller and only houses 2) – then we built ‘buck boxes’ to the side of two of our colonies (#3 & 5) so the bucks can socialize with the does, but we can still control breeding.
We made them out of these old pallet boxes that we salvaged from our local recycyle guy’s free pallet pile. In the future we are going to design this same style colony but use big tractor tires, or cob instead of pallet boxes. In a few years we will have to replace the boxes, as they will break down.
The rabbits are so much happier this way. The does are so cute, they cuddle each other, groom each other, and even nurse each others babies. They seem so much happier being with other does, and also being able to be on the ground. Many of the books that we’ve read about rabbit raising warns against letting your rabbits touch the ground (due to diseases) but we have found this to be a myth. Our rabbits are far healthier now than they ever were in cages.
We’ve gotten very good at recordkeeping with our breeding schedule, and breed a colony every two weeks. This way we will always have rabbits of varying ages for sale, and plenty of rabbits to grow out for our freezer.
This winter the first few of our colony breedings failed (due to being overfed, had to take that chore back from the boys) – but our 4th & 5th colonies have 2 nice litters in it, and the 6th is due any day. So by this summer we will be abundant in rabbits.
Pet Rabbit Update:
*will take pictures today and get them posted this evening sometime*
We raise Mini Rex, Lionhead, Holland Lop and cute mutt mixes for pets to be loved and spoiled. We keep them in the original rabbitry we built. We thought of building colonies for them too, but since most people we sell rabbits to, keep them in cages, we didn’t want the rabbits being used to colony-life and having to go back to cages as this would cause more stress than needed.
Our Rabbitry, where we used to keep all our meat rabbits in cages has totally changed too. We pulled down all of the cages we had suspended in a shelter by wire. Then rehung half the cages using metal pipes that make the cages way more stable and easier to keep clean. This is where we keep our herd of pet rabbits. The rest of the space where cages used to hang has been transformed into barn space, where we store feed, supplies and cages.
We have 3 big grow out pens that we call “Rabbitats”, when our colony babies reach 6-8 weeks old we wean them from mama and put them in the one of the rabbitat pens. Each pen is about 12×12′, and the attaches cages are 4’x12′. We put between 10 and 15 weaner rabbits in here to grow out to 12 weeks (sometimes longer) until they reach a good harvesting age/weight. At night we have to herd them into the cages and lock the doors to protect them from nighttime predators. So far we have lost zero rabbits to predators in our Rabbitat pens. The weaners love these pens, they have so much room to run, play, dig and hid in big hollow logs that we put in there for them. Every time we harvest from this system we are always amazed at the size of the carcass and the vibrant health of their innards. Don’t believe the books that say keep your meat rabbits off the ground. Done right, your rabbits can be so healthy and happy raised on the earth and out of a cage.