I want to introduce you to the new addition to our urban homestead. We have meat rabbits! I
have one buck and two does. The newcomers are Sergeant, Adeline and Cookie. Yes, I named them. These are the breeding stock so I can get attached to them. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I am not entirely sure I can kill a sweet rabbit! I am secretly hoping that I will be able to sell the babies for someone else to start their breeding program. But hey, I learned how to butcher a chicken. Of course it was crowing LOUDLY so that gave me a little incentive. I will have to tell the story about that in another post. It is a good one.
We treat our rabbits differently than most. They all get their turn to run about our backyard and be rabbits. I don’t think I could keep rabbits in cages their whole lives but that is just me. I can only do this because I have lots of willing chasers. It is not like you can call the rabbit by the name and have it come of course. You have to chase it down when it’s turn is up. Sometimes this can be quite comical! I don’t think this could be done by one person. At least it would be a heck of a work out. WARNING: Don’t let the bucks out at the same time. They will seriously try to kill each other. We found this out the hard way. Who knew! The does will also do some fly by challenges but nothing serious. They can be put out as a group. Sitting out in the backyard in the cool of the evening ,with a glass of wine ,with the love of my life and watching the rabbits hop about is one of my favorite things to do.
Our knew additions had never felt grass under their feet. They were scared to come out at first, but once they made it out they had such fun! It was very fun to see them racing and digging. However it has caused a bit of a problem. Now that they had tasted freedom, they wanted out all the time. We came out several mornings to Cookie running about the yard. She figured out how to open the cage! We have to put a hook on her and Sergeant’s doors to keep them from letting themselves out whenever they want.
The silver colored breed is Champagne D’ Argent. They are an old breed of rabbit named after the province in France that they originally came from. This breed is known for it’s good bone to meat ratio and their lovely coat. I have no idea what I would use the pelt for at this point, but I would like to learn the art of tanning a hide. Fur lined hood maybe? Interestingly, the babies are born black but turn that lovely silver at about 12 weeks of age. The other doe I got is a cross breed. She is part New Zealand, part Texas A&M produced breed and part Mini Rex. Texas A&M has developed a Rabbit that is very large, grows fast and is good for our hot humid climate. However they are so big I thought it might be hard for me and my kiddos to handle easily. (And they have creepy red eyes) Besides I am a believer in mixed breeds as I think they are healthier.
I bred them a few weeks ago. It is a fairly easy process. Normally you would put the doe in the buck’s cage but we have a breeding/exercise pen that we put them in. When the deed is done the buck will grunt and fall over. It is pretty funny. Unfortunately some neighborhood kids came over just as this was taking place. I bet the discussion around the dinner table was very lively on my block that night! Next step is to record it on the calendar, right then so you don’t forget, because in 28 days the nest box has to go in, full of hay. I bought my nest box but I have been meaning to build some. I will have to show that on a future post. Somewhere on the 28th-31st day after breeding you will see the doe pull hair from her belly to line the lovely nest she has built. The rest is up to her. Well kind of, that’s the idea anyway. Unfortunately it doesn’t always go so smoothly, especially the first birth. The babies could be born on the wire of the cage instead of in the nest. They sell something called baby saver wire to go along the sides of the cage, a couple of inches up, so that when the baby is born on the wire it does not squirm out between the bars onto the ground. Not a pretty sight! I highly recommend this wire. You can make your own out of wire yard cloth but be sure to file down any sharp edges. The other problem with first time births is that Mom might not know what to do. She might not pull hair at all and tramp all over her babies. This is not too common, probably every thing will go smoothly. If this happens breed her one more time a few days later and see how things go in 28 days. There is definitely an art to being a good mamma. (Don’t I know it!) If things don’t work out with the next batch you will probably want to get a new doe.
Normally it is all up to the doe. She will feed them only once a day for about 5 minutes, usually when you are not there. It is a good idea to take out each little alien looking kit to make sure they are all alive and kicking. The mother will not mind. Give her a little parsley to distract her. The babies grow fast and will be hoping about the cage in no time.
How do I know so much about rabbits? These are the first meat rabbits we have started with, but my son(13 yrs) has had a rabbit business for several years. He wanted a way to pay for Scout Summer Camp ect. so we had the idea of raising meat rabbits. We quickly realized that he could make way more money selling them for pets and show. Being in the city gives us an advantage in this. He raises Holland Lops for the cute factor ,but this breed has turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Now we know why they sell anywhere from $65. to $100. depending on the rabbit. They are hard to breed and have trouble with our hot summers. Having said that, my son has learned so much and has been able to make all the money he needs for camps and things he likes to do. He is also doing a Science Fair project this year on underground burrows. I will let him post to introduce you to his rabbits and let you know how the experiment goes.
The babies are due May 10th Mother’s day. I will post pictures when they are born!