OUR RABBITRY OUR BREEDING STOCK
Our main goal is to produce healthy rabbits for meat and breeding stock for others to start their own rabbitry. We have a few varieties of Heritage breeds, a Californian and some meat hybrids. We only sell rabbits that are healthy and have come from parents that have consistently produced good size litters and shown excellent mothering skills. Like my rabbit guru says "Save the best, eat the rest!"
Reasons to eat rabbit meat:
Rabbit meat has a high percentage of easily digestible protein. It contains the least amount of fat compared to chicken, beef or pork. It has less calories and sodium than other meats, is almost cholesterol free, while having a higher content of calcium and phosphorus.
Rabbits are one of the most eco-friendly domestic livestock animals there is. Rabbits can produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water as a cow will produce 1 pound of meat.
The processing of rabbit is much easier compared to chickens, no feathers to pluck.
Rabbit can be substituted for chicken is most recipes and make excellent stews and soups.
We breed for overall health, growth rate/size, quality mothering skills with consistent larger litter size (7-11 kits, but we like 8-10 the best) and good demeanor. We strive to increase our size of rabbits while maintaining these other qualities. We are currently hitting 4.5-5 lbs between 9-10 weeks on average for heritage breeds and meat hybrids 8-9 weeks. We are working towards a solid 8-9 week rate. Our first kits to hit over 5lb at 8 weeks, was out of Tribble and Reishi hybrid (American blue, Californian, and American Chinchilla cross). Her name is Yahtzee and have kept her.
What to feed a rabbit: Feeding a rabbit isn't as easy as giving it carrots and lettuce, in fact that is the last thing you should do. I have read many different sites and books and some have outright conflicting information, which I guess is normal. Here is what we feed: pellets, plus a variety of fresh greens and herbs as treats and for medicinal purposes. So far we have tried with success: Italian parsley feed sparely, kale, beet greens, chard, arugula, fennel, dandelion, plantain, basil, lemon balm, oregano, sage, rosemary, borage, cilantro, chamomile, lettuce (never iceberg, which really isn't lettuce in my opinion), sheep sorrel, strawberry and blackberry leaves, wheat grass, rose canes and leaves and branches of apple or pear trees (green leaves are okay). They all love it as treats.
Pellets: We have used Purina 18% and Naturewise pellets 16% and 18%. We liked Naturewise 18% better and saw an increase in growth with it. We did try Modesto Mills organic (previously 16%, but they were working on a 17%). I loved that it didn't have corn or soy, but between the excessive fines and slower growth rate due to the 16% only we switched back to Naturewise 18%. Already had a 1 lb increase in a week compared to 4-6 oz weekly.
The main things for pellets is to get fresh pellets, not dusty or moldy (mold kills,) and have the correct balance of fiber/protein/fats (18% fiber/ 18% protein/ 2-3 % fat). You measure pellets by weight not volume. The average is 1oz per lb of rabbits, but some eat more or less. We give about 3/4-1 cups for the 1 year old and up. Breeding does get more, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups depending on the stage. Nursing does and kits under 6 months get unlimited feed, about 2-7 cups depending on litter size and age. We feed in the morning around 7:00 am. Rabbits are also supposed to be feed around the same time every day. Some people recommend PM feeding as rabbits are more nocturnal, but we cannot provide a consistent time in the evenings, so mornings it is.
Branches: Apple and Pear branches are good, but never give stone fruit tree branches, ie plum, apricot, peach, cherry. The branches are important to help wear the teeth, provide extra fiber, and keep rabbits from getting bored and chewing other items. They can also have willow branches (as recent study showed that willow can help limit Coccidiosis) and poplar...see my link to rabbit safe branches.
Veggies: Limit the amounts of gassy veggies and sugary veggies or fruit. Whatever you do for fresh feeding, start small and work up to a full menu. Introduce items slowly by feeding item for 3 days and eliminate item at any signs of diarrhea or upset. Some sites say give large amounts of veggies everyday, but I think these are house rabbit sites. Others said 3-5 times in a week. During the spring and summer, as time allows, we try to give a treat of herbs as needed and the occasional greens. The more rabbits we have the harder this is. Kits can eat greens and herbs if their mother has been eating the same stuff while she was nursing. NOTE: Be careful that rabbits don't get too much spinach, swiss chard, or parsley, as an excess can be toxic. Arugula and Kale do not have this toxin so can be feed in greater amount, yet kale is gassy so maybe that should be limited? I never noticed that effect myself, but it is a brassica. Lots of herbs are great but some are not recommended in excess or for lactating does i.e. mint and sage, which will dry up a does milk. See our list of posted greens and herb on our blog.
Hay: Some do and some don't. In the past we free fed hay. I have some experienced breeders point out that excess hay can throw off the nutritional balance of pellets. We are now trying out only providing hay to some of the breeding stocks, especially when they are molting, and as a treat to the grow out kits, especially as they wean. Hay provides high amounts of fiber to the diet which helps with hairballs, teeth health, GI health, and boredom, and possibly with the transition to weaning kits. Types of hay are timothy, oat, meadow grass, and orchard. Alfalfa can be given to babies and nursing does on occasion, but it has too high of protein and calcium for regular consumption, unless they are on a total natural diet.
PS I am nowhere near an expert on rabbits, but I am pretty good at compiling information. The above is a compilation of what my research turned up. I hope it helps. If any of it is inaccurate please let me know and I will correct it. We will also update the information as we adjust what has worked or not for us.
New Zealand are a commercial breed that are known for production. Typically NZW (all white) are the best for growth rate; while NZ of color or broken patterns are a touch slower but with nicer temperaments.
The American Chinchilla is a large, hardy and gentle animal. They produce large litters and have good mothering instincts. They are listed as "Critical" on the Livestock Conservancy.
This breed is a true commercial breed. It was created by crossing Himalayans with Standard Chinchillas and then added some New Zealand blood to achieve the bigger size. They are known to be one of the top breeds for meat, with fine bone structure and calm, friendly nature.
We are working on crossing our stock to produce an excellent hybrid for meat. So far we have had the best success with the Cali and Am Chin crosses. We are seeing how the other crosses work and keeping the best to breed for this project.
This is our new rabbit barn. We now have 6 nursery cages (36 x 24), 10 breeder cages (30 x 24) all in our enclosed area. Out on the back wall we have a covered grow out area with 1 48 x 24, 2 36 x 24, and 4 24 x 24. So that is a total of 23 cages. We also have 3 back up cages for quarantine. Quarantining is an essential practice with any new stock brought in as well as any stock that is showing questionable signs.