Sunday, March 11, 2012

Raising Rabbits

by Self Reliant Network on Thursday, 29 December 2011 at 23:22 ·

Benefits Of Rabbits
Posted by: Self Reliant Network

Raising rabbits are much cheaper, more efficient, and more productive than raising chickens.

(But I LOVE my Chickens!!!)

1) A doe can produce up to 1000% her body weight in food per year.
2) Rabbits can be raised in confinement, whereas chickens need much more space.
3) Chicken reproduction is "light sensitive", whereas rabbit reproduction is opportunity sensitive.
4) It is much easier to raise food for rabbits than it is food for chickens.
5) Since rabbits are raised in confinement, it drastically reduces the threat to your herd from predators.
6) You can skin and butcher 5 rabbits to every chicken given the same amount of time.
7) Rabbit fur can be a separate barter item.

Rabbit meat tastes good too, some people say that it taste much like poultry.  Rabbit meat is mild and savory, never gamy. It is extremely lean, making it perfect for cholesterol-reducing diets. Cooking with liquids keeps rabbit dishes moist and tender. If you're not minding your fat intake, you may want to choose recipes that use oil to maintain juiciness. You can look for rabbit recipes in wild game cookbooks, but most of these just rehash the familiar methods of stewing, frying and baking.

Besides providing you with meat, rabbits produce dung, which makes a good fertilizer. Rabbit skins and fur have many uses.  A rabbit can be a source of instant cash in an emergency.

Rabbit Cages
Healthy and productive rabbits need clean, dry homes. You can keep them in cages raised above the ground on posts or on a fence. The bottom of the cage should be three to four feet above the ground--a convenient height for you to work with your rabbits. Some people save space by building shelves on a wall for the cages.

Keep each adult rabbit in its own cage. Each cage should be three feet square, and about two feet high, large enough for a rabbit and it’s young to move around a little bit. Put the cage in a place that is protected from rain, wind, and hot sun.

Keep the cages clean. Dirt, droppings, and urine from rabbits can contain germs that will make them sick... and a dirty cage will attract flies.  You will find it easier to keep a rabbit cage clean if the floor of the cage has holes just large enough for dirt, droppings, and urine to fall through. If the spaces are too large, it is uncomfortable for the rabbit's feet, and baby rabbits' feet may be injured by slipping through the holes.
You can make the floor from wire mesh. Thick wire, with holes that are a 1/2 in. square, is best. Do not use old, rusty, or broken wire mesh. And do not use chicken mesh, because it is too thin and will hurt the rabbit's feet.

The walls should let in plenty of fresh air to keep the rabbits from getting too hot. The walls can have larger spaces in them than the floor.

The door on your cage should be big enough so that you can reach in easily to feed the rabbits and clean every part of the cage. You might want to build a cage with a roof that comes off instead of a regular door.
I have a free range program going on and am really enjoying the results.

Note: Never stack cages above one another.  I wouldn't want droppings on my head, would you?

Feeding Rabbits 
A rabbit's main diet consists of the store bought rabbit food and Timothy Hay. The rabbit pellets come in large bags and look like brown pellets. This is the main source of nutrition for your rabbits. This food has all of the vitamins and minerals that will keep your rabbits healthy. The Timothy Hay will come in a bag that is compressed into a bail. The hay is good for the rabbit's digestive system and will keep them healthy. Another store bought food, alfalfa hay, can be purchased in blocks or as hay. This is good to give to your rabbit as a treat, but not as the main food supply. I prefer to give my rabbits the alfalfa in a block, so as to help wear down their teeth.

Rabbits also eat a number of other foods.  My rabbits eat lettuce, carrots, apples and bananas. They also like pears, strawberries, sunflower seeds and a number of other vegetarian foods. Fruits and vegetables should be given to yours once a day. Try to vary what you give your rabbits and remember to only let the rabbits eat as much as they want and then take the food out of the cage. If left in the cage it can spoil and the rabbits may get sick. When you give your rabbit forage, like hay, keep the forage off the cage floor by tying it together in a bunch and hanging it from the ceiling or wall of the cage. Just be sure not to put your rabbit feed directly on the floor of the cage where it will be dirtied by urine and droppings. Dirty food can make a rabbit sick. Try to limit the number of fruits your rabbit eats; these are high in calories and make your bunny chubby. Vegetables are better for your rabbit because they do not have as many calories and are a good source of roughage for your rabbit.

Try to keep your rabbit's forage dry, especially in hot weather. If your rabbit eats wet forage it may get sick with diarrhea and even die. If forage is wet when you cut it, let it dry for a few hours before you give it to your rabbit.

Your rabbit needs clean water at least twice a day. You should also clean your rabbit's water container or bowl often.

My rabbits love dandelions and others grasses from the property.
I have a few that love to eat oatmeal treats when I feed the chickens. They even wait at the door for me in the morning.

Note: Rabbits are subject to dehydration, so make sure they always have plenty of water.
You can feed your rabbit forage and scraps from a garden. Then you can use the rabbit droppings you clean out of the cage for fertilizer.

Rabbit Breeding         
When it is time to breed the female rabbit, put her into the cage with the male in the early morning or evening. After they have mated, put her back in her own cage. Her litter will be born about a month later.
About a week before your rabbit's babies are born, (I’d give it 2 weeks before} give her a nest box where she can give birth. The nest is also a warm, dry place for the young rabbits.
There are 6 to 10 babies in a litter. Their eyes will not open until about two weeks after they are born. Do not touch any of the baby rabbits until they are 7 days old. If you do, you will change the way they smell, and the mother will not feed them. If you need to check the baby rabbits, rub your hands over the mother first. Then the babies will smell like their mother instead of smelling like your hands.

I personally give my does some time off, I don’t breed in the heat of summer or the dead of winter

When they are two months old, baby rabbits should be weaned from their mothers. You can breed the female again once her litter has been weaned. Feed them for another two months. Then, when they weigh about 4.5 lbs, they are big enough to eat or sell.
Rabbits can give you and your family meat and earn you extra income. And since they are small and easy to feed, they adapt well to city conditions.
Note: Mother Rabbits only feed on time a day, normally at night. You may never witness a feeding. She stays outside the box instinctively to keep predators from finding her young.

Rabbits Are Territorial
Rabbits are extremely territorial.  In the wild, rabbits' territorial behavior includes depositing marking pellets at the boundaries of their territory, chinning, urinating, and aggressive behavior such as digging, circling, and fighting. Wild males tend to defend larger territories while females concentrate on their nests. Thus, when introducing new rabbits, territory must be considered. What you are trying to do is eliminate the possibility for there to develop any territorial behavior in the rabbits.  Use a water bottle (with the nozzle set on "stream") to break up any fights if they occur. It's best to spray the instigator before a fight actually occurs (watch for aggressive body language) rather than work on breaking up an existing fight.

Interpreting Body Language And Behavior
Rabbits have a language all their own. Here are some tips on interpreting your bunny’s hops, kicks and grunts.

Sniffing: May be annoyed or just talking to you.
Grunts: Usually angry, watch out or you could get bit!
Shrill Scream: Hurt or dying
Circling Your Feet: Usually indicates sexual behavior.
Spraying: Males that are not neutered will mark female rabbits in this manner as well as their territory. Females will also spray.
Chinning: Their chin contains scent glands, so they rub their chin on items to indicate that they belong to them. Same as a cat rubbing it's forehead on people and objects.
False Pregnancy: Usually un-spayed females may build a nest and pull hair from their chest and stomach to line the nest. They may even stop eating as rabbits do the day before they give birth.
Bunny Hop Dance: A sign of happiness.
Begging: Rabbits are worse than dogs about begging, especially for sweets. Beware of giving the rabbits treats.  Overweight rabbits are not as healthy as trim rabbits.
Territory Droppings: Droppings that are not in a pile, but are scattered, are signs that this territory belongs to the rabbit. This will often occur upon entering a new environment. If another rabbit lives in the same house this may always be a nuisance.
Playing: Rabbits like to push or toss objects around.
Don't Rearrange The Cage: Rabbits are creatures of habit and when they get things just right, they like them to remain that way. Rabbits often are displeased when you rearrange their cage as you clean.
Stomping: He's frightened, mad or trying to tell you that there's danger (in his opinion).
Teeth Grinding: Indicates contentment, like a cats purr. Loud grinding can indicate pain.

I have really enjoyed my rabbits and we have also enjoyed the meat they provide.
Good luck with your Bunny Adventures!

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