Archive | August 2015

Raising Rabbits 2/3 in series

In the first post of this series I talked about what questions you need to answer before you get rabbits.  If you are still reading, I am assuming that you have decided that rabbits are still a good fit for your family.  I can’t blame you, I think that they are fabulous. 

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In this post I am going to talk about how you choose the right rabbit and bringing it home. 

One of the questions that you answered in the first post is why you want rabbits.  If you are looking to homestead, like I do, than you are interested in a rabbit that is breed for meat and possibly for fur.  There are many meat rabbits out there that can supply your family with a steady supply of food.  The breed that I choose was American Chinchilla.  The reason that I choose that breed was that I wanted something that was a heritage breed.  The heritage breed animals seem to be a much better fit for a homesteader.  They produce a good size roaster and are a very good with kids.  Those are two very important things to me.  A breeding trio will provide you with a constant supply of meat.  A trio is made up of two doe rabbits and 1 buck. You want the two does to be two generations removed from the buck or unrelated to the buck.

If you are interested in rabbits because you would like a pet, there are a lot of smaller rabbits out there that are not as large as the American Chinchilla.  I have found that some of the smaller breeds can be a little grumpy.  If you are looking for a pet, please make sure that you have the time to socialize it, so that you have an animal that can be handled. Lastly,  I would not be an animal lover if I did not plug the local animal shelter.  If you just want a pet and compost, this might be a great place to look. 

Another reason to have rabbits is for fiber.  Do not tell my husband, but this is my next adventure.  I love the angora rabbits.  They provide you with fiber a couple of times when you shave them.  I love that this is a renewable resource, unlike the rabbit fur, which is a one time use only.

No matter what your reason for getting a rabbit, this is a great place to research some great breeds of rabbits.
http://www.livestockconservancy.org/

Once you decide what breed you want, you can go to the American Rabbit Breeders Association Site to find lists of breeders by state.  While you are on the ARBA site, if you are interested in showing rabbits in 4-H or another organization, please get the show standards book.  This makes you an educated consumer.  I, for example, do not show my rabbits.  When I sell a rabbit, I know that it is pure bred American Chinchilla, it has a good attitude and then I focus on breeding ability and health.  I know nothing about showing.  My rabbits are easy to handle, clean, in good health and come with papers, I depend on the buyer to know which rabbits are good show rabbits. 

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Look over your rabbit when you buy it, you want it to have a clean bottom, clipped claws, clean ears, nice teeth, and bright eyes.  Feel the rabbit over, make sure you do not feel any bumps or scabs.  I actually was selling a rabbit, and even though I interact with my rabbits often, I did not notice a bump her side.  The seller helped me find this abscess before it got worse and I was able to get the rabbit to the vet.  This was a rabbit had gotten out of her cage and apparently been bit by a tick.  The bite got infected.  I was able to get her treated and now she is a healthy rabbit.  You want to find a breeder that cares about their rabbits. 

BRINGING THEM HOME
Before you bring them home make sure you have your water  bottles, feeders, hay, cages, and rabbit feed.  You might even want to talk to the breeder about rabbit feed.  If you have more than one feed available to you, the breeder might be able to point you to one they found worked better than another.  We prefer Blue Seal Show Hutch Deluxe.  My rabbits love it and I recommend it to all my buyers.  Before you leave the breeder make sure they give you a small bag of whatever they are feeding so that you can slowly transition the rabbit to their new food.

Actually bringing them, a cat carrier is a great way to transport your rabbits.  Another great way to transport is rubbermaid totes with holes drilled in them.  We did a mix of the two.  You can transport the does together in one carrier, however, you need to make sure each buck has their own carrier. They will fit if you put them in the same box. 

Just like with bringing the rabbits home, once they get home you have to make sure that they bucks have their own cages.  The does can share a cage while they are young, but once they reach breeding age it is important that everyone have their own cage. 
 
After your rabbits are home, make sure they have water, but I have learned to with hold food for a few hours.  Let the rabbit get settled from the car ride before you offer them food. 

Now that you have your rabbits, the next post will be some basic management and lessons that I have learned. 
Always end with cuteness!

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Raising Rabbits Part 1/3

This is a three part series on raising rabbits.  Hopefully we will have the whole series published by the end of the week. This first series is about where to start..

When deciding if raising rabbits is right for you, it is important to answer a couple questions first.
Why do I want to raise rabbits?
How much space do I need / have?
What am I going to do with the babies?
Do I have time?

There are many reasons to want to raise rabbits.  On a homestead they are very valuable.  Some people raise rabbits for meat, some raise for show, some raise for manure and some raise them as a pet. 
We originally started raising rabbits for meat.  We had tasted rabbit meat and liked it.  We wanted to become protein independent, rabbits are a great way to do that in a urban setting.  When it came time for us to cook our first rabbit, I got a horrible migraine.  I occasionally suffer from migraines so I did not think anything about it.  The second time, I suffered from another migraine.  The third time I was not home when the meat was cooked.  I enjoyed it for dinner and did not have a problem.  I attempted to cook it myself again and was sick again. When I did some research I found out that some woman get migraines from rabbit meat.  It has something to do with hormone levels.   We have since decided that rabbit meat is not for us.   Even though we do not raise our rabbits for meat, they are invaluable to us because of the compost they produce.  The soil is rich, and my tomato plants grown in rabbit manure were 10 feet tall.  You need to ask yourself, Why do I want rabbits?

Depending on why you want rabbits you need to consider the space that you have.  A rabbit needs a cage that is 3 foot by 4 foot.  This is a minimum  in my mind.  We are also looking for ways to get our rabbits more space.  Also, when rabbits have babies you have to have a place to put them.  Males and females need to be in different cages.  We have two grow out hutches and runs. Below is a picture of one of our runs.  We do not keep them in the run at night and we do not keep them in the run in the winter.  This is a summer exercise area for us.   

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There are many ways to build your rabbitry.  It is important to make sure that the rabbits have shade, enough space and protection from the elements and predators.  We have built our cages inside a 10×8 shed.  There are 4 female cages on one side of the shed and 4 male cages on the other. 

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Under the cages we have ramps with linoleum flooring so that it is easier to keep clean. 

Next, you have to know what you are going to do with the babies.  If you are raising rabbits for meat then you know the answer to this question.  If you are raising them for show or as a pet, the answer is not as clear.  We are not raising our rabbits for meat so we only breed them twice a year, based on demand.  We sell our babies to other people that are interested in homesteading, 4H or just want a pet.  We only breed for what we have found out we can sell.  The breed that we raise, American Chinchillas, are an amazing bred.  We have taken time to get a great blood line, and we want to be a part of the come back of this breed.  If you only want a pet and you do not want babies, take the rabbit to vet and get it fixed.  It is important to understand the purpose of your rabbits.

Lastly, you need to evaluate if you have time for rabbits.  The way we have our rabbits set up, we have about 1/2 an hour worth of rabbit chores a day.  Every two weeks or so we spend a couple hours with our rabbits.  We take them out, do health checks, clip toe nails, brush, and give the cages a good cleaning.  Make sure you have enough time to give the animal the care that it needs. 

In addition, we are going to add the cost of rabbits.  You can build rabbit cages out of scrap and spend next to nothing on them.  We put ours in a shed, so we had to buy the shed, buy the wire and build the ramps. That was our choice, rabbits do not need to be in a shed.  On average a 50 pound bag of feed cost $20.  Once a rabbit is 6 months old it should only get about a cup of feed a day.  We supplement with hay, which we get for $3 a bale.  We have had to take the rabbits to the vet twice.  It was under $100 each time.  Other costs to research is a tattoo kit, water bowls, feeders, nesting boxes, clippers, traveling cages, show stand, ARBA membership, and bedding if you use it.  Our rabbits are also litter trained, because we want to get as much of that compost as we can, so we buy bedding for the litter boxes.  Brain storm the type of rabbit set up you want and figure out the cost of your rabbits before you get started.  

We love raising our rabbits, we have found that it is worth it for us.  If you need more information on raising rabbits we encourage you to read Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits.

The next post in this series will be which animal to choose and how many!

Farming from the Couch

Last year I fell and broke my foot.  I than re-injured it in the winter when I slipped on ice.  I was really hoping that it would heal. I was a good girl and used ice at the end of the day and took anti-inflammatory medications.  In the end of a 5 month attempt to heal, the doctor told me reconstruction surgery was the only way I could get better.  He even told me that if I had another serious sprain, I would be facing an ankle fusion.  All that being said, I had my surgery a week ago.  It will be 3 months before I can walk or drive and possibly longer.  Most people are able to walk on their own without crutches at 6 months.  I have a long road ahead of me.

Just because I am down and out does not mean that the farm stops.  We have 3 goats, 2 pigs, 50 chickens, 7 rabbits, 50 tilapia, 7 ducks, 3 cats and 3 dogs that do not care if I can walk or not.  This kids are a major help, the community is pitching in and my husband is a saint.  

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My job on the farm has drastically changed.  I am researching grants to help our farm grow, I am planning our garden layout for next year, I am going to blog more about food, crafts and the farm, and I am organizing help for the farm when needed.

I would be lying if I told you that I was happy not being so hands on.  I love to work on the farm.  I love having dirt under my nails.  However, I am going to focus on organization, my second love.  I am also focusing on our Home Made Christmas projects.  Thank you for hanging with us as we continue our farming journey.  We are trying to stay positive and look at this time as a blessing for us to get organized.