Enjoying the 'payoff'
- Rabbit breeding stock can be obtained from many different sources. One good way is to go to a fair where there are rabbits and contact the owners which are usually listed on the show cases.
- 3 to 4 litters of 5 to 10 young can be thrown by a healthy, mature female (doe) each year.
- One male (buck) can service up to twenty to thirty does, but in
order to keep the gene pool healthy, you should have one buck for each 5
does. Make sure you keep records of which does are bred by which
bucks, and keep rotating the animals to keep the gene pool as large as
- One good breed is the Flemish Giant. The young from this
breed will be ready to butcher at 3 months, yielding a very tender meat.
Most consider the Flemish Giant unsuitable for a meat rabbit, due to
the meat to bone ratio, also the amount of food consumed to meat ratio.
It is okay to cross with a New Zealand for meat production.
- Get the right pen. The pen should be a minimum of 5 feet by 6
feet for this large breed, but slightly smaller for the smaller breeds.
Rabbits need space! The floor should be made of a sturdy wire mesh with
about 3/4 inch square holes to accommodate droppings and urine. Do
give the rabbit someplace else to stand, however. Standing on wire full
time can hurt a rabbit's feet. A full tray or box the full size of the
floor of the pen with all four sides about 2 1/2 inches high should be
slid under the pen to catch the animal waste. This tray should be
emptied once per week and rinsed with a disinfectant. Be careful when
using bleach, as it will react with the urine and give off a harmful
- A solid compartment about 1 1/2 feet long and 1 1/2 feet wide
should be included in the pen to give the doe privacy while she is
having her young. this will keep mortality of the young down to a great
extent. Be sure there is plenty of dried hay in the pen when she is
- Know that female rabbits will conceive at any time they have an "encounter" with a buck. There is no set estrous period.
- The young should be separated from the mother at about 6 weeks.
- The doe is ready for breeding immediately after separation from her young.
- The rabbit pregnancy period is 28-30 days, with the doe able to mate within hours of giving birth.
- The pen should be furnished with clean water each day. The
water should be contained in such a way that the animal will not
contaminate it with its body waste. If in an open container, it should
be elevated so that the top is at least 4 inches above the floor.
Conventional water bottles work very well also.
- Feed a good quality hay. Be sure it has a sweet smell, and
has not been water-damaged and become moldy. Red clover and birdsfoot
trefoil seem to be the most preferred by rabbits, but they will also do
well on alfalfa, Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, and a mixture of native
- Hay should be contained in a lattice manger, or rick to keep
it from being contaminated by the animal's waste. Do not feed lettuces.
Any fresh green food such as lettuce from the store or grass from the
yard can give your animals diarrhea!
- Another feeding option can be to use calf manna along with rabbit pellets, or "rabbit food". Medicated calf pellets,
available at a feed mill which dairy farmers frequent, can help keep
your rabbits free from diarrhea. They will cost you less than the
"bunny" pellets per pound, but can contribute to the overuse of
antibiotics and are not available in all cities. Very important: When
you are ready to butcher, place your animals in an especially clean
environment for 2 weeks prior to slaughtering and feed them conventional
rabbit pellets rather than the medicated calf food to clear the rabbits
from the effects of the anti-biotic which is in the calf food.
Remember these rabbits will not be considered organic which is a
General Rabbit Information
- The first is to sell them to a meat processing plant, the
second is to slaughter and butcher them for your own use, or to sell the
meat after you have processed it.
- To locate a meat processing plant, the best thing to do is go
to different grocery stores and ask where they are buying their meat
from. Explain that you are thinking of raising rabbits and are
researching the market possibilities. Many of them will be happy to help you.
- When you have located several markets who might buy your
product, contact them and see if they would be willing to purchase live
animals from you. If possible, set up a contract with them to produce
whatever you feel you are able to.
- Wisdom tells us that you should have a good sound business plan worked out before you even start to raise a single rabbit.
- To slaughter, attach two stout cords to a bar about 2 feet
above your head and about 2 feet apart. The lower end of the cords must
have a slip knot on each of them.
- You will need a 12" to 18" length of 1/2 inch pipe to kill the
animal. You will also need a keenly sharpened knife to skin and
eviscerate the animal. You will need a pan to place the carcass of the
animal in after you have skinned and eviscerated it.
- Remove the animal from its cage, seize it by both hind feet
with one hand, and insert one of its hind feet, on the toe end of the
joint, but just below the first joint, in one of the slip knots, so that
the belly will end up facing you.
- Slip the other foot in the remaining slip knot likewise.
- While the animal is hanging, pull its neck out straight,
and, seizing the pipe with the other hand, give a quick, sharp hard
blow where the neck and skull of the animal meet, being sure you don't
hit your own hand. If you have done this right, the animal is for all
intents and purposes, dead.
- With your sharp knife, remove the head, being careful to keep
the blood from getting on you. Give the carcass a little time to bleed
- With your sharp knife, remove the front feet.
- Skin the animal according to whether you want to save the pelt
or hide. Rabbits are very easy to skin. If you don't want to save the
hide, simply cut a slit in the small of the back and pull the lower part
down and off.
- Cut the tail off close to the carcass, cut the skin around the
feet hocks. Slit the skin from the feet to the belly on each side, Then
slit the skin (but not the belly) on down to the end.
- When the skin is off, slit the belly meat from the crotch on
up through, and part the ribcage through the breast plate on up to the
- Using your sharp Knife, cut through the front of the pelvic
bone, being careful not to cut into the anal canal, which will be filled
- Remove all the visceral matter from the carcass.
- Save whatever internal organs which you desire, such as the heart, liver and kidneys.
- Cut off each hind foot, leaving it in the slip knot.
- Place carcass in the container and chill immediately. You may
save the meat for later cleaning, quartering, butchering, cooling,
cooking or freezing.
- Mature bucks should not be kept in the same pen, as one or both will be castrated by the other.
- Rabbits are sensitive to too much heat, and the pen should be shaded and well ventilated in the summer.
- In the winter, the pen should be protected from wind, and
most of its screen areas should be covered. Be sure to keep plenty of
hay or straw in the pen for bedding.
- Rabbits reach maturity somewhere between 6 and 10 months of
age depending on the breed. Smaller breeds mature quicker than larger.
- The following breeds will weigh approximately this much when
fully mature; Netherland Dwarf 2 1/2 lbs., Jersey Wooley 3 1/2 lbs.,
Holland Lop 4 lbs., Mini-Rex 4 1/2 lbs., Dutch 5 1/2 lbs., Havana 5 1/2
lbs., Florida White 6 lbs., Mini Lop 6 1/2 lbs., Rex 9 lbs.,
Palomino, 10 lbs., Satin 11 lbs., New Zealand 11 lbs., French Lop 12
lbs., Flemish Giant 13+ lbs.
- Pellets should be fed to rabbits in the following portions;
Dwarfs 1/2 cup per day, Mini-Lops 3/4 cup per day, Larger rabbits 1 cup
per day, Flemish Giant 1 1/2 cups per day.
- Clean each pen at least once per week, throwing out all bedding material, and replace it with new, clean bedding.
- Rabbits should never be lifted by their ears, as it hurts them and damages their ears!
- To handle a rabbit, grasp a handful of the loose skin over the
upper part of its shoulder blades. Rabbits have very sharp toenails on
their hind feet, and they can inflict painful scratches on you if you're
not careful. To practice lifting a rabbit, use a glove with a long
gauntlet on the lifting hand, and a coat or heavy lined shirt. You will
soon learn how to lift a rabbit bare armed by observing where to keep
your wrist and arm, which will be as close to the animal's body as
possible, and with your forearm as close to the center of its spine for
its full length as possible.
- Tame rabbits generally will not bite you. It is not their nature to do so. Hares are a different matter.
- Occasionally, rabbits, like any other lagomorph, will develop
longer teeth than they need. Longer teeth are caused by lack of enough
coarse food to keep their teeth ground down, or from a condition known
as malocclusion. Lagomorphs are continually growing their teeth out
longer, like we do our fingernails. This can be a problem if they are
not properly trimmed. Use a pair of large toenail snippers or a small
set of wire cutters to trim extra long teeth and relieve the animal of
further distress and make it possible for them to eat properly.
This will not hurt the animal like it would you or I, because they are
built different in this respect. Their teeth will continue to grow on
- Wash your hands before and after slaughtering or butchering to avoid infections.
- Never use rabbit livers for food if they have white spots in
them. Use only if they are of a clear, dark color. Be sure to remove
the bile sack from the liver.
- Do not slaughter or butcher if you have an open wound or cut, to avoid infections.
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