Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Weaning and Growing Out

We have made it to the last post in our “Getting Started with Meat Rabbits” Series.  To view other posts in the series, click the following links:

Housing

Feeding and Watering

Buying Breeding Stock

Breeding

Pregnancy and Kindling

Birth to Weaning

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Weaning is the process of removing the kits from the mother rabbit so they are not nursing anymore and the mother rabbit’s milk production can dry up.  The kits will now eat hay, feed, and water like an adult rabbit, and the mom is now free to have another litter of kits.

The most important aspects of weaning are to keep the kits healthy and growing without nourishment from the mother and to prevent mastitis in the mother.

Timing the weaning to when the kits are eating and drinking enough to sustain themselves without nursing is key to keeping them healthy through weaning.  We wean our kits at 6 weeks of age.  Some people wean as early as 4 weeks or as late as 8.  We find 6 to be an excellent middle ground.  The mother is usually starting to wean them on her own by 6 weeks, so it follows the natural pattern.  Our kits have never had a problem continuing to grow and be healthy when weaned at 6 weeks.

We re-breed the mother at 5 weeks (as long as she is at a healthy weight and body condition) – so that gives her only one week of nursing and pregnancy at the same time.  We do not suggest you make her overlap nursing with early pregnancy for any longer than one week at the most.  It can cause issues with the pregnancy and the upcoming kits.

How you handle the weaning process is very important to keep the mother from getting mastitis.  Mastitis is an infection in the mammary glands that occurs when too much milk builds up and isn’t expressed.  Sudden stopping of nursing can cause it, so it is important to gradually remove the kits so her milk production can decrease gradually.

We wean gradually over a 4 day period.  We find this has made it so we never have a doe get mastitis, and it gives the smaller kits time to catch up with the larger ones.  The litter size will control how many are weaned each day.  But we always wean at least two on the first day so no kits are living alone in a cage because after being with a litter and mother it can be very stressful for a kit to live alone.  The stress could cause trouble with their growth or cause illness.

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So, to give an example, lets say we have a litter of 6 kits.  We would wean the largest two on the first day, then the next largest one on the second day, the next largest one on the third day, and the smallest two on the fourth day.  We find that by the fourth day the two kits that were the smallest when we started weaning are now comparable in size to their larger siblings because they have been given more time with mom and have had access to more milk with no bullying.  So if there were 7 kits it would be 3, 2, 2, 2.  8 kits it would be 2, 2, 2, 2.  If there were 10 kits we would do 3, 2, 3, 2.  You get the point.

If there are less than 5 kits we do it over less time than 4 days.  If there was 4 kits we would do it in 3 days by doing 2, 1, 1.  If there were only 3 kits it would only be 2 days with 2 and then 1.  Again, we never put one kit all by itself in a cage.  If somehow you had a litter of only 2 kits, we would suggest just weaning both of them the same day.  That way they don’t have to live alone and stressed, and with the mother only feeding two her milk production is probably not very high anyway.

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During the weaning process and once all the kits are gone we check the mother daily for signs of mastitis until she is completely dried up.  To do this we just gently palpate each mammary gland with our hands.  They should not feel hard or hard and hot – that would indicate mastitis.  The first few days after the kits are gone it will feel like there is some extra tissue hanging down under her, this is fine as long as it isn’t hard.  It should shrink back up within a week or less.

Once the kits are all out of the mother’s cage we decide how to feed her based on her body condition and status.  As we discussed in the feeding and watering post in this series, she will always have unlimited hay and unlimited water.  The pellet amounts are what will fluctuate.  If she is overweight and pregnant we would go back to rationed pellet feedings until the last week of pregnancy and then go to unlimited pellets.  If she is overweight and not pregnant we would do rationed feeding until we got her to a good weight.  If she is in good condition and pregnant we would continue with unlimited pellets.  If she is in good condition and not pregnant we would put her back on the adult rationed pellets.  If she is underweight then she should not be pregnant because we wouldn’t have bred her while she was underweight – but if this is somehow your situation she would absolutely stay on unlimited pellets.  If she is underweight and not pregnant we would continue unlimited pellets until she was a good weight for breeding.  You can read more details about rationed adult feeding in the Feeding and Watering post.

103_0061 The weaned kits receive unlimited pellets, unlimited hay, and unlimited water all the way through their growing out.  Depending on how many kits are in a cage, we find towards the end of growing out we have to fill pellet feeders three times a day instead of two, and put two water bottles on a cage instead of just one.

It is fine to put weanlings of different ages (from different litters) in cages together.  But be careful if there is a large difference in size or age because the larger older weanlings might bully the younger smaller ones and cause them stress and growth problems.

Do not overcrowd your weanling/growing out cages.  Your kits will not grow as fast and as well if they are crowded and stressed.  However, do try to keep them with at least one other kit, never alone.  Young animals eat and grow better when they have another young animal with them.  You may start with 8 new weanlings in one 30×36 inch cage, but as they get bigger you would split them into two cages with four rabbits in each to be sure they have enough space.7

We butcher our kits at about 11 weeks of age.  Sometimes they are at weight at 10 weeks, and sometimes not until 13 weeks.  But basic fryer butchering age is between 11-12 weeks.

If we are keeping a kit to grow-out into a breeding animal they either move into their own cage when the rest of the litter is butchered, or we keep them with a same-sex sibling if we are keeping more than one.  They can live with a same-sex sibling until they are bred – once it is time to breed them they need their own cage.  We feed them unlimited pellets, hay, and water, until they reach a healthy adult size.

We have now covered everything one would need to know to get started raising meat rabbits.  We hope the series has been helpful – please feel free to ask any questions in the comments sections of any of the posts in the series and we will do our best to help you.

 

Getting Started With Meat Rabbits: Birth to Weaning

Check out the other posts in this series:

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You have a doe with a nest full of hay, fur, and newborn kits.  Now what do you do?

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Once she has had time to settle after giving birth, usually about 12 hours, you need to check on the kits.  Some does are more tolerant of this than others.  Be careful, be quiet, and don’t make sudden movements.  We usually pull the nest box to the front of the cage and pull the fur out of the way to see the kits.

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If it is cold out you need to be careful not to let the kits get chilled.  They stay warm with a combination of cuddling together for body heat, and the fur covering them.  So uncovering them, and separating them from the warmth of one another are ways you might accidentally chill them.  So if it is cold, work fast and try to keep them in groups.

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The kits are usually in a clump way at the back of the nest.  We pull them out one by one, checking them and piling them together in a clump at the front of the nest.  Then we move them back to the back again and cover them back up.

As we pull each one out we are counting them and checking to see that each one:

  • is alive
  • doesn’t have any injuries
  • has been fed

Is Alive:  It is common for rabbits to have stillborns, or to have kits die in the first few days.  When we find a dead kit in the nest we remove and dispose of it immediately to keep the nest healthy.

Doesn’t Have Any Injuries:  Sometimes an overzealous doe will accidentally chew on her kits when she is cleaning them after delivery.  The most common place is on the ears of the kit, but there can be other places as well.  If a kit is injured a decision needs to be made as to the extent of the injury and the chance of survival.  Sometimes the best thing for the animal is to be put down so it doesn’t suffer.  Minor injuries just need to be kept clean and given a chance to heal.  But putting ointments/medication on the wound could make the doe reject the kit, so it is best if you can avoid it.

Has Been Fed:  Does feed their kits twice a day, usually about 12 hours apart, in the morning and evening.  We find most of our does feed around 9-10 pm and 9 am.  The kit will have a very round belly if it has been fed, called a “frog belly.”  It is easiest to see the frog bellies if you check the kits soon after you think she has fed them, but they should be apparent for up to a few hours after.

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Rabbit kit with fully fed “frog” belly

If you find you have a kit that is not being fed you might have to force her to feed it.  We do this by taking the doe out of the cage onto our lap or a tabletop.  Then we put the kit belly up underneath her and make sure it latches on and gets a chance to eat.  Some people do this in the opposite way, with the doe on her back and the kit laid onto her belly.  We find the does really hate this and the battle is not worth it.  It has always worked well for us to do it with the doe right side up.  Plus, the kits are naturally used to eating on their backs, so it seems the best way to feed them.

Sometimes, if a kit is continuing to not get fed you will have to do the force feeding for a few days in a row.  But most of the time one or two feeding is enough to get them going and vigorous enough to eat themselves.

We check on our kits every day for the first 4-5 days to be sure they are all eating, healthy, and growing well.  It is amazing to see how quickly they grow and change.

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Rabbit Kit Day 1

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Rabbit Kit Day 2

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Rabbit Kit Day 3

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Rabbit Kit Day 4

We do not hand rear orphaned or injured kits.  Kits under two weeks of age have an extremely low chance of survival when hand reared.  I have never heard of or seen one that survived, and that is from experience with both domestic and wildlife rehab kits.

But there is an option of what to do with orphaned kits.  We purposefully breed two of our does within 24-48 hours of each other so they will kindle very close to the same time.  We have had excellent success with fostering kits over from one mother to another mother as long as the kits are within a few days of the same age.  As you can see they change and grow quickly so you have to be careful not to try to foster if there is a big difference in size.

We also foster over if one doe has a very large or small litter.  For example, sometimes we have had first time does that only have 1-2 surviving kits.  A litter that small will have a very hard time staying warm.  So if we have another doe that kindled close to the same time we will foster those kits over to that mother and let the other mother’s milk dry up and then re-breed her.  Or, sometimes we have a doe that has a huge litter of 13, and another doe kindles the next day with only 5.  In that case we will foster 4 kits over so that each litter has 9 kits in it.  It will help ease the pressure for the doe to have to feed so many, and they will grow more evenly.

To foster a kit over simply take the kit you want to switch over and gently rub it across the side of the new mother to get some of her scent on it and then tuck it in with her kits in the nest and cover them all with her fur.  We have never had a doe reject a kit put in her nest in this way.  But we always do the foster move-over in the first few days of life.

For the most part, once they survive the first few days they are likely to survive to weaning.  So after day 4 or 5 we stretch out our checks to twice a week or so.  By one week of age, they are fully covered with fur, but their eyes are still closed.

1 week old

1 week old

On the 9th day it is time to clean out the nest box.  Quite a bit of mess can gather in the first 9 days.  Their eyes open on day 10 and it is good to have them opening in a clean environment.  To do this bring a dishpan, or properly sized box to the cage.  Take all the clean fur out and put it in the box, then put all the kits on top of it.  Careful moving the kits, they are surprisingly hard to keep in your hand.  It is best if you have two people for this process, one to clean the nest, the other to take care of the kits.  Kits have very sporadic and spastic movements and can easily jerk themselves right up and out of a box.  Remove all the dirty hay and fur from the box.  If you are using a cardboard nest liner like we discussed in our Pregnancy and Kindling post then remove that as well.  Put a new cardboard liner in and then using fresh hay create a nice nest with a recessed area in it for the kits to go in.  Carefully move the kits back over and re-cover them with the fur you saved.  If it is cold you need to move very quickly so the kits don’t get chilled.

When their eyes are opening sometimes they can get a bit crusty or stuck shut.  If this happens just take a warm wet cloth and gently wipe it over the eye to moisten the crust and help it open.

By two to three weeks the kits have entered the oh-so-cute phase.  Plan to spend a lot of time standing in front of the cage adoring how cute they are – it’s good for your soul.  😉

2 weeks old

2 weeks old

They will begin to be able to enter and exit the nest box on their own.  Most of the time they will still choose to sleep together in the nest.103_0017103_0001

Around 4 weeks of age (depending on the weather) they will be spending little to no time in the nest and the box can be removed.  In colder weather leave it longer, in warmer weather maybe shorter.  Let the kits behavior decide.  If they are never in it and it is just taking up needed space then it should definitely go.  They will still cuddle together for warmth and comfort.

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At 5 weeks of age, give your doe a physical exam, if she is in good health and at a good weight then you can re-breed her.  Sometimes, waiting too long between re-breedings can make it difficult to get the doe pregnant again.  However, an unhealthy or underweight doe should NOT be re-bred at 5 weeks postpartum.  She needs time to regain weight and get healthy before she is re-bred.

Once the kits reach 6 weeks of age the cage is getting very crowded and they are eating and drinking on their own.  It is time for them to leave their mama.

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6 weeks old

We will discuss how to wean your rabbits in our next post in this series.

 

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Pregnancy and Kindling

This is our 5th post in our Getting Started with Meat Rabbits series.  You can use the following links to catch up on the entire series:

Housing

Feed & Water

Buying Breeding Stock

Breeding

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Once you have successfully bred your rabbits, you have a short 31-day gestation to wait for results.  A breeding doe should always live alone in her own cage.  Housing her in a cage with other does will cause problems and she, or the other does, will kill the kits.

Can you check for pregnancy?

We have never been successful checking for pregnancy in our rabbits, though I have read that some people can and do.  We have tried many times, but it never has worked, so we just wait it out.  We feel like it is such a short gestation anyway, that it isn’t worth the risk of us being wrong one way or the other.

Feeding during pregnancy:

It is important to keep your does in good body condition for optimal breeding, pregnancy, and kindling results.

If you have an overweight doe you need to feed her one cup of pellets (1/2 cup twice a day) and unlimited hay for the first three weeks and then give her unlimited pellets and hay for the last week and during lactation.  If your doe is in good condition you can feed her unlimited pellets and hay through the pregnancy.  If she is underweight you should wait to breed her, but if somehow she is now bred and is underweight then definitely give her unlimited pellets and hay throughout the pregnancy.

Nest Boxes

A rabbit needs to be able to build a nest to put her babies (kits) in to keep them warm and safe.  She does this with hay and her own fur.  If a rabbit is not given a place to build her nest she will just do her best to build it in the corner of the cage, but it will not be ideal and will lead to a higher loss of kits.  So it is important to give her a nest box in which to build her nest.  You can buy nest boxes, or you can make them yourself.

We make our own nest boxes with 1 x 12 wood.  We avoid plywood in case the rabbits chew on it.  The finished box is 15 in x 9 in x 9 in.  Each side piece is 15×9.  The front piece is 4×9 so the mama can easily get in and out.  The back piece is 9×9.  We put a resting board for the mama on the top of the back that is 5×9.  We do not make the bottom of the box solid.  We use hardware cloth to enclose the bottom.  This makes it easier to keep the box clean.  Before we give the nest box to an expecting doe we line the bottom with a piece of cardboard cut to fit tightly.  Then we can replace the cardboard as needed to clean the box, and any moisture is able to dry out because of the hardware cloth under the box.  Sometimes she chews up the cardboard to help with nest building, and that is fine.  But be aware: we did have one litter end up directly on the bottom of the box with no hay, fur, or cardboard between them and the hardware cloth despite an intricately built nest by the mama.  Unfortunately, on a night that the temperatures dropped to 35F they all froze to death because there was nothing insulating them underneath.  It has only happened to us once in all the years of building our nests this way, but it is worth noting.

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We give the nest box to the doe on day 28 of her pregnancy.  We fill the box with hay before we put it in the cage.  We also make sure to keep plenty of hay in the cage from then on so she can build her nest whenever she is ready.  Most does wait to build until right before they kindle, but some take a few days to perfect their nest ahead of time.

The majority of does will kindle between day 31-33 of gestation.  We have had them go as early as day 30 and as late as day 35, although the late ones are always stillborn in our experience.

Signs that your doe is getting ready to give birth (kindle):

The number one sign that you should look for is what we call “hay mustache-ing.”  When a doe wants to start building her nest she will gather a bunch of hay in her mouth and hop around the cage with it.  The hay will be sticking out a couple of inches on each side of her mouth and it looks like a mustache.

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***Hay mustache -ing is a very important thing to watch for.  It has saved a few litters in our time of raising rabbits.  Twice now we have had the following scenario play out: we purchased a doe that was “not pregnant.”  A couple weeks later when we went to feed her we noticed she was hay mustache-ing.  Knowing what that means we gave her a nest box and  a bunch of hay just to be safe.  Sure enough, the next morning we had a surprise litter of kits born.  Thankfully, because we gave her a nest box, they were all alive.  Had we not, they probably wouldn’t have survived.

That being said, we also have had a doe that hay mustaches halfway through every pregnancy.  We would give her a nest box and nothing would happen for two weeks, at which time she would finally kindle.  For some reason the instinct kicked in early for that one, every time.  So we learned to not give her a box until later.

So keep that in mind and pay attention to hay mustache-ing behavior.***

She will begin building a nest, whether there is a box or not.  Sometimes even when there is a box they will try to build in a corner.  We usually try pulling the nest out of the corner and putting all the hay in the box to encourage her where to go.

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Doe trying to build nest in corner.

Once she begins to build a nest it could be a couple of days or just a couple of hours until she begins kindling.  Each doe is different and as you get to know your does you will know what to expect from them.

Once her hay nest is how she wants it she will pull some fur from her belly and line the nest with it.  Then she will begin to kindle.  It can take a few hours for her to give birth to all the kits.  She will go in and out of the nest during the process, giving birth and cleaning up the kits and herself.  The important thing to remember is LEAVE HER ALONE.  DO NOT open the cage or mess with her.  You can quietly check on her every so often, but don’t mess with her or open her cage.  Rabbits have strong prey instincts and will kill or abandon their babies if they think they are in danger.  So I say again…leave her alone!

The exception to the leave-her-alone rule is if she gives birth to any of the kits outside of the nest box on the wire.  If that happens you quietly and carefully reach in and tuck the kit into the nest.  Most first-time kindlers will have their first one or two kits on the wire before they figure out what to do.  Some does will give birth to the whole litter on the wire.  Either way, if you can save them and put them in the nest the mother will likely go ahead and mother them properly.

A good breeding doe, with good strong mothering instincts, should put most of them in the nest the first time, and all of them in there from then on.  You can lose a whole litter if they are born on the wire and freeze to death, so try to be around when a first time doe is kindling and check on her often.  If any of the kits on the wire are dead, remove them as soon as possible because some does will get overzealous cleaning up their kits and can end up eating part of them, especially when they are dead.

When she is done kindling you will find the nest full of kits and a layer of her fur over top of them.

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In the cold months if a doe doesn’t cover them well enough we will help her out by pulling the loose fur off her belly and putting it over them ourselves.  It doesn’t hurt her because her body lets loose that fur naturally in preparation for giving birth.  20150724_164634_resized

You will know she is done because everything will be cleaned up and she will be laying out resting in the cage.  As long as everything looks good don’t mess with the kits yet, not even to count them.  Give her about 12 hours after kindling to settle in.  Then carefully check the nest, count the kits and check they have been fed, and remove any stillborns that might be in there.  Don’t expect to see the mom in the nest.  Does only feed their kits twice a day and usually do it in private, so don’t be worried if you never see her interacting with the kits or getting in the nest at all.  That is normal.

We will discuss more about checking on the kits, how to know if they have been fed, as well as what to do with them from birth to weaning in our next post in this series.

 

Getting Started With Meat Rabbits: Breeding

We are continuing our series on Getting Started with Meat Rabbits.  To read previous posts in the series click below:

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Housing

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Feeding and Watering

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Buying Breeding Stock

Now that you have your breeding stock purchased and settled in, it is time to breed them.

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Breeding rabbits is pretty straight-forward and easy.  There is one major rule you need to follow:

ALWAYS bring the doe to the buck’s cage.  Never the opposite.

But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves.  First things first…at what age can you breed rabbits?

Most rabbits are mature enough to breed between 5 and 6 months of age.  Larger rabbits usually take longer to mature.  We usually just wait until they are fully 6 months and then give it a try.  It can be more challenging if you are working with first-time rabbits.  It is usually best if you can pair up a first-timer with a more experienced rabbit for their first breeding.  But two first-timers can figure it out as well, it just might take a little longer.

You need to check your buck and be sure both testicles have fully descended before breeding him.  They can be kind of hard to find because they do not hang down like other animals and they aren’t together.  There is one on either side of the penis and they are more like lumps, not dangling.  If he doesn’t have them both down he is not ready or able to breed successfully.  We once had a buck with only one down, he did successfully breed but the litters were always small with just a few kits in each litter.  We didn’t keep him as a breeder.

With rabbits you don’t have to wait for the female to go into heat like other livestock.  She is receptive almost all the time.  Sometimes they wont be cooperative, in which case we wait and try again in a week and they usually are ready at that point.  If you are wondering or concerned about your female you can check her.  If her vulva is pink and swollen she is receptive.  If it is pale and dry she is not.

As I said before, you always take the female to the male’s cage.  Put her in and watch to be sure breeding occurs.  You need to know so you aren’t waiting on a pregnancy if they didn’t even breed.  They will run around the cage for a bit, sometimes this can be quite comical.  Then usually the female will settle and lay out and the male will mount her.  Of course it doesn’t always go smoothly, she might park her rear in a corner, making it impossible for him.  She might not lay out.  He might have trouble figuring out where he should be.  It can take some time for them to figure it out.  But they will and then when he is finished he will stomp his feet and fall off somewhat violently.  It is often described as him popping off her.  Sometimes he makes a noise as well and lay there like he is dead.  If he doesn’t “pop” off then it wasn’t a successful breeding.  With first-timer this can take 10-15 minutes to get figured out.  With our experienced rabbits it often takes less than 2 minutes.  We usually try to leave them together long enough for two breedings (6-10 minutes or so for our experienced rabbits).  Then we put her back in her cage.

Once you have had a successful breeding (or two) and put her back in her cage, you put them back together for another breeding 12 hours later.  So ideally you have 1-2 breedings, then 1-2 more breedings 12 hours later.  This is said to increase the litter size.

Most of the time it is very simple and goes smoothly.  The saying “breeding like rabbits” didn’t come from nowhere.  They are pretty easy to breed.

Occasionally there can be trouble.  What do you do if it is not working?

If the female is not receptive try again a week later.  If it still isn’t working, she is tucking her bum under, or continues to put herself in the corner you can try to help.  Pull her out of the corner and hold her so he has access.  If she still tucks under and wont allow him try again a week later.  If she is young (5-6 months) give her another month or two and try again.  You could also try her with a different buck.  But if she continues to refuse you need to reconsider her as breeding stock.

If the male can’t figure out what he is doing, or doesn’t finish, he probably needs some more time to mature.  If he is over 9 months and still can’t successfully breed a receptive female, he needs to be taken out of your breeding stock.

As I said before, most of the time everything works out fine and then you are ready to take your doe through pregnancy and kindling (giving birth) which we will talk about in the next post of our series.

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Buying Breeding Stock

Read previous posts in the series:

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Housing

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Feeding and Watering

Once you have your meat rabbit housing set-up and you are prepared to feed and water them correctly, it is time to buy some breeding stock for your rabbitry.

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Any breed of rabbit can be used for meat, but as is true with all livestock there are certain breeds that are specifically bred to be used for meat.  Some of the most common meat breeds are New Zealand (white, red, black), Californian, Palomino, Silver Fox, Rex, Champagne D’ Argent, and Flemish Giant.  You can also use mixes of those breeds as breeding stock.

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Palomino Kits

Ideally, if your highest priority is producing a good amount of meat in a small amount of time, you should cross breed two different purebred breeding animals.  For example, when we first got into meat rabbits 9 years ago we started with two purebred Palomino does, and one purebred Champagne D’ Argent buck.  By cross breeding them the offspring had hybrid vigor and thus grew faster and bigger than the parent stock.  Most of those kits came out what is referred to in our area as “cottontail” colored.

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“Cottontail” colored mixed breed kits next to their Red New Zealand mother.

When finding breeding stock the human that breeds them is just as important as the breeding stock itself.  When you are first getting into something new – like breeding meat rabbits – it is very helpful to have people who can help you along and mentor you.  Picking a breeder who is willing to have a continuing relationship and help you as you learn is such an asset.  They also can be a source for more breeding stock as you build your rabbitry.

Look for animals that are healthy.  Go visit the breeder’s rabbitry and see what conditions they are kept in.  Is it clean?  Do they have access to plenty of food, hay, and fresh water?  Are the animals overcrowded?  Check their eyes, ears, noses, teeth, claws, and rear ends for any signs of illness.  Eyes, ears, noses, and rear ends should be clean and clear of any discharge or wetness.  Ears should not have any bugs or wounds in them.  Eyes should be bright, not dull.  Teeth and claws should be appropriate length.  Fur should be shiny and healthy looking.  If their fur is dull that is a sign of poor health.  If you are not seeing all good things in all these different categories then you need to find a different breeder.  Don’t settle for less than that – it will negatively effect your rabbitry and you want to get off to an excellent start.

Sexing rabbits can be very difficult.  It takes plenty of experience to be very good at it, and young kits make it even harder.  Being sure you are actually getting the males and females you want is important.  I know someone who bought a breeding buck and doe pair, and they never produced any kits.  Come to find out they were both females.  Yup – it happens more often than you would think.  To avoid trouble in this area I suggest you do some research and look at photos to get an idea of what you are looking for.  Then, don’t just take the breeder’s word for it – ask them to show you the genitalia of EACH rabbit you are buying and explain to you why it is what they say it is.  With the knowledge you have gained from looking at photos added to them showing and explaining, you have a very low chance of getting the wrong sex rabbit.

5

When adding new rabbits to your existing rabbitry always quarantine new rabbits for at least 4 weeks.  Quarantine means they are kept in a separate building from the existing rabbits and you never handle the care of the new rabbits and then move on to caring for your current rabbits without washing thoroughly and changing your clothes.  One sick rabbit can wipe out an entire rabbitry.  I read of someone who lost almost 100 rabbits in a week because they didn’t quarantine a new rabbit they brought in.  Quarantine is VERY important.

You are now prepared to go and buy your first meat rabbits.  In our next post in this series we will discuss breeding them.