Category Archives: rabbits
I needed a new grow out cage. Leaving the baby bunnies with their mothers for 16 weeks meant that I was only getting two litters per year from each doe.
My rabbits would be pregnant for a month, each raised her kits for four months until they reached the weight, size and coloring I liked for butchering, then each doe rested for a month before re-breeding. It wasn’t very economical for us, especially when rabbits are supposed to be our main source of protein. Rabbits can out produce cattle, goats and chickens for meat in a year on much less feed pound for pound. But I was falling short.
I decided to take a trip out to Tractor Supply to pick up a 30″x30″ rabbit cage for my french angora doe that is due to kindle in 2 weeks. I wanted to test one out and see how I liked it. I like that the cages are stackable, but they seem pretty flimsy to me. I don’t think a cage like they sell at the store is dog or coyote-proof, and I know for a fact they aren’t Pip-proof, as she proved today when she told me “the bunny cage won’t close…”. I know I left the cage latched, and Roseberry is smart, but she’s not THAT smart.
Lobster traps are predator and Pip-proof, but they are heavy and not as tall as I’d like. I want the bunnies to be able to sit up on their haunches. The obvious solution is to make better cages, but until the house and barn are done that just isn’t an option right now.
So I took two defunct lobster traps that wouldn’t make one whole lobster trap on their best day, cut them apart, patched the holes and turned them into one double wide lobster trap cage for our grow outs to get weaned in. Now I can wean them at 8 weeks, and rebreed their mothers sooner.
All it cost me was some scraped knuckles, a few hours of my time, and some hog rings to attached the two traps together. It’s not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but it is undoubtedly the most practical thing I’ve made in a long time.
Yay! Food security!
Zach and I look at each other and ask “where’s Pip?” Suddenly it dawns on me…she’s in the rabbit nest boxes. Fearing the worst I hobble-trot as fast as I can, with a baby strapped to my chest, across the yard. Run smack into Pip who says “two of the baby bunnies got away!”
My first thought was “how’d they get away? Never mind, I’ll get answers once we get the bunnies back in the cage.”
I manage to find both of them right away, but the process of catching one means the other gets scared and runs off. We look and look to no avail. I feel sick about it, because I left the nest boxes unlatched during the morning chores, which allowed Pip to get in there in the first place.
Dinner time rolls around and I head to the rabbit/hay barn, and there is what Pip has now dubbed “adventure bunny”. We caught her and reunited her with mum and litter mates.
I told Pip “thank you for telling me the bunnies got away, that was the right thing to do. It was not okay to get into the nest box with out a grown up though.”
We use, reuse and re-reuse things around here a lot. We buy our clothes used at goodwill (except for underwear and socks.) Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) I’m a sucker for a good wool sweater. I always look in the next size up for sweaters that got washed and shrunk. To me, felted just makes it better. Pre-felted sweaters aren’t going to accidentally shrink in the wash, they are more impervious to wind, rain and hay, and they are great for making diaper covers out of.
This week I’m Re-Purposing four of my old wool sweaters (that I can’t nurse Peep in) into new long pants diaper covers for Peep, and leg warmers for Pip.
Another old thing I’m giving new life to this week is our old dog exercise pen. Thanks to our prolific bunnies, we have 19 baby bunnies that are going to need somewhere to live in 8 weeks. We used to let them grow out to butchering age (16 weeks) in their mom’s cages, but it just gets too crowded and too messy. And that was when the rabbits were having smaller litters.
So I took the exercise pen, a baggie of hog rings and some old fine mesh fencing we had laying around from an old project and started making a bunny pen out of it. Right now I’ve only managed to reinforce the sides, as I ran out of patience for ripping my skin up on the fencing and ran out of hog rings. The new pen still needs a floor and a lid of some sort. I still have a few weeks to get it done, but I made a good start on it yesterday at least.
You can turn all sorts of things into rabbit cages though. Just check out pinterest if you ever need inspiration.
Blueberry’s kits are 5 days old now, and Blackberry’s are 3 days old.
Today I went to check on them to see how they are growing. One of Blueberry’s is really small, about half the size of his/her litter mates.
I took Blueberry out, flipped her onto her back, and let the tiny kit nurse for about 5 minutes. I’ll probably do that a couple time a day now until I see improvements in growth. I may even pull both litters and bring them to mom for feeding twice a day.
I want them to get handled enough that they aren’t afraid of us come weaning. I really hate handling skittish rabbits, and I think it’s cruel to never touch them until butcher day. They always seem so scared, and that really isn’t the peaceful death I want for them.
Blackberry has become very protective of her babies, not letting me get very close to them at all. Another reason to pull the litter except for feeding times.
Our black SF doe, Blackberry, finally kindled her litter last night. Sorry for the dark picture, black babies in a dark nest box, early in the morning. BlackBerry stuffed so much hay into her nest box that I had to put my camera in a literal tunnel of hay.
9 beautiful new additions to the farm, and she finally seems to be getting this mothering thing down. Her first litter had about a 50% mortality rate, her second litter survived but we’re all visibly much slower growing than Blueberry’s litter.
This time around she started working in nest building about 2 weeks in to her pregnancy, and pulled a lot of fur starting yesterday. All nine kits appear to be healthy so far.
I always make sure to handle the kits before I do anything else in the rabbitry or on the farm. My hands are cleanest then, and I dont want to transmit anything to the delicate little babies.
Well, actually, just breeding rabbits. I’m still waiting for Blackberry to kindle, Blueberry’s litter is 2 days old now. And today I made the decision to breed my French-German angora doe Halle Berry to our silver fox buck, Elderberry.
I have no idea what the kits will look like, but if they are really adorable I might offer one or two for sale as pets and we will go ahead and eat the rest. I don’t think it’s responsible to breed animals for profit. It’s hard finding good homes, and there are plenty of animals out there that need homes already.
In another month, when my rescue Angora, Roseberry, has gained some weight and is looking healthier I will probably breed her too. It would be nice to breed one rabbit each month for a continuous supply of meat, and they would only be bred 2 times a year, with a break for all of them in the heat of summer.
Someone was asking about our cage set up, so I thought I would post a picture of our cages.
We live on the coast of Maine, so my husband has access to used lobster traps fairly inexpensively. So we have repurposed them into rabbit cages with permanent nest boxes on the backs of the cages.
Honestly, I don’t think it’s an ideal set up, the cages are low so the rabbits don’t ever get to sit up unless they are having supervised yard time. I also wish the cages were bigger. We haven’t picked out a forever home for the rabbitry yet, I’m guessing it will end up on the other side of our yard next to our house when it gets finished.
Once we have a permanent rabbitry location, I will rebuild the cages so they open in the fronts, can be stacked, are twice as wide and twice as tall.
But for now, the cages are predator proof, comfortable, keep the animals out of the weather, and that’s as much as I can ask for on a budget of almost zero dollars.
Once again, my small rabbitry here at Beyond Hope Farm has produced another generation of bunny babies.
This morning my blue Silver Fox doe, Blueberry, kindled 10 live kits. It may have been 11, but one was dead when I checked the nest box this morning.
I’m still waiting on my black SF doe, Blackberry to kindle her litter. They were both bred on the same day, so I anticipate kits any time now.
A rabbit’s gestation is 31 days, and they don’t actually ovulate until they are bred. We raise heritage silver fox rabbits, a lovely american breed. They produce a nice carcass for the dinner table as well as beautiful pelts that were originally used to make bomber hats. The American Livestock Breed Conservatory lists them as a threatened breed. We like them because they are such a docile breed.
Rabbit is actually our main form of white meat in our diet. We breed our two does twice in the winter, yielding us about 36 rabbits of butchering weight. We don’t need in summer because our rabbits are more stressed by heart than cold, so we give them a break during the hotter months.
We typically butcher later than most people do because we want the coats to develop as much silvering as possible, which starts at 4 weeks and finishes around 16 weeks.
Rabbit is cheaper, faster and easier to raise than chicken, and the meat is delicious and versatile.