The Rabbit Plan

May30

The baby rabbits sure are getting big.  I don’t feel like they are making as many changes lately, so photographing them every other day or so seems to be working fine.  However, I do still see the changes when I photograph them.

The Angora bunnies are getting bit.  Their toenails are pretty sharp, so Daphne loves to play with them, but she often ends up with little scratches everywhere.  They go away quickly, but I feel the sharp little claws when I hold them as well.  For whatever reason, when Daphne goes to get a rabbit to play with, she only gets the white bunnies.  I am not sure if she prefers them or if those are the only ones she can see in the dark with the light off.  I much prefer it that way.

It looks like Thing 1 is a wonderful mama.  She is able to keep up with producing for all 12 of the babies.  She hops in the box no matter what time I bring it out to feed them, and she stays long enough to get them all fed.  I have not had a problem in the last few days when I checked with anyone needing more food.  Even the small and runty baby I was talking about before really started to pick up speed and can no longer be distinguished from the other rabbits.  When I brought them in from nursing today, I discovered that someone that its eyes open, so they are really starting to progress a lot.  The baby that was wounded is completely better.  I did have to spend time draining it every day, but the TLC paid off, and it is now running around with just a small scar that is working to heal.  It looks like all 12 are happy and are going to make it with no problem!

The Angora rabbits are also progressing a lot.    They have learned to hop and they can get in and out of the nesting box with no problems.  I noticed that they were trying to much on their mamas food the other day, so I gave them a little bit of pellets to chew on.  They were very happy.  So, they are starting to eat.  I put them outside with mama today during the day so that they could nurse more and so that she could be in charge of them.  If they are old enough to cause trouble, they are out of my disciplinary range.

They sure are getting cute, and they hear about it every time I talk to them.

Looking more and more like Angoras every day.

The chocolate candidate.

This is “Blaze” with the white leg (not a good thing).

I have been doing a lot of evaluation of the rabbitry lately, and I think that I have come to a conclusion of where I want to go.  This may not be the plan that works out in the next week or even in the next year, but I’ve weighed all my options and made all of my decisions.

I currently have 1 100% German Angora doe, 2 100% Californian does (these are meat rabbits), 1 ~80% Black German Angora Doe, 1 ~80% Blue German Angora Doe, a 60% Torte German Angora Buck and a Black 50% German 50% French Angora Buck.  That is a lot of information to take in, but the important thing to consider is the percentages and the breeds.

I LOVE the German Angora breed.  They are large rabbits, have lovely temperaments and they produce a very dense wool.  Since I keep them for their fiber, I like this.  My 100% German doe eats the same as the other does and produces MUCH more wool every 90 days.  Also, the German breed is a white breed, and though I do like the colors that can be gotten by crossing German and French, when all is said in done in spinning, I can dye white any color I want.  I am limited with the other colors.

I am also enjoying the idea of raising rabbits for meat animals.  There are so many benefits and so few drawbacks.  With raising meat chickens, it is a fast project, but it is a smelly project and a project that ANYONE ends up hating at the end.  The birds have been engineered over the last 50 years to grow MUCH more quickly than is healthy.  Though I do appreciate the feed conversion, I don’t appreciate how unnatural it is.  The birds are disgusting.  They don’t forage, and they die quickly from various health problems if kept longer than 12 weeks.  Though I do plan to raise a few birds once a year to have a chicken dinner here or there for my family, I do not plan to use Cornish Cross in the future.  That leaves me with the problem of having a much tougher bird that takes 2 times a long (and 2 times as much feed) for a smaller bird.  These are the drawbacks.

Rabbits are a completely different story.  Rabbits can finish to 5-6 pounds in about 8-9 weeks.  They are raised entirely by their mothers at that time.  Though the feed conversion is about half that of the Cornish Cross chickens, it is a pretty good conversion, especially considering that the babies nurse from their mother for the first 3 weeks almost exclusively.  A lot of people think that rabbit tastes a lot like chicken, some people can’t tell the difference.  It is one of the most nutritious meats available in our market.  It has more protein and less fat than any commonly eaten meat.  And yet, it is something that is disregarded by and large by mainstream America (Europe appreciates rabbit).

I bought two Californian meat rabbits last year with the intention to breed.  They are Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Now that I am in the middle of raising them, I am realizing that keeping 2 may not be necessary for my own personal meat.  Rabbits can be bred 4 times a year, and they produce average litters of about 8.  If I kept my one meat rabbit in heavy production, I would have 32 rabbits from this one doe alone.  I don’t need to double that.  As it is, 32 is enough to roast whole rabbit almost every Sunday dinner througout the year!  I have decided that I am going to sell Thing 2, and keep Thing 1 for this purpose.  Thing 1 is turning out to be a great rabbit.  She is a great mother now that she has figured out she is supposed to nurse the babies.  She instinctively had the kits in the nesting box, and they survived.  A lot of first-time moms are air-headed and have the rabbits on the wire, where they eventually die from exposure.  Though she had a very aggressive temperament (I have scars on my belly from one particular episode), she has mellowed out incredibly since having the babies.  She is definitely on my keeper list.  I am selling Thing 2 because she hasn’t produced a live litter for me yet.  She lost her first litter and did not take to being rebred.  That’s not a terrible sign, she can be bred, that just is the decision a breeder has to make.  Who has the best characteristics?

I NEEDED a mature buck very badly so that I could breed the meat rabbits before a year of age (rabbits get harder and harder to breed as they get older).   I spent almost a year looking for a meat specific buck, but I was unahppy at the thought of keeping a meat animal around simply for breeding 4 times a year. I found someone who was selling out of their Angora herd, and she had a 50% French 50% German rabbit for sale.  I bought him.  He is the daddy of both of the litters I currently have on the ground.

Angora rabbits are a dual purpose breed.  They can be used for meat and for fiber.  Though a lot of fiber people will tell you that it is horrible to butcher such a lovely creature, I tend to stand with the other breeder who believe that it is a responsible thing to cull out the rabbits only keeping and/or selling the ones that exhibit the best of the breed.  Don’t pass on characteristics that don’t help set the breed standard.  The most commonly used Angora breed for meat is the French Angora.  I was happy to use my buck (his name is Poe) to breed to the meat rabbits.  Not only will the stock exhibit excellent meat characteristics, I am not being forced to keep a meat-specific buck around who I am only feeding for his breeding ability.  This is a win-win situation.  That said, I am not planning to keep this particular buck forever.  His hair has too much guard hair in it for me, so I hope to retire him at some point and use him for fiber only.

What I would like to do is obtain a 100% German buck OR breed Daisy to a 100% German buck.  I will then be able to keep any kits from the litter that work for my purposes and sell the rest.  That would go a long way to making a start to a German herd to preserve any lines that I want and still have the wool density and the sweetness of the German Angoras.

On the meat line, I plan to find a 100% French buck that I can use to breed to the meat doe/s.  This will give me the best meat body available while still maintaining animals that produce for me as well.  As soon as Thing 1 runs out her life span, I will consider replacing her with a 100% French Angora doe and breeding her for meat purposes.  The French have coloring in them unlike the Germans, so I can also add any color to the herd that I like.

As for the other three colored animals I have, I have no plans for them.  I enjoy very much having the color around, so they will stay in the herd for my own purposes and pleasure, which is just fine with me.

Currently, this means that I need to set up an appointment to butcher the young litter I have, since they are meat rabbits.  I need to have room for them in the freezer!  That is a lot of meat produced.  I have also decided that any of the black Angoras that are not suitable for me will also go to the butcher at that time.  One of the black ones has a white foot, another has a white leg and yet another is looking like it will not be black at all.  I will keep the bunny if it is going to be chocolate colored, but anything else is undesirable at this point.  The REW (Ruby-eyed-white) babies will all be for sale, since they are looking very good in many regards right now.  I’m glad Daphne likes playing with the REW rabbits the best because they need the socialization!

posted under Poultry, Rabbits

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