Our rabbits are born in nest boxes in conventional wire cages. Our cages are larger than most: 30 x 36 inches with either tiles or slabs of wood for them to sit on to get off the wire.
Even those these bunnies are speckled, genetically they are Silver Fox. It is a line that we have developed here. We like colorful things! We keep the traditional Silver Fox colors of black, blue and white. White is not an accepted color for show (nor is blue), but we do not show our rabbits.
Once the bunnies are six to eight weeks old, they go out with their mother into deep-bedded pens where they’ll stay with their mother for a few weeks and then by themselves until they are between four and five months old. Depending upon the time of year, the mothers may return to be re-bred or they may go with a group of mature does in one of these pens until it is time to breed them again.
In a conventional caged system using commercial meat breeds, the bunnies are slaughter-size between nine and twelve weeks. It takes our rabbits longer because they are a heritage breed and we do not feed rabbit pellets. Instead, our rabbits eat whole grains and seeds, high quality hay and during the growing season, pasture grass, vegetables, herbs and weeds.
Throughout the time the bunnies are in the pen, we continually add fresh straw or hardwood shavings to the pen to keep it clean and dry for them. During the cooler months, they pens are covered if it rains or snows. Once the rabbits in a pen is of age to be processed, we clean the cage and either add the bedding to the compost pile or put it on our garden area. Between the fertility of the urine and manure and the mulch of the straw or shavings, it makes for a wonderful addition to our garden.
It is a perfect full-circle approach to farming. The rabbits provide both high quality meat and garden fertility and they enjoy the fresh vegetables and weeds that typically grow in a garden. If, for example, lettuce bolts due to hot weather, we just feed it to the rabbits. If we grow sweet potatoes or peanuts, the rabbits eat the vines. Once we’ve harvested beans or peas, we feed the bushes to the rabbits. Many farmers will just till this matter back into the soil, but we are double-cropping our vegetables: we eat the vegetables, the rabbits eat what’s left plus they supply us with fantastic meat. This is a perfect situation for all.
We are glad that our rabbits are able to spend a good portion of their lives in groups and lounging on bedding rather than wire. Rabbits are social creatures, while they do sometimes fight, in general, they all get along, they play together and groom each other. While raising animals for meat is never completely pleasant especially when it comes time to kill them, at least we know they lived relatively happy lives.
If you like rabbit — we sure do — we are happy to sell it to you, just ask.
Until later …