Over the past months we have acquired a number of rabbits that we have begun breeding for a source of food.
Farm Raised Rabbit
Beef is very tasty, all in all. But land destroyed by over-grazing is all around us. Even so, the greater atrocities are with factory farming, meat cloning and mislabeled, tainted or overly-medicated meats. What it all comes down to is that we are simply no longer willing to support these practices. In fact, we'd like to be able to obtain all of our meat from our own farm or other local farms. Part of our plan to meet this goal is raising and breeding rabbits.
We've both eaten and enjoyed rabbit before and are looking forward to regularly including it on the menu. Rabbit is a lot like chicken in taste and can be prepared in an infinite number of ways.
Another benefit of breeding rabbits rather than larger livestock is that rabbits produce offspring in litters of up to 20 rabbits. The babies grow quickly and efficiently and can be butchered in as little as 8 weeks with only a modest investment in feed.
Rabbit breeding seems to be a fairly simple process, though we had several set backs getting started.
Rabbit Breeding Problems
When Patrick first tried his hand with breeding, the rabbits were uncooperative and antagonistic. One at a time he placed each of the does into the cage with our buck; they thumped, ran around in circles and made quite a racket. It was so disastrous that we didn't expect either of the does to birth a kindle. As a result we didn't prepare the cages with nest boxes and when the first doe actually did give birth none of the babies survived.
We quickly supplied the second doe with a nest box. Even so, she had her first 2 babies outside of the nest. We discovered them soon after birth, but they were cold and nearly lifeless. Patrick brought them into the house and warmed them up next to his skin -- and they survived. We believe that the doe was startled into accidentally birthing the 2 babies outside of the nest, because a day later she had 2 more babies inside the nest.
Now, we keep a chart of breeding dates which allows us to accurately determine when the nest boxes should go into the cages.
In recent breedings our does have been much more cooperative and the process now goes much more smoothly. Books say that when the buck falls on it side, the rabbits have mated successfully, and sometimes that only takes a few seconds.
Rabbit Nesting Boxes
Rabbit nesting boxes should be placed inside a doe's cage several days before the day she is due. The nesting box needs to be monitored to determine if she is preparing it as a nest. A pregnant doe will use straw provided in the bottom of a nesting box along with fur that she has pulled from her body to make a nest. If there are no signs of nesting and there are no babies, the nesting box should be removed before the doe urinates inside the box.
When our American doe gave birth to her first kindle of rabbits we were very excited. All seven were healthy when born and the doe was taking excellent care of her kindle. She had made a very full and fluffy nest. On the fourth day we were shocked to find that the whole kindle had died. Our best guess is that the doe accidentally suffocated them when laying in the nesting box. It was her first kindle and one of our first as well. The American breed is a large size rabbit and we've purchased an extra large nesting box that we will use with our next pregnant American doe.
Rabbit Breeders Association
We recently joined the American Rabbit Breeders Associations (ARBA).
Several of our rabbits are purebred Americans. We partly chose to bring American rabbits onto our farm in order to sustain the breed, which is in danger of disappearing. Other members of our local rabbit club have also purchased Americans, which gives us a fairly wide range of diversity for sustaining the breed locally.
For a full list of breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association view the following chart:
For a state by state list of rabbit breeders visit the ARBA website:
Small Livestock Barn
Click here for more information on our small livestock barn, which houses our egg laying chickens and will soon be home to our breeding rabbits.
Click here to read about our temporary rabbit shelter.