Author Topic: Getting started with rabbits?  (Read 7243 times)

Offline jlknauff

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Getting started with rabbits?
« on: November 28, 2012, 11:28:37 AM »
I want to get some rabbits to produce meat; would I just buy them at the pet shop? Obviously, I have no intention of telling the pet shop employees my intentions ;) Is there a particular breed that I should look for? How many would comfortably live in a 4x8 foot cage?

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2012, 01:01:38 PM »
You will be getting small cull petstock at a pet store. Avoid it and auctions.

Get commercial type breeds. I don't accept anything less than a 4 pound fryer at 56 days of age. And working does that produce less than 8 per litter. I only breed for 5 litters per doe per year, but some people push them harder and get 7.

For breeds get something along the lines of:
Californians
New Zealands (comes in 3 colours [called varieties])
Satins
American Chinchillas (I suspect their feed/meat conversion is not as good as my other breed)
Champagne d'Argent
Creme d'Argent (when I raised them I thought they dressed a bit light)
Standard Rex (I dont like them as they dress out lighter than other breeds and get Sore Hocks more than other breeds)
Florida Whites (although you will do better with the New Zealand White or Californians)
Harlequins (they dress out pretty good and are fun to breed for patterns)
Satin (like the AmChins I think they don't convert feed as well, I got some really fatty necks, around the kidneys, compared to meat off other breeds side by side)
Silver Fox (my friends Blacks are dressing out quite nicely and are pretty to look at)

I would advise staying away from the giant types like the American, Flemish Giant, Checkered Giant, Giant Chinchilla as it will take longer to fill out their frames.

4x8 foot cage is one large rabbit (like the ones you dont want for meat ideally) or a doe and her litter. Rabbits don't house too well together and can fight unless they have been raised up together. Ideally you will have a 30x36x24" cage for a doe and litter at a minimum. I keep my bucks in cages this size as well, but you can give them a 30x30x24". One of these days I might play with a colony cage when I am trialing another system I would like, but it wont be anytime soon.

4 does and a buck are keeping me, my daughter and friends in meat. I only eat rabbit meat these days as I like to only eat what I grow and meat is also getting more expensive for me. My rabbitry is in shed row currently and I have 6 cages, so my setup is about 20 feet long and 4 feet wide. If you did it slightly differently you could get the same amount of cages in a 8x10 ft space.

Winter shows are happening right now and I suggest you go to a show and find something which catches your eye. I like animals with colour on them, so I tend to go with 'broken colour' varieties, but I do breed conservation with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees, so I currently raise white Americans and American Chinchillas as my friend talked me into it, as I was going to get back into Californians when I was setting up a new rabbitry.  Go to https://www.arba.net/showsSearch.php and then click SEARCH SHOW LISTINGS and it will pop up all the upcoming shows. It doesn't cost anything to go to a rabbit show and they are fun. As long as people are not in the middle of showing their rabbits (their breed is up), feel free to ask questions. 99% of the people are more than happy to talk to you. You get that occasional person who needs some serious coffee IV though, so just try another person.

Just dont -- Walk BEHIND the judging table. There will be a guy/gal behind the table handing rabbits and giving comments. You can generally stand at the side or keep the table between you and the judge. Listen and you will learn alot. Dont talk to the judge until after s/he is done for the day.

DONT pick up, feed or pet anyone elses rabbits. Especially angora breeds.
DONT walk over carriers.
DO have FUN FUN FUN! (Be warned, rabbit shows are addicting).

You can also get ahold of local clubs in your area, attend a meeting or find local breeders of the breeds of rabbits that you are interested in. If you dont feel a sale is quite right, my theory is 'there will be another rabbit another day'. https://www.arba.net/clubs.php#search click LOCAL ALL BREED.

Cedar
« Last Edit: November 28, 2012, 01:12:33 PM by Cedar »
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Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2012, 01:58:00 PM »
Thanks, your reply was very informative! I found a few near my area from the link you provided, so it looks like I'll be getting started relatively soon.  ;D

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2012, 02:18:44 PM »
And unless there is someone selling cages/equipment near you or depending on how many cages you want... I usually build my own and buy rolls of wire in 1x2" and 1/2x1" and LOTS of J-clips (I have pliers -- as I usually have around 100 holes/cages), but http://www.bassequipment.com had precut kits cheaper than what I could get wire for on 6 cages I required this time. I recommend them.

I also get the 12" J-feeders for all my cages and then I dont have to swap them out from cage to cage.

Some of my cages with J-feeders


Cedar
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Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2012, 11:33:07 AM »
Interesting...those ready made cages would certainly simplify things, but would you recommend that over just building them with the wire and lumber? Considering I'll have to build a stand to place them on and at least create a roof of some sort over them, it seems like it might make more sense to build it from scratch, no?

Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2012, 12:47:01 PM »
+1 to everything Cedar wrote.

I would not use lumber at all, it will get peed on, and harbor bacteria. You want all wire cages, you can suspend them from wood that's above if needed. Another option would be to build the supports out of metal.

You can use "Cage wire" found at TSC or Lowes for the Front, back, sides, and top. The bottom needs to be 1" x 1/2", 14 gauge. If you skimp on the bottoms they will sag and the rabbits will get sore hocks. I DIYed my cages and messed this up the first time. I then went back and replaced the bottoms with the right stuff. Lesson learned, do it right or do it twice.

I used:
http://www.klubertanz.com/images/Klubertanz_Pg8.pdf for the bottom panels. Good company, but took forever to ship 3 weeks IIRC.

You can also suspend cages in a stacked manner if floor space is an issue. I have 9 cages in my garage stacked 3 high, taking up a total of 18sq ft.

Also, your going to make mistakes just accept that. It will take longer to get production rolling then you planned, things go wrong when working with new critters. Keep at it, learn from your mistakes, and before too long you will have more rabbits than recipes.

Best of luck!
Quail Stuff

Ebook. http://greatlakespermacultureportal.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BD-Ebook-quail-for-meat-and-eggs.pdf
Thread. http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=42890.0
Prezi. http://prezi.com/kssuytlqgjs4/raising-quail-for-meat-and-eggs/?kw=view-kssuytlqgjs4&rc=ref-37650931
TSP Episode 1017. http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/quail-for-eggs-and-meat

Virtual tour of my property, Google Sketchup overlay on Google Earth image.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a8gkPz1otw

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Offline BiggBake

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2012, 01:17:53 PM »
What a great thread!  Thanks Cedar for the info.  I to was wondering how to get started in this venture.  How much care such as suppliments, wormer, shots, etc. do you have to keep up with when raising rabbits?

Offline tkrabec

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2012, 01:18:19 PM »
I just built 3 cages from kits and got my 1st rabbits. 
I should be breeding them in 2 weeks or so
My cages are 36x36 for the girls and 24x30 for the boy J feeders & water bottles
I'll be adding auto waterers soon as well as a grow out cage.

-- Tkrabec
-- Tkrabec

Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2012, 01:27:51 PM »
What a great thread!  Thanks Cedar for the info.  I to was wondering how to get started in this venture.  How much care such as suppliments, wormer, shots, etc. do you have to keep up with when raising rabbits?

I check on them at least once a day, usually twice. Just to make sure the auto watering system is working and to feed them.

Supplements, I weed the garden and feed it to them. I have plans to grow more food in the garden for them next year.

Wormer - I don't feed my rabbits worms.

Shots - I don't shoot at them either.

I kid, I kid

No worming, no shots, no vets. Cull the weak, breed the best, eat the rest, or at least that's what I do.
Quail Stuff

Ebook. http://greatlakespermacultureportal.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BD-Ebook-quail-for-meat-and-eggs.pdf
Thread. http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=42890.0
Prezi. http://prezi.com/kssuytlqgjs4/raising-quail-for-meat-and-eggs/?kw=view-kssuytlqgjs4&rc=ref-37650931
TSP Episode 1017. http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/quail-for-eggs-and-meat

Virtual tour of my property, Google Sketchup overlay on Google Earth image.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a8gkPz1otw

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
~Thomas Edison

"If women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." Red Green

Offline tkrabec

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2012, 01:43:39 PM »

I kid, I kid

No worming, no shots, no vets. Cull the weak, breed the best, eat the rest, or at least that's what I do.

I've got a mentor.  The rabbits are over by the horses where my wife visits 3-4 times/day
I've already fed them weeds, planning to give them more.
-- Tkrabec

Offline rikkrack

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2012, 02:51:29 PM »
As always +1 for Cedar, source of a TON of info. If I only knew a fraction of what you do. Getting there....

Do you just need your own thread?...or better interview on the show  ;D
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Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2012, 07:31:59 AM »
Awesome, thanks for all the great info guys! I'm sure you saved me a ton of time, money, and work. I'll let you know how it all goes.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2012, 09:47:10 AM »
4x8 foot cage is one large rabbit (like the ones you dont want for meat ideally) or a doe and her litter.

I mis-spoke myself on this one due to a three year old running around on top of me.

This is large enough for the giant breeds like a Checkered Giant, Flemish, their litter ect. BUT if you divide it in half, it is more than enough room for two pens for a commercial sized rabbit and her littler.  4x4 is quite a bit of room.

Cedar
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Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2012, 09:56:57 AM »
I would not use lumber at all, it will get peed on, and harbor bacteria. You want all wire cages, you can suspend them from wood that's above if needed. Another option would be to build the supports out of metal.

Yes, for those very reasons... You THINK also that you have everything out of a rabbits way that they cant eat, but they magically will it to get from where you think they cant eat it, to happily munching on it. Although it doesn't look like it in the photos, all the wood is at least 8 inches away from the wire and about 2 feet back from the fence.

This is my current rabbit set up.




It is not *MY* ideal, but it worked for the space, money and time that I had. In the winter, there are tarps that hang over the front. The backs of the cages are to the south and the face to the north. This prevents the sun from getting them and my storms come in generally from the south or west.


You can use "Cage wire" found at TSC or Lowes for the Front, back, sides, and top. The bottom needs to be 1" x 1/2", 14 gauge. If you skimp on the bottoms they will sag and the rabbits will get sore hocks. I DIYed my cages and messed this up the first time. I then went back and replaced the bottoms with the right stuff. Lesson learned, do it right or do it twice.

And make sure that the closer wired side for the floor is UP. Too many people make the mistake of laying it the wrong way and the further spaced apart wires are upside down and it is a PAIN to undo J-clips if you don't have the right tool.

Cedar
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Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2012, 12:03:02 PM »
Nice looking setup Cedar!

Your not kidding about removing J-clips being a PITA, and great tip about the bottoms.

A couple more words of wisdom to share. DON'T get the red handled J-clip pliers from TSC they are garbage. I bought a set and they bent before I was done with one cage, causing the clips to not crimp tight. I returned them for a new pair, which did the same thing. I then found a different brand at my local feed store that worked much better. Finish 9 rabbit cages and 5 quail cages with them and they have held up great.

They look like the one's pictured here:
http://www.amazon.com/Little-GiantWire-Clip-Pliers-ACP2/dp/B000FK03HK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354297509&sr=8-1&keywords=j-clip+pliers

Also, make your doors a little bigger than the openings, and make them swing in not out. Inevitably you will forget to latch one and it will be harder for the rabbit to figure out how to pull the door open and get out, instead of just pushing his / her way through it.

Cage wire is sharp when cut! Wear gloves while working with it, or bandaids after. Once your done cutting everything to size take the time to use a grinder, dremel, file, whatever to smooth out where you cut the wire, door and opening especially. It takes some time, but you only need to do it once.

Final tip of the day, if your making a long row it takes less materials and time to make one long cage, then cut the door holes and place dividers into it. So if your going to make cages say 2'deep x 3' wide x 2' tall and have 3 of them in a row you can roll out 13' of wire, 2' + 2' + 9'. Fold up 2' on each edge, now you have the top and sides done. Then roll out 9' for the front, and 9' for the back. Put your dividers in, then the bottom, cut the door / feeder holes, grind down the sharps and your done.

Be sure to let us know how it turns out!
Quail Stuff

Ebook. http://greatlakespermacultureportal.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BD-Ebook-quail-for-meat-and-eggs.pdf
Thread. http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=42890.0
Prezi. http://prezi.com/kssuytlqgjs4/raising-quail-for-meat-and-eggs/?kw=view-kssuytlqgjs4&rc=ref-37650931
TSP Episode 1017. http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/quail-for-eggs-and-meat

Virtual tour of my property, Google Sketchup overlay on Google Earth image.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a8gkPz1otw

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
~Thomas Edison

"If women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." Red Green

Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2012, 08:37:16 AM »
Well, I got started with baby steps yesterday. I recently got in touch with some folks at a farm, and yesterday, I visited them. Bought my first rabbit (I have to see if my family will eat the meat before I start breeding rabbits), killed and dressed it on the spot. Took it home on ice and butchered it. I pretty much just cut all the meat off in chunks (it seems too small to make the cuts of meat like you can with a deer or cow) and I plan to grind it to use it in chilli for starters. It's currently sitting in the freezer awaiting my meat grinder to be unwrapped on Christmas.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2012, 09:40:41 AM »
This is a whole (frozen) carcass which weighs about 3 pounds.


This is generally how you cut them up for use (fresh or thawed. Don't cut while frozen)


The bottom right is the rib cage with the flanks attached, but not for long. I cut the flanks off and generally discard the ribcage. You can't see the flanks very well in the top photo as they are kinda tucked inside the rib cage and frozen there until thawed.

Left side top to bottom:
Loin (saddle, 'backstraps' are in here along the backbone),
Hind leg,
Hind leg.

Right side top to bottom:
Foreleg,
Foreleg,
Ribcage with flanks.

If you need a refresher course on butchering, there is a thread on here somewhere with step-by-step directions with photos.

Cedar

« Last Edit: December 21, 2012, 09:49:03 AM by Cedar »
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Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2012, 09:51:11 AM »
I got about 3–1/4 pounds of meat from the rabbit, which I estimate was about 5 or 6 pounds alive. Does that sound about right?

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2012, 09:59:18 AM »
I got about 3–1/4 pounds of meat from the rabbit, which I estimate was about 5 or 6 pounds alive. Does that sound about right?

Probably? Mine was 56 days old and a bit over 4 pounds live weight.

Cedar
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Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2013, 08:38:22 PM »
The latest update...just got back from vaca, thawed the rabbit and made meatballs. The wife and son both thought it tasted just like turkey so we're good to go. I ordered 2 cages to get started and will pick up two breeders when the cages arrive. I'll post pics when everything is up and running.

Thanks for the great advice so far; especially Cedar! :)

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2013, 09:33:27 PM »
Dont forget a nestbox. I like wooden ones.



Cedar
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Offline rikkrack

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2013, 07:41:26 AM »
With the wooden nesting boxes, do they have the same issue with wood on the cages? (peeing on them) Not sure it it was this thread or somewhere else, the recommendation was to not have the cages have wood or wood close to the rabbits because of pee.
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Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2013, 09:10:35 AM »
With the wooden nesting boxes, do they have the same issue with wood on the cages? (peeing on them) Not sure it it was this thread or somewhere else, the recommendation was to not have the cages have wood or wood close to the rabbits because of pee.

True on the wood. However, with nest boxes you only put them in 2 days before they kindle (give birth) and pull when the babies are coming out (about 30 days). Although if it is hot out the babies will start emerging earlier, and in that case I put the nestbox on its side for a week and then pull it.

If the does are pregnant or have babies I have not had an issue of them using it for a bathroom. If they are not pregnant sometimes they do. I generally replace my nestboxes every 2-3 years and burn the old ones anyway. I have not had issues with rabbits chewing on them either.

But in the wintertime, they are warmer.. no metal to accidently touch and in the summer I think they are cooler. So well worth using wood to me. They are also quick and easy to make from scrap plywood. When I have one to make I usually build 3-5 at the same time.

Cedar
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Offline jlknauff

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2013, 09:52:27 AM »
However, with nest boxes you only put them in 2 days before they kindle (give birth)
Maybe a dumb question, but how do you know? My son came when he was ready, not on the due date ;)

Offline john gillis

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #24 on: January 02, 2013, 10:07:10 AM »
I put the nest box[filled with pine shavings and wheat straw or hay] in 28 days after the doe is bred. My rabbits ave. a litter on the 31 day, some less, some up to 37 days, after 39 days I remove the box if no litter.
Repeat the same mistake enough times and you will have created a perfect mistake.
John

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #25 on: January 02, 2013, 10:32:45 AM »
Maybe a dumb question, but how do you know? My son came when he was ready, not on the due date ;)

A normal rabbits gestation is 30-32 days. I put the nestbox in on the 28th day. I also tend to breed on the 1st of the month.

Cedar
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Offline OKCPrepper

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2013, 04:55:55 AM »
We are new to this, but learning fast. We bread our does 4 times this fall. They were all pretty consistent at the 30-31 days. I did have one doe that was a lot of trouble. It was her first time so I hope it is just a learning process. She started crapping in her nesting box, and when time came to deliver, she pulled hair on the floor of the cage rather than in the box.

The cage I had her in had a large wire floor, plenty good for an adult but too large for newborn. She delivered on the cage floor and the babies fell through the wire down to the ground. Luckily I had the floor covered with hay so it was a soft landing. All but one survived, it has crawled off from the rest of the group and I didn't see it until it was too late.

She produced a good healthy litter so I am reluctant to pull her from my breeding stock. Will give her a try again and hopefully she does better on the second time around. Will wait until the last minute this time before putting in the nesting box.

We will be doing our first harvest later this month. The kill will be my job, my wife is more than willing to do the skinning, I just don't want to have her involved in the kill, she is the one raising them and we think it's best to not involve her in that part.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #27 on: January 03, 2013, 10:33:14 AM »
She started crapping in her nesting box, and when time came to deliver, she pulled hair on the floor of the cage rather than in the box.

Sometimes the human puts the nest box in the potty corner of the rabbit. And there are a few first time does who fail to kindle in the nestbox. Give her another go.

Cedar
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Offline Hilltopper

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2013, 10:02:37 PM »
I am just getting set up and appreciate the  information.  Is Flemish giant back in the third generation so they are only 1/4  bred does with californian and new zealand as the other 3/4, then  crossed with  a new zealand or american satin  buck  likely to produce a good  meat rabbit? 

Offline Cedar

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Re: Getting started with rabbits?
« Reply #29 on: January 05, 2013, 10:59:06 PM »
I am just getting set up and appreciate the  information.  Is Flemish giant back in the third generation so they are only 1/4  bred does with californian and new zealand as the other 3/4, then  crossed with  a new zealand or american satin  buck  likely to produce a good  meat rabbit?

Maybe. But then again, will a German Shepherd, bred with a Cocker Spaniel, outcrossed with a Dauchund 2 generations ago, with a bit of Dalmation tossed in for good measure going to give you a long haired or a short haired dog? Will it have upright ears or floppy ones? Tall legs or short legs? Long body or short body?

It depends on who selected what to keep for breeder rabbits. Did they have well filled hindquarters? Are they narrow in the shoulders? Are they undercut?  This is is why we have breeds of rabbits in order to produce uniformity. But even with that, you have individuals to cull out to the freezer with purebreds.

With those breeds of rabbits you mentioned, they are all meat producing animals, even though the Flemish Giant is a later maturing meat breed. So theoretically you should have a good start... but .... unless you follow some kind of standard, even if it is something you are striving for what those rabbits should look like, you could be all over the board if they are good meat rabbits or not. If I was you, I would look at the Standard of Perfection for a New Zealand and/or a Californian and under the Body Type, see what is called for and learn what a perfect meat rabbit looks like, then cull anything into the freezer which does not meet your criteria. I would personally breed for the typical commercial body type of a rabbit (there are many body types in rabbit standards for breeds, such as snaky, cobby/compact, commercial, semi-arched and arched).

That said.. any rabbit you produce will yield meat for your dinner table.. BUT ... is that fryer doing the best of feed conversion to meat ratio? Ideally it ought to be 4 pounds of feed to 1 pound of meat or better. Make sure to get a GOOD scale and keep records on the kits, the doe and the buck.

Cedar
"Do not breathe simply to exist."