Author Topic: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use  (Read 19785 times)

Offline Cedar

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Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« on: April 18, 2014, 08:38:59 AM »
Someone wanted me to kinda make a thread on how to judge and cull your rabbits. So I will attempt it here and it may take a few posts to do so.

I have been involved with raising and showing rabbits, both in 4-H and the ARBA since 1977. I have been a 4-H rabbit judge since 1985 in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, so I have been doing this awhile and had many rabbits under my hands. I have also been a 4-H leader for rabbits in Oregon and British Columbia from 1985-2000; 2003-2009. And I hope one day to have a rabbit club in my community again (when things slow down for me).

Most of you do not care if you have show rabbits, but if you have a purebred, you really should always breed to it's Standard of Perfection. Why? Because if a rabbit was 'made' a certain way to become a breed, there are reasons why. The white New Zealand is a well known commercial animal, because white hairs do not show up on the meat,as dark varieties would. This is why all your commercial poultry is white, so it doesn't show it's pin feathers in the skin. You are still eating those bits, but you don't know it. The dark hair/pin feather parts do not look as appetizing to a city person and so they will not buy that product which shows them, VS the animal which still has them, but are invisible.

But.. that NZW (New Zealand White) was bred to be a meat animal. So breed to the Standard it was given. It is a guideline for you the home meat producer for your own table, what is ideal with that breed to give you the most meat, aka the most bang for your feed. If that animal is undercut in the hindquarters, or narrow in the shoulders, it is not going to carry as much meat on that carcass frame as it would of it was wider in the shoulder, had a well filled lower hindquarter, etc.

If you have crossbred rabbits, that is OK.. you can still follow basic 'rules' of what your rabbits should look like to produce a well filled fryer rabbit for your dinner.

Yeah. I know. Most of you don't have a clue what I am talking about, and I didn't either when I was starting out. It has literally taken me thousands of animals under my hands to understand. But I will try to walk you though it ....

Cedar

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2014, 08:57:50 AM »
First start by posing your rabbit CORRECTLY!!! I see all these people who profess themselves to be breeders with awesome rabbits, posting photos of them which makes the rabbit look like the worst conformationed rabbit in the world. You cannot tell if your rabbit has a good type if you do not set it up properly.

On a commercial type breed (there are 5 body types and I will get into that), it should be tucked up a bit like a brick. Not TOO tucked though. Get a piece of carpet square, like a rug sample with good backing on it. Set your rabbit on the carpet on a table. I like it to be a bit higher than a normal table so I do not have to lean over too much.

The hind toes should be right under the curve of the rear leg (which is called a knee) and the front toes should be right under the eye.


This Californian rabbit is almost right. I think his hind toes are a bit forward, but it will work for our purpose.

This white New Zealand rabbit is far too stretched.


Look at the 2 photos.

The NZW looks like it slopes off the rear end of the rabbit, flat over the hindquarters. It also makes it look like it is undercut in the hindquarters. Just looking at this rabbit, I would cull it this way. But if properly posed, it could be a decent animal. BUT WHO KNOWS with it posed like this.

See that little tiny dent over the shoulders of the Californian? That could be due to him being overtucked. No big deal? If he really does have that tiny little dent over the shoulders, it could mean he is weak in the shoulders, which costs you ounces of meat. Maybe 3 ounces. No big deal? At 4 pounds of feed to the pound of meat (hopefully better), 3 ounces less of meat is costly, as that will be 30 ounces meat lost per litter, which costs you 3.12 pounds of meat per producing doe per year. That is at least a full fryer more-worth you could have had. If you have 10 does in your rabbitry, all losing you 3 ounces per kit, that costs you 31 pounds of meat a year. So a pound a day for a month you could have been eating.

Learn to pose your animals properly.. (and get a DECENT SCALE!!).

Cedar
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 09:07:46 AM by Cedar »

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2014, 09:06:19 AM »
There are 5 body types in rabbits...



You guys who are breeding for meat at home, are looking at the commercial body type.

These are some of the different breeds in each body type. Not all breeds are listed--

Commerical:
Californian
New Zealand
Silver Fox
Satin
Standard Rex
Creme d'Argent
Champange d'Argent
American Sable
Blanc d' Hotot
Standard Chinchilla
Harlequin
Palomino
Silver Marten

Arched:
Checkered Giant
Belgian Hare
Britannia Petite

Semi-Arched:
American <-- which is what I have
Beveran

Cobby/Compact:
Dutch
Mini Lop
Netherland Dwarf
Holland Lop
Florida White

Snaky (no one I know calls it cylindrical:
Himalayan (the only breed which is in this body type)

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2014, 09:09:24 AM »
You also should know the parts to the rabbit. This is one of the first things I teach my 4-H members, and I ask 4-H kids when I am judging showmanship classes.



Cedar

....to be continued

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2014, 09:36:52 AM »
Hindquarters:

Most of your meat on a fryer is going to be in the hindquarters. You want smooth, well filled hindquarters. You do not want to be able to feel the pin bones (top of pelvis) over the top of the hindquarters. You should not feel any flattness. The lower hindquarters, just behind the hocks on the rabbit, and before the tail, should not 'suck' in greatly. It should not have alot of space to get your fingers in there and it should be meaty.


This Californian is posed pretty good. But see how it looks like it got hit in the bum with a 2x4 and it is flattened? That is called 'chopped hindquarters'. You are losing meat with this fault.

Here is another animal with a chopped hindquarter


Compare again with this Californian which has a well rounded hindquarter


Undercut hindquarters on a Mini Lop. See how the hindquarters of the rabbit from the rear view of the rabbit is not like a ball? But more like a "V"? This is undercut hindquarters. Usually when they are undercut like this, they also have what is called "Cow Hocks", where the toes turn away from the body and the hocks sometimes almost meet. (You did study the parts chart right? If not, hocks= heels). This is a serious fault, as it ...for basic explaination, causes structural damage to your animal, as well as losing meat. I cannot find a good picture of "Cow Hocks", but you will know it when you see it. Rear toes pointing away from the body and heels together.



Cedar


« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 09:42:58 AM by Cedar »

nelson96

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2014, 09:42:42 AM »
Most of you do not care if you have show rabbits, but if you have a purebred, you really should always breed to it's Standard of Perfection. Why? Because if a rabbit was 'made' a certain way to become a breed, there are reasons why.

It also expands your client list if you plan to sell any and will net you higher prices. . . .  At least that's the way it works with my cattle.  Catering to 4-H, FFA, and other purebred breeders is a good thing.

.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2014, 09:57:18 AM »
It also expands your client list if you plan to sell any and will net you higher prices. . . .  At least that's the way it works with my cattle.  Catering to 4-H, FFA, and other purebred breeders is a good thing.

It does work that way, as do pedigrees. But also be a responsible breeder with rabbits (and other livestock in my thinking).. and do not sell anything that you would keep as breeding/show stock for yourself. I always have a difficult decision in selling my breeding stock. I so want to keep them if they are decent, but I have only so many holes to keep them in. Anything which I do not deem worthy, is worth more to me in the freezer as meat. I do not even sell petstock.

Some backyard breeders sell anything if it is purebred or looks purebred as breeding stock, even if that animal is not worthy of passing its genes on. And many backyard breeders sell junk to 4-H kids.

Which brings me to another point. If you can take someone who knows rabbits with you, when you go to buy your rabbits, DO SO. For instance my friend "T" was going to go to northern Washington State to buy some Silver Fox from a breeder. At the last second she took me and SP on a full day trip. I am glad she did, as we looked at the animals the lady had for sale.. and 9 out of 10 of them had Malocclusion, which is this....

HIGHLY heritable. DO NOT let it get into your rabbit line. She was just getting into rabbits and never noticed that these animals had teeth problems, although their teeth were nearly up to their eyes on many of them, because she was a 'newbie'.

Cedar

nelson96

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2014, 11:21:47 AM »
It does work that way, as do pedigrees. But also be a responsible breeder with rabbits (and other livestock in my thinking).. and do not sell anything that you would keep as breeding/show stock for yourself. I always have a difficult decision in selling my breeding stock. I so want to keep them if they are decent, but I have only so many holes to keep them in. Anything which I do not deem worthy, is worth more to me in the freezer as meat. I do not even sell petstock.

Did I read this wrong?  Are you aying to "not" sell anything that you would/should keep for yourself?  I have a different point of view, that I've used, at least as long as it took me to build a market for myself. . . .  If you are not willing to sell the best stuff you have, you limit building your client list and your future demand on premium prices.

I get what you are saying, but if you can breed enough animals that can afford you the best to keep, while also being able to sell some equal quality livestock, you serve both purposes.  What I've done with cattle is going to be different than what you may recommend for rabbits, but I typically buy (rather than breed and keep improved stock of my own) superior stock and/or breed with superior stock (by use of A.I. selection) and sell my best offspring. 

To each his own, but unless you already offer the best of your breed (which is pretty unlikely, because it changes) this is the only way to insure keeping up with the market.

Offline ericksonrs

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2014, 01:43:06 PM »
I don't want to speak for Cedar but I think she missed a 'not' in there as she has stated it many times in the forum.  Do not sell anything you would not keep as breeding stock...hence the hard decision in parting with any of her stock.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2014, 04:02:43 PM »
Yeah. I missed a word. I got my train of thought derailed multiple times this morning.

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Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2014, 05:32:23 PM »
Ok... top view of rabbits looking down on them.
You can tell alot from this angle as well. You want well filled taping shoulders to the hindquarters. When you run your hands from the front of the animal, over the shoulders, and through to the hindquarters, it should be SMOOTH. No 'speedbumps'.

This animal is considered 'hippy'. When they are hippy, they are always almost flat over the hindquarters. Your hands will catch right before the hips, and 'bounce', like over a speedbump when you go over the hip area.


This is the same animals in a different view. He is overtucked a bit, and if you use your imagination, you can see how super flat over the hindquarters he would be if posed correctly. In the photo he is already sloped and flat as it is. Note how far forward his rear toes are compared to his knee/stifle. Also with being overtucked/overposed, the peak of his topline is in front of the hips, so he peaks early, not just a fraction of a measurement behind the hips.


This animal tapers from the shoulders through to the hindquarters quite nicely. He will feel smooth to the hands and there are no 'speedbumps'. He may be a bit 'beefy' in the shoulders and lack that nice taper. Hard to tell in this view. But I am giving him the benefit of the doubt right now.


See how nice and smooth this animal is? Well filled hindquarters. Smooth over the body from shoulders to hindquarters. I would like to see his profile from the side better to see how his topline is. On the New Zealand breed, the rise of the topline starts IMMEDIATELY behind the ears, peaking right behind the hip and I am not convinced his does this at the neck. Again.. more meat.


One photo I cannot find (and I don't have any of these in my rabbitry), is what is called "Weak in the Midsection". Just envision an hourglass looking rabbit when you look down on it. Fat in the shoulders. Narrow in the middle. Fat in the hindquarters. Not desirable.


Narrow shoulders is another one, which is undesirable. Think of the neck of the beaker as the shoulders of the rabbit, and the bottom as the hindquarters. I couldn't find a photo of that, but you ought to get the idea with the beaker.


Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2014, 05:39:32 PM »
Rising from the neck, peaking just behind the hips... (for most commercial type breeds)



Cedar
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 05:57:39 PM by Cedar »

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2014, 05:56:00 PM »
I am showing you this as an example of what a rabbit breed Standard looks like. Point are not points per se, but where the most emphasis is put on the animal. Each breed (and variety/color, also has a standard.. to make everything UNIFORM -- even though pelts are a by-product, if you have off types of a blue rabbit, the furriers have a difficult time matching it to make a uniform, even colored coat (or whatever).. so a standard for varieties/color was made -- Cedar)

Standard of Perfection for the Californian rabbit breed

General Type.............................65
Body..............................58
Hindquarters.......22
Midsection...........19
Shoulders...........17
Head.......................................3
Ears........................................2
Eyes........................................0
Feet & Legs............................2
Tail.........................................0

Showroom classes & weights
Senior Bucks-8 months of age and over, weight 8 to 10 pounds. Ideal weight is 9 pounds
Senior Does-8 months of age and over, weight 8 1/2 to 10 1/2 pounds. Ideal weight is 9 1/2 pounds
Intermediate Bucks-under 8 months of age, not over 9 pounds
Intermediate Does-under 8 months of age, not over 9 1/2 pounds
Junior Bucks-Under 6 months of age, not over 8 pounds. Minimum weight 5 1/2 pounds
Junior Does-under 6 months of age, not over 8 1/2 pounds. Minimum weight 5 1/2 pounds
Pre-Junior bucks and does-Under 3 months of age. not over 5 1/2 pounds
NOTES: Pre-juniors are not to count in show display. Juniors and Intermediates which exceed maximum weight limits may be shown in higher age classifications. No animal may be shown in a lower age classification than its tru age.

General Type
Body-Points 58: The body will be of medium length, depth of body to approximately equal width. It shall have good depth of hindquarters and well developed shoulders, with the shoulders being slightly lower and narrower than the hips, forming a slight taper. The back is to rise gradually from the nape of the neck to the high point over the hips. To be plump and firm of flesh. Faults:Racy, mandolin, or any type  away from a plump, firm, meaty, body. Cut severely for shoulders wider than hips;long, narrow head; extra long neck; flatness over back, especially over hips; rough, bony, protruding hips.

Hindquarters-Points 22: Hindquarters are to be broad, deep, smooth, and well rounded, with well filled firm flesh. lower and back sides are to be well filled. Hindquarters are to be slightly wider and deeper than shoulders, with enough depth and width to indicate roundness when viewed from any direction. The loin is to be broad and deep, with enough width to blend the hindquarters and midsection. Faults: narrow; flat; pinched; undercut; chopped, bony rump; weak loin; protruding hip bones; rough over spine

Midsection-Points 19: Rib section to gradually rise from front to hips. It is to be broad and deep enough to balance with shoulders and hips. midsection is to be well rounded, with as much firm fless as possible down the sides. Faults: Narrow; flat; rough; not well filled

Shoulders-Points 17: Shoulders are to be well developed, with firm flesh. They are to have good depth and width. Shoulders are to be slightly lower and narrower than the hips. They are to rise from the front of the neck with a smooth taper towards the high point. Faults: Too narrow or too wide to balance with hindquarters; Excessive fat or loose, flabby flesh over shoulders.

Head-Points 3: The head is to be well shaped and medium full. It is to be carried erect on a short neck and set close to the body. Buck heads are to be a little fuller than does. Faults: Long, slim head; pinched nose (You might laugh on the ears and the head, but lopping ears on an upright breed could mean poor cartilage.. poor air circulation to cool the animal -- Cedar)

Ears-Points 2: Length is to be in proportion to the size of the body. They are to be well set on the head, strong at base, and carried in a straight, upright position. Faults: Heavy; open; spoon shaped; weak ear base.

Eyes-Points 0: To be bright and bold

Feet and Legs- Points 2: Bone is to be medium in size, with rather short legs preffered. Toenails should be as dark as possible. Light colored nails, showing pigmentation, must match on that foot and the corresponding foot. Faults: Long or heavy bone.

Tail-Points 0: The tail is to be straight and carried erect. Length and size is to be in proportion to the body.

Color and Markings- Points 5: Californians are to have a colored nose, ears, feet, and tail. Color is to be as near black as possible. Eye stains (which is colored fur -- Cedar) or colored spots confined to the dewlap are permissible. Body color is to be pure white. Eyes-Pink. Faults: any other color

Disqualifications from Competition-Any color or smut on the usable portion of the pelt. Color above the elbow joint of the frong leg. Color on the rear legs is not to extend more than 2 inches above the hock joint, with the fur in its normal position. Complete absence of color on nose, ears, feet, or tail. Definite clean white spots in colored markings. Any Tan Pattern marking appearing in a Californian marking.

Condition-Points 10: Per ARBA definition.





You want your animals to be uniform. And even with these guidelines you can have uniform body type on your meat crossbreed rabbits. Breed towards a goal. Ideally at least one of those goals should be meat production if you are trying to put meat on your table. I was also told a long long time ago, don't choose more than two goals to change for traits at a time. When you get one of both of those accomplished, then choose 1-2 more goals.

Ideally my goals would be:
8 or better in the nextbox. 8-10 or more raised to 4.5 to 5.5 pounds at 56 days.
5 litters or more per year per doe. Some breeders do 7. I do 5-6.
Acclimate to my area
Breed for SoP body type standards.

A pretty uniform litter of New Zealand Reds. You want to not be able to tell one rabbit from another without a tattoo.


Cedar

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2014, 06:32:29 PM »
That is basically it from me, unless you have questions. Somewhere around here, I have a step-by-step rabbit butchering post too, if needed. I did it like2 years ago?

Cedar


nelson96

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2014, 07:03:46 PM »
Excellent information Cedar, but this doesn't mean that you won't personally help me if I decide to try out rabbits, does it?  ;D

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2014, 07:07:14 PM »
Excellent information Cedar, but this doesn't mean that you won't personally help me if I decide to try out rabbits, does it?  ;D

You know I would, and you remember the deal I told you if you wanted some of mine?

Cedar

nelson96

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2014, 07:15:13 PM »
You know I would, and you remember the deal I told you if you wanted some of mine?

I do. . . .  Thank you.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2014, 07:43:29 PM »
That is basically it from me, unless you have questions. Somewhere around here, I have a step-by-step rabbit butchering post too, if needed. I did it like 2 years ago?
Cedar

Found it http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=34598.msg388211#msg388211

I said 5 minutes per rabbit, but it is not even 3 if I am dawdling, but I have done lots and lots and lots of them in 38 years. It is basically muscle memory, you will get it too in time. One of these days I want to time myself and see if I can get 90 seconds. But for most times, it is 2 minutes. I am working a deal with Z now that he kills, hangs them up and cuts their heads off... then we hang 5-7 at a time, otherwise I usually kill and hang 3 at a time. He lacks the finesse for the other parts and is slow. We tend to butcher out 10-30 fryers each butchering session.

And I don't know why I said I cut the head off after the tail. I really hang them upside down and then cut the head off, then continue tail to the rest.

Cedar
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 08:13:44 PM by Cedar »

Joel

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2014, 01:56:54 PM »
I have a step-by-step rabbit butchering post too, if needed.

Yes, please.  :)

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2014, 03:20:13 PM »
Yes, please.  :)

Right in the post above yours Joel.

Cedar

Joel

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2014, 07:36:23 PM »
Thanks, Cedar. Having skinned and butchered numerous rabbits (though not as many as you by at least three orders of magnitude) I was really just interested in how one goes about killing a caged rabbit. I always shot mine from a respectful distance.

I thought that probably shooting would be the simplest/quickest way, and you have validated me. I am now higher in my own opinion.  :)

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2014, 09:52:55 PM »
I thought that probably shooting would be the simplest/quickest way, and you have validated me. I am now higher in my own opinion.  :)

Good.

Cedar

Offline TheBippy

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2014, 02:17:20 AM »
TIL if I was a meat rabbit, I'd be hippy. And yeah, I have a flat butt to go with it.  ::)

This is a fantastic post and I'm so glad you wrote it, Cedar!

Offline The Morgan Hill Homesteading Project

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2017, 05:15:21 PM »
this is the cage that I have. kinda big for rabbits. I found it over ta the ranch.

https://goo.gl/photos/VpPByaQTq4eHChyu8

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2017, 05:59:28 PM »
this is the cage that I have. kinda big for rabbits. I found it over ta the ranch.

https://goo.gl/photos/VpPByaQTq4eHChyu8

Not too large of a cage at all, looks like a 30"x36"? I thought you said you got crossbreds, sure those are not Broken color New Zealands? 90 days after breeding you will have meat on the table. Did you help me butcher? Do you remember how?

Remember the wooden nextboxes you helped build? Make one for your doe. I would also get 12" J-feeders. I only use 12" ones now, and then I do not have to keep switching around.


Cedar

Offline The Morgan Hill Homesteading Project

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #25 on: July 08, 2017, 06:17:07 PM »
the local feed store had only 1 J feeder the day that I bought them, which was last Saturday. I am sure I can fins some plywood to build a nest box.

Here are some plans for building a lot of nest boxes put of a sheet of plywood.

http://www.thenaturetrail.com/rabbit-equipment/build-nestbox-wood-plan/

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #26 on: July 08, 2017, 06:22:54 PM »
Put a solid bottom on the bottom, DONT use wire!! Nestboxes are consumables, expect to burn it eventually.

Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #27 on: July 08, 2017, 06:36:58 PM »
  And Jack Daniels TANGY Barbeque sauce is about as good as it gets ,even for medium grade bumper bunny. Good eating . :)

Offline Cedar

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #28 on: July 08, 2017, 07:01:03 PM »
Bone it all and make pulled rabbit with it.. with coleslaw... THAT is tasty..

Cedar


Offline Carl

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Re: Judging Meat Rabbits for home use
« Reply #29 on: July 08, 2017, 07:12:17 PM »
Bone it all and make pulled rabbit with it.. with coleslaw... THAT is tasty..

Cedar

I guess it is ,I just use Chicken Helper or Stove Top dressing as I rarely eat so fancy...one pot to cook and often just eat from the pot after I spoon some out for hy helper Dawg.