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  #1  
Old 08/05/11, 05:21 PM
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
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California Meat Rabbits

So, I was going to raise meat rabbits...does this plan sound good to you?::

-Have one pen (3x4) with three does in it. That means each doe gets four square feet. They will "mingle," and live with each other until one week before they are about to give birth. At that time, I will place dividers in the pen, giving each doe their own four square foot area. The kids will live with the does until six weeks, when they will be weaned.

-Have one pen, (8x8) with all the kids (about 18) in it. That means each kid gets a little more than 3 square feet. They will live and grow together in this pen until slaughter weight, at ten weeks of age. Is that the age I should plan to slaughter?

-All the pens will be made out of PVC pipe and chicken wire. They will be on the grass, giving all the rabbits the ability to munch on it. Every now and then, when it appears they have eaten a large part of the grass, I will move then pen. I will plan to move two or three times a month for kids, and once a month, if that, for the does.

Now for some QUESTIONS!!:

- I am going to raise California meat rabbits. I have heard they will be about eight pounds at slaughter. Is that accurate?

-I have also heard that a rabbit consumes about four pounds of feed to produce one pound of body weight? Is this true, especially for Californias? This would mean they will consume about 32 pounds of feed by slaughter.

- Is a 17% protien feed acceptable to feed the rabbits all their life? What about the does? The buck?

-How much feed should the California does get?

Thanks so much (:

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  #2  
Old 08/05/11, 05:29 PM
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Location: Idaho
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Rabbits might chew pvc, if you raise them for 4 1/2 monthes they might be 8 pounds. But i ususally harvest mine at 12 weeks and 4 1/2 pounds.
Cals are not near as good as white new zealand or champayne d argents.
If you raise them to be 4 1/2 monthes your going to need a seperate cage for each as they will fight and breed each other.

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  #3  
Old 08/05/11, 05:38 PM
 
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Oh, ok. Then I may change my mind to raising New Zealend. What will their live weight be at eight weeks? Twelve weeks? Can you get a 65% carcass weight?

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  #4  
Old 08/05/11, 05:51 PM
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I don't know about percentages and so much is going to depend on your feed and genetics.
I butcher NZW at 10 weeks, the whole litter. Some will be small and the larger ones I either sell them for breeders or keep them for my own breeders. Usually the nicest ones are 4 3/4 pounds. ocasionally they hit 5 pounds. At that age the bucks are bigger, but the does out grow them latter.
But it depends on your rabbits how fast they grow.

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  #5  
Old 08/05/11, 06:51 PM
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
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Your doe enclosure is nowhere near big enough for three does. That is only 2'x2' when you put in the dividers. The grass will be eaten down in one or two days. I don't know what you intend to use for wire mesh, but it needs to be predator proof and there needs to be wire on the bottom to keep the rabbits from digging out.

I'm sorry, but it doesn't sound to me as though you have enough experience to handle this kind of set-up. I really think individual cages, 30"x36" would be better for your rabbits. Either build a shed or a shelter to contain them, depending on the climate where you live. Make sure they have shade in summer and plenty of air circulation. In winter they need protection from wind and precipitation.

A good rabbit book, such as Bob Bennett's The Storey Guide to Raising Rabbits will give you good general information on viable rabbit set-ups.

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  #6  
Old 08/05/11, 07:00 PM
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
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Thanks Guys!

And I forgot to mention...I will extend the enclosure at birthing time to allow for more space. And there will be mesh on the ground.

I will start looking for that boook

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  #7  
Old 08/05/11, 08:22 PM
 
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The doe pens definitely need to be bigger at least while there are kits. 4sq ft is about half what I give my caged does with kits. I'm not sure pregnant does will get along in that size space either when the dividers aren't in. They might be fine for awhile but mine have a tendency to go a bit territorial about a week after being bred and I get scuffles throughout my colony with 3 does and their last litter in 12x12' horse stalls. With that much space they settle things again without injury and then are fine until they get close to giving birth and then they'll stake out a corner or box and not let anyone near it while they prepare it until after they've given birth. In just 3x4' I'm not sure your does will settle their territorial disputes during pregnancy without injury from the lack of space they can claim as their own. The smallest successful space I've used is 8x8 for sibling does or 3x6 for a mother and daughter mini rex so at least half to 1/3rd the size of my meat rabbits.

Rabbits can destroy chicken wire. So can everything else but a chicken. Chicken wire is good for nothing but keeping chickens in. It won't keep determined rabbits in or predators out. I used chicken wire to divide colonies just because I had it on hand and it's not a huge deal if they get through. My one doe who gets a bit hormonal and crazy when she is ready to breed has torn through it 3 times to get to the champagne buck kept in the other colony and some young rabbits went through it once to the other side probably just out of boredom.

Do your pens have bottoms? Rabbits will dig out, predators will dig in. Chicken wire will rust quickly against regular soil and again be torn by both rabbits and predators.

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  #8  
Old 08/05/11, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtm8878 View Post
Every now and then, when it appears they have eaten a large part of the grass, I will move then pen. I will plan to move two or three times a month for kids, and once a month, if that, for the does.
I second Maggie's response that three does will not have ANY grass in a 3x4 pen after a month. In fact, I'd be surprised if they had any after a day--not to mention the amount of feces in this limited space! In this type of setup you would move the kits 2-3 times a DAY and the does DAILY.
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  #9  
Old 08/05/11, 10:02 PM
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If you switch your rabbits to free feed pasture suddenly you won't have any rabbits. They will gorge themselves on the greens, bloat and die. Same with the kits. All greens need to be introduced gradually.

If there are raccoons, foxes, coyotes, cats, or stray/feral dogs in your area you need to keep your rabbits safe from them. Chicken wire won't do that.

17% is acceptable. But the protein percent is not the only thing you should be looking at. The feed pellets should have a high percentage of alfalfa or other forage products. Corn is the first ingredient in a lot of feeds, not good. Also you should have access to good quality grass hay. Rabbits do best of they have good quality grass hay available all the time.

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  #10  
Old 08/05/11, 10:19 PM
 
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I agree with 30x36 cages for the females, you can get a triple stack and it will not take up much room and if you are only going to have three breeding doe you should have no trouble picking plenty of greens in the summer to give them with the pellets. I know some people do not like stacking cages because the trays have to be emptied but I have never had an issue with it. I have 20 cages and it takes less than an hour to empty all of them

IMO keeping the ones that you will be eating past 12 weeks is a waste of feed, after 12 weeks the growth rate seems to slow and they still eat a lot.

Are you going to breed all three at the same time? Personally I prefer to stagger the litters so that I have fresher meat and do not have to clean 20 rabbits all at once

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  #11  
Old 08/05/11, 11:37 PM
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I agree with Pancho
 
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My two Cali does I raised together do ok in the same pen, but if I put them in a grazing pen with other does, they act like they're in a kick boxing ring trying to stomp the other does.

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  #12  
Old 08/06/11, 10:02 AM
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It's really rare for adult rabbits to NOT fight. When I was short of cage space I had two black New Zealands in a 10'x2.5' growout pen. They fought each other daily and I quick like butchered some to make room for them, because they couldn't be kept to gether. They were sisters and raised together, too. MOST female rabbits will become territorial, bred or not.

Pen size is way to small. My cage size is 30x30, which does get cramped with a doe and her litter at 6 weeks, but being her litter and young to boot, everybody gets along fine.

For growout, I have a 10'x30" cage. I've put as many as 27 at a time for growout, and as long as there was food/water everything was great, Everybody had room to stretch out and I never noticed any fighting. There is only rabbits in there frm 6 weeks to about 10 weeks of age, however.

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  #13  
Old 08/07/11, 05:01 PM
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Oh wow. The original scenario described sounds like a disaster on so many levels. You have some good advice on this thread, definitely take notes!

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  #14  
Old 08/08/11, 09:20 PM
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Ive raised new zealand and Californian crosses for meat for over 5 years, and have marketed them quite sucessfully, I can tell by reading your posts that you WANT to know the right way to do things, but dont quite get it yet......you go ahead and find that book , and read it cover to cover, then youll have a new set of questions, and through the suppot of folks who have gone before you ( such as those here) you will eventually find your way....I wish you the best of luck. rabbits really are a great project for so many different reasons.

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