Rabbits?

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by Caprice Acres, Apr 9, 2006.

  1. Caprice Acres

    Caprice Acres AKA "mygoat" Staff Member Supporter

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    A friend of mine is getting into rabbits, and I think they might be an interesting addition to the farm. What I wonder, is if they actually would be profitable? I am interested in the Angoras, Netherland Dwarfs, Mini-Satins, Mini-Rex, and the Britannia Petite to choose from... I have done some major internet reading up on them. After I can drive on my own (I'm 16, but late on the drivers training, lol) I may want to get into showing, but I know I will want to breed them.
    My questions are : Are they easy to raise/own, or is this a hobby I should pass on? What do I need to start up, other than hutches? (what size are the hutches, also? I plan to build them.) Do they need special winter housing, other than thier hutches? I might just build hutches with an enclosed area in the back, so they can stay warm in winter. What kind of water source is best, bottle or crock? Do they need a mineral source, like with goats? What medicines do I need for them, what size needles, other equipment?
     
  2. Xandras_Zoo

    Xandras_Zoo Well-Known Member

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    Hello mygoats,

    Would they be profitable? Well, do you plan to eat them? If not, then you'll just be selling to pet owners, and some show breeders. Selling rabbits to pet owners is the same as selling dogs, cats, etc. If you breed lots and sell to whoever wants to buy, you could probably make a profit (a bunny mill). If you breed carefully from only the best stock and screen prospective owners to make sure they're aware of rabbit problems, expenses, and care, then you may break even or be a little under. Most show breeders have around 30 rabbits, name their rabbits, cuddle their rabbits, have baby rabbits and see if they can get a perfect example of their breed. They don't do it to make money.

    If you don't mind spending some extra time, you could get the angoras and sell the wool... but with a small number, I'm not sure the money would be worth the extra time and effort.

    If you don't want to breed meat rabbits or purebreds to improve the breed (and that means quaility bunnies, not someone's pet quaility culls), then really you are only adding to rabbits in shelters.

    Are they easy to take care of? Raising and showing any kind of animal takes work, but rabbits are quite easy.
    If you have wire floors and trays, you have to hose them off every week.
    You need to feed your rabbits hay and a portion of pellets everyday, and you need to water them everyday (you have goats, so I'm sure that's just common sense to you).
    You also need to run your hand over every bunny just to be sure there isn't anything like a lump or some discharge or a damaged toe. You need to check litters too.
    Rabbits you plan to show need to be trained to pose and handled so they're nice and calm for the show table. Your babies need to be handled often too (but that's the fun part!).
    I personally think you should let your rabbits exercise at least once a week. For your average 30 rabbits, 5 8' x 3' runs would do it.
    Other then shows, that's about it...

    About winter:
    Fully grown, properly fed rabbits could survive your winter with just a tarp over their cage. However, if you want your rabbits to be *comfortable*, I'd recommend at least giving each bunny a nestbox filled with straw or hay. Probably the best solution would be an insulated but well ventilated shed. That way you wouldn't have to worry about animals scaring them to death or eating them, or litters freezing to death. You also won't have any extra work because you won't have to clean the nestbox (it will get soiled very quickly).

    About Equipment:
    Yeah. A shed is nice.

    All wire cages (otherwise they get grimy and smell). They say .75 sq. ft. per lb of rabbit, which means for a 2 lb netherland dwarf, you'd give it a cage with 1.75 sq ft. (2 x .75). I think that's too small. If you want a good size cage for netherland dwarfs without litters, 2' x 2' is ok. 2' x 2' 6" is nice for dwarfs with litters. If you want to be generous, 2' x 3' will house mulitple juniors (don't forget the juniors!), bucks, does, does with litters of all the small breeds-and everybody will be very happy with all that space! If you use trays and keep the cages 18" high, you can stack the cages 3 tiers high.

    Nestboxes (12"x 10" for small breeds)

    Feeders, you can access them from outside the cage, so all you have to do is walk down the aisle and dump food in the feeder. Also, in doe cages, the litter will have a hard time peeing in the food (they LOVE to do that).

    Hay racks (wire bent into a v shape and hung on the outside of a cage)

    Water bottles (way better then crocks, worth the extra $$)

    Pedigree sheets (you can make your own or order from a rabbit supply company)

    Something to keep records in- you need to keep records of your costs, your litters (deaths, births, etc.), where the babies went, etc. etc.

    A grooming/ posing table

    Hutch cards, to keep information on the resident of the cage

    A rabbit tattoo kit- you'll need this if you plan to show

    Cleaning supplies

    Bunny toys! some bunnies really love toys. The best it just an untreated whisk broom, zap-strapped to the inside of the cage.

    If bucks spray you need urine guards.

    Feed them 2 tablespoons of pellets per lb of bunny (special requirments for does with litters, I'm sure you can find it somewhere on the net)

    Unlimited hay (gives them something to do during the day and promotes good digestion)

    Treats! All bunnies like carrot tops and lettuce (yeah, I know it's supposed ot be bad for them, but they enjoy it and a little won't hurt) :)

    I think that's all!
    Good, luck, and I hope you get started in show bunnies!

    Ps. Britannia Petite's can be a little temperamental, so keep that in mind. Also, you may want to check out tans, jersey woolies and thriantas- some of my personal favorites :)
     

  3. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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    Mygoat, rabbits can make great meat animals, pets, or show/breeding animals. I've been into them about two years now and I learn something new every day. If you're interested in them as a business, they are rather labor intensive. It is possible to make a living (i.e. full-time job) raising rabbits, but it is a lot of work. For a commercial meat herd, you'd need about 400-600 producing does if I remember correctly.

    Sounds like you could use a couple of good bunny books to get you started. "Your Rabbit: A Kid's Guide to Raising and Showing" by Nancy Searle is a great introduction to rabbits. "Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits" also has *some* useful stuff, although I and many other breeders disagree with the recommendation to medicate rabbits like crazy. They cover just about the same things.

    For further information, I'd suggest "Rabbits for Dummies" by Audrey Pavia as a good pet rabbit resource, and "Rabbit Production, 8th Edition" by McNitt, Patton, Lukefahr, and Cheeke as a good intro to commercial rabbit raising. I think many of these books can be purchased from KW Cages at www.kwcages.com or Klubertanz Equipment (www.klubertanz.com). Klubertanz doesn't carry "Rabbits for Dummies". Your local library may also have the first three books: Rabbit Production is more of a specialized book.

    Believe it or not, there's also some really cool breeds of rabbits that are facing extinction: for more info, check out the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy at www.albc-usa.org and click on the "Conservation Priority List" on the left sidebar.
     
  4. Caprice Acres

    Caprice Acres AKA "mygoat" Staff Member Supporter

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    I don't really want to make a profit, I just don't want to go into the negatives too far, lol. I don't think I would want 30 rabbits. I think I like the idea of the angoras as I can use or sell the fiber. I will probably also get some meat type rabbits for home use and maybe sell some surplus. What is a good meat type rabbit? So that makes me wanting... Netherland Dwarfs, Angoras, and a meat type? Goodness!
    I understand that starting out may be slow, but then I could grow from there. I really do hope to show them and will try to produce quality animals. Starting from scratch is going to be hard, though. I don't know how to start, though I'm sure where ever I get my rabbits from will be happy to show me how to pose and train rabbits.
    What type of medicines does everyone keep on hand? Are rabbits vaccinated for anything? Is there like a supply catalog that is full of all-rabbit supplies or something? I have a jeffers catalog but they have one page of rabbit supplies, lol.

    I really like the idea of the small runs, but will rabbits fight if put in these pens togeather? I read that you shouldn't keep pairs togeather unless they are bonded or something because they will fight. I don't want them to tear each other up! How high should I make these runs, and will they try to dig thier way out; should I bury the fencing for a few inches or so?
    Oh, and I definetly am looking forward to the cuddling and spending time with them, lol.
     
  5. Xandras_Zoo

    Xandras_Zoo Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I came off nasty in my first answer. I just don't like to see a bunch of rabbits being killed in a shelter. I'm sure you'll be a responsible breeder, I'm just a little touchy on the subject.

    Ha! I find it so hard to have a single breed, too. There are so many that I
    love.

    You could raise Netherland dwarfs for show and French or Satin angoras for wool and meat. Both breeds have "commerical" body types, so you could use the wool and eat them. French angoras don't need as much grooming as the English and the Satin. Satins have very fine, satiny wool. The downside is it will be quite hard to kill any adult angoras, after you've spent all that time handling them.

    Another option would be to forget about Netherland Dwarfs and raise English Angoras and something like a Champagne D'Argent. The nice thing about the Champagne's is that their coat is gorgeous and if you ate any adult rabbits you could save the fur for gloves or something.

    Here's a Champagne from Lucky Lizard Ranch.
    [​IMG]

    Honestly, the only medications for rabbits that seem to do any good are from the vet. You'll want to keep some hairball remedy for rabbits or cats on hand, ESPECIALLY if you have angoras. Something to stop blood when you clip their nails is handy, Kwick Stop is the good stuff, I think. Keep something to cool rabbits off in the summer, like frozen pop bottles. Rabbits don't need vaccines, and if you take good care of them they rarely get sick.

    We've spent thousands and thousands on rabbit vet care (we sort of have a rescue), and after the surgery/ one week stay (or even a 20 minute exam), the vet ALWAYS perscribes Chlor Palm 250. You don't want to test different antibiotics because rabbits have a very delicate digestive system and if you upset it they can die. If you can get some Cholor Palm, it would be worth it.

    As for rabbits supply, there are quite a few companies. Go to www.islandgems.net and then go to "links" and click rabbits supplies. Island gems also has lots on rabbit care and breeder's links.

    About the runs, I was meaning to keep bunnies in their cage but take them out in turns. BUT you could try a colony method. Some members on here do with meat rabbits. Meat rabbits to tend to be calmer, so keep that in mind, it might not work for Netherland dwarfs. You could try keeping the does in little groups (if you let the buck run loose too you'll never be able to control the breeding) and then when you want to breed them just put them in their own cage. If they did fight and a show bunny got bitten on the nose, you could never show it again. It might be worth a try, especially if you buy juniors and raise them together.

    For the height of a run, I'd say 3'. We had one Jersey Wooly buck that used to be able to clear 3' like nothing, but he was exceptional. Most aren't smart enough to consider that they could jump over.

    My rabbits have about 10 sq. ft. per lb of rabbit (a 3 lb jersey wooly would have an area 3' x 10'), and they ruined the grass! If you want to maintain grass, I'd say 20 sq. ft. per lb of bunny, and you'd have to bury the wire 6" or so. Option # 2 would be to just put gravel in their runs. They still get to run, but they don't get muddy paws.

    Another couple links you might want to check out
    http://www.hlrsc.com/ --- tons of useful info under "info and articles"
    http://www.tranquilacresrabbitry.com/content/index.asp -- rabbitry pictures, color charts, and general info.

    Hope that helps!
     
  6. Caprice Acres

    Caprice Acres AKA "mygoat" Staff Member Supporter

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    Thanks for all that good info. I can understand your concern about not wanting them to go to shelters, I don't want them there either! lol.
    I really don't want a ton of rabbits either, and I've been thinking that I could just pick out the colors I want and get maybe two pairs of each breed I want to start out with. I want to take my time selecting them as I want to get the highest quality I can find, locally however. I really like the Otter Netherland dwarfs, I think that they are gorgeous. Maybe also a pair of BEW, and I like the himilayans as well. I also like the French and Satin angoras, but I think I will go with the french. I don't really like the idea of the englishes, I would want to shave it's head clean so the poor thing could see,lol. For the angoras, any color will do, not to concerned there. Maybe I'll just get three angora does and one buck to breed them all to. I don't know if I would be able to eat the angoras unless they were mean, lol. I think I would get attached. :) Maybe I would get some of those champagnes for meat production. they look pretty, and thier fur is nice looking too. How did you know I wanted to make rabbit-leather gloves, lol?

    oh, and I forgot to add, that gravel Idea is a good one. I think I'll put some permanant runs from each hutch so each rabbit can get some excersize whenever it wants. I think what I'll do though is fence all over, below gravel, the top, and of cource the sides. Maybe I can even put a tarp under the gravel or like a tub or something so that I can clean the gravel well.
    Oh, and I already had that islandgems.com favorited, I can't stop going there! so much info! Thanks for the other links, tho. The're good too - going into favorites!!
     
  7. x_xbirdie

    x_xbirdie Well-Known Member

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    I suggest you go with wire cages. In the long run, they are less expensive, because with my wood hutch (for a pet rabbit, built it my self, very proud of it ^^) I've had to replace a bunch of the panels because of urine. Seems even if you give them a wire part, they love to go to the bathroom in the solid floor part. Wire cages, all you have to do is hose them down once in a while, and if you don't go the pan method, you can grow earthworms/compost under their cages, which you can sell as well!

    Before you look into breeds, look around, to see what people want, epescially with the pet market. People like smaller breeds, as most bunnies are for pets, and a lot of people don't want "bunny monsters" as one client told me.

    Also, cehck out ARBA.net, to see if there is a processor near you, as thats another outlet for you meat breeds, although most only take New Zealand White.

    But in the end, I suggest you get breeds that interest you, and fit your needs.

    - just my thoughts, Birdie
     
  8. Caprice Acres

    Caprice Acres AKA "mygoat" Staff Member Supporter

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    I think that I would only keep a single pair of the meat breed just for our own consumption. If we sold any, it would probably be alive...
     
  9. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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  10. Epodunk

    Epodunk Member

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    I've been lurking a while on this site and love the great advice and topics everyone has to offer. I've had my own experience as a past 4-Her raising rabbits for show and loved every minute of it. I'm now thinking of getting back into the "rabbit habit" with show rabbits and also meat rabbits (my culls).

    Anyway, to respond to mygoat, I had to add my two cents:
    When buying rabbits in general, but most importantly for the small fancy breeds, buy for *temperment*! I can't stress this enough, especially for those small preeds in particular you spoke of: the brittania petitte and the Neth. Dwarf. Always buy from a reputable breeder and put your hands on the rabbits before buying. Those two breeds in particular have a reputation of potentially being very agressive and hard to handle, regardless of thier small size. I've had personal experience with my first rabbit (ND) starting out in 4-H. Of course not all are nasty, but just a word to the wise when out shopping for your starter herd rabbits. :)

    Have fun and good luck!
    ~Epodunk
     
  11. Xandras_Zoo

    Xandras_Zoo Well-Known Member

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    Too true. A loveable rabbit at least makes a good pet. A tempermental animal is worthless as pet and shouldn't be allowed to pass on its traits.
     
  12. Caprice Acres

    Caprice Acres AKA "mygoat" Staff Member Supporter

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    Yes, I think I want to keep all my fingers in working order. :) Tempramental bunnies will soon find thier way to the dinner table. Too bad netherlands are so small.... Would it be acceptable to just put it down? (humanely, of cource) If I sold it it I wouldn't be able to garrantee that it would't be bred, I wouldn't want to sell it as a pet, and I would't want it around my house, either! Does altering a rabbit make it less tempramental?
     
  13. Xandras_Zoo

    Xandras_Zoo Well-Known Member

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    Kill it (humanely) and feed it to the dogs, or stew it or something. Like I said, a temperamental rabbit isn't good for a single thing.

    There are several reasons rabbits can be nasty..
    If it is because of hormones, then yes, the bunny will mellow out if spayed or neutered. Things like mounting your feet and nipping them.

    Sometimes a territorial rabbit can be fixed by being altered, but they are also often cage aggressive because they can't see well up close and they just see a blob coming towards them.

    Rabbits can nip when they are grooming you (they might be licking your face and then start chewing on your eyebrow, for instance). With other rabbits, they might chew out a bur or something else they don't feel should be there. This could be your eyelid. Usually a squeak will set them straight.

    Another kind of "aggression" is really just a rabbit playing. Rabbits like it when one of their actions causes a reaction.
    For instance, we have a rabbit that, when in the kitchen, will try and jump up on the table and knock off glasses. She then leans over the edge and watches them break on the lino. SHE pushes the glass and the glass BREAKS.
    We have a rabbit who likes to chase the cat. Not hurt the cat, just run inbetween its legs and bump her nose against the cat's paws. SHE makes the cat MOVE.
    We have another one who will do something naughty- like try and chew wires- and then will run away and act innocent when you holler at her. She'll put her back to you but stare at you (rabbits can see behind them). SHE makes YOU make noise.
    This can manifest when the rabbit realises it can get a reaction out of you by biting. This can be fixed if you react negatively (like by giving the rabbit a shot of water in the face.)

    However, some rabbits are just mean. No point in keeping it around, or selling it as a pet. There are lots of very sweet rabbits that are killed in shelters, so why should a mean rabbit take up a cage?
     
  14. Jennifer L.

    Jennifer L. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Mygoat, I suggest you get into it slowly. Instead of trying to get every breed of rabbit and start out with all of them as soon as you can, start out with just one of the breeds and learn on them. Then get the other breeds gradually. I think you'll find it easier that way, plus, it will give you more time to think about what breeds you might want and you might change your mind on one and want another one instead. Also, you don't have to get a whole barn full of hutches/coops/cages at once, so it's not so expensive all at one shot.

    Have fun with them! :)

    Jennifer
     
  15. Caprice Acres

    Caprice Acres AKA "mygoat" Staff Member Supporter

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    LOL there's no way I could afford getting them all at once... Those were just the breeds I'm interested in. I think I will get a pair of Netherlands to start with, then go from there. After that I will either get another pair of Netherlands or get a pair of angoras...
     
  16. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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    Yup, I'd second Jennifer L. I'd suggest just working with one breed for at least a little while so you can become familiar with rabbits. Maybe show a bit or something so you know what's out there. Some breeds ARE harder to breed and show than others. Netherland Dwarfs for instance have very small litters and competition is often pretty tough.

    I'm working with two breeds right now, and it does get kind of hectic sometimes, especially at shows. It seems like both of my breeds are supposed to be up on the show table at the same time! Thank goodness for friends and family. :) I'm glad I didn't get every breed I've ever been interested in though: I'd be swapping breeds like hot potatoes. :) I like what we have now though: Californians since they're a popular meat and show breed (many folks want them) and Creme D'Argents to preserve a rare breed.

    And yes, REALLY focus on temperament with those little guys. You really don't want to deal with genetic temperament problems. :p
     
  17. twohunnyz

    twohunnyz Pacific Northwest

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    I'm new to the forum and came across your thread. I agree with the others. Start small: we started with a trio- one Buck, two Does, 4-6 months old. Choose the one breed you really, really like and fits all your needs. Then, after a year or so, get one of the others you liked, if you still want to expand to other breeds. Take your time! Make sure you have their housing and supplies before bringing your stock home. I highly recommend natural soil as the base under a single layer of all-wire cages. We use the slant front style which makes it very easy to reach in/out of the cage. Also, to keep start up expenses down, look for used cages and even hopper feeders. And buy just what you need for your stock plus a couple extra cages for grow out cages and the ones you want to sell. Temperment is absolutely essential! It is a hereditary trait and if you plan to sell extras as brood/show/pets, having a 'nice' line will go a long way. Keeping your rabbitry clean, low stress levels and quality feed will help your herd stay healthy. And, personally, I think they are extremely easy to care for! I have a few health problems and know of others with physical limitations that all do very well raising rabbits. Read as much as you can, also. Enjoy the journey!
    Krystal
    http://www.freewebs.com/twohunnyzrabbitry/