Rabbits
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Right now on the farm my morning chores are to feed and water the rabbits. I have learned a lot about rabbits in the last year, and still have a lot to learn. The book we reference here on the farm is Rabbit Production by Cheeke, Patton & Templeton.

One of my favorite parts is when a mother rabbit kindles (gives birth) and we go in to count how many bunnies she had. They are so tiny when they are first born!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the warmer months, just-weaned rabbits are put out onto pasture in what we call Harepens. These have slatted floors so that the rabbits can reach lots of fresh grass. We move them at least once a day, sometimes twice.

Do you raise rabbits?

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About Brie Aronson

Brie Aronson came to Polyface from southern California. During college, she was diagnosed with food allergies and had to begin asking about the source of every single thing she put in her mouth. This led to an interest in all things food and she sought out a way to learn how it can be produced ethically and sustainably. Her desire is to help people shift their focus from counting calories, being intimidated by their kitchens, and being disconnected from the land to one that experiences the life-giving enjoyment of food. Having completed the internship in summer 2010, she now assists with the buying clubs and sales building, leads school tours of the farm, and will be the summer 2012 farm cook.
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19 Responses to Rabbits

  1. Dalles Hayes says:

    We have just started Brie, sick rabbits, the young ones that have various wounds become the ‘missing’ household pet for a while.

    After purchasing 4 breeding rabbits we are left with one male and one female plus one litter of 5.

    We have lost one female to infection due to the male rabbits attentions, and we lost the other female because of a dog entering our property without our knowledge.

    3 kits from the current kindle have various wounds that need attention so that the 4 kids at home have sufficient pets to keep them happy, … for now.

  2. Amy says:

    I raise rabbits for meat. I’ve been wanting to try the slat floor cages, since I heard about them, but at this point the rabbits are in a more traditional cage set up. I feed them crimped grains, fresh greens, and alfalfa hay, because there is no organic grain option in my area. I’m raising the Creme D’Argent, and wondered what breed Polyface farm is raising. I looked that book up on Amazon and the prices ranged from $67.00 to $692.00. I’ve been referencing Raising Rabbits the Modern Way by Ann Kanable. I like that she focuses on meat production and not just pet rabbits.

    • Richard Taylor says:

      I raise my rabbits outside by the garden for meat. They are feed a constant diet of fresh greens and some commercial feed. My greens come from the garden and from dumpster behind the grocery store. They are very well fed! I use bales of hay to constuct warrens and fencing for them. The bales are then used in the garden for mulch later. Thanks for the tip on Raising Rabbits the Modern Way.

  3. Amy says:

    I don’t raise rabbits but have considered it as a way to supplement our meat supply. I wonder if the slatted crates would work for chickens as well? Seems like it would be an easy way to pick chickens up too and move them.

  4. ken anastasi says:

    i have some questions for joel salatin,
    i have puchased and read all his books but i have some questions. i know he is a busy man and would not have time to get back to me.
    #1. do you have an alternative method for dariy farmers?
    #2Lime? should lime be applied to fields, gardens and pastures? is it needed?
    #3 would manuer from dariy cows on antibiotis and wormer be OK for composting?
    #4 how did Daniel overcome the problem of rabbits getting sich on the pasture? eatting fresh grass.
    #5 we oil rabbits ears with minerial oil. does Polyface oil the rabbits ears?

    thank
    “Joel Salatin fan”
    ken anastasi

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Hi Ken,
      Let me see if I can answer some of your questions or at least point you in the right direction for answers.

      1. Yes, a former apprentice of ours Nathan Vergin is raising dairy cattle on pasture with a portable milking parlor, you can contact him and see more information about him here: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/2011/07/25/nathan-vergin-staunton-va/

      2. I know that we use Planters II with our compost when we spread it on the fields. They are listed on this page: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/resources/

      3. I would think yes, but that would be a good question for Nathan.

      4. Breeding. He culled the ones that didn’t do well and started slowly. Now he recommends that you buy from a pastured rabbit breeder if you can find one.

      5. Again, breeding. Ear mites are a genetic weakness. Daniel culls for this.

      Hope this helps. :) Thanks for asking! I’ll have Daniel look this over at some point and see if he has anything more to add.

  5. Karissy says:

    Over this last year myself and 2 other families have joined to make a co-op farm. We have a colony style of raising rabbits in large fenced in indoor and out door warren hills. Constructed of logs, rocks and boulders, boughs and branches, lots of dirt and even loader buckets of snow on top occasionally we creat a place where they can build their own natural burrows and be left to their own. We provide mostly hay and suppliment with a low protein grain pellet, but are planting our own feeds this year for next summer. With a combination of different pens for different ages and breeding, we can maintain a dynamic social rabbit community, and use the outdoors even in the extreme cold for growing out and breeding. Our one buck is rotated between two breeding pens to provide control and so that we know when to cycle the pregnant does into the hill in the barn to adjust, build their nesting site, and to kindle. We have looked at the tractor design but find it much more economic to large scale it, move the pen sites yearly, and provide fresh hay from the feilds they would be tractored on if we were to providing them with the same diet, as well as every few months we scrap up blankets of waist high sod to unroll and have growing for them in the pens. The plan as our herd grows is to take this to a larger scale of freerange pasture large enough to meet their needs for the growing season and have them contained and protected as you would any other livestock in the feild. We are hoping to cause a sensation of people driving by huge feilds with herds of bunnies and rabbits running around instead of cows and pigs ;)

  6. Tonia says:

    We currently raise pet rabbits… Or my youngest daughter does. We have raised meat in the past and are looking at getting more.. I have a friend who has a chinchilla buck and doe wanting a doe out the pair and then a buck who is a cross of largeer breeds to start with.. We shall see. WE feed ours a pellet with hay and other greens but looking at getting away from the pellets..Especially for the meat breeds.
    Rabbits are a great way to add to the variety of meat that dont take much room and are ready for processing fairly quick..

  7. Caitlyn M. says:

    I have 15 meat rabbits at the moment, but with some litters on the way. :) I plan on trying the hare pen idea in the spring!

  8. Melissa S. says:

    We really enjoyed our visit to Polyface Farm this summer. Daniel gave a talk on Rabbits and it was wonderful. When is he going to write a book on raising rabbits? If not a book at least a pamphlet. Would Polyface ever sell live pastured rabbits to those trying to take up this model.

  9. AlizaEss says:

    Yes, we are raising rabbits here in Baltimore City (photos of our newest litter of Rex rabbits are posted: http://www.baltimorediy.org/2011/11/rex-bunny-update.html).

    My biggest problem is that I love feeding them clover, fruit scraps, etc. and giving them cardboard boxes to play with. I’ve gotten a bit too attached and now I don’t feel great about raising them for meat. My gentleman friend does the culling so I will just leave the property… I was raised vegetarian and don’t really feel the need enough to raise the rabbit for meat, although the fur is pretty tempting. We also raise chickens and have raised ducks and I have helped with the culling of those.

  10. PeterPansDad says:

    That’s what the French call an expensive book, they just say it in French. It appears the paperback won’t come out till next month and will still be high. Good think my library has it!

  11. We raise Californian rabbits for meat in SE Texas. We have a more traditional set up, wire cages, but they are outside. They are fed a pelleted feed, oats, hay and all the water they will drink. I do take them out from time to time to run around and have thought about the tractor as a way to do this more easily…but we have lots of “predators”, raccoons, possum, feral cats, so for the mean time, they will stay in the cages.

  12. Joe Looney says:

    In Northern California (but born in Staunton and raised in the Shenandoah Valley!)I’m currently raising Californian meat rabbits for home consumption. I will have to try the Harepen – nice idea. I also like the previous idea of using the bales for warren containment. Both ideas will help me get my rabbits out of the cages more. Thanks for the blog and everyone’s contribution. Hope to meet Joel on Jan 22nd at the Nevada Co. Food and Farm Conference. Will also have to get to Polyface one day!

  13. Hi Sheri,

    I’d love to try your harepen system, but it seems like it requires a large country property, right? On our small-town property, we only have about 1100 square feet of backyard. In that space, a 3×8 foot harepen would have about 46 different spots it could sit on. So if we move the harepen daily, that means each spot would only get 45 days of rest. I know our grass grows much faster than that, but is that enough time for the soil to metabolize the rabbit waste, etc?

    Also, can the rabbits be left outside year-round? Here in PA, our winter average low temperature is 15F, and our summer average high is 85F.

    Thanks!

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      HI Anthony,
      You’re right, the harepen probably wouldn’t be the best fit for your current property. You might want to consider a “raken” style house (chickens/rabbits) and carry green chop to the rabbits.
      No, the rabbits cannot be outside year round. Well, I suppose they could, however, they like a year round temperature of around 70 degrees. We move our rabbits to the greenhouses during the winter. It get cold at night, but warm during the day. This keeps them happy. :)

      • Darn! I really love the simplicity of the harepen system, and how the rabbits can just eat the grass naturally. With the raken setup, the rabbits are elevated and the chickens are below, right? But the chickens aren’t confined to a 3×8′ space like the rabbits, right, so how much space do they need? And how many chickens do you need, one per rabbit? Are we talking broilers or layers? Thanks for the reply!

        • Don says:

          Anthony, you could make a small tractor and finish your rabbits on the grass for a nice healthy rabbit in the last few weeks would give them fresh greens and outside exposure and exercise before you slaughter. I built a small 2×6 pen when we lived in the city with only a tiny yard. Never needed a lawn mower while I lived there, just need to overcome the temptation to leave them on the ground for too long and don’t run your be preceding stock on the ground as it would be a bigger issue if they picked up a parasite. Now we run 3×8 pens since we live in the country. I plan to build more pens for rabbits and for meat birds as well.

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