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rabbit farming - humble beginnings PT2
Sat 4-Sep-10
12:43 pm
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Budo1

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So here we are perched on the edge of a Welsh Mountain, over looking the valley and all I see is forestry and mountains, two portions of land¦ and very small at that and still dreaming. I sit on my decking and watch the buzzards sore on the therms as they survey their kingdom. Early evening I have the greatest joy in tracking a pair of red kite as they gracefully take to the sky. It fills my heart with so much joy and romantic ideals of childhood dreams of sitting on my own patch of little somewhere.

So a question was why I started and I guess the only way to answer it was I never stopped! Born into such a beautiful life style and emblazoned into my very Id, haunting my dreams of days gone by and a lifestyle far removed.

Meeting my wife, buying our first town cottage turning the garden in the cottage and 2 allotments into a growing paradise spurned on by my wife allergies and anaphylaxis and food intolerance I doggedly set out to prove that her toxaemia was a result of modern chemical farming method, poor diet and that wonderful modern consumer, ˜Sainsbury and M&S™ perfectly packaged, perfectly looking, sprayed / waxed / irradiated pristine food which they led people to believe they want and need. 

Supplying her with the physical proof that keeping an open mind for different view on life changed her quality of life and physical fitness.

On the onset our task was to grow what we used most of, then evolving to the unusual and interesting. The move to Wales left me with a shortage of growing space for some time and we decided to employ our organic ethos to the next largest portion of our food quality source of protein. Now being a keen sea angler and living here in Wales is a great advantage but to be frugal one must be dependant on a boat and good fortune with the weather ¦. ; /

   As a child here we had rabbits at the back of our property and my Grand father always kept Belgian hare and Dutch rabbit crosses. These were specifically for meat on the farm. My brother many years ago did the same with a pair of rabbit in his yard. It seamed a natural progression and as they say stick to what you know.

   And I know what you may be thinking¦ farms and fields¦ teaming with rabbit and hare, why do you need to raise your own? For me there are several points to consider and these are only in my very humble opinion.
 

  • You can never tell the age of wild game so cannot guarantee the meat quality ortenderness.
  • You can not guarantee that its disease free either. Or pesticide free.
  • I wanted a standard size, weight that i could count on etc so needed to control what was being fed to the animal.
  • I love the ˜game™ flavour but often I want something a little more delicate for some recipes.
  • You can never be certain that you can shoot what you desire and thoughts of my OTH sitting patiently with a pie cast ready to fill and returning home empty handed¦ well enough said big_laugh
  • They take up very little space and once you have your set up and planned routine it is not labour intensive.
  • The dividends are a high quality protien with the lowest fat and cholesterol content of all meats. With fantastic flavour.
  • A fast turn over, rapidly producing enough for the pot, freezer, friends and family and you pet dog!
  • Rabbit manure is 10x better than horse manure and can be dug straight into soil.
  • I am sure there are more but i could go on and on lol.. eeek i think i do that anyways lol.
Sat 4-Sep-10
1:08 pm
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Danny
Scarborough, England
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Just so everybody knows - I asked Rob, and he agreed, to describe his experiences of rabbit farming and to pass on some of his knowledge and expertise. Seems to me to be a great step along the road to partial self-sufficiency and could be possible to do with very little space. We shall see.

Thank you very much, Rob. Much appreciated.

Never knowingly underfed

Sat 4-Sep-10
2:47 pm
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Toffeeapple
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I'm loving Rob's stories as much as I do Carole's.

I'll try that again!

Sat 4-Sep-10
4:23 pm
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Budo1

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Toffeeapple said:

I'm loving Rob's stories as much as I do Carole's.


 

Thank you for your kind words. i have to admit was a little nervous on what to write.

Sat 4-Sep-10
4:27 pm
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Budo1

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Danny, yes exactly... where space may be a premium this is where the fit in so well. My next part is about breed choice and initial set up.

Sat 4-Sep-10
4:41 pm
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Toffeeapple
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No need to be nervous Rob, you tell a fine tale very well.  Any chance of some photos of your area and perhaps the rabbits too?

Yesterday, I Googled my old home in Abertillery and was shocked to see it as it is now.  I was able to wander the well remembered streets of 'home', made me quite homesick.

 

I'll try that again!

Sat 4-Sep-10
4:47 pm
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Budo1

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I have a few photos of the rabbit area under construction ( i am just trying to work out how to post them in), its a small tier of land that drops down from the front of my property.. my kids have called ' the drop'. I works quite well for it purpose as it isnt too big 14ft by 30 odd but has allowed me to construct a large shed and small shed and an area which im working out what to do with lol

Sat 4-Sep-10
5:17 pm
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Danny
Scarborough, England
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Rob, for guidelines on how to post photos, read up on the topic How to insert images in your post in the Help and How-to forum

Never knowingly underfed

Sat 4-Sep-10
6:36 pm
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Budo1

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Danny thanks my friend i will get right onto it.ok

Sat 4-Sep-10
11:02 pm
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brightspark
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Fascinating, Rob, and so interesting - and TA's right - you do tell a good story.

Don't stop!

brightsparklystuff

"Work for a cause, not for applause
Live life to express, not to impress
Don't strive to make your presence noticed
Just make your absence felt"
Sun 5-Sep-10
10:45 am
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Budo1

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Thank you all smile

So lets see.... where space is at a premium ? got a snug corner? end of a shed? or and end plot on allotment.... this is where the rabbit comes into its own i feel. The space needed to raise rabbits is minimal and after the intital outlays are relitively cheep - almost free to raise, depending on how you have decided to arrange your set up.

I have read all to often as an opening line ' selecting your breed is probably the most important decision you'll ever make concerning your rabbits' ... well im inclined to say contrary. Even though breed selection with any stock is vital to obtain the desire results. I do feel that there are a few intital decisions that will make things run soother, easier and hopefully trouble free.

My first concern is to view the area you have chosen, is it capable of housing 3 -4 standard size hutches?.. hang about i hear you say i only want  a male and female or as a rule of thumb mast breeders go for 'trio's' to rotate the does and allow a rest period. Well lets look at the fact - they do breed like rabbits!!tongue so leaving the buck with a doe who has just had kittens (baby rabbits) in the nest.. means that she will be moving into pro oestrus ( heat) almost immediately and pregnant again within hours.

A quick note here.. does ( female rabbits) do not have a regulated season e.g each month or tri/ bi monthly. it is generally regulated by hormones secreated by the male!! Place a healthy doe near a buck ( male rabbit) for an hour and then return herto him several hours later she will be receptive !! There are a few seasonal factors which may alter this slightly, but generally as one is controlling the environment and food supply this is generally not an issue. Secondly the Doe will eat her babies as a defence mechanism- will go into this  deeper later on.

So you will need a hutch for buck and doe/ does. I have seldom had multiple kindling ( doe's nursing babies) in the same hutch... this is a practice which i have looked into and it takes large spaces and lots of planning and experience with rabbit behaviour. I always try to have a spare hutch for  'over spill' once the kittens have weaned and are being fattened they will need space and depending on your program you may want to take all the bucks away. It is always nice to have a hutch empty ICE ( in case of emergencies) but not essential. So the good thing about having a small number of hutches is that they can be stacked or banked on top of each other.. so up rather than 'out'.  I tend to say a bank of 4 - due to ease of cleaning top hutch and the over spill of  'organic ball barings' dropping all over you when cleaning ha ha ha

There are many good articals on size of hutch.. the rspca has a very comprihensive one which i like, this is pertaining domestic housing rather than farmed... but i am inclined to lean in this direction as for me its about quality of life as well as quality of meat. defra has guidelines also and the good old 'tinternet'.... well ad infinitum! but not all good. I go for as longer run as i can and have hutches at 5ft, 6ft and a couple of 7ft . Rule of thumb is that the rabbit should be able to have at least 3-4 hops to the end of the main hutch- plus a nesting box. They love to hide and be able nest away - after all they are burrowers by nature. They should be able to sit up and not have their ears touch the hutch roof. most hutches in pet shops are built for these dwarf or smaller rabbit breed and when you place a good standard or larger breed into one it will quickly become obvious more space is needed. i scoure the freeads and  freecycle etc to find spare hutches. But have my own designs which i constantly change and improve that im happy with now.

I also give them a run outside when possible - be careful these lovely bouncy fluffy bandits will graze down a garden in next to no time doh and not all plants are safe... yes i speak from several 'raid' experiences.. finding all my potted herbs and seedlings down to little stumps and my lavender bushes looking like tumble weed !!

The area you choose should be weather free but airy although not full of strong draughts. Rabbits actually like a constant low temp, not too cold not too hot and fall into bad health if in damp conditions.

To save time moving hutches and everything later a little planning here is labour effective. One should be able to be able to clean all surfaces and floor under hutches.  Rabbit are prone to fly strike so i am fastidious about cleaning and not having still water anywhere.

If outside provision for winter months should be considered and coverings made available. If inside provision for hot summer days and ample ventilation needed - yes i know what you are gonna say. hot? summer days? but from experience and only this year, the yard i had the rabbits in whilst the sheds were under construction. The stone became so hot and no draughts - we had several rabbits in trouble with heat stroke and a number unfortunately died even with the stone being hosed down several times a day! Because if the change in weather is quick they have no time to adjust and health will rapidly decline.

All that aside once you have found your possition.. thats it... time to pick up a couple of hutches from the freeads or construct your own. i can do a short piece on hutch construction here with pics if you wish?

 - Following this is my largest concern above all is... feed.! Rabbits are very sensitive to change in diet, so a plan needs to be set out. Source your food and ensure that you can get a constant supply, i always have an alternate source also. Rabbits are prone to scour (bloat) when rappid food changes are introduced and a gradual introduction of 1 - 2 weeks is always advisable.

Bloat/ scour is very painfull condition where the rabbit has Diarrhoea  and the intestine is bloated with gas due to lack of fiber and intestinal bacteria, a quick and painful death if not caught straight away.

The person you obtain your rabbit from should provide at least a weeks supply of change over food. I tend to supply 2 weeks or with notice a full sack of the food i am providing.

and Hay.. good quality hay... this for me is the key.. it must be available as a constant. All the fiber the rabbit needs and nutrients it would naturally be ingesting. they look forward to their mangers being replenished and hop about vigerously and nudge you to hurry up !

 

Mon 6-Sep-10
11:42 am
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Toffeeapple
North Bucks

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By heck, what a valuable source of information Rob, thanks for taking the time.

I'll try that again!

Mon 6-Sep-10
8:03 pm
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JoannaS
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Loving it! My friend has just got her first rabbits breeding and hopes to have many more to sell for their meat.cheers

Wed 15-Sep-10
8:07 am
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Budo1

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Ok, am not sure where to go with next artical....thought could discuss breeds next?

Wed 15-Sep-10
9:10 am
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Danny
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Good. Yes please, Rob. Breeds next.

Thank you. ok

Never knowingly underfed

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