|Rabid about Rabbits|
In order to get ecological low-fat meat at an affordable price, I have started breeding rabbits. This is something I wanted to do for many years, I just never had opportunity to do.
On September 12th 1999, I took delivery of four French Lops, three females and a male. Out of the many available races, I chose French Lops because they are large, hardy rabbits with a good body form (plenty of meat) and because they are pleasant animals.
Besides breeding for meat, I've tried exhibiting the lops at rabbit shows. All the rabbits were judged OK, but they are not quite up to standard, as the ears are to short and their bodies are wedge-shaped. In short, I was told that I needed to get better breeders.
I really liked working with my French Lops, but I found out that the slaughtered rabbits were wery quite small when compared with their live size (too much waste). Combined with their lack of success on the exhibition front, and their more than healty appetite, the result was, that I switched to another breed. I now tried Zobel and (Russians). This was not a success, as they were too small and failed to catch my interest. The current breed, which I think I will stick with, is Hvid Land (white country (rabbit)), the Danish national breed. Hvid Land is much like a NZW with the body of a Californian.
Another fun pastime, for the rabbits as well as for our selves, that we contemplate, is "Kaninhop" (Danish for rabbit jumping), which is pretty much like show jumping for horses. Apart from being fun, it will keep the rabbits in shape and they won't be stuck in the hutches (cages) all the time.
Whenever possible, the rabbits will be kept in grazing hutches (Nice way to mow the lawn, by the way) and in stationary hutches during winther. However much I'd like to, it is not practical to let them roam the garden freely, like my chickens, as rabbits are burrowing/jumping creatures and would soon escape to the wild and perish. My stationary hutches are wooden with the dimensions 120 (w) * 80 (d) * 60 (h) cm and placed in an open shed. By keeping the rabbits in grazing hutches, I hope to provide a lot of what they eat from my own garden, supplemented with hay, barley and special "rabbit pills".
The benefits to treating the rabbits well are quite evident. Every now and then a rabbit will escape from an improperly closed hutch. When they see us, they hurry towards us and actually seem quite relieved to be able to get back in their hutch. Only once have we had to chase a rabbit, and that was a new purchase.
With three does (females) and a buck (male), calculating with three litters a year, and 4½ months to raise a litter to a reasonable weight, I can harvest six to eight tasty 3 kg rabbits each month, with the exception of March, April and May. That's a lot of meat - enough to feed a family ;-).
|1. female||2. female||3. female|
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Updated 02-06-09 at 10:04