The Great Rabbit Adventure Begins

Okay, I suppose it began when we first started scrambling for hutches, but today we brought the rabbits home, so this is where it starts, or as my daughter said, “Now we’re in trouble…and it’s only just beginning.” Which is a Doctor Who reference, but I digress. It took us forever to find the place. I printed out the directions the lady gave me, but unfortunately she had told me to turn left on a road where I should have turned right. Then I called and her husband gave me what I like to call “Man Directions,” which include such indecipherable terms as East and North and miles. “Woman Directions” include such nice things as “go until you pass the general store and then turn left by the timber mill until you hit the Smith Road.”

Well, we got to the correct road, started the one direction, but the house numbers were going the wrong way so we turned around and went the other way until we ran out of road at a place that had a big curve, large landscaping rocks and farm buildings. Which was what they said the location looked like. That’s when the guy called us back and informed us that the house numbers started over once you hit the city limits. So then we turned around and drove back the other way until we got to the place that also had a big curve, large landscapring rocks and farm buildings. But this time it was the right one. Thank goodness, because the GPS would not accept the address, so I guess the only other option would have been to have one of us stay on the phone and talk us all the way there.

Anyway, we ended up with slightly different rabbits than I expected. We got a 9 month old buck who is very friendly and gentle. He has sired a few litters. She did not name any of them since she never names any of her meat rabbits, not even the breeders that will be around for a few years. I compromised a little with the kids. They wanted to call him Stormagedden the Dark Lord of All. I said I would be willing to call him Leo the Storm Master, but no dark lord business. But he will be Leo (even if they call him Stormy). Then I got a 9 month old doe who has had two litters so far. She has six kits, but they are only 3 weeks old, not six weeks old. So Mama bunny is Piper. We will not name the kits unless we keep one. I am thinking about keeping the biggest female kit, which will only leave five to harvest. If we keep her, she will be named Prue.

Then we got a doe that was born January 1 or 2nd, she’s going to email me the records, so she is 9 1/2 weeks old. We are calling her Phoebe. Piper and Phoebe share the same father and have mothers that were sisters. Leo is the father of Piper’s kits and of Phoebe. It’s all very closely related. That is Piper and the kits in the photo in the container in which we brought them home. We are using a cardboard box for the nesting box right now, since they are still so little and need to snuggle for warmth. I have some real ones on order though. We won’t be able to breed Phoebe until she is six months old, so not until the beginning of July. We won’t be able to breed Piper until her current kits are at least eight weeks old (well, we could, but I’m not), so at the very earliest five weeks away. We will start weaning the kits at that time and then depending on the husband’s schedule we will choose when to butcher them.

If all goes well with this rabbitry, then in a few months I would like to find an unrelated New Zealand White buck and doe as well, both adults. Meanwhile I will have DH building cages. I already have someone interested in buying rabbit meat, too. My daughter’s best friend’s mother loves rabbit meat, so she said she would like to buy some if we have any extra when we start really getting going. I’ll have to figure out what to charge. According to the book I’ve been reading it takes 4 pounds of feed to grow a rabbit to butcher size (they get most of their calories from their mama’s milk). I am getting the 50 pound bag and that works out to 37 cents per pound of feed. Then there is hay costs, so I rounded that up to 45 cents a pound. You expect to get about 4 pounds of meat out of 9 or 10 pound rabbit, so about $1.80 to raise one to butcher size, if that is correct. Then there is care and I’d like to get a bit back for housing costs, and then there is the actual butchering.

I know that the food co-op charges $15 for a 2 pound package of rabbit (which is just the back legs and the middle portion) and there is someone in a nearby city that sells whole rabbits for $30. I’m thinking closer to $16 for a whole rabbit or $4 a pound dressed weight. I think that’s pretty good. I don’t want to charge too much when I am just getting started. Chicken (non-organic) is about $2 a pound these days and beef other than hamburger is around $6 to $8 a pound, so $4 a pound for a very lean, very healthy meat seems fair. That’s about $13 to $14 after feed so $11 to $12 profit per rabbit. I know our time and effort is worth something and of course butchering is, too, but I’d really just focus on paying back the hutch and start up costs before I’d consider anything actually a profit. I think we can probably make up our start up costs within a year.

Expenses so far:

$255.00 for 3 hutches
$150.00 for 9 rabbits
$146.40 for feed and supplies
————-
$551.40 total start up costs

I put a book on tanning hides on hold at the library and I’m hoping to find an easy way to make hide stretchers out of coat hangers or something. I remember reading it once so I just need to figure out where I saw that at. I am excited and hopeful about the whole experience.

The chickens were very vocally curious when we brought the rabbits through. They all wanted to know what was in the big bins. Then they wanted to know why we didn’t have any treats for them (maybe because they had already gotten some earlier in the day, the greedy guts!). And they wanted to know why they couldn’t come into the shed. Give the chickens a 1/4 of an acre just to themselves and they’ll try to take a mile. There were 10 eggs today from 12 hens. At least they are not slackers.

We looked at chicks today to raise for fryers, but all they had were black Austalorps which stay tiny forever, so long you think there is something wrong with them, until they finally grow to be big, but feeding them to that point is not cost effective unless they are layers. When other chickens will get their size several weeks sooner, those are the ones we want to go with. Just not the Cornish Cross. They are getting more chicks in tomorrow, a couple of different breeds, so we’ll see what they have.

My mother is considering turkeys now. I think it would be interesting, but way more than she is bargaining for. Plus I’m not sure where she’d put them. Maybe we could keep them in Fort Knox since there will be no ducks this year. Although I’m not sure there is enough room to install a perch. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Rabbit Adventure Begins

  1. Having just finished my irst complete litter of rabbits (birth to butcher), you should know there are two types of rabbits; fryers and stewing rabbits. Fryers are under 13 weeks old and are raised until their peak growth period is over. Fryers have an optimal dressage ratio and I think it is a fryer that is being referred to as “butchering size”. Most butchers won’t take a rabbit over 13 weeks old, and it can’t be sold as a fryer rabbit. A fryer tends to be 4lbs to 6lbs live and dresses down to about half that (although you can get higher ratios the better a diet you feed and when you butcher, cause I got %75 out of mine!).
    After they tip that crritical age junction of about three months the rabbits become “stewing” rebbits because they star getting all their adolecent hormones. The meat changes rapidly and starts getting tougher, dryer and a little gamey. Still tasty but needs to be cooked slowly over low heat to make it as good as the fryer and therefore can’t be “fried” like a “fryer”. However, “fryer” pelts or furs have not fully developed and tend to be VERY fragile and hard to tan properly. A stewing rabbit tends to be raised to 6 months and has an excellent pelt.
    So you’re probably looking at $2 to raise about 3lbs of meat to fryer age would be my guess and seems to line up with me experience.

  2. LuckyRobin says:

    I think I was getting my dressage ratio confused, but I do know that the fryers are younger and the stewers are older with the good pelts. I’m still learning and imagine I will continue learning as I go.

    That is good to know about the pelts. What do you do with the fragile pelts then? I don’t want to waste them.

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