The Life Cycle–Kindling, Sexing, Weaning, Weighing, and Slaughter–New Zealand White Meat Rabbits

Yesterday was a busy one. We went through every aspect of raising meat rabbits, except for breeding. Yesterday morning started, as you know, with Phoebe giving birth to her second litter. I left her alone other than a few checks throughout the day to make sure she hadn’t had any more kits and none were on the wire. She slept for a lot of the day. She did a pretty good job cleaning up the placentas, but didn’t get all the bloody hay eaten up so I took that out of the nesting box in the evening. First I got her scent all over my hands, cleaned out the bits of bloody hay, pet her again to renew the scent and then very carefully checked each newborn kit over and did a litter count. If I didn’t miss anyone, there were 8 kits born. I went through the hay in the cage and all the kits were born in the nesting box this time. All babies had fat little tummies. Phoebe is such a good mama.

We did a quick weight check of the 12 and a half week old kits from Phoebe’s first litter and separated out the four largest. They went out into a tractor and were given some raspberry leaves to eat while we got ready to dispatch them. We don’t withhold food or water from our rabbits. If you are careful you won’t nick the bladder so that’s not a worry. And with rabbit poop coming in handy little balls, manure won’t get into the body cavity even if you do cut the chute by accident.

We have never slaughtered rabbits so young before. They were all over 5 pounds and this is the recommended slaughter age, we’ve just always had one thing or another lead to them being older when dispatched. They were a lot easier to skin. The older ones weren’t difficult, just you had to pull quite a bit harder. These ones were more like pulling off a sweater. That’s because the skin is so loose at this stage to allow for rapid growth.

We did the usual with me catching the rabbits and keeping them calm, bringing them to the processing station, and thanking them for their lives. Then I hid behind the tarp while the husband broke the neck on the Rabbit Wringer. At least I did for the first two. I made myself watch the third and fourth ones. I watched two of the eviscerations, but not until after the heads were off. I am attempting to harden myself to the process, because I want to be able to one day do it myself. I have all the skills. I know I am physically capable of doing it. I’m not quite there emotionally. I care for these little ones day to day and while I didn’t let myself get quite as attached this time, I still had little pangs. I will get there though. I actually believe that now after today. In a survival situation I will have to be able to do this. As a future farmer, I will have to be able to do this.

The husband was able to do all four in an hour, so his rate of speed has improved significantly.

Final Live Weights and Dress Out Weights:

Kit 8: 6 lb 2.4 oz———3 lb 0.9 oz
Kit 2: 5 lb 9.8 oz———2 lb 12.3 oz
Kit 6: 5 lb 8.2 oz———2 lb 13 oz
Kit 7: 5 lb 7.3 oz———2 lb 12.1 oz

And 12.8 ounces of livers.

Today was also the day to weigh Lola’s four week olds and Piper’s eight week olds. Lola’s kits didn’t put on too much weight this week. They are all bigger than Phoebe’s first litter was at this age, but smaller than any of Piper’s litters have been. Piper’s kits put weight on well this week. Also, since 8 weeks is how old the kits need to be to tell what sex they are, I checked that. I am still not 100% confident in my ability there, it gets better as they get older, but it appears to be an evenly divided litter of 3 males and 3 females. We took the two biggest kits away from Piper today to start the weaning process. We will remove two more on Saturday and the last two on Monday.

Piper’s 4th Litter at Eight Weeks Old:

Kit 1: 3 lb 6.7 oz
Kit 2: 3 lb 11.8 oz
Kit 3: 3 lb 8 oz
Kit 4: 3 lb 13.6 oz
Kit 5: 3 lb 14.7 oz
Kit 6: 4 lb 0.7 oz

Total Litter Weight: 22 lb 7.5 oz

Amount Gained: 4 lb 12.3 oz

Kit 6 put on almost a full pound this week, with a gain of 15 oz.

Lola’s 1st Litter at Four Weeks Old:

Kit 1: 15.6 oz
Kit 2: 14.7 oz
Kit 3: 15.8 oz
Kit 4: 1 lb 4 oz
Kit 5: 1 lb 1.2 oz
Kit 6: 1 lb 0.3 oz

Total Litter Weight: 6 lb 3.8 oz

Amount Gained: 2 lb 0.2 oz

I keep hoping it will be nice today and that the weather report will be wrong. But it’s dark and nasty outside. It’s supposed to rain for a week. Yuck. Oh, well. Can’t have everything.

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