I don’t like starting out a conversation with the negative aspects of raising rabbits. They truly are the perfect urban livestock. They are quiet, clean and super efficient. Chances are you’ve already decided that and agree with me. Rabbits are easy to raise, as long as you do it right! So once you’ve decided to take the plunge into the MOTCAF world (Murderers of the cute and fluffy) you should do so as efficiently as possible… just avoid these 3 Pitfalls of Starting Meat Rabbits…
Pitfall #1) Used Cages
When I started with my bunnies I was out to save money and make a difference! I learned rabbit math (1 plus 1 equals 64 babies a year) and knew I’d need cages. So I set out and bought every $20 pile of wood and wire I could find on Craigslist, back page and Facebook… wooden hutches that were loose and wobbly. I figured I’d throw some screws in them and clean them up. Well, the hutches lasted about 4 months before they were beyond repair. So, I started looking for full metal cages, recommended size cages for New Zealand Whites and similarly sized meat rabbits are 24 by 36 by 15-18 inches tall. The best I could find were 18×30 used. Well, I thought I’d make them work and they did… Until I had to put a nest box in… The entrance was too small for the size nest box needed, and if the box were to fit, the doe would be completely out of room. The lesson learned was this, don’t by garbage, used cages. When buying used cages be sure of their size and functionality. If you can’t afford new cages and are forced to choose between used and building your own, build your own.
Pitfall #2 rookie cage building mistakes
So with my piles of wood and wire discarded, my 18×30 cages repurposed, I decided to try my hand at cage construction. I went to the hardware store to acquire my materials and tools. I bought a J clip pliers, J clips, and 1/2 inch 19 gauge wire. I decided to build the cage 24 by 36 by 18 inches. The wire was easy to cut but tedious and the cutters didn’t cut flush. Once the panels were cut, I assembled them into a box shape with the J clip pliers. After the cutting and assembly, I felt doomed to have carpal tunnel! But, I had a cage built. I then hung the cage in the rabbit shed. It looked good and seemed ok… Until I put a 12-pound doe in it… The wire was NOT strong enough and sagged, the doe was uncomfortable due to the light gauge wire cutting her feet and I still had 10 more cages to build. So, back to the drawing board. I had to search but was able to find some inch by half inch 16 gauge galvanized steel for the roof and walls, and 14 gauge inch by half inch for the floors (when building, be sure that the half inch side of the wire is facing up on the floor, this will add surface area and support for the rabbit and be easier on their feet). The wire was harder to cut, but I bought a new set of GOOD side cutters that cut closer to flush and didn’t hurt my hands as much. The J clips were still slow going, but I developed a pattern that helped me assemble faster. My cages now self support and hang in steel frames. Be sure to use good materials and tools when building cages, what you spend on the extra quality will save you time and stress in the long run. Then again, you could always just buy cages from HostileHare.com…
#3 pitfall: Bunny buying
Of course, I was excited and wanted to get started ASAP with bunny breeding. I wanted to buy “proven does.” Luckily, the man selling me the rabbits explained a few things. He asked, “why would I sell you a proven doe that has the potential to give me 64 babies a year that I sell for 30 a piece? If someone with a successful rabbitry is trying to sell a proven doe, be suspicious!” There are a few reasons that someone would sell a breeding age doe; first, nonmalicious reason; they planned for the full cost of rearing a doe to breeding age and worked that into the price ($60-200 can be expected, sometimes more or less sale price). Second nonmalicious reason would be they don’t know the value that they have. The third nonmalicious reason would be legitimately getting out of rabbits for a number of reasons. Some reasons may include moving, added responsibilities or family illness. Now, these may be valid reasons but ALWAYS go with your gut instinct. If the rabbits are poorly cared for or ANY show signs of sickness, move along. Now, a healthy rabbitry would be well cleaned and cared for cages, clean and perky looking adults and playful, clean bottom babies. A good rabbitry will be reluctant to sell breeding age rabbits because they know the worth of a mature rabbit. If someone is selling an older rabbit, chances are the rabbit is burnt out, sick, or was a poor producer. Now, you might get lucky, but I still wouldn’t gamble it. It is way better to purchase a weaning age rabbit, play with it and get it to know you as its food source and get it to trust you. This makes moving the rabbit easier, caring the for the rabbit easier, feeding, breeding, checking the babies of the rabbit, all are easier if you establish a relationship early on.
There are many reasons to get into rabbits. My hope is that this article on 3 Pitfalls of Starting Meat Rabbits merely provides direction in your startup and doesn’t discourage you from following your dreams of self-sustainability and homegrown meat farming! For other questions answered and advice given, check out HostileHare.com.