Preparing to Raise Rabbits in Florida

     As we try to move toward a more sustainable urban landscape, we will be putting rabbits in the backyard. We decided to try rabbits because fowl are illegal in this suburb. There are a lot of great reasons to raise rabbits though, and a huge one is that eat leafy stuff that we cannot, and turn that leafy waste into very usable fertilizer.
     Not a lot of information can be found about heat stress in rabbits, but the conventional wisdom says that too much heat decreases their productivity and can lead to dying off. We may have to implement a rabbit free summer zone if the heat is too much for them.
     Rabbits need protection from the sun and rain, and should not be allowed to stand on wastes.

     Traditionally rabbits should be given five square feet of cage space. We have turned some sturdy, large dog crates into rabbit cages by lining the floors with a mesh that should provide adequate drainage and feet protection. Chicken wire is not recommended for rabbit cages due to the larger size and feet damage issues, and that rabbits have been known to escape through it. Our cages are tied down to concrete block, for now, and secured with locks to prevent theft (after the break-in a few years ago, I'm not taking any chances).
     At about 5-6 months old the doe can be bred. Conventional rabbit raising call for putting the doe in the bucks cage and then watch the first mating to be assured everything is going well, then afterward to return the does to her pen for an hour. Then let them be together again for another round. This is to ensure ejaculate quality and to prevent territorial fighting.
     Palpate the does 14 days after breeding to check for pregnancy. At 28 days after breeding, provide a nesting box for the little mama.  20” long x 11” wide x 10” high. Wean the kits at 6 weeks old and separate them from their mother. She can be re-bred at this time. At 10 weeks they should be fryer sized, and a few more weeks longer and they should roaster sized, which is not quite full-grown.
     Rabbits need a diet with about 15% protein for adequate growth and to avoid problems during gestation and lactation. Full grown adult rabbits need only about 13% protein. Most pellets provide about  13-18% protein. Rabbits also need long fiber, which is not adequately supplied in pellet form but is provided with the addition of regular grass, which most breeders recommend at about 2 cups per 5 pounds of rabbit per day. Beyond fiber, protein, and vitamins, rabbits do not need the addition of grains or fruits or vegetables, though these are okay to give in small quantities.
     The rabbit manure, which looks like little round pods, is pH neutral and can be applied directly to the garden or mixed into a manure tea. Some raisers use it for vermicomposting.

1 comment:

Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good said...

I'll be waiting for updates. Rabbits are on our list as well. Plenty more meat there than on squirrels... and tastier.