Raising Rabbits
 
                     by Harlan D. Attfield
 
  
                        drawings by
                        Catharine Roache (part 1)
                        & George Clark (hutch)
 
                        John Goodell - cover, other art
 
 
                                VITA
                  1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
                    Arlington, Virginia 22209 USA
              Tel:  703/276-1800   *  Fax:  703/243-1865
                     Internet:  pr-info@vita.org
 
             [C] 1977 Volunteers in Technical Assistance
                        ISBN 0-86619-060-0
 
                       PREFACE
 
This manual presents an overview of the entire process of
raising rabbits--from selecting healthy animals to preparing
proper foods to treating disease.   A separate section
of the manual includes step-by-step procedures for the
construction of a hutch unit to house two does and one
buck.
 
Raising Rabbits is written in clear straightforward language.
It reflects VITA's emphasis on preparing material which can
be used easily by extension workers and by do-it-yourselfers
regardless of cultural context or geographic location.   The
author and illustrators all are VITA Volunteers with considerable
skill in their areas of expertise.
 
Harlan Attfield, the author, is a VITA Volunteer who is now
working in an innovative integrated farming program in Bangladesh
with International Voluntary Services, Inc.   He has
over ten years experience in tropical agriculture and has
served in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mauritius.   Small stock and
beekeeping are among his specialties.
 
Attfield has written over 30 articles and books detailing his
experiences, and has placed special emphasis on effective
communication with extension workers.   VITA will soon distribute
some of the material produced by the Bangladesh program
as Technical Bulletins.
 
Catharine S. Roache, a VITA Volunteer for eight years, is an
author and illustrator of children's books, as well as a poet.
In addition, she has special interest and involvement in working
with senior citizens and with college students.
 
George R. Clark is an instructor in drafting and design at
Kellogg Community College.  Clark has been a VITA Volunteer
for over eight years and has contributed technical drawings
and expertise to a number of VITA publications and projects.
 
A special note of thanks goes to Jeff Cox, Associate Editor,
Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine, who provided editing
support in his role as a VITA Volunteer and to Jerome D.
Belanger, Editor and Publisher of Countryside Magazine, who
reviewed this manual for technical content.
 
                   Table of Contents
 
PART 1
 
1  Introduction                                            
 
2  Preparing to Raise Rabbits                              
 
3  Caring for Rabbits                                    
 
4  Breeding Rabbits                                      
 
5  Keeping Records                                       
 
6  Rabbit Diseases and Their Control                      
 
7  Killing, Skinning, and Tanning Rabbits                
 
PART 2
 
Hutch Construction                                        
 
   Wood Hutch with Metal Roof                            
 
   Wood and Bamboo Hutch                                  
 
Worm Husbandry                                            
 
 
                   Part 1
 
<FIGURE 1>

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1 Introduction
 
Raising rabbits is very popular in Europe and North
America.  In England over one million families have
rabbits.  In America, people eat 30 million pounds of
rabbit meat each year.
 
There are a number of reasons why raising rabbits is
becoming a more and more important activity throughout the
world:
 
   *   Rabbits can produce large amounts of delicious
      meat.   Although rabbit meat is firmer, it tastes
      very much like chicken.  Rabbit meat contains a
      lot of protein and is low in calories and fat.
      So rabbit meat is both good to eat and is a very
      healthy food.
 
   *   Rabbits multiply quickly.   A rabbit raiser can
      start with two females and one male and produce
      fifty, or more, rabbits in one year.  Even a small
      backyard project in which two to three females
      and one male are raised can furnish meat to
      strengthen the family diet.  On the other hand,
      50 to 150 females can mean a business which provides
      part-time employment and perhaps extra
      income.
 
   *   Rabbits are easy to raise at home -- whether home
      is in the city or the country:  Rabbit hutches do
      not take up a lot of space, and rabbits are clean,
      quiet and easy to care for.
 
   *   Rabbit skins are also valuable; they can be made
      into hats, fur-trimmed collars, slippers, pillows,
      small rugs, etc.
 
In addition to these reasons, gardeners and farmers often
use rabbit manure as a fertilizer.   The manure of wellfed
rabbits contains nitrogen and phosphorus.   This manure
can be mixed directly into the soil to help the growth of
farmers' crops.  Other manures, such as chicken manure,
cannot be used this way.  This is especially important to
farmers and gardeners who cannot afford or find other
fertilizers -- and to those who wish to make the best
possible use of all the natural resources of their farms.
 
There are only a few simple rules to follow in order to
raise rabbits successfully:
 
   *   Build a good hutch.
 
   *   Begin with healthy animals.
 
   *   Give rabbits good care.
 
Why not try raising rabbits?   Good luck and good farming!
 
                           Harlan H. D. Attfield
 
<FIGURE 2>

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2 Preparing to Raise Rabbits
 
Most people who decide to raise rabbits want to produce
meat.  And they want to produce this meat as quickly, and
cheaply, as possible.  Therefore, before beginning any part
of the project, it is very important to decide:
 
   *   how much room there is for raising rabbits.  If
      there is only room for a few hutches, there is a
      limit on the number of rabbits which can be raised.
 
   *   what kinds of breeds of rabbit are available.
      Some breeds of rabbits grow more quickly; some
      are better for eating.  In other words, it is
      necessary to check the sources of rabbits to see
      if a good breed is available.  And the breed will
      determine the size of the hutch.
 
   *   what foods are available for feeding the rabbits.
      Rabbits will eat a variety of foods, but some are
      more important for rabbits than others.  Some will
      lead to faster growth; some are more expensive; etc.
 
It is always best to begin any project by studying and
understanding all parts of it.   Therefore, it is a good
idea for a prospective rabbit raiser to read through all
the information in this handbook before taking any steps.
Successful rabbit raising depends upon setting up the
effort so that few problems are likely to occur, and upon
managing the project so that any problems which do come up
can be handled quickly and easily.
 
Choosing the Breed of Rabbit
 
There are over sixty breeds and varieties of rabbits in the
world.  These breeds, or different kinds of rabbits, can be
put into three main groups, according to size:
 
     Small breeds The Polish rabbit, for example,
     weighs a little more than 1 kg as an adult.
 
     Medium breeds The New Zealand, California and
     Palomino breeds have an average adult weight of
     4 1/2 kg.
 
     Heavy breeds The Flemish Giant can weigh over
     6 1/2 kg as an adult.
 
This handbook focuses on raising rabbits to produce meat
for the table, or even for profit.   For this purpose,
medium-breed rabbits which grow rapidly are the best
choice -- they will yield more meat from the amount of
food fed them.
 
<FIGURE 3>

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The Hutch
 
The hutch which is detailed in this manual (Part B,
"Hutch Construction") is ideal for medium-breed rabbits.
It was designed and used successfully by the author.
The following discussion presents some of the major factors
to keep in mind while building a hutch; for example,
protection from wind, rain and sun.
 
Hutches can and do look very different from one area to the
next.  There are no critical measurements which say that
a hutch must be just so high or so long or it will not work.
There are size ranges which are better for certain types of
rabbits.  And there are design differences.  For example,
a hutch in a cold climate may have completely closed sides;
a hot humid climate may suggest more open sides and greater
overhang on the roof to increase ventilation.   All hutches,
no matter how they are different or similar, should
provide:
 
   *   plenty of air
 
   *   sunlight to the inside of thi cages
 
   *   protection from rain and winds
 
   *   a quiet home (undisturbed by dogs)
 
   *   a self-cleaning floor
 
   *   a good roof that does not leak
 
   *   a cage for each medium-breed rabbit
 
   *   a water container for each rabbit
 
   *   a manger(s) for grass
 
Most people prefer to build a hutch for one male and two
females, but some two-rabbit hutches (one male and one
female) are also built.
 
It costs only a little more to build a hutch for three
rabbits than to build a hutch for two.   Two females will
produce more young (and therefore increased meat yield),
and the male will not become lazy.
 
Each adult rabbit must have its own cage.   This is very
important.  Each compartment (cage) for a medium-breed
rabbit should measure about 75cm (2 1/2 ft) wide, 1m
(3 ft) deep, and 60cm (2 ft) high.
 
Materials
 
Many different kinds of materials can be used to build a
hutch.  The hutch pictured on the next page was made
using:
 
   *   packing cases
 
   *   four eucalyptus poles
 
   *   14 strips of pine
 
   *   1 cm (1/2 in) square wire netting
 
   *   one flat sheet of galvanized iron
 
   *   binding wire
 
Hutches can be made of many other woods and materials,
including bamboo (see Part B).
 
<FIGURE 4>

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Protection from weather
 
<FIGURE 5>

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The weather conditions that most affect rabbits are rain,
sun and heat.  Rabbits often enjoy sitting in the sun, but
they must always be able to get out of the direct rays of
the sun.  Too much sun can kill rabbits. Rabbits tolerate
cold in their "fur coats" better than extreme heat.
 
Also, protect rabbits from rain and wind.   If the sides,
front or back of the hutch are covered only with wire
netting, hang sheets of plastic or gunny sacks over these
spaces during rains to protect the rabbits.   Always place
the enclosed back of the hutch to the wind.   Rabbits
suffer when exposed to drafts.   In severe winter it is
best to bring the hutch under the shelter of a roof
(a corner of the barn) or under the eaves of the house.
 
Self-cleaning floors
 
<FIGURE 6>

50p09.gif (600x600)


 
The floor of the hutch should be no higher than the waist
and be self-cleaning.  A self-cleaning floor is made by
stretching 1 cm (1/2 in) square wire netting in a frame.
Wire floors help prevent rabbits from becoming sick and
dying because manure and urine pass through the holes of
the wire and drop to the ground.   The inside of the hutch
then stays clean, dry and sanitary.
 
The manure under the hutches should be gathered every few
months and used on vegetable gardens.   Rabbit manure is
better than the manure of pigs, chickens or cows for
growing vegetables.
 
<FIGURE 7>

50p10.gif (600x600)


 
Preparations for Feeding
 
The manger
 
Rabbits eat lots of grass and leaves.   But grass should
never be scattered on the floor of the hutch.   Grass on
the floor of the hutch gets dirty with manure and urine,
and this dirty grass can make rabbits sick.   It is easy
to prevent this problem by building a simple manger, or
feeding place, of wire netting or planks.   This can be
fastened to the outside of the hutch.   The rabbits then
pull the grass through the wire mesh and feed themselves
as they are hunqry.  The manger should be large enough
to hold plenty of grass and leaves.
 
<FIGURE 8>

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Sometimes baby rabbits crawl out of the cage into the
manger.  To prevent them from falling to the ground, make
a cover for the manger.
 
<FIGURE 9>

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A manger can be placed between two compartments in a hutch.
 
It is not necessary to build a manger, but it is necessary
to make the food available so that it is not lying on the
hutch floor to get dirty.  One way to do this is to tie
grass and leaves in bundles with string or wire and hang it
on the inside of the hutch near the front.   This method
will prevent the grass and leaves from becoming dirty or
spoiled.
 
Water
 
Rabbits need water.  They get some water from eating grass
and leaves, but they need more water than this.   Make sure
rabbits can get water whenever they wish to drink.
 
To do this, make an automatic water container:
 
   *   Turn a large bottle over and fasten it to the
      inside of the hutch so the lip of the bottle
      is inside a small tin can.  Make sure there are
      no sharp edges on the tin can.
 
   *   The lip of the bottle is about lcm below the
      top rim of the can.
 
   *   Remove the bottle and fill the can and bottle
      with water.
 
   *   Replace the bottle.   As the rabbit drinks water
      from the can, more water will fall from the
      bottle, thus providing rabbits with plenty of
      clean, fresh water.
 
Fill the bottle as often as necessary to keep the
water supply clean and fresh -- probably at least
once a day.
 
<FIGURE 10>

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Automatic watering systems using pipe and nipples are a
good investment for the rabbit raiser who is raising many
rabbits.
 
Feed dishes
 
If possible select a heavy earthenware crock with about
8cm (3 in)-high sides.  Heavy dishes cannot be tipped over
by the rabbits.
 
A coffee or butter tin can be used.   Nail the can to a
small board.  Be sure there are no sharp edges on the can.
 
A section of bamboo with an opening cut into the side can
be used.  Fasten it to a small board to keep it from
rolling.
 
Whatever kind of container you use, young rabbits will
climb into them.  Usually rabbits will not urinate on their
food but could contaminate it with their droppings.   This
will have to be watched.
 
If feed pellets are used, a feed hopper can be built like
the one below.  This has the advantage of always keeping
the feed clean.
 
<FIGURE 11>

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3 Caring for Rabbits
 
 
When the hutch is ready, the rabbit raiser can get started.
This section presents guidelines for selecting, handling
and caring for rabbits.
 
Check New Stock Carefully
 
The source of supply depends upon the area.   In some
places rabbits are available in the market, from another
rabbit breeder or perhaps from government sources.
Wherever the rabbits come from, they must be checked
very carefully before they are taken home.   Remember that
it is not possible to breed and raise healthy rabbits
unless the rabbits you begin with are good rabbits.
 
You must be able to answer YES to all six of the following
questions before you take the rabbit home:
 
   *   Is the animal active and alert?
 
   *   Are its eyes bright and clear?
 
   *   Is its nose clean, not runny?
 
   *   Are its ears clean and dry inside?
 
   *   Is its fur smooth and clean?
 
   *   Are its feet dry and free of sores?
 
If the rabbit fits these guidelines, ask about the litter
from which the rabbit came.  Choose rabbits that have come
from large litters and from females that have had good,
large litters.  Do not select brother and sisters for
breeding; they will not produce healthy young.
 
Handling Rabbits
 
Just a short word here on the proper ways to handle
rabbits.  Rabbits are generally gentle and will not bite,
but they do become frightened and can hurt themselves or
the handler if they jump suddenly.   It is always better to
handle rabbits properly.
 
Never lift rabbits by their ears or legs:   they can be
hurt if lifted this way.
 
Adult rabbits  There is plenty of loose skin at the back of
the neck over the shoulders.   Hold the rabbit by this loose
skin with one hand and support its weight by placing your
other hand under its rump (tail).   Be sure to hold the
rabbit's feet away from you to avoid scratches from the
long toe-nails.
 
Small rabbits  Lift and carry small rabbits by holding them
between the hips and the ribs.   The heel of the hand should
face the rabbit's tail; the rabbit's head should be
pointing toward the ground.
 
<FIGURE 12>

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Heavy rabbits  Grasp a fold of skin
over the shoulder and lift.  Hold
the rabbit against your body with
its head under your arm.  Your forearm
should extend along the side of
the animal, and your hand should be
under the rabbit's rump to support
the weight of the rabbit.
 
<FIGURE 13>

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Feeding Rabbits
 
Rabbits are not hard to feed because they can live on
plants and other foods which are easy to find.   Rabbits
get the vitamins, minerals and fiber they need by eating
the leaves of plants.  Corn, peanuts and other seeds can
be eaten by rabbits and are a good source of protein.
 
It is important to feed rabbits well.   Well-chosen food
can help keep the rabbits free from disease while producing
good growth at low cost.  Breeding females, called does,
must be especially well-fed to produce healthy young
rabbits and the milk to feed them.
 
Elements in foods
 
protein.  Protein is a substance which helps rabbits grow
and stay healthy.  Protein is contained in rabbit meat and
is one reason why rabbit meat is so healthy.   Rabbits must
be fed protein to produce protein.
 
Proteins from plants are best for rabbits.   Rabbits can
eat peanuts (groundnuts), soyabeans, sesame, linseed,
hempseed and cottonseed.  These seeds are usually ground
and added to rabbit mashes and pellets.   Whole soyabeans
have about 36 percent protein but are not enjoyed by
rabbits unless the beans are ground into a meal or
pelleted.
 
Oil cake from soyabean, peanut, sesame, flax and cottonseed
is a good source of protein.
 
salt.  There is a noticeable difference in the amount of
salt each rabbit consumes daily.   For this reason it is a
good idea to place a block or spool of salt in each cage.
Each rabbit will take what it needs by licking the salt.
 
Salt should not come in contact with metal cage parts, such
as screening.  Salt can be added directly to the food in a
quantity of 1/2 percent.
 
vitamins.  Very little is known about a rabbit's requirement
for any of the vitamins, but rabbits do need vitamins A and
D.  Freshly cut green plants, some root crops and high
quality hay are excellent sources of vitamin A.   The best
source of vitamin D is found in cured roughages, especially
field-cured luzerne.  Fresh cut greens will also provide
vitamin B and vitamin E.  When labor and expense permit,
rabbits should be given good quality green plants as part
of their diet.
 
minerals.  All dry and fresh green plants will contain some
or all of the minerals needed by rabbits.   If the rabbit's
feed is properly balanced, there will be plenty of minerals
for the rabbit.
 
Foods
 
cereal grains.  Rabbits will eat oats, wheat, barley and
grain sorghums (milo, kafir, feterito, hegari, darso and
sagrain).  These grains may be fed whole as soon as the
young rabbits come out of the nest box at three weeks of
age.  Grains fed to rabbits should be plump and not spoiled
or moldy.  Soft varieties of maize (corn) can be eaten by
rabbits, but the tougher, flintier types must be crushed
or ground.  Rabbits enjoy sunflower seeds but these seeds
are usually valued more for other purposes.
 
When rabbits are allowed to choose from several types of
grain, their first choice will be oats, followed by soft
varieties of wheat, grain sorghums and barley.
 
Usually, it is a good idea to prepare a feed mixture which
contains a number of grains.   Here is one suggestion for a
grain mix (the quantities are for a small number of
rabbits):
 
     1kg whole oats
 
     1kg wheat
 
     1/2kg crushed corn (soft varieties)
 
     1kg soyabean meal in pellet form
 
Nursing does should be full-fed (food continuously available)
the grain mix.  Dry does and herd bucks should be
given as much as they will consume in 20-30 minutes.
 
Grains which are ground and made into a mash should be
dampened with water before serving.   Otherwise, dust will
get into the rabbit's nose and cause irritation.   When
possible, feed should be pelleted:   there is less waste
when pellets are used.
 
green feeds and roots.  Rabbits enjoy green plants; tender
cane tops have also been used with success.   Rabbits also
like sweet potatoes, carrots, sugar beets, turnips, and
white potatoes.
 
Green plants and root crops contain protein, minerals, and
vitamins; they are almost 90 percent water.   These contents
make them very important food for rabbits.
 
However, if rabbits eat too many greens then they will
not eat enough of concentrated feeds (like grain mixes).
And these concentrated foods produce faster weight gain.
 
NEVER ALLOW GREEN FEED TO STAND IN PILES AND BECOME HEATED
BEFORE FEEDING TO RABBITS.  Green feed which has been
standing too long can cause serious digestive problems in
the herd.  Also, NEVER PLACE GREEN$ ON THE FLOOR OF THE
CAGE where they will become dirty.   Disease is spread when
greens are not hung up or placed in a manger.
 
dried plants (hays).  Luzerne; clover, peanut, lespedeza,
vetch and kudzu hays are excellent for rabbits.   Hay must
be of good quality:  it should be leafy, small stemmed,
green in color, free  of dust and mold, with a nice smell.
Tender elephant grass and Sudan grass can be fed to rabbits
but contain less protein than the plants listed first.
Often weather conditions do not allow for the making or
storing of hay.  When hay is available, it can be placed
before the rabbits at all times.   They will eat about
55 - 85 gm (2 - 3 oz), daily.
 
commercial feeds.  Many rabbit raisers prefer to buy a
COMPLETE feed for their rabbits.   The packages should
indicate the amount of protein, fat, etc. that they
contain.  The following chart shows how much of each of the
listed substances rabbits require.   If the concentrate
contains these ingredients in about the same percentage
amounts, it is a complete feed.
 
       Suggested Rabbit Feed Concentrate Analysis
 
         protein                  15 - 20 %
 
         fat                      3 - 5.5 %
 
         fiber                    14 - 20 %
 
         nitrogen-free            44 - 50 %
           extract
 
         ash or mineral        4.5 - 6.5 %
 
coccidiostats.  These are preventive medicines for coccidiosis
(See Section 6).  If available, it is wise to add
some medicine to the feed to protect rabbits from this
disease.  A ration containing 0.025 percent of sulfaquinoxaline
is effective for reducing the infestation of
intestinal and liver types of coccidiosis in the herd.
The use of medication should not take the place of good
management.  It is more economical to prevent than to cure.
 
Young rabbits are born free of this disease but may quickly
become infected by licking their soiled feet, fur, or
hutch equipment, or by eating feed or drinking water that
is contaminated with the "eggs" (oocysts) of the disease
organism (protozoans).
 
When rabbits are raised in areas where there is considerable
humidity or long periods of rain or fog, the coccidia infestation
may build up until it causes heavy losses.
Manure pellets do not cause danger while they are whole,
but once they begin to break down or get mashed the disease
organism is released.  Hutches with self-cleaning floors,
mangers and proper food, and good management practices all
help reduce the possibilities of infection.   Authorities
on rabbit raising feel that it is impossible to get rid of
the disease entirely, but they feel that good practices
such as those mentioned here can reduce the problem considerably.
 
other foods.  Kitchen scraps, except greasy and spoiled
food, are enjoyed by rabbits.   By weight, dry or stale
bread has about the same feeding value as the cereal grains.
Bread can help reduce the cost of feeding rabbits.   The
fruits and rinds of oranges and qrapefruits and trimmings
from vegetables can be fed to rabbits.   Cow's or goat's
milk is good for rabbits.  Although poultry mash (formulated
for growers and layers) is generally more expensive
than rabbit feed, it is nutritionally adequate for
homestead rabbits.
 
A note on feed storage
 
Keep feed dry and protect it against insects and rodents.
Keep feed away from dogs and cats; they can be a source of
tapeworm infestation.
 
Proper amounts and combinations of foods
 
Rabbits can be given a combination of foods as long as the
total food intake is about the same.   In general, herd
bucks (males) and dry does (females not breeding) need
only 1/2 cup of mash each day; pregnant or nursing females
require 3/4 - 1 cup per day.
 
bucks.  Rabbits can be full-fed by leaving food in the
hutch at all times.  Rabbits fed by this method eat small
amounts of food more often and gain weight more quickly.
Herd bucks, however, should be hand fed.   This means
supplying them only with as much food as they can eat in
20 - 30 minutes.  If herd bucks are allowed to eat all the
time, they become fat and lazy.   Two possible daily
feeding plans for bucks are:
 
     125 - 185gm (4 1/2 - 6 1/2 oz) concentrate
     (depending upon weight), plus 15-minute
     feeding of greens.
 
 
                        or
 
     85gm (3oz) of grain mixture and all the
     good quality hay or greens they will eat.
 
     Please note:  All weight conversions, here and
     following, are given in approximate figures.
 
does.  A doe at six months of age will eat at the rate of
3.8 percent of her live weight, daily.   For example, a
4.5kg (about 10 lb) doe will eat .038 x 4.5 = .17kg = 170gm
(or .038 x 10 = .38 lb = about 6oz), daily.   If hay and
grains are fed, she will consume 70gm (2 1/2 oz) of a grain
mixture and about 100gm (3 1/2 oz) of hay, to make 170gm
(6oz).
 
The following chart is a good guide when feeding a combination
of concentrate and greens:
 
            Concentrate-Greens Feeding Chart
 
     Weight of Doe         Daily Ration
                                   45gm (1.6oz) or more greens,
                                   PLUS concentrate ration of:
 
     2 1/4 kg (about 5 lb)         70-85gm (2 1/2 - 3oz)
 
     4 1/2 kg (about 10 lb)        125-140gm (4 1/2 - 5oz)
 
     6 3/4 kg (about 15 lb)        185-200gm (6 1/2 - 7oz)
 
     Note:   The amounts of concentrates can be reduced
            by increasing the amounts of greens fed.
 
To feed a doe correctly the rabbit raiser must know when
she is pregnant.  An experienced rabbit raiser can feel
for the babies inside the mother at 14 days after mating
(see Section 4, "Breeding Rabbits").   A doe must be given
all the concentrates she will eat without waste while
pregnant.  After the young rabbits are born, continue to
feed the doe and the young rabbits all the concentrates
they will eat without waste.   The doe's diet should be
reduced only when the young rabbits are removed and until
pregnancy is noted again.
 
Producing a 1.8kg (4 lb) fryer Generally, it takes 7kg
(15.4 lb) of complete concentrate (pellets are best) to
produce a 1.8kg (4 lb) fryer in 8 weeks.   The following
chart shows four different feeding plans.   This should
help the rabbit raiser decide which plan is best for his
situation.
 
        Concentrates            Luzerne Hay      Green Feed             Time
 
PLAN A  7kg (15.4 lb)           ----               ----                  8 weeks
 
PLAN B  4kg (8.8 lb)            1.5kg (3.2 lb)     ----                  8 weeks
 
PLAN C  4.5 - 5kg (10-11 lb)    ----               .5-lkg (1-2 lb)       8 weeks
 
PLAN D  3.6 - 4kg (8-9 lb)      ----               1.4-1.8kg (3-4 lb)    10-11
                                                                       weeks
 
Note:  Amount of food to produce 1.8kg (4 lb) fryer
       also includes a portion required for doe from
       breeding through weaning.
 
4 Breeding Rabbits
 
When buying rabbits find out how old they are.   The
minimum age for breeding depends upon type:   heavy types
take 9-12 months before they are old enough to breed;
New Zealand Whites are ready to breed at 6-9 months of
age.
 
Do not breed females until they are old enough to handle
the strain of nursing.  One male, or buck, can service as
many as ten females but he should not be used more than
two or three times a week.  A maximum use for short
periods would be five times weekly.
 
How to Mate Rabbits
 
The female, or doe, will probably object to having the
buck placed in her cage and might attack or injure him.
Therefore always place the doe in the buck's cage for
mating.  Do not disturb the animals and make sure people
and dogs are not around.  People and dogs can frighten the
rabbits and they will not mate.
 
<FIGURE 14>

50p23.gif (393x540)


 
When the doe is placed in the buck's cage, he will probably
mount her quickly.  If after a few seconds the buck
falls over on his side or suddenly falls backwards, mating
has taken place.  Often when the buck falls he will look
as if his whole body has suddenly tightened.   Allow only
one or two  falls.  Then remove the doe and place her back
in her own  cage.
 
DO NOT LET THE DOE STAY WITH THE BUCK ALL DAY LONG.   If
mating has not occurred within the first few minutes,
remove the doe and try again after a few hours.
 
As soon as the doe has been mated and returned to her cage,
WRITE DOWN THE DATE OF MATING on a small card attached
high in the inside of the hutch.   If you fail to write
down the date you will not know when to feel for the young
within the doe at 14 days or put a nest box in her cage
before she gives birth.
 
Holding the Doe for Mating
 
Sometimes a doe will hide in the corner of the buck's
cage, and he will not be able to mount her.   If this
happens, help the buck by holding the doe for mating.
This is very easy to do.
 
<FIGURE 15>

50p24.gif (353x437)


 
Use either hand to hold the ears and a fold of skin over
the doe's shoulders.  Place your other hand under her body
and between her hind legs.  Place one of your fingers on
each side of the tail and push gently backwards.   This
action will throw the doe's tail.   up over her back, so that
the buck can quickly mount and mate her.   If the doe's
tail is down, the buck will not be able to mate her.
 
Feeling for Young Rabbits
 
It is possible to feel the small, round babies inside the
doe two weeks after breeding has taken place.   Keep the doe
in her cage.  Hold her ears and a fold of skin over the
shoulders as though holding the doe for mating.   Slide
the other hand under her stomach with your thumb on one
side of the stomach and your fingers on the other.   Gently
press in on the stomach wall with your thumb and fingers
and slide your hand backward and forward.   If the doe is
pregnant, you will be able to feel small, hard, marbleshaped
lumps as you slide your fingers back and forth with
the stomach gently squeezed between them.   This "test" is
a good one, but must be practiced often to be successful.
 
Kindling
 
Kindling is the act of giving birth.   The doe will kindle
31-32 days after mating.  A doe will probably eat less
food two or three days before kindling.   Five to seven
days before the kindling date, put a small box, called a
nest box, inside the doe's cage.   She will give birth in
this box.  It is usually possible to find boxes which
work very well, but if you must build a box it should be
lightweight and measure about 30cm deep x 35cm wide x
20-30cm high (12" x 14" x 8-12").
 
Place nothing in the nest box or the hutch if the weather
is warm.  The doe will pull fur from her stomach to make
the box comfortable.  If the weather is cold, place dry
grass or straw in the hutch three days before kindling,
and the doe will prepare her own nest.
 
Does usually kindle at night.   As each baby is born, the
doe will lick it and give it milk.   Does usually give
birth to 4 or 6 babies the first time.   After that a doe
usually produces 6-8 babies at each kindling.
 
One or two days after the rabbits are born, carefully look
inside the box for any dead babies.   Move the fur to one
side with a small stick or pencil.   Remove any that you
find.
 
When the doe is with her babies, it is important to keep
children and dogs from bothering her.   If the doe becomes
frightened she might injure her young by jumping into the
box quickly and crushing them.   Or, frightened does eat
their babies.  Does also will eat their young if they do
not have enough protein food.   If a doe continues to do
this after a second or third time, however, she should be
replaced.
 
Following are some examples of nest boxes you can make.
 
<FIGURE 16>

50p26.gif (534x534)


 
<FIGURE 17>

50p27.gif (600x600)


 
This closed-top winter nest box will hold the body warmth
of the baby rabbits.  These nest boxes can be made of 1cm
(1/2") or even 2 1/2cm (1") lumber.   One 4 x 8' (about
1.2 x 2.4m) sheet of plywood will make four of these boxes,
with just a little left over.   Use wood for these boxes.
If metal is used the box will "sweat" and create a health
problem for the young rabbits.
 
The doe will use the top of the box to sit on.   This allows
her to get away from her babies and keeps her feet warm.
When the young are a few weeks old they will start following
the doe up to the top.  Do not leave the nest box in
the cage too long.  The rabbits will quickly soil the wood
surfaces and problems with coccidiosis (see page 40)
could result.
 
A nest box can be made from a nail keg turned on its side
and steadied with a piece of wood nailed across the front.
 
<FIGURE 18>

50p28.gif (437x437)


 
Weaning
 
Weaning means removing the babies from their mother.
Young rabbits open their eyes 10-11 days after birth.
They will come out of the nest box at about three weeks
of age, and at this time they start eating food other than
their mother's milk.  They should be separated from their
mother at eiqht weeks (no sooner) and placed in another
cage for fattening.  If the young are separated before
they are eight weeks old they will stop gaining weight for
a few days, and might even lose weight.
 
After weaning, breed the doe again.   Wean and breed the
doe on the same day.  If the doe becomes pregnant each
time she is bred, she can produce four litters in 12
months.  But do not expect to reach this goal at first;
it is sometimes difficult even for experienced rabbit
raisers
 
Especially strong does, however, can be bred at 7 weeks or
even 6 weeks after kindling.   When this is done, the young
should continue to stay with their mother for the full 8
weeks before weaning.  If the does are properly fed so
they can stand the strain, this is a very good system of
breeding.  The doe is alone in her cage for only a short
time before the next litter is kindled, and the hutch
equipment is used to the best advantage.
 
Determining Sex
 
This can be done at weaning time (8 weeks) or earlier,
after you gain experience.  Hold the young rabbit as
shown here or place it on its back on a table.   There are
two openings near the tail.  The opening nearest the tail
is where the droppings (manure) come out.   Above this is
the outside opening of the sex organs.   Place your thumb
below this opening and your finger above it.  Press down
gently.  You will see the red, moist flesh inside.  As
you press down you will see a slit or a circle with a
small hole in the middle.  If you see a slit, the rabbit
is a female.  If you see a circle, the rabbit is a male.
 
<FIGURE 19>

50p29.gif (426x426)


 
Orphan Litters
 
Sometimes a doe dies at kindling or shortly afterward.
Many rabbit breeders will not take time to raise orphan
young, but young rabbits left without a doe can be fed
whole cow or goat milk from a bottle until able to eat
grains and grass at two weeks of age.   When raising orphan
litters care must be taken to keep all feeding equipment
sanitary.
 
Balancing Litter Size
 
Some breeders mate several does at one time so they will
all kindle within a day or two of each other.   If a doe
has an exceptionally large litter (10-16) and another doe
has a small litter (2-4), some of the rabbits from the
large litter can be transferred to the smaller one.   A
litter of eight is an ideal size.
 
Handle young rabbits as little as possible, but do not
worry about destroying the scent of the human hand.   As
soon as the rabbits are placed in the nest box any odor
clinging to them is quickly destroyed.
 
Failures to Conceive
 
The doe can be sterile, not able to produce young, if the
food ration is unbalanced or the weather is too hot or too
cold.  Commercial breeding has shortened the barren
tendency so that it is possible to achieve four or more
litters in a year.  However, a balanced diet is very
important if does and bucks are to realize this high rate
of production.
 
Bucks and does that are too old can account for conception
misses.  With excellent care and feeding a rabbit will
remain profitable to breed for 3-4 years.   After this time
does tend to give birth to small litters of 2 or 3 young.
 
Animals which have been known to produce well for several
years are of special interest to the rabbit raiser.   Keep
records of good does and select rabbits from the litters
of these outstanding does to keep aside for replacement
stock.
 
Sore hocks or other injuries can cause a loss of vitality
in both does and bucks.  Rabbits must receive excellent
care combined with good management to achieve profitable
results.
 
5 Keeping Records
 
If you are only raising rabbits in your backyard, you
probably do not need to keep extensive records.   The
following forms should prove sufficient.   However, once
you get into a rabbit raising business where keeping a
production schedule becomes extremely important, more
detailed records may be necessary.
 
Basic Records
 
<FIGURE 20>

50p31.gif (600x600)


 
These sample records (on the page before, and below)
contain information essential to the careful rabbit raiser.
Good records save time and allow planning of yearly production.
Records are the key to successful breeding and
handling of the litter.  Make an individual record for
each breeding animal and tack it somewhere in the cage
where it will remain dry and will not be chewed on by the
rabbit.
 
<FIGURE 21>

50p32.gif (600x600)


 
Complete Record Keeping
 
Mrs. Anne Faunce, a commercial rabbit raiser in the United
States wrote in Countryside and Small Stock Journal, (*) January
1974, that good records lead to increased pleasure,
 
(*) Now known simply as Countryside, published monthly at
    312 Portland Road, Highway 19 East, Waterloo, Wisconsin
    53594 U.S.A.
 
satisfaction, and net income in a rabbit raising operation.
The remainder of this section is drawn freely from her
article:
 
Well-organized, simple record keeping systems do not take long to
keep up-to-date and should be kept daily.   The time is well-spent.
Good records help to reduce mortality (death rate) and to increase
regular breeding and conception rates.   They help the rabbit raiser
to keep litters uniform in number and size of the young.  All of
these factors can lead to increased profits.
 
Our record system developed as we learned what we wanted and needed
to know, and how to record it simply.   Every bit is essential for
proper evaluation of does and bucks.   The buck performance records
have increased our net profits steadily.
 
 
The point of keeping records is to use them, so we keep permanent
individual performance records in our house and on each hutch door.
 
We were able to test such things as control-feeding and breeding
schedules with the aid of our individual buck and doe records, plus
the herd performance records.   Here are some of the things we found:
 
   *   For our herd, control-feeding produced the same or better
      weights at the same day-age as free-feeding, a lower
      mortality rate, as well as the reduced feed cost.
 
   *   A 38-39 day rebreed schedule was the most practical and
      profitable in supplying our processor with a minimum
      fryer weight of 4.5 lb (2kg).  We get 5 1/4 litters per
      year.   We also get 5-6 year old does producing profitable
      litters.
 
   *   Our herd actually made us more money if we limited litter
      size to 7 or 8 young, depending on the doe.
 
We use the same headings for doe and buck performance records and
the does' hutch cards; this simplifies recording and understanding.
We have found that all we need to know about the bucks while working
in the rabbitry is the date bred and the doe's number.
 
We make entries in every column on the does' hutch cards.  When
working with nest box litters, the information is right at hand to
decide how many young to leave with her, or how successful a foster
mother she is.
 
We designed our own hutch cards -- according to our own needs.  On
the following pages are sample cards and explanations of how we
set them up:
 
      PLEASE NOTE:  In the "weight" columns on the
      hutch cards, figures are given in pounds.
      One kilogram = 2.2 pounds.
 
 
Does
 
<FIGURE 22>

50p34.gif (600x600)


 
Column 1:  Buck   Identification of the buck used in any mating is
needed to compare litters out of different mates, or different litters
out of the same mates.  You can plan for future matings and stock
selection.
 
Column 2:  Date bred  This date shows you when the doe should
kindle, and when to put in the nest box.   An "L" (late) in this
column would show that the doe did not rebreed on schedule.  It's
very important to know this:   if she's always a late breeder, cull
her (separate her out).  We learned to save stock only out of does
which bred and conceived regularly, year around (in addition to other
desirable traits).  This includes bucks as well.
 
Using the information in this column pays off in increased conception
rates -- and overall production:   in 1965 our annual conception rate
was 82 percent, and our Fall (August through December) breedings
conception rate was 70 percent.   By 1971 annual conception rate was
95 percent and the Fall rate was 93 percent.   The does bred on
schedule, and conceived.
 
Column 3:  Date kindled  This gives you a reference point for
recording exact age in days of the young later on.   Shows if the
doe is always late, early or on time.   Not needed on buck records.
 
Column 4:  Number of young
 
kindled Shows the total number of young born.   If some were born
dead, or died soon after birth, we indicated this as a two part
figure:  14/10 -- 14 the total number born, and 10 the number alive
and well.  This column is useful in doe and buck evaluation.
 
number of young at 1 week  We found it frequently takes 4-7
days to get all litters settled down to the exact number we expect
the doe to raise; so we decided that one week was a practical date.
This figure is used as the reference for checking any mortality later
on.  If it's a good, bad even or uneven (in quality -- not number)
litter, the appropriate letter is added.
 
Column 5:  Young at 3 weeks  A summary of the litter's nest box
history.  Useful in early estimate of number for future sales, and
in evaluation of sire and dam.
 
number Shows survival and mortality.   To rate the litter, add the
appropriate letter.
 
age in days Accuracy in days is necessary for proper appraisal of
the rate of weight gain in the nest box.
 
weight of litter Shows the doe's nursing ability, and also the sire's
capability to give his young the ability to make the most of the doe's
milk.  You can compare with other litters on the sire's and dam's
records.  When breeding for herd bucks, the doe's milking ability is
of great importance, because she passes this on through her son to
his daughters.
 
Column 6:  Weaned  This and the next column really sum it up
for the commercial rabbit raiser.
 
number Shows survival and mortality in the litter.   This is
important for sales, and as part of the doe's and buck's performance
records.
 
age in days Since a whole litter can gain close to a pound a day at
the age of 8-9 weeks, exactness is essential for factual judgement.
 
weight of litter We weigh the whole litter at once -- it's a lot
quicker and easier, and more accurate than one by one and adding it
up.  Since we look closely at the total number of pounds produced,
it is logical.
 
Column 7:  Number Marketable on Time (MOT)  This is the
real key to profit and loss on a litter, and reflects the performance
-- and profitability -- of a doe or buck.   Included in this figure
are any young saved for breeding stock:   even though they are to be
separated out, they would of course be marketable.   Holdover fryers
to be used as breeders eat up the profit of those sold, and take up
valuable hutch space -- so use your records well and take care in
selecting breeding stock.
 
Column 8:  Notes   Limited space means limiting notes to important
things, and abbreviating legibly, such as WNB for "wet nest box,"
O.F. for "off feed," S4D for "saved 4 does" (for breed stock), etc.
 
Bucks
 
<FIGURE 23>

50p36.gif (600x600)


 
After we started keeping the same records on the bucks' performance
sheets, we found that it made a helpful difference in judging the
doe's performance.  We could now be sure if some things were the
doe's fault or not.  A high mortality-rate among fryers or an
irregular growth rate would be reason to check the records of the
bucks she has been mated with.   If those bucks show up well, then
she can be culled without wasting time, feed and hutch space on
"another chance;" if the bucks do not show up well, then the doe's
service is continued and we check the bucks.   Having both doe and
buck records makes it a lot easier to find the poor performers
faster and without losing any more money.   After the records have
been in use for a year or so, these problems are likely to disappear.
 
Keeping the buck records and using them has really made our herd
more profitable.  We were able to work on facts instead of impressions.
Once I had to put our favorite buck on the "stew list."  In
spite of the buck's being beautifully built, a terrific worker with
even the reluctant does, throwing good, uniform, easily identifiable
litters, his offspring just didn't grow out well.   His MOT equalled
only 46 percent!  Other things that showed up were:  low number of
young kindled, high kindling mortality, high fryer mortality, uneven
litters.  All good culling reasons, not easily found out without
records.
About three times a year we evaluate every buck's performance record
and give him a herd rating.  This is in addition to normal checking
and any special watching needed in between.   Young bucks are first
rated after their tenth breeding litter goes to market.   Foster
litters, or any litter where more than two have been added, are not
included.  By taking the total numbers of young at one week, at
weaning and MOT we can calculate the percentage rates for mortality
and marketability-on-time.
 
The herd bucks then are listed according to percentage raised and
MOT of the litters.  Those at the bottom are culled.  The first time
we used this rating, 7 out of 28 bucks were culled for less than a
65 percent MOT rating.  Exactly one year later, 6 out of 28 with less
than an 80 percent MOT rating were culled.   Four months later, we
culled two bucks; all the rest had 85-95 percent MOT.   And along with
the increase in MOT came a very nice increase in profits!  If something
undesirable showed up in a buck between herd ratings, we did
not wait to cull him.
 
I cannot stress enough how much difference it can make financially
to keep and use performance records on both does and bucks.  They
give the information necessary to make good management decisions on
breeding, selection and culling.
 
6 Rabbit Diseases and Their Control
 
It is best to prevent disease; treating disease is often
difficult.  Following these simple rules can do much toward
keeping rabbits free from disease:
 
   *   Keep hutch, nest boxes, water cans and mangers
      CLEAN.   Clean wire floors with soap and water
      after each litter.
 
   *   Give rabbits fresh green food to eat.   Remove
      stale food from mangers.
 
   *   Protect rabbits from intense sun, rain and drafts.
 
   *   Keep unfriendly dogs away.
 
   *   Use wire netting for hutch floors.   Hutch floors
      should be "cornerless."
 
   *   Take sick rabbits away from the other rabbits
      immediately.
 
   *   Watch for signs of the following diseases.
 
____Coccidiosis (intestinal)__________
 
Signs:      Diarrhea, a swollen belly.  Rabbit sits in a
            hunched position and will not eat.  Often the
            rabbit staggers around and is not able to keep
            its balance.  This disease attacks rabbits between
            the ages of 2 and 10 weeks.  Coccidiosis
            can cause death.
 
Cause:      A one-celled animal parasite living in the
            lining of the rabbit's intestines.
 
Treatment:  Mecryl Powder, Sulphamezathine, Amprol, Sulfaquinoxaline
            or Eimryl Urgence are used to
            prevent and treat this disease.  Follow the
            directions for each medication carefully.
                 
coccidiosis (continued)
 
            This disease is spread through the droppings of
            infected rabbits.  Keep the hutch clean at all
            times:  one dirty corner in the hutch could
            lead to this disease.
 
            Hutch floors should be of wire netting.  If
            the netting is stretched tight, there will be
            little need for additional supports.  If you
            must use wood supports build them as shown
            here.  You can also use rod iron.
 
<FIGURE 24>

50p40.gif (437x437)


 
Ear Mange
 
Signs:      Dirty ears.  Crusts on inner surface of ear.
            Often the rabbit shakes its head or scratches
            its ears.
 
Cause:      Mites.  These insects are so small you can
            only see them with a magnifying glass.  They
            dig under the skin on the inside of the
            rabbit's ears and cause pain.
 
Treatment:  Remove the crusts with your fingernail.  Go
            to a pharmacy and ask for a solution of 0.25
            percent Lindane in vegetable oil, or a mixture
            of 2 parts iodoform, 10 parts ether and 25
            parts vegetable oil.  Swab either one of these
            solutions inside the ear with a piece of cloth
            or cotton.  Apply again after one week.  Check
            all other rabbits' ears for this problem.
 
Remarks:    This disease can destroy the centers of balance
            in the rabbit's inner ear.  If a rabbit is not
            treated for this disease it will result in a
            condition known as wry neck:  the rabbit will
            hold its head to one side or fall over.  Once
            this happens to a rabbit, it cannot be treated.
            The best thing to do is prevent it by treating
            the ear mange promptly.
 
Colds
 
Signs:      Sneezing and rubbing the nose with the front
            feet.  Fluid will show around the nose.  This
            fluid may be thin and clear, or it may be
            thick and yellow.
 
Cause:      Several types of bacteria and virus.
 
Treatment:  Reduce the amount of concentrates you are
            giving your rabbit for a few days.  Give the
            rabbit all the green grass and leaves it wants.
 
Remarks:    This disease attacks animals in over-crowded,
            damp, dirty hutches.  Protect rabbits from
            rain.   Always provide lots of fresh greens to
            eat.
 
Sore Hocks
 
Signs:      Rocking forward on front feet; hind feet show
            sores on the bottom.  Rabbit may lose the fur
            pad on the sole of the foot, with scales and
            irritation in this area.   If allowed to get
            worse, the foot bleeds or becomes spongy with
            pus draining from it.
 
Cause:      Wet or rough floors which rabbits bang their
            feet upon.  Floors that are sharp, that sag
            too much, or that are filthy, may contribute
            to this.
 
Treatment:  Soak the affected parts in warm, soapy water
            until the crusts come off.  Rinse and dry
            thoroughly.  Rub in ointment but do not use so
            much that the foot becomes sticky and picks up
            dirt (use zinc ointment, petroleum jelly,
            sulfathiazole ointment).
 
Remarks:    Keep rabbits undisturbed so they do not bang
            their feet.  Select replacement stock from
            quiet animals.
 
Sore Eyes
 
Signs:      Rubbing eyes with feet.  Fluid from eye either
            thin and clear, or thick and yellow.
 
Cause:      Irritation from flies or injury from jagged
            wire, etc.
 
Treatment:  Clean eyes with boric acid water, or just clean
            water.  Apply ophthalmic ointment (antibiotic,
            silver oxide, yellow oxide of mercury, Argyrol).
 
Remarks:    This can often be contagious.  Isolate sick
            animals.
 
Skin Mange
 
Signs:      The rabbit shows an intense itching, the skin
            becomes reddened and irritated, the hair comes
            out, and yellow crusts may be present.
 
Cause:      Mites (similar to ear mange).
 
Treatment:  Wash the affected area with warm soapy water,
            rinse and dry (important:  rabbits can get
            pneumonia if not dried quickly).  Clip the
            hair away from the edges of the sore area.
            Rub dry flowers of sulphur into the skin
            thoroughly.  Repeat treatment in four to six
            days.
 
Remarks:    Contagious.  Isolate infected animals.  Clean
            and disinfect hutches which have been used by
            diseased animals.
 
Mucoid Enteritis (Scours or Bloat)
 
Signs:      Drinking but no eating.  Rabbits sit hunched
            up with squinting eyes, grind their teeth,
            have dull, rough coats, and swollen bellies.
            They may have diarrhea.
 
Cause:      The cause is not known, but it is not thought
            to be contagious.
 
 
Treatment:  No specific treatment known.   Take away all
            food and water for 48 hours; then give small
            quantities of green food for a few days.   Let
            them have small amounts of water during this
            time.
 
Remarks:    Usually affects rabbits at about six weeks of
            age.   Do not confuse this with coccidiosis,
            which can be treated.
 
Pneumonia
 
Signs:      Heavy breathing.  Rabbit often tilts its head
            back so that the nose is in the air.  Rabbit
            moves very little and will not eat.  Body
            temperature, as shown by a thermometer placed
            in the rectum, is high (39.5 - 41 [degrees] C -- or 103
            - 106 [degrees] F).  As the animal gets worse the eyes
            and ears may show a bluish color because of
            lack of oxygen.
 
Cause:      Bacteria.  Usually comes with other diseases,
            or if animal is pregnant, nursing young, or
            chilled and wet.  Also attacks very young
            rabbits.
 
Treatment:  Injections of antibiotics given before the
            disease progresses too far.  The Veterinarian
            will usually give 200,000 units plus 0.25gm
            dihydroatreptomycin intra-muscularly (into a
            muscle) in the hind leg.  Keep animal warm and
            dry, reduce concentrates and give plenty of
            green feed and and clean water.
 
Remarks:    The critical time for the doe is two weeks
            before and two weeks after kindling.  Watch
            the doe closely during these times.  Pneumonia
            also can follow right after many of the other
            diseases.  Watch for it.   Treat and isolate
            infected animals promptly.
 
Caked Breast (Caked Udder)
 
Signs:      In early cases, the breasts (one or more) are
            firm, pink and feel hot to the touch.  Later
            on, little knots can be felt in the breasts.
            Following this, the breasts may darken and
            become dry and cracked.
 
Cause:      Milk not being taken from the breasts fast
            enough.  Doe may have too few young, or not be
            letting them nurse.
 
Treatment:  Reduce concentrates and provide plenty of green
            feed and clean water.  Rub Lanolin (or oil or
            some kind of skin-softening agent) well into
            the breasts and try to get milk to flow by
            massaging and encouraging young to nurse.  If
            breasts crack, soften crusts and allow to drain,
            but do not lance with a knife.
 
Remarks:    Do not wean all the young rabbits from heavily
            milking does at the same time; take a few
 
caked breast (continued)
 
            at a time from her.  Breed heavy milkers a
            few days before weaning the young.  If a heavy
            milker loses a litter, breed her again at
            once.  Breeding helps to reduce the milk in
            the breasts.
 
            Avoid disturbances, particularly at night.
 
             If breasts start getting blue, the doe should
            have antibiotic injections (Penicillin) at
            once.  Isolate the doe and wash your hands
            thoroughly before taking care of other does.
7 Killing, Skinning,
and Tanning Rabbits
 
Animals are killed when they reach the desired market
weight.  In many cases, getting the meat is more important
than worrying about the skin.   When possible, rabbits are
kept longer, gaining weight at a slower rate, so that they
can be kept until the combined value of the meat (carcass)
and pelt (skin) will bring the highest return.
 
In the United States, 80 percent of the rabbits marketed
are classed as "fryers."   This means they are tender and
suitable for quicker cooking methods.   To become classified
as fryers, medium and heavy breeds of rabbits are
weaned and marketed at two months of age, when their weight
averages 1.7 - 2 kg (3 3/4 - 4 1/2 lb).   The meat that you
actually are able to "dress" out of the animal -- or fryer
yield of the carcass -- will average from 50 to 60 percent
of the live weight.
 
At the time of slaughter there should be some fat over the
ribs, along the backbone, in the flanks, and around the
tailhead and the kidneys, increasing the dressing percent
over that of the thin rabbit.   To do this, rabbits must be
properly fed.  Small bones and thin skin show quality in
an animal.  Because of this, medium breeds with small bones
and thin skin will give higher dressing percent than ones
with large bones and thick skins.
 
The amount of food in the stomach and intestines has an
effect on dressing percent.  If the rabbit is without
food and water for a few hours before killing, the dressing
percent will be lower.
 
The profit you get from a fryer will depend on how much
feed and labor cost you have to subtract from the fryer's
market price.
 
In the following two sections are step-by-step instructions
on killing and skinning, and tanning the hides of rabbits.
 
<FIGURE 25>

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Killing and Skinning a Rabbit
 
Rabbits are easier to kill and clean than any other farm
animals.  With experience, the whole job can be done in
two or three minutes!  Follow these steps:
 
Kill the rabbit quickly and painlessly.
Hold it by the hind legs,
head pointing down.  In a few
seconds he will stop struggling and
hang quietly.  With the edge of the
palm of your free hand (or with a
pipe or stick), give a quick
"chopping" blow to the back of its
neck.  This blow will kill the
rabbit quickly without pain.
 
<FIGURE 26>

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Some people prefer dislocating
the neck to kill a rabbit.  The
operation is faster than the
blow to the neck and well suited
to the commercial rabbit raiser.
Hold the rabbit by the hind legs
with one hand.  The thumb of the
other hand is placed on the neck
just behind the ears, with the
fingers grasping the neck.
Pressing down on the thumb while
quickly pulling the rabbit
upwards dislocates the neck.
 
<FIGURE 27>

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Next, hang the rabbit by
one of the hind legs using
a piece of rope or twine,
or by putting a large nail
through the hind leg.
 
<FIGURE 28>

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After this, cut
off the head,
front feet, and
the one hind foot
not attached by
rope or nail.
 
<FIGURE 29>

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Now, cut the skin on the inside of the
leg of the foot attached by the rope or
nail.  Continue this cut to the tail
and up the other leg.
 
<FIGURE 30>

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<FIGURE 31>

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Peel the skin off both hind legs
and cut the tail off.  Start
pulling the skin down.
 
<FIGURE 32>

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Continue pulling the skin down
and completely off the body.
 
<FIGURE 33>

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<FIGURE 34>

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Now, with your knife, slit the
body of the rabbit up the middle
of the belly, but do not cut
the intestines.
 
To finish, remove everything
inside except the kidneys, liver
and heart, which are good to eat.
Cut up the carcass or cook whole.
 
Tanning a Rabbit Skin
 
In the introduction to this manual it was said that many
beautiful items could be made with rabbit skins.   Rabbit
skins must be tanned (treated so they will be soft and
durable) before they can be used to make hats, rugs, and
other articles.  This is not very difficult to do and one
method is given below:
 
   *   Take the skin and slit it up the middle.  Tack
      it on a board or the side of the house with the
      fur side down and the skin side up.
 
   *   The following day examine the skin to see if it
      is drying flat.   Remove any patches of fat or meat.
      Let the skin dry completely.
 
   *   After the skin is dry, soak it in clean, cool water.
      Change the water several times.  When the skin is
      soft, lay it over a pole or board and work over
      the skin side with a coarse file or dull knife to
      remove any tissue, flesh or fat.  This will also
      remove any grease or oil.  All the fat and oil
      must be out of the skin before continuing.
 
   *   Now put the skin in warm water with 30gm (about
      1oz) of soda or borax to the gallon.  Get soda or
      borax at the pharmacy.  Add a little soap to help
      remove the grease and clean the skin.  Wash the
      skin in this mixture and then remove the skin.
      Squeeze the water out of the skin slowly and
      carefully.
 
   *   Wash the skin in a little gasoline which will
      remove the last bits of dirt and grease.
 
   *   Now the skin is ready to be preserved with chemicals
      (tanned).   You will need about .45kg (1 lb)
      of ammonia alum (ammonium aluminum sulfate) or
      potash alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) to
      dissolve in one gallon of water.  After this,
      add about 110gm (4oz) washing soda and about
      225gm (8oz) of salt in 1/2 gallon of water.
      Pour the soda-salt-water mixture slowly into the
      alum-water mixture while stirring well.
 
   *   Take about a cup of this mixture and add baking
      flour until you make a thin paste.  Tack out
      the skin smoothly with the fur side down.  Put
      the paste on the skin side about 1/2cm (1/4 in)
      thick.   Lay a piece of paper or cloth over it.
 
   *   The next day scrape off most of the paste and
      put some more on again.  Repeat this for two
      more days (Repeat for only one more day if the
      skin is from a young rabbit).
 
      Now put another layer of paste on and leave it
      for four days.
 
      Finally, scrape off the paste and wash the skin in
      a gallon of water with about 30gm (1oz) of soda
      or borax.   Rinse the skin in cool water.   Squeeze
      out all the water and stretch the skin in all
      directions.  Pull the skin side back and forth
      over the edge of a board.  Much of the success
      in making a soft skin depends upon this repeated
      work.  After you have worked the skin for a
      long time it will become soft and dry.  It is
      now ready to be made into beautiful rugs, hats,
      handbags or collars for dresses.
 
<FIGURE 35>

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                          Part 2
 
<FIGURE 36>

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Hutch Construction
 
Detailed step-by-step instructions for building a wood
hutch with a sheet metal roof are presented first.
Following are a few sketches and notes on a variation on
this basic hutch design, made with a wood frame and bamboo
sides and roof.  Both hutches provide good living and
breeding space for rabbits.
 
<FIGURE 37>

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Wood Hutch with Metal Roof
 
<FIGURE 38>

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VITA Volunteer George R. Clark has prepared these construction
steps from plans provided by Harlan Attfield.
Some construction tips:  Be sure all edges on floor are
flush, so all rabbit droppings fall to the ground.
 
Where wire netting is fastened to posts, turn wire edges
down to avoid injury to the rabbits.
 
<FIGURE 39>

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<FIGURE 40>
 
<FIGURE 41>
 
<FIGURE 42>
 
<FIGURE 43>
 
<FIGURE 44>
 
<FIGURE 45>
<FIGURE 46>
 
<FIGURE 47>
 
<FIGURE 48>
 
<FIGURE 49>
 
<FIGURE 50>
 
<FIGURE 51>
 
<FIGURE 52>
 
<FIGURE 53>
<FIGURE 54>
 
<FIGURE 55>
 
<FIGURE 56>
 
<FIGURE 57>
 
<FIGURE 58>
 
<FIGURE 59>
 
Wood and Bamboo Hutch

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<FIGURE 60>
 
Assemble a teak frame.  Attach a wire mesh
floor (1 x 1cm / 1/2 x 1/2" squares).
 
<FIGURE 61>

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*  Nail full-length strips of bamboo along the back
   wall.
 
*  Nail double walls of bamboo strips to form each
   divider between cages, and single walls of bamboo
   strips at each end of the hutch.
 
*  In this hutch, nest boxes made from wood crates
   have been built right into the outside wall of
   each of the end cages.
<FIGURE 62>

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*  To make a roof, split bamboo lengths into halves, chip
   out the "nodes" with a hammer, paint the inside surfaces
   with a waterproofing substance like creosote or
   solignum, and nail down onto the top of the hutch frame
   in an interlocking pattern (shown above).  Make the
   bamboo lengths long enough to overlap the front and
   back of the hutch.
 
*  After nailing down the bottom bamboo pieces of the
   roof, you can either nail each top piece to the bottom
   ones, or lay all. the top pieces into place without
   nailing, and hold them permanently in place by nailing
    every half meter or so through two or three half-sections
   of bamboo laid along the length of the hutch over the
   top pieces.
 
<FIGURE 63>

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Frame a door to cover the entire front of each cage,
and cover with bamboo strips nailed into each frame.
Attach the doors to the hutch with two 4" hinges each
and a latch for each.
 
Worm Husbandry
 
Turn your rabbit manure accumulation into a home for one
of the farmer's greatest friends -- the earthworm.
 
Growing worms is easy and the advantages are many.   Rabbit
manure and waste feed falling through the wire make good
food for earthworms.
 
Dig pits or place shallow bins below the hutch floors, and
stock them with worms.  The worms will consume and compost
the pellets, creating finely ground fertilizer of the very
highest quality.
 
Bins or shallow pits can be formed from cement, cinder
blocks, or lumber (2 x 12") and are sunk a few inches into
the ground.  Since worms breed best at temperatures above
4.5 [degrees] C (40 [degrees]), pits should be sunk low enough to insure
against soil temperatures colder than this during the fall.
During winter the worms will slow down or become dormant.
The colony will quickly re-activate during the spring when
the soil temperature rises.
 
Bins or pits should be a few centimeters or inches larger
than the actual size of the hutch so they will catch every
pellet.
 
"Pit-run" worms are economical to start with and are
obtainable from earthworm growers and many rabbit raisers.
To start a "worm farm" lay down a starter mix of 50 percent
rabbit manure and 50 percent peat moss or fine compost.   If
moles are a problem, lcm (1/2") square wire mesh can be
used to line the bottom and sides of the pit.   A few inches
of crushed limestone can be placed at the bottom of the pit
to correct manure acidity and provide a porous base for
drainage.
 
Keep the pits moist by sprinkling with a little water.
Some rabbit and worm growers make a habit of emptying the
water crocks directly into the worm bins when freshening
the rabbits' water supply.  The only other work involved
is levelling the pits as the compost "grows" and forking
over the bin contents every 2 or 3 weeks to keep it loose.
 
When the bins get too full of worms some of them should be
forked out (a shovel will cut the worms), and deposited in
the garden, flower beds, or greenhouse, or they can be sold.
 
An excellent book on earthworms that is used by rabbit
breeders in the United States is:
 
    Raising Earthworms for Profit
 
    by Earl B. Shields
       P. O. Box 472
       Elgin, Illinois 60120
       U S A
 
    Cost:   $2.00 (US)
 
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