Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Windows Completed in the Rabbit Barn

Hubby had lots of help getting the windows finished up in the rabbit barn. They are hinged at the top and tip outward, allowing for fresh air flow, light, and protection from the elements.

Daughter was a big help getting the curtain material stretched and fastened to the window frames.

There are 4 windows along the east side and 2 on the west.

This is what it looks like on the inside.

This about completes the rabbit barn upgrade. We will put another single row of pens on this side of the barn 6-8' from the wall, making a total of 176 holes (pens) This has been an on-going transformation, from a cattle barn to a proper set-up for commercial rabbit production.

I appreciate my husband's dedication to this project and the opportunity to be able to keep working with animals that benefit not just ourselves but a whole generation of people. There are strict guidelines to follow in order to sell to the medical research community, and medical research is important if we are to find new cures and treatments for diseases.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Video of what's going on in our Barn

I love watching the does when they begin making their nests, the scratching around they do and chewing up the wood chips before pulling hair. I was fortunate to catch this doe doing just that ....

Turn up the volume so you can hear her toward the end of video. I am so excited as I just learned to use this feature on my camera and just had to post!

What's going on in our barn

When I first enter the barn a pleasant sight greets me; a doe cleaning and looking after her babies.

This is a young doe with her first litter, about 3 wks old

Here is one of our older does with her litter of 10

Another with her litter of 8. See the baby on its mothers back?

This doe is pulling hair to make a nice soft nest for her babies. She will kindle (give birth) in a day or two. You can see the hair in her mouth. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Here are more young does that will be ready for breeding in Dec. They are raised 2 in a pen until breeding age.

Can't forget the boys ........ There are 12 of them but these 2 are my favorites.
This is JMJ3, one of the younger ones

And this is our Grand-papa, Mr Big. He was the first buck when we started raising commercial rabbits.

He has a face only a mother could love, but has nice, fast-growing babies!

Hubby has finished the last wall, getting ready to put in the windows. This will keep the cold out and let light in.

A whole double row of cages, cleaned, and waiting to grow out the young. It gets real busy when the pens are all full.

Thanks for stopping by. Leave us a comment. We always try to answer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Can you guess what is in this basket?

In the barn early yesterday morning I found this little newborn on the floor, very chilled, lethargic, and dirty. Apparently it had come through the wire on the front of the cage and fallen out. We have baby-saver wire on the sides and back but not the front. Sometimes the babies will be hanging onto the does breast when she jumps out of the nesting box and they end up on the wire.

I brought it in and ran warm water over it until I had lots of movement, being careful not to get water near its mouth or nose, then wrapped it in a washcloth and put in a basket on the warming shelf of the wood cook-stove. Within a couple hrs the chilled bunny had warmed and was comfortable so I returned it to the mom.

He was doing just fine last night. With our 20-30* below normal temps for this time of year I am checking the babies often. We have had 36 new litters so far this fall and 5 more to go in the next couple days.

Unfortunately, we have lost several litters of 1st time moms. Some don't have a clue as to what is going on, and have them on the wire even though a nest box is provided. Some don't pull hair or wool to line the nest box with. Usually this is remedied by the time their next litters are born. And then there are some, who even though it is their first time I am able to foster some extra ones to and they take very good care of all. The next several are due the 29th.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Start-Up

First kits of the fall season... 3 wks old

They get playful, and want to investigate what on the other side of their 4 wall

My heart just isn't into blogging right now as I am dealing with some physical issues, but just wanted to post a couple pics

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Free Lunch .....

It is time for the does to start back to work ....... yes sirree! No free lunch here. We have just finished cleaning 2 double rows of cages and getting the does all back in order according to age and bloodlines.
We have 47 does that have kindled before(after weeding out the older ones or any with health issues such as mastitus, that were not going to be profitable for the next year)
46 jr replacement and expansion does .......
We are currently running 11 bucks, 2 of which are older and may be replaced. We have room for 12 total. Their pens are lined on the sides and back with a washable material. Keeps them so much cleaner.

I am going to add a counter and keep track of the rabbit harvest this year starting with the first litter which is due to be born mid Sept. I wish I had done it earlier. These first ones won't be ready until the first run in Dec. We still have 180 - 200 this years bunnies who will be going in the next month.

I do know that the last 4 times we sent rabbits the numbers have been 103, 97, 47, and this week 83 again, all 2 weeks apart. Of course I have records here, but no sense going backward when you can go forward, right?

Are any of you breeding your rabbits yet, and how soon do you re-breed after that litter is born?
I would like to be in contact with others who are raising meat rabbits commercially as well as back-yard rabbit raisers. We welcome any and all comments. Thanks for visiting my blog

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quieter times

Sometimes I just like to go to the barn and enjoy watching the rabbits eat

....especially when I take them a green leaf. There is something about them munching it down that makes me smile.

Oh! so you think you would like some too? I guess a little taste won't hurt you.

"Move over, brother, quit crowding... save some for me please?"
I don't give the young ones much , just a taste.

This is the quieter, slower time of year for rabbit raisers in the mid-southern states. Breeding has stopped for now. This is the time for cleaning , repairs and changes. Mostly we are cleaning the barn and pens, getting the window covers made for cooler weather, organizing rabbits in the order we want them, making sure the does are gaining in condition, and gearing up for breeding to start again this fall.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Followers

This post is for the new followers to my rabbit blog.

Welcome! to Евгений Мосин and Arthurg! I see one of you is from Africa, but I have no other way to contact you and would like to know how you raise your rabbits in Africa. Thank you both for stopping to visit my blog and come back anytime. I try to post helpful information here, and am willing to learn what others do in raising their rabbits.

Visitors and comments always welcome!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bunny Barometer

I can usually almost tell the temp in the rabbit barn by the way the bunnies are acting....

1. Does sporadically hopping around - under 80*

2. Bunnies sporadically jumping around and over each other - up to 85*

3. Rabbits up and eating - up to 90*

3. Resting quietly -up to 95*

4. Laying down sprauled out - over 95*

5. Panting , nose in air - pushing 100*

The fans and insulation are keeping it cooler this year, but the humidity is what gets to them. This morning was almost 90* outside and a cool 81* inside the barn. Fans are going to keep air moving and humidity down. Bunnies are spaced to 4-5 to a pen where possible, instead of the 8 per pen in cooler weather. Another 6 weeks and we will be through the worst of it. We have decided to stop breeding does until at least mid-August, and then depending on the weather. Heat and humidity can take a toll on does trying to give birth.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This is what can happen.......

........ when you don't follow proper procedures or use common sense.
Actually this is after 4 days of healing; it had been much worse. This one got me good and I had to run to the house to get it, and other bad scratches, bandaged before I could go back out and finish. It just would not stop bleeding. Thankfully, we both had had life-time tetanus shots.
I "most" always wear at least long sleeves ( can't stand gloves) when loading fryers to go to market. This day was hot (95*) and muggy and I was only moving a few jr. does into new cages to space them out. Should have known better. Common sense should have told me they , like humans, don't like messed with either, when it is so hot, and I should have had them seperated a week ago, before the heat hit so hard. But, there I was, at the hottest part of the day.... you get the picture.
So.... new rules for this rabbitry ....
1. I don't care how hot it is, always wear long sleeves when moving rabbits.
2. Whenever possible, move rabbits early in the day.
3. Plan ahead (thats a no-brainer! and not actually a new rule.... just a forgotten one)
On the up-side, one of the new jr.does had her 1st litter today! Came through it just fine, with 8 nice fat little babies!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Time for a rest.... and fans in the barn

With the heat of summer coming on , we are slowing down our breeding schedule and allowing the does more time between litters. They need this time to gain condition, as when the heat rises they don't eat as much as in cooler weather.
Besides this. we are taking the nessessary steps to try to keep them unstressed from the heat.

We have cleaned all the fans and made sure they are in good running condition. That meant taking off the grill covers , air hosing all the accumulated hair, scrubbing them. air hosing the motor parts and washing the blades and entire casing., and putting them back together. There are 4 fans (24" square box) hung from the ceiling, all blowing the same direction to cause air flow through out the barn. We also use a 42" barn fan on the floor to move damp air out of the barn. This one needs cleaned of the hair accumulation every week.

These fans, plus the insulation put up last winter to block the heat from the metal roof, should keep it much cooler. We are hoping for at least 10* cooler than the outside temp.
You can see the temp gauge on the pole at the right of the last picture. The goals are, keep a lesser number of fryers per cage, keep the air moving , but not blowing on the rabbits, check nest boxes often for expired bunnies and for dampness, feed often but not let feed sit in feeders more than 12 hrs, make sure all water nipples stay in good working order, and allowing more time between breedings.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tools of the Trade

While working in the barn the other day, I thought about the different tools we have tried and what worked and what didn't. I thought it might be neat to share what common tools we have found that work best and why.

The propane torch is used for burning off hair before the pens are scrubbed down. This wire-brush barbeque grill scraper ( available at wal-mart) works wonders for cleaning the floors of the cages while torching them. Gets rid of all the residue from torched hair build-up. Gets into the corners really nice and has a long enough handle to get to the back of the cage easily. We have tried regular shop-type wire brushes, but the nose of it is too long to permit getting the bristles into the corners, and it really isn't long enough to reach the back under the cage.

Bags of pine shavings work well for nest-box material. A wide-bladed putty knife with one edge slightly longer than the other helps get right into the corners when cleaning the nesting material out of the boxes after use.

The feed cart is an absolute nessessity for feeding more than a few rabbits. Just push it along the isles and stop at every feeder to distribute their needed ration. For our number of rabbits, it lasts about half-way around the barn, then needs filled again to finish the job. When there is a high number of fryers being fed , we go thru about 120-135#'s /day, and average about 2 ton /month.

Index cards, pens, and black fine point permanent marker for doe cards, to keep record of when doe was bred, to which buck, when she kindled and how many. Also snack size ziplock baggies are great for putting doe cards into to keep clean and nice. Then the cards are attached to the back of the feeder with a clothespin for extra security. The container of wipes is handy for quick needed "hand wash". The coffee can holds extra hair pulled by does that didn't need that much in their nestbox. During winter it will come in handy for those does that don't pull any, or don't pull enough.
I f you have other tools that work for you or other nifty ideas for your rabbitry, please let us know. We would be glad to have you share with us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mega Mom!

My doe JMJ-1 had 17 babies (all live) 2 litters ago. On Monday she kindled again with 15 , again all live. We were able to foster out 3 of them. This morning a first time mom had 3 live and 4 dead. She was taking good care of the live ones so I gave her 3 more of the JMJ-1 babies and so far they are all doing fine. I think JMJ-1 can handle nursing 9 babies :) I used to put a dab of vinegar on the foster mom's nose and on all the babies so everyone would smell the same, but for the last several months I have just put new babies in the middle of the nest or each one between 2 original babies.

What is the highest number live in the litters you have had? Do you move some to other moms? What has been your technique?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

They keep us hopping!

We had seven new litters born in the last 4 days. Six of them had litters of 9 - 13, which is our norm. As the does get older (3-4 yrs) they produce smaller litters; such as Miss Bunnie who had 6. We still use them because they can be good foster moms for does that just have too many to nurse. So Miss Bunnie adopted 2 from the doe that had 13, which left me with 3 litters who had 11 to raise. Another doe had 9 and the others had 10 each.This picture is of a brand new litter of 11 kits.

This litter, 2 1/2 wks old, is taking an afternoon nap. Notice the nearest one, on his back, feet up, like a little kid. It is so neat to see how relaxed they are.This is a common sight, out of the nest box, yet all piled up. The nest box will be taken out on day 18.
I took this picture to show the difference in size between a full grown Dutch doe and a full grown 6 mo old NZW doe, in pens back to back. This was the little Dutch doe I got for my grandchild at the Fairview auction in March. She had kindled 2 weeks later.
Tomorrow is rabbit truck day, so we will have more pens to clean, and more babies to wean!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nest-box material

We use pine wood-chips for nesting material in our rabbits nest-boxes, for absorbancy and warmth. The does will get in the box, dig it around, chew some into smaller pieces, and pull their hair to add to it to make a nice soft nest for their babies. So what do we do with it when the nest box comes out?
We have found a very good way to use it "twice". We mulched around our blueberry bushes and the newly planted grapevines we added this year. We have used it in the raspberry bed and around other flowers and bushes. If you don't mind it not being the commercial mulch color, it works just as well...... and saves money in the long run.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The next step.....

We have started to cut the openings in the top quarter of the side-walls in the rabbit barn. Each section, like the one in this picture, will have a tilt-out frame, covered with white poultry curtain material, and hinged at the top.

They will be opened for air circulation, yet shade the direct sun's rays while allowing light in. In winter they can be closed , or partially closed while still allowing daylight in. This should be very advantageous in allowing the rabbits a more natural, day-night transition. That, coupled with the insulation, may allow us to breed the rabbits further into the heat of the summer, and start up breeding again in the early fall.

We are always seeking to improve on the quality of care for our animals. If anyone has further suggestion, we are always open to comments and ideas. Let us hear from you, especially from other parts of the country, or even other parts of the world. Tell us what your "hare-raising " experiences are like!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who's been sleeping in MY bed??

Friday was a good day to catch up on scrubbing the rabbit nest boxes. They had been stacking up for some time now. As I was going through the pile and carrying them outside , I came across one in the very back that, soon as it was uncovered, a little wren flew out.
Apparently she had decided the nest box was a perfect site for her hatchlings!

Friday, April 10, 2009

My oh my! yummy Rabbit Pie!

Extra rabbit and veggies from the roast rabbit......add juices from roast and 1 can cream of mushroom soup. Bake in oven till bubbly.
Dumpling recipe is from the Pillsbury 8th Grand National Cookbook ( 25 cents at the time, no copyright date, but one of my Mom's cookbook collections) and has added chives, savory and celery seed (1 tsp ea) Roll the dumplings in buttered crumbs before putting them on top of the "pie", then bake uncovered in a 350* oven, for about 35-40 min. This gives a nice crunch texture to the top of the dumplings.
As an added plus, our wood-cook-stove was still burning so of course we made use of it. It always makes food super-delicious! My husband just could not comment enough on this delicious meal. And we had plenty left over for the next day!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hare today and gone tomorrow!

Hubby thought he had about 50 rabbits to go on the truck this week. He kept loading and weighing and putting them in transport cages. He ended up with a whopping 103 to go! Those does are doing a great job!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Yummm! rabbit roast dinner!

We had a non-producer that ended up in my roaster last week.
Slow-cooked in the wood-stove oven, it was very tender and the spices hubby added made it just right! A simple meal, but very tasty and satisfying with a pineapple coleslaw on the side. There are many ways to enjoy rabbit and I will be posting more in recipe form as time goes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rabbit truck day

Once every 2 weeks the rabbit truck comes through our area to pick up live fryer size rabbits to go to the processing plant. We had 62 to go this time , down from our usual avg of about 100. But as you can see in the finished 4th row there will be plenty the next 2 trips.

Hubby loads up the rabbits, picking them up by the loose fur behind the neck and shoulders.

Some that don't "feel" as though they have quite enough growth yet will have to be weighed. The fryers have to be 4 3/4 to 5 3/4 #'s. This one did not go.

Neighbor, Taylor, is learning about the rabbits and how to handle them.

He puts them gently into the transport cage.

Not too many.... on winter days 10 to a cage, and warm days 8 or less.

All loaded up and ready to go....

The recieving farm is only 14 miles away and from there the rabbits are loaded on a straight truck with ones from other rabbit growers. The driver weighs our rabbits in a large "basket" and gives us a ticket with the total weight. Payment is recieved after they arrive at the plant.

At home the empty pens are scrubbed and sterilized before being put into use again. They don't stay empty long..... there are always more bunnies needing to be weaned, as the does will be having their next litter soon and need a rest first. And the cycle begins all over again ...........