Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No more water-bottles

Three double rows of cages, all on the automatic water system. What a time saver!

The flush valves at the ends of the rows. This is needed to flush the water system so the lines stay clean and the water fresh.

Bracing is up for the third and last part of the building. This is needed to hang the cages from. There can be as much as 40#'s + of rabbits per cage by the time they reach fryer stage.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Help! ......she's getting away!

My very first rabbit

This had to be a picture of my very first rabbit. I think I was about 7 yrs old. Many thanks goes to my neice Kim who has the old family slides from my Grandma and Grandpa Miller, and is downloading them into an online album for the family to enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Attention to Detail

Raising rabbits, as well as any other animals, takes more time and care than just making sure they have food and water. We need to keep records of which does are due to kindle (give birth), when the bunnies were born, which does need re-bred and to which buck, which bunnies need weaned and when. We also need to keep a close eye on the first-time moms, such as this one; who, although she had a nest-box in at the right time, she opted not to use it, but had her babies on the wire floor during a cold spell in December. Fortunately, I was out early that morning checking on them and found the babies chilled with little movement. Babies can chill and die within a hour or so at 25*.

I brought them into the house, and using the hair-dryer on low setting, began to warm them till they started moving and feeling around for something to eat. I put them on a towel on the table, and a small lamp over them with a dish-towel tented over. A couple hours later when they were no longer chilled, I took them back out and put some saved hair into the nest box and the babies into it, and covered them with more rabbit hair. I then put a heat lamp on top of the cage. Now it was up to mom rabbit as to whether she would take care of them or not. She did, and we saved 8 out of 10 of that litter.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Other chores...

Hubby takes a moment to "talk to the animals" after a hard day's work.
He makes sure we have enough nestboxes on hand for all the expansion does, building 34 in one weekend. The boxes are 9" high in the back tapering to the front, 18' long and 11"wide.
He also does the "torching" to remove hair and sanitize after use of each litter. Then I scrub, or spray in the colder part of winter, with a bleach solution for extra sanitizing. We like to let them dry in the sun. We got a little behind during the ice storm / power outage so we had a lot to do when it warmed back up.The Brock bin in front of the barn is what we keep the rabbit pellets in. It holds 3 ton of feed. Hubby climbs the ladder and checks to see how much we have used so that we order it in time and don't run out. There is a sliding trap door at the bottom where we push the feed cart under and fill it. It usually takes 2-3 cartfuls a day to feed the rabbits.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Raise Rabbits? (for Sammi)

What do you do with that many rabbits??!! What do you do with them in the winter time? Do they bite? What do they eat? Do you ever let them run loose on the ground? I have been asked these and similar questions several times, especially in the last few months. I will try to answer from our perspective.

Rabbits are a very good high-quality meat, high in protein and low in fat. (Did you know you can buy rabbit meat in many Wal-Mart stores??) The meat can be subsituted for chicken in most any recipe. They also produce the absolute best garden fertilizer, and it can be applied directly to the garden and flowerbeds without burning the plants. Their feed-to-meat conversion ratio is higher than chickens, meaning you get more meat per lb. of feed that it takes to grow them to processing weight. They are very easy to care for, utilizing the right housing conditions, whether raising a few rabbits or hundreds.

After moving to Kentucky, we found we had landed in an area where there are several people raising rabbits to supply a research and rabbit meat processing company. ( at the time, I had just wanted a few rabbits for meat for us and fertilizer for the garden) After visiting a local rabbitry and talking with the owners several times about the potential for a semi-large operation, we decided to purchase breeding stock, namely New Zealand White rabbits. What we learned, and what inspired us to go into production on a commercial level, is that rabbits are, and have been for many years, used for research. Research to help develope new medicines and vaccines, used to prevent and /or treat diseases. That really inspired me: a home business and a contribution that benefits society.

As far as do they bite? Only if they feel threatened. When reaching into the cage I always watch the eyes and ears of the animal, and much like a horse or other animals they will lay their ears back in warning. Sometimes they will growl, especially if the doe has just kindled (given birth)
Do I let them loose on the ground? For sake of disease prevention, even though I have my favorites, I would not put them on the ground, as one may well do if they have a pet rabbit.
What do they eat? They are fed an 18% pelleted rabbit feed. Once in a while I will give a carrot piece or an apple piece as a treat. And what do we do with them in the winter? Feed them and care for them, make sure there is fresh air but no drafts on them. This is it, in a very tiny nut-shell. I have always enjoyed working with animals and this is just the next step for me in a long line of animal ventures. I hope to enjoy it for a long time.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Progress is on-going.....

Much progress has been made on the rabbit barn. Now we have 3 double rows of new cages completed and hooked up to the automatic water supply, the 3rd row having just been completed today.

We have moved all the rabbits to the new pens; one-hundred-fourteen 24" x 30" new cages in all. We still have a third of the barn to go. My husband has worked very hard to get this much completed in such a short amount of time.

I am very proud of the water system hubby designed and installed. On the lower left where the water comes in from a hydrant below, there is a 2 1/2 gal. water heater, which serves to keep the circulating water just above the freezing point. Water travels from that to a circulating pump and in turn to a medication unit if needed.

The water either by-passes the medicator or not, depending on which line it is directed through. In the picture we were experimenting with adding apple-cider vinegar to the water, which is healthful to most animals as well as humans. I give it to the chickens and used to put it in the dairy goats' water when we had them.
It is so good to have the water on an automatic system. It is always fresh and there will be little bacteria build-up, which will be alleviated by flushing the lines periodically. That precious commodity called time can be used for observing the rabbits more closely and doing other needed upkeep. As far as insulating the barn we have had as low as 9* this winter and the water bottles did not freeze. We are hoping the insulation also does its job in helping to keep the barn a bit cooler in the heat of the summer. I hope to hear from others who have added insulation to their rabbit facility.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rabbit-barn Remodeling and Expansion Project

Work on the rabbit barn remodeling and expansion project has been at a steady pace for the last few weeks.We were blessed with several hours of help from a few friends with the heavy stuff such as reinforcing ceiling rafters. Then, insulation was put up on the ceiling.

Next came the coarse grade gravel to level up the floor and add drainage, then topped with "1/4 down" for added drainage in addition to making it a wonderful surface to walk on. The floor renovation was done with the help of one of husband's best friends, "BobThis is "Bob"

This is the new style cage units being built with slant fronts, making it much easier to reach in after the doe or bunnies. It also makes cage cleaning easier. The new units are being built "double-wide". New neighbor Thomas in the background came over to help cut wire and hang the units. In 8 days, 64 new cages have been built.
All this activity 'cause, "We're getting really crowded in here........"