3 weeks old.. and what to do?

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BrianM

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Hi All,

I bought my first set of New Zealand rabbits to be bred for meat. The Buck and Doe were kept in separate boxes until I released them into my converted (and cleaned) chicken coop. I had put a three foot tall divider down the middle.

Mistake #1.. Bucks can climb three feet :(
Mistake #2: Took divider out and just let them live together watching female for any signs of nesting.
Mistake #3: Day #25, no signs of nest building
Day #26, fur all over the place, pile of babies in one corner, Buck chasing the biting the Doe, one baby out on the wire dead from cold
Separated Buck
Put in Wine Box for "proper nest" 6" tall walls and transferred all the fur and babies covering them, Doe seemed fine, one more birth, transferred into nest.. died later.

Three weeks later. Babies have just climbed out of the wine box today and are running amuck all over the cage, nibbling on the food provided.

My adult rabbits have been fed only items grown here at home.

Barley (green and dried)
Native Grasses
Grape Leaves
Kale (small amounts)
Vetch (green and seed pods)
Broad Beans (green and hay)
Carrots
Occasional Whole Banana
Mustard Leaves and Stems

Clean cold water in bowl each day

Questions:

1) At what point, if at all, do I need to separate Doe from Kits?

There are 7 kits and the chicken coop is 3'x5'

Buck is in a converted dog-house at 3' x 4'

2) If I built an enclosure with wire buried two feet and 6' tall walls (above ground), how much space to allow all of them to run/dig/bask etc?

We have plenty birds of prey, coyotes, raccoons, opossum, and I own four free wandering farm cats who so far are afraid of the rabbits.

3) When is it humane to breed the Doe again? How many litters is reasonable?

My goals are to feed my extended family when they get the hankering for Rabbit and Polenta (an Italian and Maltese favorite as is our heritage).

4) How hot is too hot (air temp in chicken coop) as this summer is arriving fast...

Thanks

Brian Mifsud

Sonoma County, Ca
 

Preitler

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Welcome :)

1) Depending somewhat on size, you'll need to seperate the bucklings from the doe at 10-12 weeks. I keep the doelings with the moms (I keep does in pairs) for up to 6 months. Males need to be seperated, for obvious reasons, and I keep them together for up to 5 months - there is a risk of fights but in 9 years a gory, deadly accident only happened once in my rabbitry.

2) Can't give advise there, apart from the more space, the better. Here, I just let them free roam in the garden, or when there are some people out in the neighbourhood or the kids soccer teams training on the field across the creek (to keep foxes at bay) I open up the fence and let them out on the meadow and into the wood.
Cats are no danger for my rabbits - 9-10lbs, and more important, never out alone. Cats don't go after prey that detected them and is intensly watching them, that works fine with a bunch of rabbits.

3) Last year my rather young does, 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 yo at the time, had 3 litters, accidentially. I don't need more then one from each of them. That was too close to the limit I'm comfortable with. I sold most of the kits at 8 weeks, and it still was a strain on my does. Note: I keep them for quite a long time, I retired my old does at about 6-7 years.
I feed mostly forage though, and my rabbits are random farm mutts and not from dedicated lines. So, with good stock, and proper feeding 3 litters would be doable, I think.

4) It starts to get uncomfortabvle at about 25-27°C, when hitting 30° it is noticeable. Can't say much about that since I let them out then, they find comfortable spots under the shed or down by the creek, and dig shallow pits to cool their bellies in. For those in the hutches I have cast iron grates and heavy slabs of stone to lie on, and even put frozen cool packs underneith when it gets really hot.

If your rabbits are from local stock it could be that they can cope somewhat better with heat than mine.

About what a buck can do to get to does, I could sing operas about that. When I want to breed them, they just cuddle for 2 weeks. When they are in the mood, 30 seconds and the deed is done. Squeezing through a fence and going down a 8 feet stone wall, tearing his hutch apart - no problem.
This winter I found a sweet angora buck inside my fenced hutch area. Twice. Broke out from a neighbour half a kilometer away.
 
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Canlay

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You can seperate new zealand kits at 6 weeks at the earliest! I usually do that to keep my breeding schedule pretty quickly moving along. I have never had issues with seperating kits at that age.
 

ladysown

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You can breed them back if the doe is in good condition. For me that's breeding back normally at 6-8 weeks kit age. how often you breed depends on your need for rabbit meat. Measure feeding your doe will keep her in breeding condition.

Pull the bucks out by the time they are 10 weeks old. They are usually big enough by then to butcher. When you breed, bring the doe to the buck. The young does you can harvest when you are ready to do so. Or until mom wants them gone! ... in a 3 x 5 area I wouldn't keep more than two long term.
 
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