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rabbet

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Hello from Canada. I'm new to raising rabbits and am looking to explore and develop meat animals that can handle our extremes (very cold and very hot prairie) while living off of locally produced forages and grains. Our family likes to eat rabbit and we have a lot of grass and grains so we're looking for something cheap to raise and tough for the weather and to develop those genetics. I am especially interested in traditional systems.
 

tambayo

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Rabbits are not granivores, while you can feed some grain, sprouting it into young greens would be better if you want to feed it as a main staple. Other thing they don't handle well/at all is fermented stuff, and that includes haylage/silage. Real hay so 85+% dry matter can be wrapped and safe to feed.
Plenty of tree branches/twigs (up to the thickness of your thumb about) can be fed (green leaves on), and gives them the needed chew component to keep them happy and their front teeth worn and straight.
Whatch out for coccidiosis (can also come from cats, poultry) and tuleramia (check with local hunters). Both make taking grass/feed from close to the ground risky let alone letting your rabbits graze their own food in something like a rabbittractor. Put up generous permanent housing (weather and predator proof) before you start experimenting with something outside.

Although the old systems would mainly be colony (of old known as a warren = walled garden with a permit), if you want good selective breeding you need to know who is related to who and how each individual animal reacts to weather. That means individual pens/cages/hutches. Also depending on space and whose territory it is, rabbits don't cohabit that well. Neighbours fine, but with a barrier in between. Bucks certainly (even brothers often after 4-6 months old). Does that are sisters or mother & daughter(s) can work, but keep a close eye on them. With breeding and therefore seperating for the safety of the litter and the different diet (other rabbits would get to fat), you keep on reintroducing rabbits and probably failing. Here i keep does and daughters together untill about 12-16 weeks, but that has to do with low intensity breeding and hutch space. Even then not all does are happy having the kits around untill then. Mostly it works out best untill i move the boys out (max. 12 weeks due to becoming fertile).
 

ladysown

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hello from Ontario. :) There are lots of ways of keeping bunnies, all with their own pros and cons, and there own variations of them.

Some people keep colonies that are completely self-run, with regular culling of older kits.
Some people keep colonies where the buck is caged within the colony with chosen "date days" with selected does.
Some people ONLY run does in colony situations and keep the bucks in individual cages away from the colony.
And yet others breed does within the colony and remove them when raising kits.

yet others cage all their rabbits separately with variations
- growouts into large cages
- growouts stay with mom until old enough to cull
- keeper kits kept in small colony groups until old enough to breed
- or even pulling out half the kits into their own cage.

Feeding...
LOTS of different ways to feed.
Some only feed pellets
Others feed pellets and hay.
Still others pellets, hay, fresh greens and more.
yet others escue pellets for a wide variety of feed sources and minerals.

Do your research, weigh out the pros and cons, and move forward. As you work through your method of feeding you will lose some rabbits along the way, but over time you will breed rabbits that do well under YOUR system of care.
 

rabbet

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Thanks for the comments.

What's happened is my regular supplier of rabbit meat has quit and I need something to process the vegetable scraps. Feed here can be very cheap. It's grain and hay country and it's also only green four months a year so fresh foods don't work. I as a rule do not like GMO and so want to develop pea and faba based protein systems using oat seed and hulls, oilseed sunflower, alfalfa, and grass hay.
 

tambayo

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Fodder i.e. sprouted grains work for a lot of greens, oats can do that although they go moldy fairly easily. Barley works best for that, some will finish their growouts from 8 to 12/16 weeks even on 7-day sprouted barley alone. Although peas are safe to eat plants included, beans are somewhat of another story there are warnings about not feeding beans uncooked, due to digestive problems.
 

rabbet

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Yeah I saw that mention. Soy and faba seem to be fine but regular phaseolus more or less toxic when raw.
 
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Welcome rabbet!

We also live in a colder climate. I have found rabbits tend to acclimate to their environment. The only time I have had issues with the cold, is on newborn kits that didn't get adequate covering (new doe not pulling enough fur). Heat is the worst for them. You must learn ways to keep them cool in the summer.
 

dlynn

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Thanks for the comments.

What's happened is my regular supplier of rabbit meat has quit and I need something to process the vegetable scraps. Feed here can be very cheap. It's grain and hay country and it's also only green four months a year so fresh foods don't work. I as a rule do not like GMO and so want to develop pea and faba based protein systems using oat seed and hulls, oilseed sunflower, alfalfa, and grass hay.
Welcome to the adventure! Best advice I found is someone here said " every animal is different, every environment is different, every owner is different. Find what works for you and yours". What's working for me and my trio of silver fox is a colony. An insulated shelter with access to a fenced yard with a shade tree, brush piles to hide in and nibble on. I do free feed pellets in the shelter, but they prefer tree fodder. Summer they get weeds and scraps from garden, I grow painted mountain corn( reputed to be higher protein and short season) pull some leaves in summer. After I harvest cobs for my cornmeal. Pull and feed whole plant. (No mold) they devour roots and all. Winter I give cabbage, kale, sweet potato, kitchen peelings as treats. Dried apple peels...unlimited hay from a friend who grows for her horses. I use black oil sunflower seeds to get them to go into shelter at night. I like to close them in for added preditor protection. This site keeps a good list of safe foods. I like the book beyond the pellet. I use hay both as feed and bedding. Spot clean daily and fluff it up with a long handled garden claw keeps it dry and warmer and let's waste fall to bottom, keeping surface clean. have permanent den boxes inside the insulated end of shelter, the box inside of box seems to hold more heat. Extra lounging shelves expand useable space. RABBIT WARREN MAN has a larger cold weather colony. Check out some of his posts. Very good info. I tried separating the buck and none were happy. So they are all together. Even in nasty weather they choose to be out running. Think the exercise helps them tolerate the cold. Had their first litter during an artic blast -20* found them frozen. But they have raised 2 litters since then, in cold weather, and are doing great. 16 kits currently. I do not plan on selling or showing., So am not worried about controlling mating. Or keeping pedigree. They are for food, entertainment, and making excellent fertilizer for the gardens. Lots of fun watching the herd interact. Always lots of surprises. Enjoy!
 

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