So, you've decided that rabbits would be great, but now what? What breed do you choose? There are hundreds of breeds, ranging in every country, some are acknowledged by the American Rabbit Breeders Association(ARBA) and there are just as many that are not. They can range in size from the Lionhead 2.5-3.5 lbs. (from the United States), to the Spanish Giant 12.5-15 lbs. (from Spain). That covers the range of standard breeds, meaning those are the normal or original breed, then comes the mini's. There are quite a few that have been 'downsized' such as: mini-Rex, mini-Lop, and more.
How about colors? Most breeds can have multiple markings and colors, such as the Rex's broken black, black otter, castor, black, sable, and on and on. There are certain breeds that have specific markings for their standard, such as the German Angora that can be white or albino. Remember the familiar New Zealand with its red/pink eyes and white fur? The so called, meat rabbit averaging 9-12 lbs. New Zealand rabbits can also be red and broken black. Too much information, right? Definitely can be, so here are some rabbit basics.
Rabbits breed like, well.........rabbits!
A lot of websites say you can breed your rabbits up to four times a year, it is far better to breed your rabbits only twice a year. Rabbits
that are bred four times a year, are not the best producers, kindling only 4-6 kits, and their breed length is on average 4-5 years, some as short as 3 years. By breeding twice a year, you can successfully breed your does from 5-7 years, (producing 6-10 kits (baby bunnies)), some very good does can last a few years longer, and use a buck up to 6-9 years.
Here is an example of our breeding with 4 Rex does and 2 Rex
Bred 2 times a year each, average kits per breeding 6. (our does average 6-10). This would be (at 6 each) 48 kits born a year.
Rex rabbits average 4 lbs at age 6 months; output would be 192 lbs of meat a year from Rex rabbits. Higher with does that are exceptional breeders, like our Myshi handling 8-10 kits a breeding.
We have found that the age of 4-6 months is the best butcher age for our Rex line, costing us on average 40¢-45¢ per lb of meat. After age 6 months, the cost of feeding (especially the larger breeds) increases higher than your actual return on meat.
196 lbs of meat a year!
Larger breeds, such as the New Zealand can be butchered at 3-4 months depending on the meat return you require and what feed costs you want to pay.
Rabbit is also a great alternative to the other 'white meat', has far less fat than chicken, and is also far healthier than the 'stuff' you find in the store. So, considering the cost to produce, the ability to raise in most areas, and the actual ease of doing so, rabbit is a great first step to achieving self sufficientcy.
Like or not alike?
Other things to think about.........
Not all rabbits are the same, as their sizes and colors have shown, but what other things are there? Try personalities! There are certain traits stronger in one breed than another.
Flemish Giants are very high strung, somewhat the ‘princes’ mentality, requiring a lot of “maintenance”. Better suited for pets, then meat rabbits.
California breed is kknown for their biting, aggressive nature, and for needing routine grooming. (This is not an absolue, but some traits are more so in one breed than another).
There are some differences with physical traits as well.
Lops, all breeds, have the dropping ears that most know about, risking ear problems such as mites.
Angoras and some lop breeds have long hair, adding grooming to their care needs.
Enough for now...........next time BREEDING & BABIES!