Farming rabbits does not compare well to farming any other animal. Therefore, there are a lot of potential mistakes to be made by new rabbit breeders. In every aspect of rabbit farming, there are things that can go wrong. In this article, we are going to go over the basic mistakes involved with rabbit breeding. Between breeding, feeding, caging, biosecurity, and selling, there are a lot of mistakes to be made while rabbit farming.
Breeding Mistakes When Farming Rabbits
The most mistakes that can be made while farming rabbits is probably while breeding. There are lots of aspects involved with breeding and many simple tricks that most new breeders likely don’t know about. We asked our Everbreed members what their biggest mistakes were when they started breeding and we are excited to share their wisdom with you.
1 – Keeping Poor Records and Not Setting Goals
Recording dates is extremely important. Tannah Bogacz notes, “Always record your dates!! I’ve had a few that I’ve forgotten to record and then realized a doe was pregnant while nesting.”
Everbreed offers great software for record-keeping and will even notify you when tasks need to happen such as next box additions and pregnancy check dates so that you never miss an important date. Even better, it is available in an app so that you can reference your dates on your phone at any time.
Setting goals for your rabbitry will help keep you on a path and make your journey there more efficient. It is easy to get lost in the flow of daily chores while farming rabbits, that’s why it is important to set a direction for your rabbitry.
2 – Not Purchasing Quality Breeding Stock in the Beginning
Many breeders have mentioned that they regret not purchasing quality rabbits when they started breeding. Buying good quality rabbits, in the beginning, can save you many generations of improvement in the future.
Good quality stock will look very different depending on what you’re breeding for. But, finding a breeder who keeps good records and culls hard in order to meet their goals will be beneficial.
3 – Bringing the Buck to the Doe While Breeding
Rabbits are very territorial and can become aggressive while protecting their space. In order to avoid fighting while breeding you must bring the doe to the buck. The buck will most likely be more interested in breeding than defending his space, although there can be aggressive bucks too. Even if your doe is not protective over her cage the buck can be more interested in smelling around the new area rather than breeding.
Additionally, if a young buck is brought to a doe’s cage and she attacks him, he can be scared into never trying to breed again. So, to avoid most issues it is recommended to always bring the doe to the buck’s cage.
4 – Starting with too Many Rabbits or too Many Breeds
There isn’t another livestock animal that really compares to farming rabbits. So, they can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t have the basics down. It’s easy to buy or keep every cute rabbit. But doing this will greatly increase your feed bill and could lower the rabbit’s quality of life. It’s important that you have a thorough understanding of basic rabbit care before your hands are overflowing with them and you run out of cage space.
5 – Not Being Ready to Cull
It is so easy to get attached to our furry friends. But, if your intentions are to raise for meat, then you should be comfortable culling when the time comes. After choosing which rabbits to cull, you can then determine if you prefer soft or hard culling.
If you are wanting to put rabbit meat in your freezer and do not have experience butchering, it would be very beneficial to find a meat breeder in your area. You can ask to trade your time/ help in return for gaining knowledge of butchering rabbits. A common saying among people farming rabbits for meat is, “Breed the best and eat the rest”.
6 – Assuming New Does are Not Bred
This applies when purchasing new does as well as when you breed your own does and don’t think the breeding was successful. Even if new does are young, it should be assumed that they are pregnant when you get them. Accidental rabbit pregnancies happen often.
Sheena Black stated one of her mistakes while farming rabbits was, “ Assuming that because you don’t feel babies when you do a check that a doe isn’t pregnant and therefore choosing not to give a nestbox.”
Feeding Mistakes When Farming Rabbits
Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems that can easily be thrown out of whack and cause serious issues. Therefore, many mistakes can be made by new breeders who are not accustomed to rabbit’s dietary needs.
7 – Overfeeding – Breeders too Fat
Reproductive ability decreases when rabbits are overweight and birthing difficulty increases. When a rabbit is too fat the fat builds along its reproductive organs. For does, this means the fallopian tubes are restricted and it is more difficult for eggs to pass through them, which leads to smaller litters.
If the overweight doe is successful in pregnancy it will likely be a small litter. The small litter will consist of larger kits because the nutrients are spread across fewer individuals. Consequently, when it comes to kindling the doe will have a more difficult time birthing the kits because her birth canal is surrounded by fat and the kits are large. This can lead to death in the kits, the doe, or both. So, it is important to keep a strict feeding regime while farming rabbits, just make sure they are consuming the amount of nutrients they need to sustain themselves.
8 – Changing Diet too Fast
Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive tract. This means that any drastic change in feeding can quickly upset their digestive system and cause health issues, even death. When switching pellets it is important to do so very slowly. It is also important to not introduce treats or vegetables too quickly.
Caging Mistakes When Farming Rabbits
The majority of caging mistakes when farming rabbits happens when first setting up your rabbitry. Without a mentor, it can be difficult to know how your want your rabbit cages set up before bringing your rabbits home.
9 – Not Being Prepared for Predators
Rabbits are prey animals and their predators come in all shapes and sizes. When setting up your cages you should account for the predators in your area. Things like rats and snakes can fit through some cage wire whereas skunks and raccoons may dig into your cages or open latches. Birds of prey should be taken into consideration if you are farming rabbits in a colony with an open top. Barn cats can also be an issue if they can reach through your cage wire and grab kits.
10 – Having the Wrong Cages or Not Enough Cage Space
If you have never heard of “rabbit math”, it is a real thing. You will likely want to keep all of the cute little fluffs in your first few litters. Many breeders have mentioned that they wished they started with more cages or the right cage, instead of trying to find space for rabbits down the line. Taking the time to set up your ideal rabbitry, in the beginning, will increase your quality and efficiency down the line.
11 – Not Having Baby Saver Wire
Brieanna Camper says, “Baby saver wire is your friend. For anyone who doesn’t know, baby saver wire is an extra two to four inches of wire lining the bottom siding of the cage that is similar in size to the bottom cage wiring (1 inch by ½ inch). If your nursery cages do not have this wire attached or integrated into the normal wire the babies have a much higher risk of falling out of the cage if by chance they were born on the wire and not in the nest box.”
Baby saver wire is an extra precaution to save any kits that find their way out of the nest while they can still fit through the wire your cages are made out of.
Biosecurity Mistakes When Farming Rabbits
Rabbits contract diseases easily. Therefore we need to have a plan to prevent illness and disease while farming rabbits.
12 – Failing to Quarantine New Rabbits
When building your rabbitry it is important to have an area where you can quarantine new rabbits. There are many diseases and illnesses rabbits can transfer to each other. So, any new rabbits should be separated from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Skipping this step can be detrimental to the rabbits you already have and has the potential to cause serious illness or even death.
13 – Not Having an Emergency First aid Kit
Unfortunately raising any type of animal typically comes with some sort of accident or illness eventually. The best way to be prepared is to have a first aid kit, or medical box while farming rabbits. What you keep in your medical box may look very different compared to others depending on your preferred treatment methods.
The best way to get a start on your first aid kit is to get familiar with the potential illnesses in your area. You can achieve this by researching online or talking to a local breeder. Talking to an agriculture-based vet may also give you more insight. Below is a rough list to give you a starting point.
- Gauze, cotton pads
- Disinfectant solution
- Antibiotic cream
- Baby gas drops
- Syringes and eyedropper
- Nail clippers
- Scissors and tweezers
- Old Towels
Some injuries may be too much for you to handle or might not be able to be fixed humanely, unless done by a vet. If you are raising for meat this would easily deem the rabbit as a cull. But, if you’re raising for other purposes you will likely want to keep a vet’s information on hand.
Selling Mistakes When Selling Rabbits
If you are planning to sell rabbits that you raise there are some precautions that can be taken so that you do not waste your time and money while looking for buyers.
14 – Choosing to Not Take Deposits
You don’t need to take deposits when selling rabbits. But, many breeders have chosen to require deposits due to buyers not showing up when it comes to selling time. If you travel to meet your buyers it can become time-consuming and irritating when buyers don’t show up. Taking a deposit towards the final cost of the rabbit will make sure the buyer has some “skin in the game” and will provide more reliable buyers.
15 – Not Having a Selling Contract
Selling contracts also aren’t always necessary but may be needed if you are selling rabbits often. Things like refunds (for deposits or otherwise), health guarantee limitations, and not altering tattoo numbers can be included in your contract.
Breeding, feeding, caging, biosecurity, and selling while farming rabbits can all be problematic for new breeders. Rabbits are a fairly difficult species to get the hang of and hopefully, after reading this article you will have a better idea of how to prevent these mistakes.