Have I ever told y’all how I’m going to be a rabbit farmer until I die?
Well it’s the truth. Plain and simple I love these little creatures. They’re sustainable and adorable. They make it possible for me to provide another white meat for my family for little to nothing. Case in point; the initial investment is small and they pay off quick!
If you read my post ‘How I Feed our Meat Rabbits for Free’ then you’d know I only keep pellet feed around for emergencies and pregnancies. Once the girls are confirmed pregnant I’ll mark it on the calendar and about a week before kindling (birthing) I’ll start to give some pellet feed. Working up until she gets free choice after kindling. Throughout the nursing process she will be grain fed in order to maintain weight (rabbits can get freakishly skinny during the nursing weeks) as well be given many many treats and still receive her daily fresh greens (usually assorted weeds and grass).
Mama Marilyn getting a snack.
Here’s my girl Char (charcoal), she’s ready to kit anyway now!
So heres the scoop.
Once the babies have arrived a whole new set of tasks is before me. This where I start:
1: Once my rabbits kindles I always make sure to check the nest box. Some folks say to wait 24 hours before removing the nest box to count kits. I don’t… I do this right away the first time I see them, after running to wash hands of course, for my own piece of mind. I count the babies, remove the dead ones, and always rebed them with fresh hay/straw.
2: I like to feed my girls all the tops to our strawberries, apple cores, radish/turnip tops, carrots and any leafy greens that are still fresh. They love the change, and being spoiled. Plus any extra calories are welcomed by the mamas.
3. It’s also a good idea to give the babes and mama a little extra help. To jump start their immune systems I employ a tonic that seems to work well. Simply add a tablespoon apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of honey to the rabbits water bottle. This will help boost her immune system and pass it along to her babies when nursing. Whatever you do, DO NOT add garlic to your tonic, like you wold with chickens. It may seem like a swell idea but garlic acts as an immune suppressant for rabbits, and not an immune booster like in most other mammals and egg-layers.
4: Water checks. I do this about 2-3 times a day generally. This is one thing that does not change. Rabbits drink A LOT of water. And twice as much when pregnant or nursing. They need fresh water at all times to be happy successful mothers, especially since they only nurse kits once a day.
5: Bedding always available; make sure she has a bedded area to sleep that is NOT inside the nest box. Because, well every mama needs a break.
Between 2-4 weeks the nest box will be removed as the babies will no longer need it since they will spend most of their time outside the nest anyway. Then around 4-6 weeks the kits will be weaned from mama and set into their own pasture pen. I give these ranges in weeks for one simple reason, every litter is different.
We’re building this homestead based on natural life processes, so why would we wean them early if they have a great mama to care for them?
Ok I guess that’s two reasons.
I want these babies to get as much of mamas care as possible, which makes it easier on this lady farmer mama, no doubt! Setting them up for the healthiest life possible is our ultimate goal while they produce bounties of food for our family. So here on the homestead, the babes stick with the mamas as long as possible.
From weaning on out we’ve only got about 4-5 weeks before the kits are due for culling. That’s 9-10 weeks from birth to slaughter weight folks! Talk about sustainability. And a little bit of cuteness in between.
Peace and Love.