Rabbit Breeding Program 2018

We have had rabbits on the farm since the first spring we arrived here over 14 years ago and we still have rabbits.. We have two lovely young rabbits called Pudge and Brownie, who where the very lucky ones. They are two of the sweetest and friendly buns I own.. they are the only rabbits that got the pass on the weekend.

So the first breeding program that was removed from our small farm was the rabbit breeding program. The remaining two rabbits are because while I can give up breeding, I can not give up rabbit manure for the gardens.. Its gold people!

It was a rough butcher out weekend, and yes there was tears, there was a even a stop in the process while Dear Hubby said.. “if its this hard and you are this upset are you sure you want this to happen”   You see its not the grow out that are the issue.. that’s what they are for.. from the time they are born to the time they are freezer camped, that’s their job.. live well, grow well and have one bad day.

But putting down my breeders.. very hard, the whole way around.. they have names, two of the females have been with me for five years plus. None the less I pulled it together, got my focus on and by mid afternoon on sunday.. our whole rabbit breeding program was removed off the farm..

Sort of.. I held back a top line female (pudge of one breeding line) and Brownie(male) of a combo of the second line.  This was the agreement that hubby and I came to.. I would hold back at least one of each line in a young rabbit in case I changed my mind down the road. It was a good meet in the middle for that stop and review talk.  We agreed that we could have two “manure” producing rabbits (no total free loaders allowed)

This allowed us to empty out two set of hanging grow out pens in the croft on the back working wall of pens. It also allowed us to empty the big high two rabbit hutches, both of them were then filled with a set of hen/chicks for growing out.

Some of the oldest rabbit hutches will be pulled apart, some saved and the rest broken down into save parts and burn pile.  In straight terms of cash output, this move will save the farm 940 in feed and 150 in combo of straw/hay.  So a total cash output saving of $1090.

Now I want to point out that this breeding program DID make more return in regards to local costs of buying rabbit meat, it was a cost effective program.  the extra’s in returns for hides and manure where both awesome as well.

Given the above statement, it might seem strange that I made this choice in regards to the rabbits. I made it for a number of reasons and I figured I own you a detailed account of why.

  1. I need to reduce the amount of meat production on the farm.  I started breeding rabbits to help feed my very allergy prone lab lily and she has been passed away now for four years. Then I increased the breeding program as my mom wanted rabbit on the menu.. but with her back in Alberta, there is little point to the increased numbers
  2. I want to reduce the amount of butcher I need to do. I would rather do a larger animal, then have to do smaller animals on a more regular base.
  3. Time.. I want more time to do other things on the farm. The rabbits are great but they do take work, the more you have, the more cages, the more grow outs, the longer the chore’s related to their care takes each day.
  4. Money I can find a different use for that 1090 in savings in the coming year!

So for now at least we are going to stop actively breeding rabbits, We will keep our two rabbits and we will move forwards seeing how we feel about this choice.. we have a backup plan in place if needed.

The current plan is to stay with the two rabbits over the winter and see how it goes.. I figure we will have a much better idea of if it was the right choice next year. We will either go- Yes, that worked well for us or No, I want my rabbits back but on a smaller scale.




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10 Responses to Rabbit Breeding Program 2018

  1. Penny says:

    Oh Val – I am truly sorry for the emotional toll this had on you! I understand that you are about practicality and respect this difficult decision. I admire the fortitude to carry out the downsizing in keeping with your recent observations with regard to food waste and the less frequent butchering and overall workload I think is really smart.

    I’m sure even if your mom stayed, your family does not consume over $1,000 worth of rabbit meat. In addition to the pelts, I recall you mentioning at a homesteading workshop that it is possible to sell some of the “extra” meat (if one was just keeping the breasts) for pet food, etc. Out of curiosity, what percentage of the feed/care outlay was recouped in sales?

    I’m looking forward to hearing your future feelings on this decision. Great idea to keep a pair back too.

    • Thank you Penny for your kind words, The pelts sold for ten each so it did recoup a good amount of the output cost, but the thing is.. only the good winter pelts on full size rabbits can bring that. so you would end up carrying .and caring for rabbit longer then butcher weight, in order to get good pelt. a rooster size pelt is worth two dollars and summer thin pelts are worth nothing, not worth the work doing them even for cat toys etc. given a single 14 to 16 week rooster size rabbit at farmboy is 30 dollar per, its pretty easy to grow and butcher out a thousand dollars worth over the year.. but its the time to run that many hutches and grow out pens and the time spent butchering them. It was a lot easier when I was using them as a whole food prey feeder for the dog.. by the time they were ready for weaning, it was bop on the head, whole frozen and feed them out as required.. no extra growout hutches and so forth to get them to kitchen size. I did think about just breeding less but you are still doing all kind of care, feeding and then you are getting less return on that investment.. No I know it was the right choice to make in terms of getting it done. and I am glad that I kept back a pair.. I really do like my rabbit manure for the garden.

  2. mariazannini says:

    Very sensible. I wish we had used a stop gap of two rabbits when we ended our breeding program. I do miss our rabbit manure.

  3. bluestempond says:

    I’ve often wondered if I could raise an animal for meat. I think I’m a bit too tender-hearted.

  4. valbjerke says:

    Difficult decisions we face as farmers/homesteaders. I had a difficult time when my last two milk goats went…..and years ago – I stayed in the house when hubby loaded our last breed sow into the trailer. She had always (of her own accord) jumped into the trailer so her litter would follow her in – and stay back at the slaughterhouse while we off loaded the litter. I’m sure she thought her last ride was just another trip – I felt broken.
    There does come a moment though, when you realize the work load you have taken off your shoulders, and in our case anyway – the chance to allow the land to recover, and time to repair buildings, and of course – the relief of not having to worry over the availability and cost of feed. 😊

    • I can understand that for sure, I still get choked up over Miss Piggy, I swear I wish I could have just kept that sow till she passed a way from old age.. she was the best pig ever! I have a number of other smaller breeding programs that I believe I will be ending on the farm but I will still have enough that I will be meeting my own personal goals for raising enough to feed our family’s needs.

  5. Widdershins says:

    Each and every one of them manages to find their way into our hearts, don’t they?

  6. Tough day. Glad you kept a pair back

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