Well, I guess the best way to attract people and get them to come back is to talk about baby rabbits. Yup, the cute little furballs with the wiggly nose and powder puff tail. They start off looking like tiny aliens, then turn into cute little bunnies before growing into full grown rabbits.
We are raising New Zealand rabbits which is a bit misleading because they apparently don’t come from New Zealand. They will grow into 10-12 lb adults and most don’t really have the personality to be constantly handled on a regular basis like people think a pet rabbit usually is. They can be friendly and get used to being handled but they are a big rabbit and strong and when they don’t feel like cuddling anymore they can give a powerful kick and struggle to get away. They can also inflict damage with a pretty good bite. People who handle these rabbits on a daily basis can get the rabbits used to being handled which makes caring for them easier and make the constant interaction with them less of a chore and more of an enjoyment.
When breeding, most people take the doe to the buck as the does can get territorial about their space and attack the buck when he is introduced into her area. There’s usually some chasing around and, if all goes well and she’s cooperative and lifts her butt, multiple mountings which only take a few seconds each and end with the buck falling off backwards or sideways with a little grunt or sometimes a scream. Our Fred usually makes a noise that sounds like Donald duck saying “ohhh”. Yep, pretty funny!
Gestation last about 28-32 days and we’ve had litters here from 2-11 kits. The higher the number, the higher the likelihood that a couple may be lost, usually the weaker ones lose out on the battle for the nipples. It’s quite the shark feeding frenzy, the mother hunched over them while they all lie on their back like tiny mechanics under a car with their feet sticking out. The mother usually licks them around their naughty parts while they’re feeding to stimulate them to pee and keep them clean. When they are finished feeding they usually look like they’ve swallowed a ping pong ball and some just lie there on their backs, too full to bother turning over.
They are born naked, blind and deaf but start growing fur quickly. Their eyes open on about day nine by which time they should be fully coved with fur. They’re still a little shaky on their feet but can get around the nest quite well. When they’re a couple of weeks old they can peek out of the nestbox but don’t go on walkabout for a few more days when they can hop better and start actually looking like rabbits. They start being weaned by about three to four weeks and by that time they’ve been nibbling on the nesting material for a while and usually transition nicely to pellets, greens and hay.
If left with the buck, the doe can be pregnant again right after giving birth. In our case, ol’ Fred had been trying to mount her while she is still in the nestbox trying to get the old litter out. They are now separated. Those who breed rabbits usually keep the buck and does separate and give the does a break between litters.
Generally, New Zealand rabbits are ready to process around ten weeks and should generally weigh about five pounds. They should process out to about half of their live weight. Rabbits are all white meat and are extremely low in fat, so low, in fact, that one would develop what is called rabbit starvation if they ate exclusively rabbit with no other source of fat intake. The meat is highly nutritious, with many required vitamins and minerals, a good source of protein and can be substituted for chicken in most recipes.
So there ya go! Just a little overview of rabbits and a tiny snapshot into their lives. They are interesting creatures and we’ve enjoyed the journey of discovery since getting into raising rabbits in Feb./08.