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Do you remember way back when I bought rabbits a year and a half ago? I figured I’d get them on a solid breeding schedule, and be adding a litter a month to the freezer.
Things didn’t exactly work out like I’ve planned–which is why I haven’t talked much about my rabbits here on the blog. I’ve had rabbit failure!
We’ve had exactly five baby bunnies survive here at the farm. We also lost a litter to the cold.
So much for “breeding like rabbits!” My rabbit experience was an epic failure so far. It’s turned out nothing like I planned.
But since I don’t want it to be a total waste, I’m taking a step back to see where I failed. I can use the knowledge gained from my reflection going forward, and hopefully have more success in the future!
Fail #1. Not Sexing My Bunnies Upon Purchase
I bought my rabbits from a random person on Craigslist. I was supposed to be getting 3 girl bunnies and 2 boy bunnies. I thought they knew what they were talking about, and never bothered to check.
It took several months of breeding attempts before I realized that one of the girls was in fact a boy. Oops. No wonder those previous breeding sessions didn’t result in baby bunnies!
On that note, it is really tough to tell the difference between a girl bunny and a boy bunny. They look really similar! I still need to get better at this.
Fail #2. Picking a Breed Just for Looks
They were beautiful! I loved the sleek look of the almost blue coat, and bought them mainly because of their looks.
They were sweet, and cuddly, and beautiful. That made it hard for me to go through with the butchering process.
If I buy new rabbits in the future, I’ll stick with a less attractive breed. It might help me mentally!
Fail #3. Feeding My Rabbits too Much
My bunnies got fat. They were given free access to pellets at their last home, so I just continued that feeding pattern. It wasn’t a good idea.
Rabbits don’t need a lot of pellets, unless they are young fryers growing for butchering or pregnant or nursing. I needed to increase the hay and decrease the pellets, to try and keep them at a good weight. I learned that too much fat is not good for breeding stock.
The extra fat also made butchering harder!
Fail #4. Trying to Breed in Extreme Weather
Our winters were cold. Several weeks of below zero type cold. With that weather, I should have skipped breeding. But I didn’t. We lost our first batch of babies to the cold.
Likewise, our summers have been really hot. Too hot for successful breeding to take place. Next time, I need to plan on spring and fall breeding to increase the viability of each litter.
Fail #5. Not Learning the Butchering Process From Someone
YouTube videos are great for a lot of things! I’ve learned a ton from them.
But for butchering a rabbit? That’s a skill I really should have learned from someone in person. There was a lot I underestimated. Like how hard it’d be to actually go through with it.
Fail #6. Not Preparing for the Mental Process of Dispatching
I’ve taken care of every aspect of the butchering process before. Except for the actual dispatching.
Give me a dead animal, and I can clean it, cut it up, and prepare it for the table or freezer. But, the rabbits were my project, and I wanted to take care of everything.
I’ve never actually killed anything before. I completely underestimated the mental struggle I’d have to deal with. My hesitation came once I’d already begun to utilize the broomstick method, and I caused the rabbit undue suffering. Once I realized what was happening, I quickly bucked up and finished the task I’d started. It just wasn’t pleasant.
Now, I’ll be better prepared. I thought that all of the other butchering tasks had prepared me, but they hadn’t. Killing an animal was different than just cleaning it!
Fail #7. Trying to Use Dull Knives
Let’s just say I was in tears by the time I finally got the rabbit’s hide off. Sharp knives are important. Lesson learned!
I need to begin with sharp knives, and have a way to sharpen them midway through if necessary.
Learning From My Rabbit Failure
Despite my failures, I learned a lot about raising rabbits. I know what I need to do to try and turn my small herd around.
Since most of my stock is getting old, and haven’t been productive, I’m going to be butchering them at the end of the month. And I’ve already enlisted experienced help. That way I learn from someone who knows what he’s doing!
I will be keeping one male and one female. We also have three baby bunnies currently. I’ll raise them until they’re 6-8 weeks old, and then butcher.
By then, the mama should have another litter.
Then I’ll give her a break until fall. She’ll need it after having back to back litters.
I’ll begin raising my herd, utilizing the saying, “Keep the best, eat the rest!”
Have you ever raised rabbits? Did you run into as many difficulties as I did? I’d love for you to share your experiences in the comments.