Rabbits are without doubt the easiest of all our livestock to keep.
Feeding is simple and for the most part uncomplicated; preparatory feeds are readily available and will serve them well for all seasons.
However preparatory feeds are not organic and it is more difficult to raise rabbits organically, this is one area, which we compromise on.
We would prefer to raise all our stock free-range and organically as is our practice with all our other stock, but rabbits especially young, rabbits are prone to worms, which if not treated will kill a whole litter of youngsters over night. In the beginning we tried to keep our rabbits on just grass and of course water. This worked well for about a year then we lost a good many young rabbits for seemingly no reason, only then did we discover the surviving rabbits had small white marks on there livers after slaughter. This is a clear indication of worms; we keep our rabbits in arks out on plenty of good pasture and move the arks every day on to new grass. However this proved to be our downfall, as the grass grew back nice and lush fertilised by the rabbits we had moved them back on to the same spot sometimes as much as three months later, but the worms can lay dormant waiting for a host to return for many months even through the winter. And then our rabbits where re-infected adults may show no ill effects at all but their babies could die very quickly. Preparatory feeds almost always have medication for these worms as part of their ingredients, so we now feed a small amount of preparatory feed to our rabbits to inoculate them from the effects of the worms. We have not lost any young rabbits since!
We have also acquired some concrete hutches now so in winter we can give the ground a rest and keep the rabbits closer to the house to make things a little easier on us in the colder months, it is especially important to feed preparatory feeds during this period. As you can imagine unless you are willing to clean out your rabbits every day and change their bedding and floor cover they will be walking around on their own fesses which could be infected with worms giving them no opportunity to clear their bodies naturally of the parasites.
Housing is important for rabbits for many reasons they could survive outside all year round if left to their own devices, but there are many predators who are more than capable of killing a whole family of rabbits in minutes, you need to protect your rabbits from these predators. Timber arks with chicken wire runs will suffice but you also need to build in a floor or you rabbits will burrow out, we built our with chicken wire floors for the grass to come through in the beginning but this soon got damaged and was then useless. Try and find a reinforcing grill, which has 50mm squares this has proved to extremely good for durability and is great for letting the rabbit get to the grass.
Breeding could not be easier put a Buck with a Doe and they will breed like Rabbits, I have read many articles and books on rabbits, and they all tell you different things, rabbits can’t breed unless there is eleven hours daylight! I have found this to be rubbish. After leaving our buck with the doe over winter for company she became very aggressive towards the buck, we separated them to avoid any damage to either; and the next day the doe gave birth to ten babies there had been less than 10 hours day light the whole time the doe and buck had been together. Some books tell you not to leave the doe and buck together for more than ten minuets for breeding purposes and return the buck ten hours later for a second mating to be sure. This had also been another piece of rubbish we tried to follow, we now give our does a couple of weeks down time between litters and put them with the buck for a few days, they settle down together after a couple of days and mate successfully every time.
Our policy with all our stock is to try and follow nature’s guide, most domesticated animals are social creatures, that’s why we were able to domesticate them. So allow them to socialise and they will be much easier to handle and keep, animals breed readily when left to their own devices and for the most part they will rear their own without too much difficulty if given access to enough good food and water. Most of our domesticated animals did well enough without our interference before we domesticated them so try and at least simulate their natural conditions, allowing them free range of all of your ground may not be practical, but if you at least move them around from one area to another you can reduce the amount of medication you give for things that if given clean ground to graze on they can defeat on their own.