Rabbits as a species prefer cooler weather and can suffer greatly from heat distress if not properly managed. After all, they have to hop around all day wearing a full length fur coat! They are active, social and inquisitive. They produce profuse amounts of manure that is among the most complete of natural fertilizers.
We currently use four breeds of rabbit in our breeding program to ensure genetic diversification and to increase disease/parasite resistance while building desired physical conformation and meat qualities into our herd. Current breeds include the New Zealand, Californian, Altex and Tennessee Redback.
Our rabbits are pasture kept in portable hutches during the colder months when the weather is cool enough to avoid heat exhaustion. These hutches are moved twice daily. This time of year directly coincides with frosts and lessened parasite numbers which help to maintain the animal's overall health. We also have a few areas which have been prepared for the rabbits to safely live on the ground in larger groups. Protective perimeter fencing has been installed and wire has been buried under soil to keep the animals from digging out of the enclosure. These areas are rotated and the animals are fed pellets, grass and greens/veggies from our gardens twice daily. (examples include collards, leaves from brussel sprouts, broccoli etc)
We use cover crops extensively in our garden areas during the cooler months. This practice has multiple purposes but of concern here is that these are used as feeder crops for all our animals, including the rabbits. We grow a mixture of oats, annual rye and crimson clover. At times, the hutches are even placed on the garden areas themselves so the rabbits eat the crops and in return automatically fertilize the gardens.
Warmer season housing consists of raised wire hutches under a shelter which allows for constant shade, air flow and full visibility of neighbors. During the extreme heat of summer, portable box fans are installed to keep the animals cooler. The raised feature helps avoid diseases and parasites from fecal contamination (numbers greatly increase with heat and humidity). Each rabbit is given its own personal hutch upon reaching maturity to avoid overcrowding. Our hutches average 3'x3' and 18" in height, allowing plenty of room for movement. The manure is cleaned out three times a week and is placed in the compost pile to be spread across the pastures or in the gardens as needed.
Summer feeds include their non-medicated pelleted rations and loads of fresh veggies including cucumber peelings, cabbage leaves, beet greens, chard, spinach mustard, green beans (including the plants themselves) among other things. We are able to fully utilize our crops by harvesting for the market and using the remainder for feeds.
Does and kits are kept in raised hutches until the babies reach at least 6 weeks of age. This affords them better predator protection, gives the doe privacy to kindle, and allows the digestive systems of the young ones time to develop.
We believe this attention to detail ensures not only the animals well being but also the quality of the product we bring to the market.