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Tell me about raising rabbits for food - what breed, how big do they get, how many do you have at one time?

I doubt I could ever raise rabbits due to allergies (I am allergic to rabbit fur), but chickens have always interested me.

How would you raise rabbits in the concrete jungle that is Toronto?,

Ours are pedigreed Florida Whites: two does and one buck. We have the three breeders and, right now, ten bunnies growing to harvesting size. We will expand that to four does later this year, and expect to have, on average, six rabbits (large enough to feed the two of us) every three weeks.

We chose Florida Whites because they’re about 2/3 the size of California Whites or New Zealands but weigh 85% as much, which gives more meat per pound of live body mass. Since they’re smaller, they reach mature weight faster (meaning it takes less feed to grow them to butchering size: better feed-to-food ratio). They also need smaller hutches, so they do not require as much space to grow.

Rabbits thrive in indoor places, like a garage: your concrete jungle is not a war-stopper. Put a sheet of heavy (at least 6 mil) Visqueen® or similar material down inside a 2x4 frame and up the back wall to a few inches above the bottom of the highest cage floor to catch the waste. If you stack the hutches (to conserve floor space), use corrugated fiberglass* sheets to deflect the upper waste from the bottom cages back toward the Visqueen®.

* Use fiberglass (or some sort of plastic) because metal will corrode and fail eventually.

Their waste (true for all rabbits) is the best natural fertilizer available. You can use it straight from the poo bin because it isn’t at all “hot”. However, you can improve it by putting red wriggler earthworms in the waste beds. They love the stuff (especially if you add coffee grounds from the local Starbucks®). Earthworms are Nature’s gardeners, and you will have an unlimited supply of healthy ones using this method.

We will also have Black Soldier Fly larvae that turbocharge the composting system. They eat anything that’s organic and dead. A twelve inch trout is gone (except the bones) in 24 hours, a medium baking potato doesn’t last that long. They eat citrus (which earthworms can’t touch). Their waste is primo food for the earthworms, who need their food ground up small, and they prefer it barely moist, just what the larvae excrete. They also reduce the compost volume to 10% of its original size. I shouldn’t forget to add that they feed the fish, as do the worms, but they do so automatically: they’re “self-harvesting”. They are 43% protein and 26% fat. I can’t buy fish feed with anywhere close to this high a protein content. And they’re free!

The tilapia grow the fastest of any common edible-fish species. They’re not terribly picky about water quality, but must have water above 50°F to survive, and over 75° to thrive. They must have a somewhat secluded place to spawn, with water at 80° or slightly higher. Tilapia are mouth brooders, so the females do not eat until their babies are hatched and a couple of weeks old, so we keep them in a separate tank for that. They produce up to 3,000 eggs at a time. While the males are twice the size as their mates, they are both good for eating. However, it takes as much food to feed a girl as for a boy, so, as soon as we can identify who's who, we’ll take the females and feed them to the worms for the most part.

When things are in full production, we should get enough fish to eat ten or twelve meals a week out of the tank.

Our greenhouse (not yet complete) will include the rabbits and worms (along with Black Soldier Fly larvae) for composting the waste above three feet of water where the tilapia grow. Above the rabbits we’ll have three levels of grow beds for “hydroponic” vegetables (and some fruits, like strawberries). Naturally occurring bacteria convert the fish waste into nitrites and then into nitrates that the plants love and simultaneously clean the water for the fish. (The grow beds are the fish tank filters.)

The larvae and the worms, while they’re eating all the garbage, produce tremendous amounts of heat, so we will not have to supplement it much, even in cold Colorado winters, but we will have to get rid of it in the summer to keep things from cooking. We like oven-baked fish, but don’t like them boiled in their own tanks.

We’re installing solar panels to run the lights, pumps, heaters, and fans, so the power will cost us nothing. (I’m making the solar panels now, and it’s nearly as much fun as watching the plants and fish grow.)

In essence, our ecoponics system has the following inputs:

  • sunlight
  • rabbit feed
  • limited commercial fish feed
  • coffee grounds
  • kitchen and garden (including lawn clippings) waste

Year ‘round, we get these out of the system:

  • fish
  • rabbit (it tastes like chicken, really ;), and you can use any chicken recipe with almost no alterations)
  • tons of vegetables
  • quite a bit of small fruit
  • stevia (artificial sweetener)

When we get city approval, we’ll add a few chickens (solely for eggs, but we’ll have to harvest the older hens as stewing birds, replacing them about every year or so). The same things work for chickens as for rabbits, but chicken poo is “hot”, so the BSFs and worms are really important for composting their wastes.

This system will provide about 80% of our non-grain, non-dairy food each year from a10x12 foot greenhouse. And it’s a lot of fun to manage.

We have a smaller, experimental aquaponics system that’s been working fairly well for nearly a year. We’ve harvested fish and tomatoes, sweet peppers, a few carrots, and one beet; basil is coming out of our ears, and the stevia has kept our herbal teas, hot chocolate, and Pero® sweet with no calories at all, and no chlorinated hydrocarbons (like Splenda®). Our second-to-youngest grandson, after tasting a bit of a stevia leaf, demanded his mother give him a bay leaf one day in her kitchen. He was not amused.

Because they’re mouth brooders, tilapia make an excellent Science Fair® project, as does the aquaponics system: first place ribbon guaranteed in either case. We have a small demo system I’ve shown in preparedness fairs: it was the biggest attraction there.

When we were setting up the experiment, we had missionaries living in our basement apartment. One of them said, while we were adjusting and balancing the system, and while he was in the Temple, that he wondered if Father had to balance His system here on earth to get everything up and running like our aquaponics system. (It’s the addition of the rabbits, worms, and larva that moves it from “aquaponics” [already a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics] to “ecoponics”.)

The investment is sizable. We expect to have spent well over $6,000 (and uncounted hours) by the time it’s finished. But we will eat when Safeway® can’t fill its shelves, and when Kroger® employees are on strike. Our food is all natural, and except for rabbit feed, it’s all money-free from that point on.

If you have any other questions, I'll be happy to answer them.

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers
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Very impressive. You should write a book on it for those interested in following your example. I am going to tell my sister in law about your ideas, she is into raising as much of her own food as possible for health reasons. I don't know if she's considered rabbits.

I am too squeamish myself, collect eggs...sure though the smell sets off my nose. Fish could even be fun and wouldn't be an allergy issue. I might even be able to kill and pluck chickens, but I find the idea of killing and skinning rabbits too much even though they do not appeal to me as pets.

Edited by calmoriah
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Very impressive. You should write a book on it for those interested in following your example.

I have already started the outline. There’s so much to cover: even though the individual ideas are each simple, the whole is very complex: start with a 6 foot deep, 15 x 18 foot pit in the backyard. Pour 3½ yards of concrete in the bottom, with a sump pit in the center, 3 ft from the “back wall”.

Well, you get the idea. It’s been two years since we had a backhoe in the yard. And we still don’t have the greenhouse on its foundation. But that’s next month (if the weather holds).

I am going to tell my sister in law about your ideas, she is into raising as much of her own food as possible for health reasons. I don't know if she's considered rabbits.

Everyone should consider raising rabbits: the Church encourages it in third-world countries to increase the protein available in people's diets.

I am too squeamish myself, collect eggs...sure though the smell sets off my nose. Fish could even be fun and wouldn't be an allergy issue. I might even be able to kill and pluck chickens, but I find the idea of killing and skinning rabbits too much even though they do not appeal to me as pets.

That’s what grandsons are for, and neighbors’ sons.

Eggs, being round, roll downhill. With a properly designed and built cage, egg gathering is a matter of taking them off a shelf just outside the cage. The worms and BSF larvae eliminate odors from the waste. The BSF larvae also eliminate all other kinds of flies, including houseflies and fruit flies. And the adults can’t even eat: they have no mouth parts. Nor do they fly very well, or very far, or very fast. Their only purpose is to mate and make more BSF larvae.

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers
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I am too squeamish myself, collect eggs...sure though the smell sets off my nose. Fish could even be fun and wouldn't be an allergy issue.

You might be a candidate for an aquaponics system. It has no rabbits (or chickens), but it does grow a lot of vegetables and fish.

Lehi

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I used to raise rabbis as a hobby when I was young.

What breed?

Any interesting stories?

Did you slaughter them and eat them, or were they pets?

Did you like it?

If so, why are you not doing so now?

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers
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What breed?

Any interesting stories?

Did you slaughter them and eat them, or were they pets?

Did you like it?

If so, why are you not doing so now?

Lehi

Never ate any...sold them as pets. We had one that was like a kitten and would come or not come...cat owners will understand. I had a black one (a male) who never...I mean never warmed up to us and would claw you to death if you were not careful. I don't know the breed., but once we had a wolf or bobcat get in and kill some. My favorite was named Bandit, he had one black eye like a pirate.

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Lehi,

That is one awesome system. Someday, I hope to have the money to do the same, and I'll be looking to you for advice!

The problem with much of the do-it-yourself setups is that it takes a deposit of cash. When $50 is hard to find, it becomes nearly impossible. Not completely. You can still to pot gardening and similar ideas to help get you familair with absic principles while waiting to be able to do bigger things, but larger scale things are not cheap. It takes money to become mostly self-sufficient.

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That is one awesome system. Someday, I hope to have the money to do the same, and I'll be looking to you for advice!

Thank you, and I'd be pleased to help.

The mission(s) my Jacquie and I are hoping to serve will be to the third world somewhere (or somewheres), teaching people to build adaptations of this system. It will require more sweat and much less cash to get going and run (see BYU's "walipini", which I know I've spelled wrong, and which was originally developed in Bolivia, as I recall). I really doubt that a Nigerian will be able to come up with $7,000 to install solar panels and electric pumps, but he can dig a hole for less than the $800 I paid the backhoe operator.

There are cheaper ways to make it work, but I am not a big fan of pumping water by hand all night long (there are ways around that, too).

The problem with much of the do-it-yourself setups is that it takes a deposit of cash. When $50 is hard to find, it becomes nearly impossible. Not completely. You can still to pot gardening and similar ideas to help get you familair with absic principles while waiting to be able to do bigger things, but larger scale things are not cheap. It takes money to become mostly self-sufficient.

There are, indeed. But, I assure you, had we opted to contract it out, the price would have been at least twice what we have invested.

I will be posting (I hope) a few photos of our small, experimental system that has been working for the past year or so. It cost about $500, including the Hydrocorel® expanded clay aggregate (ECA) growing medium, two pumps (I like redundancy—it has saved us a load of headaches), fluorescent lights, timers, and so on. But even that's a big step up from a really basic system.

I like it because it grows all the tomatoes and lettuce, not to mention basil, we need in a 6½ x 4½ footprint in the basement. I've added a few "nice touches" (like "sight gauges") that make it more ineresting (even though the idea of aquaponics is fascinating even in the most crude application).

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers
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Calmoriah:

I little bit of Lime(The building material type, not the citrus fruit) will get rid of the smell. A large fish pond will also work, but you have to be really carefull of contamination issues if you use too much. You can also compost it. Just make sure you use lots of other plant materials if you do.

Edited by thesometimesaint
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I have already started the outline. There’s so much to cover: even though the individual ideas are each simple, the whole is very complex: start with a 6 foot deep, 15 x 18 foot pit in the backyard. Pour 3½ yards of concrete in the bottom, with a sump pit in the center 3 ft from the “back wall”.

Well, you get the idea. It’s been two years since we had a backhoe in the yard. And we still don’t have the greenhouse on its foundation. But that’s next month (if the weather holds).

Everyone should consider raising rabbits: the Church encourages it in third-world countries to increase the protein available in people's diets.

That’s what grandsons are for, and neighbors’ sons.

Eggs, being round, roll downhill. With a properly designed and built cage, egg gathering is a matter of taking them off a shelf just outside the cage. The worms and BSF larvae eliminate odors from the waste. The BSF larvae also eliminate all other kinds of flies, including houseflies and fruit flies. And the adults can’t even eat: they have no mouth parts. Nor do they fly very well, or very far, or very fast. Their only purpose is to mate and make more BSF larvae.

Lehi

I am vey impressed. Many years ago we raised rabbits for food and fun. Flavor was not a problem but the texture is a little different. In my area to raise talopia would require heating the fish tanks. What we are planning is to increase our summer gardening. Hopefully we will be able to. Last summer was spent in the hospital with my wife. Literally all summer, more than 120 days.

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I considered doing this but when my bishop refused to perform the bris, we abandoned the idea.

I've contemplated castrating the males when they're a month or so old so we can house them without them fighting among themselves while we wait for them to grow large enough to slaughter. But the only information I have is my memory of my father barrowing (a barrow is a no-longer-male pig, and for porcine interest: "gilt" is to "sow" as "heifer" is to "cow") and a video of a veterinarian working on a rabbit: he's meticulous, and slow. I don't want to spend ten minutes doing the operation, Dad could do it in less than two.

It's not mandatory, but as they approach four months or so (sexual maturity, but not yet full-grown; butchering size) they get feisty, and harder to manage in a single pen. We don't have space in the greenhouse to have more enclosures for them, and, while we could use a few additional outdoor hutches eight or nine months a year, those other three months would be a struggle.

Caring for rabbits is not too labor intensive, especially with all-wire hutches and a semi-automatic composting system (worms and BSF larvae). But they are animals: they eat every day. They need fresh water constantly (it's the "most important nutrient"). Automating as much as possible (as we are doing) lets us have a more-or-less normal life and still reap the rewards of self-reliance and home food production, as the prophet has counseled us to do.

Lehi

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I've contemplated castrating the males when they're a month or so old so we can house them without them fighting among themselves while we wait for them to grow large enough to slaughter. But the only information I have is my memory of my father barrowing (a barrow is a no-longer-male pig, and for porcine interest: "gilt" is to "sow" as "heifer" is to "cow") and a video of a veterinarian working on a rabbit: he's meticulous, and slow. I don't want to spend ten minutes doing the operation, Dad could do it in less than two.

It's not mandatory, but as they approach four months or so (sexual maturity, but not yet full-grown; butchering size) they get feisty, and harder to manage in a single pen. We don't have space in the greenhouse to have more enclosures for them, and, while we could use a few additional outdoor hutches eight or nine months a year, those other three months would be a struggle.

Caring for rabbits is not too labor intensive, especially with all-wire hutches and a semi-automatic composting system (worms and BSF larvae). But they are animals: they eat every day. They need fresh water constantly (it's the "most important nutrient"). Automating as much as possible (as we are doing) lets us have a more-or-less normal life and still reap the rewards of self-reliance and home food production, as the prophet has counseled us to do.

Lehi

You do realize my comment was in jest - a response to PaPa's inadverdent misspelling of RABBITS as RABBIS.

(as an aside - we've been gearing up for an aquaponics project at our house for about a year now - can't wait to see it up and running!)

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I am vey impressed.

You're kind to say so.

In my area to raise talopia would require heating the fish tanks.

It does here, too. But there are alternative species that work, just not as fast. We're willing to spend the money to electrify our system (the solar panels), some people choose not to for a variety of reasons, energy being the most common.

Auquapons (people who do aquaponics) raise yellow perch, red ear sunfish, catfish, and even trout (which require cooling the water in the summer). It's very flexible.

What we are planning is to increase our summer gardening.

That's a good plan, one I hope everyone here will undertake.

We get up to 120 pounds of raspberries and 60 pounds of strawberries from our garden, along with unmeasured rhubarb, corn, peas, beans, blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, broccoli, grapes (when the squirrels don't get them first), squash, and asparagus. Here in the semi-desert of the eastern plains of Colorado, if I can't eat it, I'm not interested in watering it. We do have some lawn, but mostly in the front. Otherwise, it's "on the plate or out the gate".

Lehi

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You do realize my comment was in jest - a response to PaPa's inadverdent misspelling of RABBITS as RABBIS.

I figured it was a quip, but I missed the typo.

(I distinguish between misspellings and typos. A misspelling is repetitive and intentional, a typo is a mechanical issue.)

But I hope you'll forgive my using your post as a springboard to introduce another issue that other ecopons (people who do ecoponics) may face.

we've been gearing up for an aquaponics project at our house for about a year now - can't wait to see it up and running!

Keep us informed. I'd be happy to see what you have.

If you have any aquaponics-related questions, I'll be glad to take a shot at answering them.

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers
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I would really like to get a good outline of this. Living in Abu Dhabi, I have occaisionally gone down to South Sudan. This is a nation could really benefit from some of these principles of producing food. Please let me know when you finish your outline. I would really like to share it with the farmers there.

It was a very impressive read!

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I considered doing this but when my bishop refused to perform the bris, we abandoned the idea.

Once we have moved in with my Mother to help take care of her, I am thinking of taking it up again and raising AKA Golden Retrievers. I have a very expensive one now who is very red...we named her Scarlet O'Hara, she is fully registered.

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Lehi,

Fascinating stuff. I've actually read (can't recall the source) that a source for meat in third-world countries is guinea pigs.

Do you do anything with the rabbit pelts? And, how do you slaughter a rabbit? I've hunted rabbits before, but never slaughtered them.

Currently, my home production consists of under 100sq feet of 'square foot gardening' boxes. They are very productive.

H.

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LDSToronto:

They are called Cuy in South America. Supposedly tastes a lot like chicken. I've never had it so I can't say.

Rabdit pellets are safest composted, before putting on plants. The high heat of compost kills any pathogens that might be present. They are also a good source of nitrogen needed for your compost pile.

Skin and dress as you would a rabbit.

Use the composted rabbit pellets in the garden boxes. Your plants will appreciate it.

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Rabbit pelts can be very soft is tanned properly if an example my husband has is typical (he also had one he sort of tanned himself as a kid, that one is hard as a rock and ugly as sin). If one raises rabbits, I suppose you could make a nice warm throw out of them. Whether it is worth it I would think depends on the breed's coat. Not sure how easy it would be, but you would have a lot of practice material. Here is one blog that talks about it:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/1983-01-01/How-To-Tan-Rabbit-Hides.aspx

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Do you do anything with the rabbit pelts? And, how do you slaughter a rabbit? I've hunted rabbits before, but never slaughtered them.

How to Tan Rabbit Hides

Go down about ⅔ of the way through the page to see how to butcher them, and the whole article (including follow-on pages) is about using rabbit hides ("skins", technically: hides are very much thicker) for a variety of clothing and other items.

We have used them, but it's never been a big thing with us. However, I do like the Indian way" never waste anything (I know it's just a White Man's fantasy, the "noble Savage" kind of thing, but it's nice to fantasize once in a while). So this time, we'll be more conservative. The Lord has said that He'll require the blood of every beast at our hands.

Currently, my home production consists of under 100sq feet of 'square foot gardening' boxes. They are very productive.

Good for you, and all the best for this summer, too.

Lehi

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Butcher "Tumpper"? Have ye no soul! Next it will be "Christopher Robin", oh the agony! :help:

When we name our animals (not usual with rabbits, but it happens) we give them names like "T-Bone", "Porter(house)", "Hamburger", "Fillet o' fish" "Quarter-pounder". No Thumpers.

We raise food, and our children knew it. Our grandchildren know it now, too.

Lehi

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