MEAT PENS AND FRYERS
The meat pen and fryer competition is a demonstration of the breeders'
ability to produce a market animal of consistent size and quality.
BREED FOR TYPE!
Meat rabbits are judged for body type, condition, and uniformity by the
American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Standard of Perfection.
Their type must be meaty, with prime muscle condition. The meat pen
should be uniform in size, all the same color, and all the same breed.
The judges will balance the characteristics of type, condition, and
uniformity in deciding which is the best entry. Some judges will place
emphasis on uniformity.
A meat pen is three rabbits, any gender, more than three
pounds and less than five pounds. A single fryer is a rabbit, any
gender, more than three pounds and less than five pounds. They must not
be older than 70 days.
White fur is preferred by processors, but is not required
in meat pens. New Zealand Whites and Californians are the most common
meat breed of rabbits. I thumbed through the Standard of Perfection and
picked out some rabbit breeds that could be suitable for meat rabbits.
I included Californians and New Zealands for comparison.
Meat Sized Rabbit Breeds With Senior Buck and Senior Doe
Weight Ranges In Pounds
Mandolin Body Type
(Blue & White)
(Black, Blue, White)
Medium Length Body
8.5 - 10.5
9.5 - 11.5
8.5 - 10.5
8 - 10.5
8.5 - 11
(blanc de hotot)
7.5 - 9.5
8 - 10.5
8.5 - 10
* On Rare
Breed Rabbits List
Maybe you can find something interesting in this bunch. By the way,
Hotots are mostly white, but do not have red eyes.
While you can enter colored rabbits in meat pen competition, realize
that commercial whites, as in New Zealand White and Californian, are
often well developed specimens due to intense breeding and selection.
Do your best to present the best specimens of colored rabbit breeds for
your meat pens.
Meat rabbits are big rabbits. The adults commonly weigh 9 to 12 pounds.
The kits will get up to 5 lbs each in 10 weeks, so 8 rabbits in a
growing out cage will weigh 40 lbs by processing time. You need at
least one BIG cage. 30 inch wide by 24 inch deep by 18 or 24 inch high
will need feeders or feed crocks, and two water bottles or watering
system nipples for the cage, so two rabbits can drink at once.
breed your own rabbits, you will need a nest box. A nest box that is 10
inch wide by 14 inch long by 10 inch high will be adequate. A top on
the nest box is not required, but it is a good place for the doe to get
up away from the litter. Be sure there is a bottom/floor in the box
also. Metal nest boxes have removable floors usually made of wood or
to be sure that the door of your cage is big enough for the nest box to
go in and out easily. I recommend using hay instead of straw for nest
material, so the kits can start nibbling hay as early as possible.
Your meat rabbits may not be more than 70 days old at the time of
judging. You need to calculate back from the judging date. If judging
will occur on Sat August 13, count back 10 Saturdays (70 days) to
Saturday June 4. This is the day you want your litter to be born.
Rabbits have a 31 to 33 day gestation period. Typically they are born
on day 31.
will count back 31 days from June 4 which happens to be Wednesday May
4. That is your breeding day for meat rabbits for fair judging on
Saturday August 13. But adjust as needed for the actual judging date.
the doe to the buck. Check the doe's vulva and look at the color, it
should be reddish or purple. Whitish color is not very good potential.
Watch them to be sure they breed. Let them breed twice. If the doe does
not accept the buck, try putting the doe in the buck's cage and move
the buck to the doe's cage for the night. Put them back together in the
bucks cage in the morning to see if they will breed.
this morning and night until the buck breeds the doe and you SEE it.
Start counting days from the day of breeding.
there is time to test the buck and doe, I would recommend a test litter
before the fair if you have another big cage. Breed the doe 8 or 9
weeks before your fair breeding date. Then breed on your fair breeding
date. The test litter will be about 3 or 4 weeks old. While she still
has a litter in the cage, she will be more likely to accept the
The nest box goes in on day 28 with hay in it. If she eats the hay, put
more in. If there is no litter by day 35, take the box out, she missed.
Try not to put the box in the corner where she normally poops or she
may decide to poop in the box.
You must put nesting material in the box. You can put straw in the nest
box. Fill the box loosely with straw. The doe probably remove some
straw or will pack the straw so a little burrow is formed. You can use
straw or hay if you want to. Many people will use hay so the baby
rabbits will nibble on the hay as they grow. I also like to put a half
inch of wood shavings on the bottom of the nest box to help absorb
doe will have her litter in the nest box, but not always. Sometimes the
does will have the litter on the wire floor outside the box. Do not
panic. This is especially common with first time rabbit moms. Pick up
the kits and put them in the box.
the doe is finished having the litter, remove the box from the cage
with the litter inside the box. You can give the doe a piece of apple
or some hay to distract her.
the kits and remove any dead kits or afterbirth. Check the corners of
the box so you do not miss any. Get an accurate count now. This is how
many kits you will look for on your daily litter check. This is good
time to put fresh hay in the box. Try to save some fur from the nest
box to put back in with the kits.
will remove the box everyday to check the kits. Remove any dead kits
you find, and any yucky stuff you find in there. Put in fresh hay if
needed. If it gets very cold at night you may want to bring the nest
box into the house during the night and take it back to the cage in
morning. The doe will hop in to nurse the kits. Leave the box in for
the day and bring it back to the house at night if it will be cold.
Weaning is when you separate the kits from milk supply and leave them
with pellets and hay to eat. This is usually done by removing the doe
or some of the kits.
the doe in the cage 6 weeks or longer if she will put up with the kits.
Leave the litter in the same cage. Moving the litter stresses them and
they stop eating. Always have pellets and water all the time. Leave the
litter together as long as you can since they eat more when they are
competing for food.
you separate the doe from all the kits, give her hay and water only for
one day, no pellets, to dry up her milk and avoid any mammary gland
YOUR MEAT PEN RABBITS
You can enter two meat pens and two single fryers in the fair. But for
practical purposes, from a litter of eight or ten you should be able to
select five rabbits; three for a meat pen and two for single fryers. If
you have any runts you can cull those so there is more milk for the rest
of the litter.
Choose your tattoo numbers but do not tattoo the rabbits yet. You can
send in your entry form before you tattoo the rabbits. A week before
the fair, you can tattoo the rabbits with the numbers you selected.
MEAT PEN RABBITS
You will need own the rabbits 30 days before the fair. This means you
have to buy them and pick them up at 5 weeks old (35 - 40 days). Put
your rabbits in a cage and leave them in that cage until the fair,
unless they start fighting, then you separate the fighters.
you need to own the rabbit 60 days before the fair, try to borrow a doe
for a litter or buy a doe with the litter.
day and 60 day rule will be different depending on the rules for your
fair competition. Check the rules of your fair or show to learn which
rule applies to your situation.
A BUCK AND A DOE
Plan now for your meat pen breeding. Even if it is September and your
fair is not until May. You need to locate a buck and a doe. If you do
not have room for a buck and a doe, try sharing with another member in
your project. One of you can keep the buck and one can keep the doe and
you can split the litter for a meat pen.
talk to a breeder about borrowing a doe. You pay the breeder for
breeding the doe. Then you take the doe and keep her and the litter for
the meat pen competition. After you wean the litter, you return the doe
to the breeder.
In the best case situation, you will have use of a "proven" doe and
buck, which means these animals have had litters previously and can be
expected to produce litters again.
If you buy rabbits, you can show a bill of sale as proof of ownership.
If you raise your own, take a picture of you and the litter when it is
born with the date written on a piece of paper in the picture to
establish your ownership. A letter stating you are the owner and signed
by you and your parent should sufficient. Check with your youth program
PREPARED TO PROCESS A RABBIT
At auction, the buyer can usually take the rabbits home, donate the
rabbits back to the exhibitor, or request they be processed (butchered
or custom). It is the exhibitor's responsibility to process the rabbits
for the buyer.
If you cannot find a butcher to do this for you, try to locate an
experienced hunter to help you or show you. Or you can do it yourself.
BONK AND PROCESS A RABBIT.
There are good descriptions for processing in many publications.
"Raising Rabbits the Modern Way" a book by Bob Bennett
"Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits" a book by Bob Bennett
Articles on butchering and euthanasia can found at http://www.rawdogranch.com/rabbit_butchering.htm
You can view the Rare Breed Rabbits list and see an article describing
how the Rare Breeds were identified at the website.
Another good website is American Rabbit Breeders Association http://www.arba.net
Learn about The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/wtchlist.html
Join 4H Rabbit List on yahoogroups, an email discussion of topics
related to 4H rabbit projects
This article is stored at http://www.rabbitgeek.com/meatpennotes.html
Have a good day!
How to tan
What to do
with all that manure - etc
A short guide to
raising rabbits for meat.
Topics covered include rabbit reproduction, feeding instructions, and
A must read for the beginner.
meat is delicious and nutritious. There are several aspects of raising
rabbits for meat. Here I only discuss a few, but it is enough to get
the small farmer going.
YOUR BREED OF RABBIT
your rabbit's breed is probably the most important decision you will
make concerning your rabbits. My advice is to read as much as you can
before deciding which breed you like the most. You will probably find
that most producers raise only either New Zealands, Californians, or a
combination of the two. Most producers have purebred stock of
each of the two breeds, and crossbreed them to produce more
vigorous young that
grow more quickly. They can also breed the purebred adults, and sell
the purebred offspring as breeders.
Zealands come in different colours, such as black, red, and the most
popular for meat purposes, white. These weigh from 10-13 pounds when
mature. They are known for their ability to grow market-ready fryers
(4-5 pounds) by 8 weeks of age. Their average litter size is 8-10
bunnies. The breed was developed in the USA and is well-proportioned
and has a full, well-muscled body type, and prominently veined ears.
is another good meat breed, also developed in the USA. It comes in only
one colour-white with black ears, nose, feet and tail. At maturity,
this breed weighs 9-10 pounds.The average litter size is 6-8. The body
is rather plump, but fine-boned. Breeders often cross New Zealand and
Californians for their vigorous hybrid offspring.
is one of the oldest breeds of rabbits. It is completely black when
born, but gradually turns silver as it matures. It is medium length,
with well-developed hind-quarters. They weigh about 10-15 pounds at
this rabbit weighs only 4-6 pounds at maturity, it is better suited to
the fryer market. This breed is becoming more popular for home meat
production, and crossbreeding. The fur is white with good density and
texture, and they have a compact, meaty body, short neck, and small
head. This breed was developed in the USA as well.
good feed is an integral part of rabbit raising. Rabbits can consume
many different types of feedstuff, but the best way to go is to feed
commercial pellets and good quality timothy/alfalfa hay. Refrain from
feeding your rabbit cabbage and lettuce, as this will upset the balance
of good bacteria in their stomach and cause them to get diarrhea. If
you can't resist and your rabbit gets a good dose of diarrhea, give
him/her wild rasberry canes. The diarrhea should clear up within 24
hours. Rabbits should get pellets that contain at least 16% fibre.
much to feed is an important thing to know. If you give your rabbit too
much, it will become fat, and may have problems breeding, and if a doe
becomes too fat, it is likely that she will have troubles when
kindling. If you give them too little feed, then they will, obviously,
become too skinny and be more prone to other diseases. Here is a list
of the amount of feed you should give your rabbit. Remember though,
each rabbit is an individual, and these are guidelines only. You should
learn your rabbit's needs, and adjust its feed accordingly. These are
daily amounts. The first amount is for medium breeds, and the third for
3-6 oz. 4-9 oz.
6 oz. 9 oz.
1-15 days 6 oz. 9 oz
16-30 days 7-8oz. 10-11 oz.
litter 10 oz. 12 oz. (Litter size-6-8 young, one week old)
litter 18 oz. 24 oz. (Litter size-6-8 young, one month old)
litter 28 oz. 36 oz. (Litter size-6-8 young,6-8 weeks old)
weaned rabbit 3-6 oz. 6-9 oz.
best way to tell if your rabbit is getting enough feed is to stroke its
backbone regularly. If the bumps of your rabbit's backbone feel sharp
and pointed, increase its feed; if you can feel the bumps, but they
feel rounded, you are giving the right amount; if you feel no bumps at
all, then decrease your rabbit's intake. I recommend a weekly check,
just to make sure.
first thing you need to decide when you want bunnies is when to breed
Medium breeds should be about 5-6 months before they're bred, and large
breeds should not be bred until at least 8 months of age. The rabbits
you choose should be in excellent health. Make sure that the rabbits
you are breeding are not closely related. When you put the buck and doe
together, take the doe to the buck's cage or the doe will attack him to
defend her territory, and the buck may be more interested in her cage
than in her.
the doe is in the buck's cage, the buck should try to breed her right
away. If she is ready, she will allow him to mount, and raise her
hindquarters for him. The buck will squeal and fall off sideways if a
mating occurs. If the doe runs around the cage and won't stand for the
buck, then you should remove her and try in a few days. After the first
few times, he should be able to do it on his own. A doe is an induced
ovulator. This means that she will produce eggs only after sexual
stimulation. After the mating has taken place, the follicles in the
ovary grow quickly. They break and release the eggs about ten hours
later. During this time, the sperm are moving through the doe's
reproductive system. Sometimes, the sperm doesn't live long enough for
the eggs to be fertilized, so most breeders put them together again
8-12 hours later to ensure that the doe will have bunnies.
gestation period of a rabbit is 31 days. The young should be born
within a few days of this date. Sometimes a doe will go through
'pseudopregnancy'. This happens when a young doe is sexually stimulated
or has an infertile mating. She may appear to be bred, even to the
point of producing milk and pulling fur to line her nest. Following
stimulation, the doe releases egg cells, which cause the uterus to
swell, which, in turn, activates the mammary glands. Ovulation cannot
take place until seventeen days after the initial stimulation which
caused the pseudopregnancy. After the seventeen days are up, put the
doe (if she's to be bred) in with the buck, as this will be the point
at which her fertility is highest. To prevent pseudopregnancy, separate
young does that are to be bred three weeks before mating. Once a doe
has had her first litter, she is less likely to undergo another
first thing you must do after mating has taken place is to write down
when the doe was bred and when she is due. You can write it down on a
calendar, or on hutch cards which are placed on the doe's cage and the
bucks cage. Also, it is a good idea to have a rabbit record book to
keep track of the pedigrees and who's who and what's what. Your records
name or number
or number of rabbit to which this rabbit was bred
of bunnies born
of bunnies weaned
of bunnies at weaning time (optional)
time for your doe to kindle (give birth) gets closer, you will need a
nest box for her to give birth in. There are several choices you can
make. The most common one is to make a nest box from 3/8" plywood. One
thing is that you have to disinfect it between litters with a solution
of 1 part household bleach to 5 parts water. Let it dry in the sunlight.
choices are wire nest boxes, which are made from 1/2x1" wire, and you
use cardboard liners that you can throw away; and metal nest boxes
which you can buy in stores and put cardboard liners in them. Next you
need nesting materials. I use hay and straw, but you can also use wood
shavings, shredded newspaper, or cardboard. Put the nest box in three
days prior to the kindling date of your doe.
the due date of your doe approaches, you may notice that she is more
nervous than usual. Keep other animals away, as well as anything that
may cause noise or undue stress. When you put the nest box in, some
does will jump in and build their nest right away, whereas others will
wait to the last minute before building their nest. Your doe may go
around the pen, looking for straw or bedding and gather it up in her
mouth. When she is finished arranging the bedding, she will pull fur
from her belly and dewlap. This serves two purposes. The first is to
provide a warm bed for her youngsters, the second is to expose her
nipples so the bunnies can nurse better. The doe may eat less a day or
two before she gives birth. After she has kindled, gently pull aside
the fur and take a quick count. If there are dead or deformed bunnies,
remove them, and cover the bunnies back up.
things don't go as they should, and your doe may die. You may have to
foster your bunnies if you have another doe which has kindled on the
same day. To do this, rub the doe's nose in vanilla extract and put the
bunnies in the nest. Usually, the doe will not notice anything amiss,
but if she does, she may try to kill the bunnies or just refuse to feed
them. If this happens, remove the bunnies immediately, and feed them by
hand. Here is a recipe for the "˜milk' that you should use.
pint skim milk
tbsp Karo syrup
tbsp bone meal
this to the bunnies with an eyedropper until they are full (usually
they eat 5-7 ccs). Your bunnies should be healthy, and it is up to YOU
to keep them that way. As soon as the doe is done kindling, make sure
that there is fur pulled, and if not, you must pull some from the doe's
belly. This will not hurt her. Make sure there are no babies on
the wire, and if there are, slip them into your shirt up against your
skin to warm them. Then return them to the nest. Be certain to watch
for bunnies out of the nest box every day, because sometimes a doe will
jump out of the box with a bunny still attached.
The young usually open their eyes about ten days after birth.
Sometimes bunnies are unable to open their eyes, and have a hard crusty
material holding them closed. You can use eyedrops made for people,
such as Murine, with a cotton swab to clean the crusty stuff away.
Then, gently separate the lids. Usually subsequent treatments are
unnecessary. At about three weeks of age, the bunnies will start to
come out of the nest box, and eat solid food. Take out the nest box.
The young can be weaned anywhere between four-eight weeks, but the
longer they stay with the mother,
the better. I wean mine at eight weeks.
usually rebreed my does when the bunnies are 6-7 weeks of age, so the
doe can have two-three weeks after her litter is weaned to regroup and
get ready for her new litter.
you need any advice on any health problems, please contact your
veterinarian. A clean rabbitry is a healthy rabbitry, and you shouldn't
encounter too many problems. Rabbit raising is a very rewarding
business, if practiced correctly.