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The Country Enterprise Handbook
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Keeping rabbits

Rabbits breed astonishingly quickly.

Thirty to thirty-one days after a successful mating, up to ten of them arrive minute, absolutely naked and blind. They proceed to grow at an astonishing rate. A hybrid, say a New Zealand White crossed with a Californian, may well reach two and a half kilos in eight weeks. This is killing weight. The traditional breeds such as Dutch, Giant Flemish, and so on will take about twice as long.

There has been a great increase in battery farming rabbits in recent times. Several large companies supply the equipment and stock; Farmer's Weekly carries their advertisements. The appeal has been to turn empty buildings into money-making enterprises. It is now clear that to succeed, these intensive units must be run with a great deal of skill and care. Highly bred rabbits tend to be highly strung and must be treated accordingly. Raising rabbits in wire cages requires very careful ventilation and possibly heating.

Anything other than total commitment produces low returns per rabbit and as these ventures require a high initial capital outlay, they may not be successful. We keep our rabbits in a more traditional way using wooden huts. We get excellent returns and enjoy feeding and cleaning the rabbits. It is a personal occupation rather than an automated chore. Also, of course, as it is on a rather more gentle scale, we find our children and their friends are very happy to help. As well as selling Farm Gate it is worth calling on butchers and fish merchants. A regular supply of fresh rabbit may well sell. Freezer centres sell quantities of Chinese rabbit which has all been fattened in batteries: often the carcasses are minute. Most outlets like their rabbits skinned but some, notably fishmongers, like the skins left on.