As reported earlier, we purchased 4 New Zealand Whites: 3 Does and 1 Buck. They each come from a different litter and range from 2 months to 3 months old, the buck being the oldest. I have built 2 cages, but will need to have 2 more built soon as the does will want their own space as they get older.
The cages are fairly simple to build - and in fact if we end up selling some of the offspring, I may offer cages (at a price) to the purchasers. The cages are 36" x 30" (and 36" tall). The cages are all wire with the openings in the wire on the bottom being approximately 1/2" x 1" and the side and top being ~ 1" x 2". I used J-clips to put the cage together. The sides, front and back are one continuous length of cage fence, joined at one corner with the J-clips. One cage has a hinged door (J-clips for hinges) on the top. (This is inconvenient for shorter people who are feeding the rabbits as the cages are hung.) I put the door to the buck's cage in front. This (while recommended by most books) can be problematic as the buck seems to be getting bolder and bolder when I open the door; someday I am afraid he will get by me (or one of the boys) and never be heard from again.
I have started building an outdoor shelter for the cages. Basically, they need some protection from sun in the summer and some shelter from cold wind/rain. So far the shelter isn't complete, I am using a tarp to protect from rain and sun now, but a permanent roof and some side shelter will appear before winter.
Our plans with the rabbits, of course, is to breed them for meat. When (at about 5 months) the does are ready to get pregnant, we bring the buck to the doe's cage. The doe will give birth in about 31 days. At 5-6 weeks old, you remove the small rabbits from their mother and sell or slaughter them. (The doe should be already pregnant again before you remove the young ones.) The idea is that you only buy feed for your buck and does and not for the meat target. The rabbits will dress up to about 2.5 pounds of meat - but is considered more dense than chicken, so you may not need quite as much meeat as equivalent to a chicken. (You can let them get bigger; NZ Whites get to 10 lbs, but then you must buy feed for them and have more cages, etc. etc.) I figure right now we will probably need two rabbits for a meal, possibly 3 as the younger ones get older.
The other alternative is to sell the rabbits (the rate in SC is about $5/rabbit). If you figure it out, selling the rabbits may be more cost effective than eating them - especially if you sell value added products like cages. (I can put together a cage in about 1/2 hour - after only doing 2).
I figure that we will do a combination (eating and selling) unless we find there is a tremendous demand for rabbits in Kershaw County!
Jeff at Hallowed Ground says of his chicken butchering experience: "Butchering chickens is the most brutal thing I have ever done. It wasn't fun, it stinks, and the first one even made me a little queasy. I may never do it again, but I'm glad we did it this once."
I have now butchered some 10-12 chickens. I don't like it but am getting better/quicker at it. I dread doing the rabbits even more than I dreaded the chickens.... but unless a Requiem Press book becomes a true bestseller - I figure I will be butchering chickens and rabbits for some years whether I like it or not.....
From Bethany, the small holding in Bethune...
Oremus pro invicem!