Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 2
POSSIBILITIES IN RABBITS
POSSIBILITIES IN RABBITS
The acquaintance of the average individual with the rabbit family extends to the observation of the wild cotton tail or to a few domesticated "pets" for children.
It is hardly fair to judge the modern domesticated rabbit by these standards. He is an entirely different animal from the wild rabbit. He is built different, he grows different and he achieves a different purpose entirely. The wild cotton tail rarely attains a weight of more than five pounds, while a New Zealand Red doe will weigh ten pounds at the age of one year. Flemish Giants have been produced weighing as much as twenty-four pounds when matured.
The modern domesticated rabbit is a hutch bred rabbit. He is born and raised in close confinement. He would not know what to do in a park or under wild conditions. Hence, he is better contented and a better producer in a small space. This makes it possible to house more rabbits in a given space than any other animal.
Since they are kept in small hutches, one may be placed above the other and the capacity of the ground available doubled or trebled as the case may be. A small corner near the fence, for instance, which is only five feet by six feet, will easily take care of eight hutches along a modified Sanderson plan. These eight hutches filled with good breeding stock should produce as much as eight hundred pounds of rabbit meat within the space of one year after commencing operations.
For the benefit of those who are anxious to have some figures on the possibilities of rabbits, and who belong to that class who cannot enthuse unless they see some real possibilities in the form of a good profit, I am going to suggest a few "figures" which the reader can follow to their logical conclusion.
In the first place, as an industry the rabbit business in America is still in its infancy. Some breeders have made a great deal of money in an occupation which originally was nothing but a hobby with them. This, as has been suggested before, is due largely to their business ability.
I happen to know one breeder who started about six years ago with $18 in capital and 10 breeding rabbits, as he himself states. He has at the present writing a business which brings in more than $25,000 annually. He is not the biggest breeder in the country, either. I could name half a dozen more who have a larger business. But this man is an expert in all lines of the mail order business and I think this has had a great deal to do with his success.
Rabbit breeding is a branch of the live stock business, and most of us know that the most profitable occupation on earth for the lover of the soil is live stock farmiag. One man may succeed with horses, another with beef cattle, another with dairy animals, and still another may fail at all these and win out with sheep. And the man who couldn't raise farm animals might be a big success with rabbits. It's only a question of ability and business training.
I have already hinted at some of the possibilities of rabbit raising from a commercial standpoint. I do not think I have overstated the matter. Of course, there are dishonest dealers and breeders who are constantly advertising the fact that $3,500 can be made from a single pair in a year and other such absurd claims. But if the reader will not go off on a tangent and start building pipe dreams, he can generally catch these crooks at their own game.
Because the rabbit is a prolific and quick breeder these men have taken the chance to deceive people with false claims as to the real facts. Most of us knew little or nothing about the rabbit when we started out. So we believed these things until hard experience taught us the error of our ways.
The rabbit will breed five times in one year, if permitted to do so. One can even breed them faster than that, but the oftener the rabbits are bred in the space of twelve months, the poorer the offspring. This should appeal to all thinking people as being reasonable. It is a severe drain on any animal to reproduce its kind and the oftener the strain the harder it will be on both parent and offspring.
The average litters run from five to thirteen little rabbits. The rabbit is a nursing animal and because of the inability of the mother doe to properly nurse a whole litter it is necessary to either kill off the poorest of the litter or else use nurse does. It is seldom advisable to allow a mother doe to nurse more than six youngsters and five is even better. For fine breeding stock cut each doe down to three youngsters.
This limitation means that the possibilities of the herd will be considerably less than the claims made by some advertisers who are anxious to deceive the public. It is true that litters run up to thirteen and fifteen at a time, but it is also a fact that it is impossible for the doe to raise this many youngsters. Get that fact in mind now and keep it uppermost when you are thinking about the rabbit business.
Breeding animals that are properly raised and of pedigreed or reigistered parents should be worth an average of ten dollars each. If you have two litters of such stock or possibly three litters in a year, one can see that it is possible to have a cash income of about $100 per year from each breeding doe. This is, I think, a very conservative estimate and one that I have made in my own experience. If one is an especially good "hand" at the business and has exceptional stock, he can do even better.
Where the rabbits are to be produced for meat and can be fed liberally on milk until they are marketed or used on the table, litters of five and six can be raised at a time, which will increase the production of each doe, but the cash income will be cut down because an animal sold by weight for eating purposes will not bring anything like an average of ten dollars each.
The rabbit industry is today in its infancy. I do think, however, that the possibilities will become greater and greater as time goes on and it assumes a commercial aspect. One of the large packers announced more than a year ago that as soon as the production of rabbits reached a scale where it would be possible to warrant the attempt, a market would be established and rabbit meat would be sold over the meat counters of the country along with that of other animals.
Canneries of rabbit meat have been established in two or three centers and furriers have entered the market for rabbit skins. During the season of 1918-19 one fur house with a national reputation advertised that they would pay $1 per pound for prime rabbit pelts, and stated that they could use one million pounds more than they had received the previous season.
I might state that in the parlance of the fur trade the rabbit is known as "coney." If you have been offered coney fur at any time, you may know that it was rabbit fur. The fur is made into hats, muffs, gloves and mittens, decorations for dresses, coats, and collars, and used in lining coats. In short, rabbit fur is rapidly taking the place of more expensive pelts as the other fur-bearing animals have disappeared from our forests and streams.
The man who is raising rabbits for meat can, in the proper season, market the pelt and have an additional income. During the summer the skin can be saved and sold to dealers who in turn sell it to tanneries where it is tanned and used for gloves, or to glue manufacturers who use it in manufacturing glue.
In this connection it is well to remember that the pelt of the domesticated rabbit is entirely different from that of the wild cotton tail. The wild rabbit has a pelt that is very thin and tears easily. It has practically no commercial value whatever. The pelt of the domesticated rabbit, however, is heavy and tough, largely because the domesticated rabbit has been bred expressly for a good pelt.
In fact, Flemish Giant pelts have been used for lap robes and fur rugs. If they are a success for such rough usage one may gather an idea as to just how heavy and desirable the pelt of the domesticated rabbit really is.
But the main thought in these remarks is to warn the beginner in the rabbit business as to the advertising claims made by certain dishonest dealers and hucksters, most of whom do not breed rabbits themselves, but merely handle them for the money that is in them. To be led astray by these claims is to discourage and disappoint many of the people who might otherwise be happy with a few hutches. And it is a rank injustice to the rabbit industry.
The rabbit is a noble animal and one that will perform in wonderful fashion for any lover of them. And because of this very fact, advantage is taken of them to "bleed the suckers," as the expression goes.