Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 9
Light, Airy Hutch for Mild Climates.
Contains four separate hutches.
Canvas Curtains Afford Shade on Hot Days.
Accommodates four breeding does.
These are a few important considerations essential to success in rabbit raising which are so vital that it was deemed advisable to put them in a separate chapter in order that the novice would not overlook them. They are also arranged in note form for handy reference in the future. They pertain to every phase of rabbit keeping.
Hutches. Allow nine to ten square feet of space for each adult rabbit or nursing doe. Face the rabbitry or hutches preferably to the East as the hutches will only catch the morning sun and will not be hot during the heat of the day.
Provide muslin or canvas curtains to drop over the open side of the hutch during storms and rains in order to keep the interior dry. They can also be used when cold winds are blowing directly into the hutch. At all other times they should be taken away, as cold alone will not hurt the animals.
Keep the hutches dry at all times. Where you have solid floors use two inches of sawdust or sand and cover this with three or four inches of good, clean straw. The bedding should be only sawdust in summer. If the weather is unusually cold, put a pile of straw in the nest box or one corner of the hutch for the rabbits to burrow in.
Keep the hutch dishes clean at all times. Water crocks should be scoured once a week the year around. Feed dishes should be similarly cleaned.
Droppings. Remove all droppings at least once a day the year around. If you have solid floors use an old hoe to scrape them clean. The droppings should not be piled up near the hutches or under it, as a certain amount of evaporation takes place which is not good for the stock to breathe. It is better to spade them into the garden soil at once, or around the flowers and shrubs, or sprinkle them over the lawn. This is the proper solution of the problem in the winter. Rabbit droppings are even better than sheep manure for lawns.
Hay Racks. Hay racks can be built out of wire and placed in each hutch. They will save feed and prevent the rabbits soiling it as they will do if it is placed in the floor of the hutch. In the use of hay racks—they eat it only as wanted and you will soon find that the use of racks will cut your hay bills down one-third at least. There are several good racks on the market for about fifty cents each and if you do not care to make your own you will find that it is money well spent to buy them.
Feed Crocks. The best feed dish to use is the regular rabbit crock which can be procured at any seed house or supply dealer. These are glazed to make cleaning easy and they are flat enough to prevent tipping and the consequent loss of the mash or grain.
Do not use galvanized or tin dishes, as they are unsatisfactory for rabbits. They are too hard to keep clean and that is a prime necessity with rabbits.
Stock. Start with as good stock as you can afford. It is better to put all of your money in one good doe and pay to have her bred to a good buck, rather than to scatter the purchasing power over a number of inferior animals. Remember that "like produces like" and it is never truer than in the breeding of rabbits. The better the stock you start with the better your chances of success and the greater the income you will make from them. You cannot produce fancy stock that will command a good price from scrub breeders.
Disease. As soon as you notice a rabbit that appears to be sickly, isolate it from the rest of the herd and keep it there until you are sure as to what is the matter with it. Most rabbit diseases are contagious and will soon spread through the whole rabbitry if not taken in hand at once.
Unless the specimen is especially valuable, it is better to kill the rabbit at once, especially if it appears to be suffering from a cold or "snuffles." This disease is treated more at length in a subsequent chapter, but this is a point that must be kept in mind.
Sanitation. Sanitation is the preventive of most rabbit evils and diseases. Keep things clean. Your success depends upon that. And not only be clean, but disinfect the hutches at least once a week. Do not use coal tar disinfectants as they are repugnant to the rabbit's sense of smell. Use pine oil disinfectants or those having a sweet smell. Special rabbit disinfectants are to be found in every supply dealer's stock.
Disinfect thoroughly. This means getting in all corners of the hutch and nest boxes. A small spray pump can be purchased for fifty cents at any seed house and it will be worth many times its cost to you.
Young Stock. Do not disturb the newly arrived litter until the second or third day and then be very sure that the strong light does not fall directly upon them as it may cause blindness. Count the litter and destroy the small, puny ones.
If a nurse doe is to be used, remove the excess and put them with the new doe. Do it quietly and try not to excite her interest. It is best to give her a good feed of green food and she will generally not pay any attention to you.
In Buying Stock. Do not let the flashy appeals of the dishonest dealer drag you into the net that has been spread. Take all extravagant claims and inducements to make you buy with a grain of salt. The best plan is to pass up the sharper and get in direct touch with a bona fide breeder. There are plenty of these in every locality and they have built up their business by honest dealing. Seek them out.
Kindling Time. Does kindle 30 days after being bred, generally right to the hour. The nest box should be available for the doe a week before she is due and plenty of straw should be placed in the hutch in order that she may have it to build the nest. Do not have so much that she will stuff the nest box so full that she can't get into it. The doe will make her nest all the way from a week to an hour before kindling.
If it is exceptionally cold, some light cotton batting can be used to keep the litter warm, by pulling it in small bits and placing it over the youngsters in the same manner that the doe has used her own fur.
Sawdust and Sand. Some light material such as sawdust or sand must be on hand at all times to use in keeping the floors of the hutches dry, particularly if they are solid. Such precautions will be unnecessary if you are using slat floors. Once a week, twice a week in damp weather, use a light sprinkling of air-slacked lime on the floors to dry them up and kill such disease germs as may be lurking there.
Pedigrees. In order to succeed in the breeding of rabbits for sale, it is necessary to keep a pedigree record. That is, a record of their . Pedigree blanks can be purchased in book form at any dealer's supply house. Always keep a carbon copy of all pedigrees for future reference. They will be invaluable for your mating records and sale records.
Runways. Runways are unnecessary for rabbits. They do not need grass parks. If you put them out in a grass park they will soon dig out and get away. Where you are training young stock for show purposes, particularly Belgian hares, it is a good plan to have a long narrow hutch for them to run around in. For meat stock, however, better results are obtained by keeping them in ordinary sized hutches.
Salt. All rabbits need plenty of salt. It can be fed in the mash each day, or better still a piece of rock salt can be placed in the hutch, or regular prepared rabbit salt nailed to the side of the hutch. This will give the rabbits an opportunity to partake of it as they desire.
Dogs. At all times guard against the possibillty of dogs getting near the rabbitry and destroying your herd. The author has had some heart-breaking experiences along this line.
All hutches should be protected by strong lattice or woven wire fences, in addition to having strong mesh wire over all openings. A fence around the hutches should offer protection against ordinary dogs, but you cannot be too careful about this. Most dogs that raid the rabbitries seem to be extraordinary dogs.
I have had them pull inch boards off a rabbitry held by six inch nails. I have had them tear off doors which were bolted down on hinges and strong locks. I have had them destroy as many as twenty-one rabbits in one evening, worth about two hundred and fifty dollars.
They always appear at unexpected times, generally when you are away from home, and the fancier should not neglect to take every precaution to protect his herd and his investment. No matter how much faith you may have in your hutches, put up a protecting fence. If you do not, you will some day, much to your regret.
Keep your eye on the airedales and the big fellows. The little dogs can't do any damage if your hutches are off the ground, as they should be.