If you missed our previous posts, you can find them right here.
Today I want to chat with you about what WE have found to be the very best Meat rabbit breed combo, and why we chose it every time over any other!
When we started this journey with rabbits about 10 years ago, my heart was also tied up in restoring these gorgeous white tipped rabbits that were little orange fluff balls when about a week old. (You can see many of our pictures of our Creme D’Argent’s here and here)
A rare, almost extinct variation of a very old established breed, we started our rabbitry by traveling over 100 miles to pick up a breeding trio and brought them home. Over a two year period we were blessed to not only feed our family, but also to bless many other simple folks like ourselves who saw the potential in saving a losing breed. Our does were incredibly sweet, and their litters were spoiled rotten during those years.
But after two years, when the breed variation came out of the danger area, and into sustainable one, I began to critically look at our rabbitry and ask myself some questions.
Now that the breed itself was no longer in danger, would I choose this rabbit for meeting all our needs?
And the answer was…..while I loved a lot of the characteristics of this gorgeous rabbit breed, it also lacked a few things.
They had smaller litters, and those litters often had weak babies..
They were not the best moms I had seen in rabbits.
They took a long time to grow to harvest weight, sometimes a month or more beyond what my NZ/Cali friends’ rabbits did.
And while that may be an unfair comparison, ultimately, my objective was solved for starting with the Cremes, and now my second objective, feeding a growing family, needed to take priority.
We blessed a family with our trio of D’Argents, kept our favorite doe and buck growout to add to the next phases of our rabbitry for bloodlines, and added a Red NZ doe, a Champagne Buck,, and two White California Does..and then started the process over again.
Now eight years later, we have four of the sweetest, calmest, most prolific, steady does you could ever ask for….and they are a combination of D’Argent, NZ, and Cali. I have the craziest colored litters, and two of my mixed breed does have the prettiest frosted fur you could ever see. The other two have tipped ears, and noses as a throwback to their California heritage.
But best of all….each of my does consistently throws around 10 babies per litter, three times a year, then enjoys their time off for the other half. They are great moms. Their babies are happy and fat and strong.
I can hear some of you saying: “Okay, Heather, that’s great…but you have taken 8 years to get to this point! I’m just starting out so what should I start with?”. That’s true. So here is my advice.
Californians and New Zealands are well known for large litters and being quick to grow to maturity for harvest time. That’s why the bulk of my herd is those breeds. There is definitely something to be said for that combination of breeds added to the gene pool of your rabbitry. But what I found, over and over, no matter how I tried to breed them for temperment, sooner or later I would get a mean doe, or a mean bossy buck, and have to start all over again with trying to breed it out of them. I remember year four, thinking I was ready to go back to my sweet and gentle Cremes, even if it meant less bunnies, because a few generations down the road we had a rabbit bite a kid, which is an instant cull in our home if unprovoked.
And then, as I like to say, the Lord intervened. Our rabbitry got hit with something brought in from another new rabbit, and we lost almost everything but the Cremes I had saved….a NZ/Cali doe, and a Champagne buck from my friend.
And the rest, dear friends, is history. The sweet temperment of the D’Argents has now won out, as well as specifically breeding for the strength, resiliency, and litter size of the NZ/Cali combination.
All of this is to say…when you start your rabbitry…choose your breeding stock depending on what characteristics you want for your buns. Maybe you care more about size of litters than how easily handled your rabbits are. Maybe you care about your kids being able to work your rabbitry with you than how many kits are in each litter.
Then research your rabbit breeds, and start breeding. Out of each litter, choose the kits that best fit your characteristic and add them to the gene pool. If you do this again, and again, then you will find yourself happily raising a rabbitry that fits your needs within a few years, and becomes a joy to you.
See you back again tomorrow.
Blessings to you and yours