Rebecca Wooldridge wrote:You've got a really inspiring set-up going there, Kelly! Thanks for sharing what you're doing, I've only just now read through it but there is a lot of good stuff going on.
You mentioned raising your rabbits colony-style and I was wondering what your set up is like, and if you would you mind sharing a bit more detail of your rabbit tractors? We're getting ready to build some tractors of our own for next spring and I've been checking out what other people are doing as a starting point for our design. Do you use them solely for growing out litters, or do you keep the rabbits in some sort of tractor on grass all the time? What are you feeding them? I've researched colony raising meat rabbits but so far I haven't come across a lot of examples of it being pulled off. All of your animals seem to be in very good condition so I'm really curious about how you're doing it!
Also, could you tell or show a little more about how you process and package your birds entirely on your own farm? What kind of regulations do you have to meet there to do that, and how have you set up to do that on the small scale?
Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I hope i can answer all your questions. I will add some pictures later as well -
We haven't gotten around to raising rabbits in a colony style actually. currently the rabbits are still in the rabbit tractor, moving daily. we are actually going to take a break on rabbits for a bit. we have some other things going on and i dont want to spread myself to thin.
That said - i can tell you how i planned to do it. I planned to have a colony mainly for the winter and tractor the bunnies during the growing season. We only planned 2 does and 1 buck to start with. when you setup the colony, set up the feeder where you can close the rabbits off. use the feeders to help corral the babies and add piles of dirt for them to burrow in.
we planned to breed each doe and put her and her babies in the tractors at ~a month old. tractor them all around together until ~5 weeks or so before the fryer rabbits are ready to process. remove the doe and put her back in the colony with the buck so her next litter is ready soon. we planned to do this with both does 2-3 times in a growing season. the buck would have the colony to himself most of the growing season.
the rabbit tractor i built is based on the "Stress Free Chicken Tractor Plans" ( https://farmmarketingsolutions.com/stress-free-chicken-tractor-plans/
). I used shade cloth on top and closed in a small part in the back. I will take some pictures of the rabbit tractor later today and post soon. we planned to use the tractors only for growing out litters in the growing season (aprilish - novemberish). we do supplement with a pelleted feed. i am under the understanding that you could
raise meat rabbit with no food inputs, but the grow out times would be much longer. i try to give them enough food that the feeder is pretty low during night chores. i want the feeder to be empty and the ground cover to be eaten. i did find if you dont feed them enough they will dig our and go find food at the neighbors.
i also havent found many examples of meat rabbits in a colony only setting. i would be afraid it would turn into a rabbit feedlot.
you could keep the does in tractors in the winters if you wanted to. there isnt much to eat around here so for time sake, we would have kept them in a colony (i 'think' colony chores would be less than moving tractors)
as for the poultry - in Colorado we are allowed to process up to 1000 birds on farm, for sale direct to the consumer (not restaurants). there is some labeling that is needed but for the most part none of that is enforced unless you are at a farmers market. we are WAY under 1000 birds
currently our poultry processing consists of a 2 cone kill stand, a keg/propane burner (scalder) and featherman pro plucker. we eviscerate on large food grade cutting boards that can be washed as needed. we soak/chill in coolers. we bag in "poultry shrink wrap bags" .
currently we are limited to about 30-35 birds a day. we need more space/cooler to chill finished birds in.
next year we plan a fancier label and adding the ability to buy birds (some get get a set price - not pay by the lb)
hope this helps. please feel free to ask follow up questions or for clarifications (i am multitasking while typing this!)