There were many reasons that I chose New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits to be my first pasture raised meat rabbit experiment. I discovered yet another good reason last night….you can see them in the dark.
Before going to bed I like to glance over the rabbit area to make sure all is well. Rabbits are very active at night and if they aren’t, then something is usually wrong. Could be a scary predator has gotten too close. The feral cats don’t seem to upset the rabbits which worries me a bit because I fear when the rabbits get out they may not realize the danger they are in. Any dogs in the area do frighten them and they usually hide inside their “houses” (cat carriers or other shelters or boxes I place in their pens). Lack of activity could also mean they are out of water. So I have gotten into the habit of glancing over to check the status of the area.
Well last night all seemed well until I caught white movement in an area that should not have white movement. Just another reason to be glad I chose white rabbits. Grabbed a flashlight and sure enough the strong winds had caught the 4’x6.5′ roof panel that is bungied onto the playpen wire to hold it down and blown the whole unit sideways allowing the last boy bunny to escape. Luckily he was just socializing with his sister’s or mother outside their pens. I keep my large net in the rabbit area since it has come in handy with previous escapes. Since I didn’t want to mess with fixing things in the middle of the night, I just shut the door to his large wire dog crate and he was safe and sound for the night. I have gotten lazy about using the metal candy cane looking anchors that came with the playpens to anchor them in place. Plus I am not convinced that using them with that heavy roofing would have helped. The roofing weighs more than the playpen. Once again the wood framed lexan roofing on the doe’s pen had no problems.
When I moved his pen to a new grass area today I put it in the 2′ x 6′ configuration so I could just bungie a green lexan panel over the attached pen area while I try to figure out how to make a better roof structure for the 4’x6′ pens.
Rabbits in a temporary grazing pen.
I have been using one of the playpens to make a temporary grazing area where the grass is long but I can’t leave them over night. I love that they are used to hiding in their cat carrier houses because I just shut the door and carry them where needed. To a new grazing area or the scale table for weighing. Just putting a couple bungies across the green lexan roof panel provides shade and keeps Hawks or feral cats out.
So what are the other reasons I chose white rabbits?
I was worried about the heat in the summer. Heat is far more dangerous to rabbits than the cold. Since white usually stays cooler than black, I am hoping they won’t over heat as easily as a black rabbit. I have seen that with my black Percheron draft horse. She breaks into a sweat before any of my other colored horses. She often stays in the shade of a pasture shelter during the hottest times of the day when the other horses are out grazing. Same with my jet black Shepard, he is more affected by the heat than my other dogs.
NZW rabbits are also one of the most popular meat breeds. They have good rates of gain and so far seem pretty immune to eating all my experimental foods. The ideal meat rabbit for efficiency in food conversion and weight gain is actually the first generation cross between a NZW and a Californian rabbit. Using a NZW buck with a Californian doe is the ideal but I like my does and am hoping to find a large Californian buck to test out weight gain. My NZW buck is on the small side at only 7-8 pounds. My does are 9-10 pounds. I think a larger buck would add to the genetics.
The white pelts are more versatile for Homestead use since they can be dyed, etc. I personally would prefer black pelts since I never wear white (gets dirty too quick), but I was more worried about the heat than having to dye a white pelt.
So just another day on the Homestead trying to figure out problems and lessons learned. I am just really glad my rabbits are white, LOL