Episode-875- Rick Worden of Rise and Shine Rabbitry

The Satin is a Great Dual Purpose Rabbit

The Satin is a Great Dual Purpose Rabbit

Rick Worden has promoting rabbits for homestead use and personally raising rabbits for 30 + years and feels every homestead should be raising rabbits due to their tremendous impact toward greater self sufficiency.   Rick’s company is Rise and Shine Rabbitry a small rabbitry in Mechanic Falls, Maine.

Their rabbits get premium care since they only raise a small number.  All rabbits are kept in individual raised cages inside a hoop-house, in the barn and some hutches outside. Rabbits are shaded through the summer heat with shade cloth and kept warm and dry all winter while enjoying the company of a flock of silkies for bug control.

Twice a day the rabbits have pasture plants and grasses and other homegrown produce scythed for them and served up fresh (in season), so even though the rabbits are not “pastured” they are still reaping the benefits of a nutritious and natural diet.

Through the winter months the rabbits are fed hay and their diet is also supplemented year-round with a pelleted feed and root crops also an herbal hay mix the Wordens dry that and store for the winter rabbit “blahs”. Rick is also growing sprouts and experimenting with other homegrown foods to grow in their short season.

Join Us Today As We Discuss…

  • Setting up rabbit housing
  • Choosing a breed to work with
  • Understanding the reality of eventual slaughter
  • The value of rabbit “waste” products – not just manure
  • Colony raising for those who travel at times
  • Selling rabbits why live sales are easier to deal with legally
  • Feeding rabbits off the land, you can do more than you think you can
  • Awesome ways to cook rabbits
  • Rules for safe and effective breeding
  • The right age to start breeding at
  • Reducing infant mortality
  • Using chickens and ducks for pest control
  • Other small livestock for the homestead
  • Multiple method of tanning hides

Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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37 Responses to Episode-875- Rick Worden of Rise and Shine Rabbitry

  1. We are just about to start raising rabbits, so this is incredibly timely. Thanks!

  2. Backwoods Engineer

    GREAT TIMING, Jack! I am presently reading “Rabbits for Dummies” after watching and re-watching Marjorie Wildcraft work with Rabbits. I’m looking to have stealth small livestock in my suburban neighborhood!

  3. Hey! great show Jack. Rise and Shine Rabbitry is a great source of information. Be sure you add them as a friend on Facebook, Rick posts almost daily great tips about rabbits.

    We ran a commercial rabbitry a few (10) years ago and while there is profit in it, the operation requires lots and lots (hundreds) of rabbits to make any real money.

    We are planning to start a small rabbitry again this year but will keep it small just for our own use as meat production.

  4. Jack,
    What great timing i am just starting up my rabbitry. Chickens especially tractor design is next I hope?

  5. The municipality where I live made owning small livestock illegal in February. Nevertheless, I’d like to try raising small livestock in my backyard. Could anybody who actually keeps small livestock tell me if this $500 Stealth Coop http://www.mypetchicken.com/Wooden_Chicken_Coops-The_Stealth_Coop-P493.aspx# looks like it would hide them effectively? Does anybody know of a cheaper alternative? We live in Climate Zone 6a. Thanks for your feedback.

    • Raymond "Shorty" Butler

      Hide them yes, but the poor things will have no room. It looks like a very small prison, look at it like this you can survive in 100 sq feet, a rabbit can survive in 2 sq feet, but neither is optimal.

      • Chris Vincent

        Also with that size of a tractor they will not get any appreciable amount of their diet from the grass. In my experience tractoring rabbits in a suburban yard doesn’t work well because most people don’t have enough yard and don’t manage it properly and end up killing their lawn by over grazing it.
        The other issue with that tractor is that it’s made for chickens, which are much easier to contain because they don’t dig, try to squeeze through small holes, or chew on things.
        If you really want to hide them I would keep the in a barn / shed. A lot of people keep them that way as it makes it easier to control the climate via AC for the summer. You can still feed them stuff from your yard to supplement their diet.

    • Rabbits are pets….you can have pets right?

    • Moonvalleyprepper

      Of course a rabbit isn’t livestock it’s a pet! 😉

      $500 for that coup is way over priced. You can make welded wire cages very easily. I put (4) 2’x2’x4′ cages together for less than $100 including buying enough J clips and a crimper to make many more. Took maybe an hour or two at the most, wear gloves or you will cut your self up.

      Zone 6 should be no problem. I am in 5b and had mine in my unheated garage all winter with no problems. The heat can be more of a problem than cold so planting things to shade the area, or roof, in the summer is a good idea.

  6. Great guest. I’ve heard of people growing rabbits on pasture using something similar to a chicken tractor. Seems like it could be an economical way of raising healthy meat. Here’s some folks doing it commercially in MA (Their pastured rabbit meat sells for $10/lb!): http://peteandjensbackyardbirds.com/rabbit.htm

    I think I remember Joel Salatin saying that his son had 50% mortality in his rabbits until he bread the right stock for this method.

  7. Awesome show! We decided to do chickens this year, but rabbits are on the radar.

    As an aside, I was telling my husband about the birds that lived in the rabbitry, and being the smarty that he is, he asked me if they laid Cadbury eggs. I told him I’d ask. LOL

  8. I have two does due to deliver this week. Crossing my fingers as I have not had any litters since last years heat!

    off topic. can someone tell me why I get an error when I click on responses to my threads in the forum? Who do I email?

  9. Rick,
    I like to eat my rabbits shredded too, but I have a terrible time with getting all the little bones out – especially the vertebra and the little cartilage plates that come out from between them.
    Do you have some special trick? I cook them the same as I would a chicken that I wanted to shred(stock pot / crock pot for about 2-4 hrs on a very low simmer). Am I over cooking them and making them fall apart too much?

    • I wonder — and this is all speculation because I’ve never cooked a rabbit — if you could just cut out the back before you cook it. Then you could save a bunch of rabbit backs in a freezer bag so that when you had enough, you could make rabbit stock. I’m sure there’d be some decent nutrients in there.

      • Chris Vincent

        I have cut the meat off the bones before – similar to boning out a deer. However, with the relatively small size or a rabbit a much larger and more significant part of the meat is left on the bone in pieces too small to cut off. Being the miser that I am, when I make stock with the bones I want the meat that was left on them too. Otherwise I suppose that I could just cook it and strain out all the bits.
        I have started tossing out the tails as they are pretty much just tiny bones with no meat, but there are still these small disks of cartilage that come from between the vertebra that I can’t seem to completely sort out from the meat.

    • I have the same problem , i just pick them out the best i can! I simmer in a stock pot for 1 to 1.5 hrs

  10. Hey Jack,
    Thanks for another great interview. This guy really knows his stuff. I got a lot out of it as I looking to start raising rabbits later this summer.

    My neighbors would never tolerate chickens but I think that I could get away with quail. Have you looked into having someone on the show who has done this successfully, especially in an urban/suburban setting?

    • Chris Vincent

      I raise muscovy ducks in a suburban back yard and they do great – my neighbors love them and will even feed them bird seed for fun (w00t – free feed!)
      Their main advantages is that they are quiet and they don’t seem to smell as much as chickens do (I think it is because they eat more plant material and therefore have a more balance poop).
      The other nice thing about the muscovys is that you can get them in a green / black color that looks really nice, and could theoretically blend in with local mallard ducks making them look less out of place and ‘farmy’ than chickens. For a few weeks my neighbor thought that I had wild ducks that had taken up residency.

  11. Another great show Jack. Rick, thanks for your website, I had been wondering what all kinds of things we could grow to feed rabbits, I tend to focus on what can be done to manage that without the feed store being available some day.

    I read through much of Rick’s website and didn’t find any information related to this question. Living here in the south, lot hot dry summers are a problem for people trying to raise rabbits. I have heard of using frozen water in 2 liter coke bottles to help keep them cool. I am building an off grid homestead utilizing solar power for everything electric. There will not be enough spare energy to freeze water for a large herd of rabbits.

    What thoughts to you or Rick have on building a rabbit habitat more resembling how they live in nature. I was thinking of digging a trench around the large pen 2-3 feet deep to bury a galvanized wire mesh to prevent them from digging out under the pen’s above ground fencing. The habitat would have man made tunnels and caves so the rabbits can go underground during the summer months to escape from the heat. It is too hot to breed them during the summer so the main focus this time of the year will be to simply keep them alive and growing. Then once it cools down, move them back to their pens for controlled breeding. The habitat would of course have a his and hers side of the pen with buried mesh to keep them apart.

    We have purchased and are growing our breed stock, 4 does and 2 bucks, so that by this fall we will be able to growing our herd. The goal is to have 80-100
    rabbits when fully operational. Any thoughts on how to keep the bunnies alive during the hot summer months would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again
    OKPrepper

    • Here is a link to some underground hutches. Its a pdf file.
      I really like the idea shown in Fig. 8

      http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c08/95605275.pdf

    • Check out this thread:
      thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=19893

      It has been the ongoing dealing with rabbits in warm areas thread among other rabbit tangents.

    • The site RobertVB listed is one of the ways they raise them in Italy. It is a great idea! I will be writing up a post on raising rabbits in the heat early may! I have solar fans and some really cool stuff i am working on .I think it is a great idea to raise rabbits naturally and the system you talk about sounds like a great idea!

  12. Backwoods Engineer

    Great show! Rick does know his stuff. I am definitely going into rabbits as small livestock, as I cannot have traditional livestock in the slave plantation, er, homeowner’s association I live in.

  13. Jack – there are good ways of being able to leave your rabbits for about a week at a time. As long as your rabbits don’t gorge themselves to death, you can leave full J feeders and get about a week’s food. If one isn’t enough for a week, install two. Automatic watering systems are a must IMO if you are going to be around or not just because of how much time they save, but that will take care of the water issue. The only issue you might still have is cooling during the summer. If you do a barn, you could use a window AC unit set just low enough to keep them from getting stroke just when you can’t be there to do frozen bottles, or just work on getting a heat tolerant line and play sink or swim. Personally, my rabbits do well enough that I don’t worry about them dying if I don’t do anything for cooling other than the patio cover. I’ve also heard really good things about tile scraps in the cages.

  14. Ronnie in Iowa ~Veronica Deevers

    I vividly remember an article I read in Countryside Magazine about a woman who got a piglet to raise for meat. She named it. It became a “pet”. Then came the day to butcher this animal. She gave the advice of DO NOT NAME YOUR FOOD. It was very difficult to have this pig butchered but that is why she got it and she had to stick to this or she knew she would never be able to butcher anything. She had a very good neighbor and they agreed to “exchange” pigs. She would take his pig to the butcher and he would take hers. They also would keep the meat of the opposite pig so they were not eating something they had become emotionally attached to. If there was as big weight difference they would make it up to the other person through other kinds of trade. Made sense.

  15. Is there a breed of rabbit that is good for wool (not necessarily pelts) and meat? I’m thinking angora, but people don’t mention if they are good for eating.

    Thanks!

    • Chris Vincent

      I don’t know from personal experience but I have heard that Angora are good for fiber and meat. However, the long hair increases the complications with housing the rabbits. Generally you have to be much more concerned with keeping them clean, and controlling access to stuff that can get stuck in their fur (hay, sticks, mud, seeds etc). Their long hair also increases problems with summer heat and its generally a good idea to keep them in well air conditioned space.
      If you really do want the fiber I would try them out, rabbits don’t cost much so if it doesn’t work out you’re not out much. Also generally rabbits haven’t been bred into a specific function the way that chickens have, so they are all pretty good for meat – some have better feed to meat ratios, or better bone to meat ratios – but unless you’re tracking things closely you won’t even know it.

  16. Cranberryrose

    Fiber Rabbits for spinning wool- We have a Jersey Wooly, absolutely love them. They don’t have as long as fur as he angora so less fur mats(yes!), but you need to brush them, so they don’t get wool block.
    Woolblock -The fur can be brushed so the bunny doesn’t get the fur stuck in the intestines. We also feed a 1/2 of trader joes papaya tablets once every month, especially when shedding. Also, friends have fed bird seed periodically to prevent wool block. If they are not shedding, can do it monthly with wide spaced comb; if shedding, need to get loose fur off by brushing. We use a shedding brush (lasts about 2 weeks or so)
    Heat- Really have to wet them down in a warm bucket of water, put wet cloth sacks over cage(at least twice a day, and give a frozen plastic water bottle when the temps hit 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
    Eating- My dad had a 50 rabbit rabbitry. I will be breeding our gray wooly bucks to 2 gray Sable does( not visa versa because of birth problems), after this broadcast, so coats will a long and denser pelt, but since wooly are a small rabbit, eating woolies would not be worth it.
    Slaughter- in Ca, there is a slaughter house that does rabbits. Unfortunately, in my neighborhood, a neighbor turned in another neighbor who slaughtered his rabbits. Rabbits scream exactly similar to a terrified young child when they are frightened, and if done wrong, like hitting over the head, you can alert people to what you are doing. Turn on some something loud, screen slaughter area. We will be using our garage with tarps and music and the broomstick method.

  17. A word on rabbits. When the temperature gets in the upper 90’s just dunk your rabbits in a five gallon bucket of water. It will cool them right down until the building begins to cool off. Also if you spray water on the the roof of your building, it will lower the interior temperature by about 10 degrees. Sometimes I just spray the rabbits a couple of time during the afternoon. Before I learned this, I lost about ten rabbits one day when I went to town, and came home to about sixty screaming rabbits in death throse. I had to act quickly to save as many as possible. They had water, but the temperature had gone up to 105 that day. Some processors require you insulate your roofs if you grow for them. You can also hang a box fan above the cages. Also by hanging wire cages, you eliminate filth which can collect on wood or supports, and the possibility of snakes climbing into the cages to eat new babies.
    About Silkies: They are Chinese medicine referred to a “black bone” chickens. You can get a higher price for them if you sell them to employees at Chinese resturants. 16 years ago I got $5 apiece for them.

  18. If you plan to spin the fiber, Angoras are o.k. but if not, you will find they get matted and not so pretty. Also if you plan to use the pelts, it’s a good idea to raise New Zealands with the consistent white pelt, so they can be sewn together in larger garments then dyed if you want. Processors pay less for colored rabbits as colored pelts are hard to match up.

  19. I have been trying to get perpetual kale for a few years now. If you come up with a way for us to get some I would be interested in joining the group.

  20. Awesome show. Solid gold. Heard Rick on the Self Sufficient Gardener Podcast a few months back and was stoked to see him on here.

    Jack kind of touched on my question, but my “date before you marry” philosophy has me wondering if there is any way to buy rabbit meat prior to diving in whole hog. I’m not a hunter, and haven’t ever even eaten rabbit….

    Tips or tricks?

  21. @Dan
    Usually not hard to find. Some grocery stores will actually sell it, just about any meat breeder would sell you one for eating, feed shops tend to have them, and in a lot of areas you will find them being sold on Craigslist as “pet food”.

  22. I can’t get in to the forum to update my rabbit thread. But I had 10 babies on the 11th. I am so excited about one doe and one doe did not conceive yet again.

  23. Great show, Jack! Rick was a great guest and I hope you’ll have him back in the future. Thanks for all you do.

  24. What medicine do you think works best for coccidiosis, parasites, and snuffles