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Raising Rabbits For Meat ft. Nomadic Chicks Homestead

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Show Notes

Join Nicole and Audra, owner of Nomadic Chicks Homestead, as they discuss everything you need to know about starting a rabbitry for meat and show rabbits.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to choose your first rabbits
  • Housing and feed requirements
  • Processing rabbits for meat
  • Breeding rabbits

Our Guest

In this episode we are joined by Audra, owner of Nomadic Chicks Homestead. Audra has been raising rabbits for meat and show for 10 years. In addition to rabbits, the homestead has a goat dairy and are members of the Raw Milk Association of Colorado. Nomadic Chicks Homestead offers a variety of products in their shop including honey, quality livestock, rabbit fertilizer and holistic beauty products.

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    Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from heritageacresmarket.com, where we talk about all things backyard poultry, bee-keeping, gardening, sustainable living and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.

    Nicole: Good morning everybody, and thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. Today, I'm talking with Audra and she's going to tell us everything that we need to know about starting a rabbitry and raising rabbits for meat and for show. This intro is going to be a little bit different. We recorded this episode and had some technical issues. One of the things that happened is that we lost the complete intro of this episode. Also, as you listen to this episode you'll notice that there are some issues where some soundtracks get a little choppy or maybe get fuzzy and you're not completely able to hear everything, or kind of speeds up and slows down a little bit. I really apologize for this, guys. But this was a really great episode and I didn't want to inconvenience Audra with rerecording. These little nuances happen, there's only maybe 10 of them total in this almost hour-long episode. But without further ado, I hope that you guys enjoy this episode and you're excited to learn about rabbits like I was.

    Audra: Yes, thank you so much for having me.

    Nicole: Yeah, so tell us some more about your homestead and what you have going on there.

    Audra: Yeah, so right now we have dairy goats and rabbits, chickens, pigs, just everything.

    Nicole: Awesome.

    Audra: Yes. I am in charge of all of our rabbits, our whole rabbitry. That's my biggest passion. I love keeping care of them and learning about them and stuff.

    Nicole: So what do you raise rabbits for? What's kind of your focus?

    Audra: About 10 years ago, I was gifted by my parents a adorable little pet rabbit and that just started everything. I got into 4-H and I started raising meat rabbits and showing those. So now, fast forward 10 years later, I still show rabbits occasionally, not as much, but I still raise them. I also raise them for meat for our homestead and then occasionally pets.

    Nicole: Awesome. So rabbits, it's something I don't know a ton about. When I was younger I used to volunteer at the Raptor Center which is a rehabilitation facility for injured birds of prey. There was a girl that was a breeder and ones that kind of didn't make the cut, she would donate to us to use for our birds. That's kind of the only thing that I know about rabbits, so I don't know a lot. What kind do you raise?

    Audra: We raise three breeds right now; Californian rabbits, Giant Chinchillas and then Rexes. I've bred a couple breeds like Angora breeds and stuff. But that's what we're doing right now. All three of those breeds are meat breeds. The Giant Chinchillas not so much, but the other two are meat breeds, so we do process those occasionally.

    Nicole: Oh, okay. So why those three? What makes those ones special that you chose to raise those ones?

    Audra: Well, down in Texas is where I started raising rabbits and down there everybody, for some reason, just really likes breeding meat rabbits. There's no other kind of breeds, for some reason, down there. That's just what I started with, and then coming up here to Colorado and showing there's... like all 50 breeds are all over Colorado, so I got to see which ones I like the most. I started off with Californians, so I'm just partial to them. I've been raising them since the beginning, so I still love raising them. Then Rex breeds because raising Californians, they only come in one color, so I was getting bored with just the one color. I love the big large meat breeds. I raise them because they have a lot of color and their fur is really cool, it's like a velvety kind of feel. I just started raising Giant Chinchillas because I just wanted to try something different because I haven't switched out a breed in a long time. They're a lot of fun. They're humongous. They can reach like, they're very big, like around 15 pounds.

    Nicole: Oh my gosh.

    Audra: Yeah, it's just a fun adventure trying them.

    Nicole: When you're raising rabbits for meat or I guess just in general probably, what's kind of the basic? If I wanted to start raising rabbits, like housing and feed, what's kind of the rabbitry 101?

    Audra: So if you want to raise rabbits for meat, there are a lot of breeds, and the breeds would be commercial breed. Those are the ones that are going to, in the end, give you more meat than what you would see at the pet store, those are fancy breeds. Some of the most popular breeds would be New Zealands, Californians, Silver Fox, Satins, Rexes, Palominos, those kind of breeds is what you would want to be looking for. The first thing that probably would come to your mind is like, "Oh, I'm just going to go on Craigslist and just get some just random meat rabbit, just like free ones or whatever," do not do that. You will end up bringing a problem home with you, usually. It would be a lot better if you go out, do some research on what exactly you want, and then try to find a breeder. If you can actually get pedigree rabbits, that would be the best because that person who's been breeding those rabbits is breeding them to the highest quality, the highest standard that they can. So in the end when you are raising those baby rabbits and you're ready to process them, they are just genetically better at creating meat, because they were bred that way versus if you just go out and get a mixed rabbit. You're not sure where it came from.

    Audra: Most people aren't breeding for the highest quality. You don't need to go get a blue-ribbon-winning rabbit, but at least from a reputable breeder. I would highly recommend that. So after you've picked out your breed, I would then try to figure out what kind of setup you would want. If it's a small backyard, you probably want to do cages. A lot of people don't like raising rabbits on cages because they think it's inhumane, but I've been doing that since the beginning and they're fine. It's okay to raise them on cages. The other option would probably be colony raising them, which is where you just create a big pen and all the rabbits run around with each other. I mean, the benefit of that is they could do the rabbit things; dig holes and stuff, but you have no control in who's breeding with who and they could fight because rabbits are very territorial. It's preference really. I prefer the cages because I have a lot of control in what goes on. So yeah, cages are better I think. My size cages are 24 inches by 36, and I think that's a good size for large breeds. For smaller breeds, it could be smaller cages, but I think 24 by 36 is a good size cage.

    Nicole: When you have them in there, do you have, like I said, I don't know anything about this, but do you have more than one? Or what's your ratio to male and female? Or do you use one male and kind of move him from cage to cage?

    Audra: Starting off with rabbits, I really would recommend getting a trio. That would be one male and two females. That will make a lot of babies, eventually. You think, "Oh, that's not very many," it will, it will make a lot of bunnies. If you're doing the cage setup and not a colony set up, I would give a cage for each rabbit because females are very territorial and they'll just end up fighting usually. Then if you put the boy with the females, you'll get babies and you won't know when they're coming and stuff like that. They don't need companions. People think, "Oh, he's so sad. He's lonely." They really aren't. They're happy being by themselves, so they don't need companions or anything like that.

    Nicole: What about like a little hat thing for them to raise their babies? Do you put anything like that in there?

    Audra: Yeah. So once you've bred the rabbits, you should keep records so you know when she's going to kindle or give birth. Their gestation is about 31 days, so calculate from when you bred her to when she's going to give birth and about three days before that date, you would put in a nest box. You can look at pictures online of what nest boxes look like, they're usually a foot or two long. They're just boxes you put in there and you put in some hay. When she's ready to have her baby she'll hop in there, hopefully, that's what you want. She'll pull some fur underneath her belly and will make a nest and then hopefully have her babies in there if she's a good mom.

    Nicole: How many babies do they usually have per litter?

    Audra: They can have from 1 to 15.

    Nicole: Oh my goodness.

    Audra: Yeah. 15 and up is usually more rare but on average they'll have around eight babies, it's kind of what you are hoping for. So yeah, they can have a lot.

    Nicole: How long does it take for them to wean and then she can be bred again?

    Audra: Some people wean them at six weeks old. I think that's a little early, so I wait till seven or eight because then the babies usually have less health issues later on. That's just my experience. Some people give her a week and then re-breed her, but I like a month. It might not be totally economical, but I don't know, I feel like breeding her so soon after, their condition goes down. They can't keep their condition while they're pregnant, so I wait a month and then I re-breed her again if I want to. I think that keeps their condition up and they can have more babies for a longer amount of time.

    Nicole: So one female can give you a lot of babies in a year, like you mentioned earlier.

    Audra: I think if you breed them on my schedule that I usually keep, I think you can get around 40 or 50 babies with just a trio a year. That's casually breeding, not hardcore every six weeks breeding her. Yeah, lots of babies.

    Nicole: So really, when it comes to raising them for meat, you don't need a large area like you would cattle or anything like that, and you can get a fair amount of meat out of kind of a smaller footprint compared to a lot of other animals.

    Audra: Their feed to meat conversion is phenomenal. I think it's better than any of the animals we've raised. I think you only put in three, if I'm right, three pounds of feed for one pound of red meat. I think.

    Nicole: That's really cool.

    Audra: Yeah, they don't need a lot of space like goats or cows would need. It's the perfect small animal for backyard homesteaders who want to be in control of their own meat.

    Nicole: Sure. I've seen a lot online with people that raise rabbits and stuff, but it's not something that I've gone down in. Now that you kind of explained it, I totally see why that would be advantageous for a meat source. When you process the rabbits, do you usually process them as needed or do you kind of batch process them and then freeze them? What's the technique for that?

    Audra: When we breed our rabbits, usually the intent is to sell them because these are showing rabbits. But when we have our leftover rabbits or rabbits that need to be culled because of maybe disqualification for showing or something like that, we will process them around... we like 16 weeks. Usually 12 weeks is when is the most economical, because after that they eat more than what they're worth. But we like 16 weeks just because of convenience, because they're just larger and it's easier to slice the meat up once it's all processed and cook. So we do 16 weeks.

    Nicole: Do you usually freeze them?

    Audra: We do. So after we're done processing, we put the meat in to chill. Yeah, we freeze them whole for stews and things like that or before we freeze them, we dice all the meat up and then you can grill or do whatever you want with that kind of meat.

    Nicole: That kind of was going to be my next question. How do you cook rabbit? Is it pretty versatile?

    Audra: There's hardly any rabbit recipes out there, so when we first started all we had was just stews, nonstop, and we're like, "Okay, rabbit stew is pretty boring. What can we do?" We did a lot of research and found out that you can actually cook rabbit the exact same way as chicken, as long as you just lower the temperature a little bit in an oven or in the grill or however you usually cook chicken. It's exactly the same. You just need to learn how to debone everything, that's what we learned. It could be a little tough at first, but once you watch enough YouTube videos it's pretty easy. We like to debone most of the rabbits that we get and then we freeze it, and thaw it, and grill it, and cook it just like chicken pretty much.

    Nicole: You mostly raise them for show, I guess as the first priority and then meat is the secondary?

    Audra: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Nicole: Okay. So when you show your rabbits, do you pretty much just show them in Colorado?

    Audra: Yeah, I don't really like traveling out of Colorado because it's just tiring. But yes, all around the Front Range. Colorado Springs to Denver is where we usually show. Because I am no longer in 4-H, I do a lot of American Rabbit Breeders Association sanctioned shows, and those are great. They're a lot of fun. It's fun to see all the kids and stuff showing their rabbits and then competing against adults. It's just a lot of fun. You can make a lot of rabbit friends and see all the different breeds, because there's so many different breeds at these shows, because these shows are actually pretty big. When I first started, I was just surprised by how many people actually do show rabbits. Nobody talks about it. It's really cool, though.

    Nicole: How fun. Do you normally do well in your shows?

    Audra: Moderate.

    Nicole: Yeah. Good enough to keep going?

    Audra: Yeah. I think for rabbit shows, any kind of livestock shows, you need to have a lot of that certain animal that you're wanting to show. I'm a little bit more smaller scale than a lot of the other competitors. I only have at most 20 adult rabbits at a time, and sometimes you even need more, like more of a gene pool, to create something that would be an absolute show winner. But I haven't done bad on my usual showings, so yeah.

    Nicole: Awesome. So when you are raising the rabbits, is there a different type of feed that you give them since they are show rabbits or what kind of feed requirements do they have?

    Audra: Yes. So for meat rabbits and for showing rabbits, a good diet is very necessary. I feed a blended diet of commercial feed, vegetables, and hay. For showing, it's a little different, it's more commercial feed. But for meat rabbits, they do need some commercial feed they cannot live only off of vegetables from the garden and hay, as much as we all wish they could. They need a lot of the minerals and stuff inside of the commercial feed. Otherwise, you'd have to supplement that, and that's just extra costs you don't have to pay if you just feed them a little bit of commercial feed. I feed, for my meat rabbits, the adults one to two cups a day, female or male. Then they get hay every once in a while and then as much veggies as we can give them out of the garden or the kitchen.

    Audra: But when we introduce new vegetables and green matter to the rabbits, you have to be very careful because rabbits are very fragile. In our beginning years, we had a rabbit or two die because they were fed way too many veggies that they'd never had before, and then they bloat. So you just have to be very careful with that. Just gradually put a certain vegetable or green into their diet, and then you'd probably feed them as much as you want. Then they would need hay every once in a while. It's not crucial, but they do need hay just to get everything moving through their system.

    Nicole: Do you give them, I don't even know if this is a thing with rabbits, but like a mineral block-

    Audra: Yeah.

    Nicole: ... or anything like that?

    Audra: If you go to the pet store, the employees will probably tell you they need this little... For rabbits they have this little salt or mineral spool that you could give them, but they don't actually need that. All the minerals that they need are going to be in their feed. Most of the time, those salt and mineral little spools will actually rest your cages if you go the cage route, so they're not very helpful whatsoever. Rabbits don't need any kind of supplements, usually, unless you get a sick rabbit. But a healthy rabbit doesn't need any kind of supplements at all. If you're thinking, "Oh, I want to be raising these for meat." If you're going to be raising them for meat, you want an organic feed and usually organic feeds are super, super expensive, like a specialty kind of feed. Just read your ingredients, just make sure there's nothing crazy in there. But I feel fine with just getting feed from the local feed store and supplementing with vegetables and stuff, and the meat tastes great. There's nothing wrong with that at all I personally think.

    Audra: When you're looking for your feed, you also want high protein for your meat rabbits and showing rabbits. The protein should probably be within 18% to 16% range, but 18 is a lot better, they'll grow faster and it helps nursing mama rabbits and all that kind of stuff, so definitely look for that when you're trying to pick out a feed.

    Nicole: Is rabbit feed usually pretty easily available at the feed store or is it something that you have to have them order generally? Like at least in your area.

    Audra: Yeah, our local feed stores have a good selection, so I don't usually have a problem. I don't think anyone should have a problem looking for rabbit feed in stores. They come in like 50 pound bags, so if you just have three rabbits, it'll last you a while.

    Nicole: Now, I remember reading something online. I don't know if this was just one of those internet myth things or whatever, but it said that you really shouldn't feed carrots to rabbits. Is that true?

    Audra: I think that is just going off the, "Just be careful how much you feed them." I think when people think of rabbits liking carrots, they think "Oh, they just want an unlimited supply of carrots." Yes, that would be harmful if you ended up giving a bunch of carrots to a rabbit who's never had them before. That can be dangerous because then they could bloat, but that would be with any vegetable. So I think that would be a myth and a truth at the same time. If you want to give your rabbits carrots, just a little bit at a time and then eventually you can give them a lot of carrots and they will be totally fine.

    Nicole: Okay. I guess that makes sense. Everything in moderation.

    Audra: Exactly.

    Nicole: Even your veggies.

    Audra: Yes.

    Nicole: So once your rabbits are ready to process, what's the process of processing them?

    Audra: It's funny. A lot of people hear like, "Oh, I'm going to go process my rabbits," and they're just mortified like, "How could you process a cute little bunny? That sounds horrible." In the beginning it sounds a little rough, but the product that you end up with is fabulous and you'll think, "Oh, yeah, I'll process rabbits all day long." There's a lot of different ways to dispatch the rabbits, and we've tried just about every single way with success and failure, so a couple ways you could; I hear a lot of people is that they will take a sledgehammer pretty much and whack the back of the rabbit's head and it knocks them out and then you start your process. We did not like that. You can shoot them, and that didn't work very well. We do a wringing method. You essentially just wring their neck and what happens is that you break their spinal cord and they die immediately, and so it's quick. We've never had any problems with that, they all died immediately. It's great.

    Audra: You can buy this little metal wringer that you can hook up or screw into the wall and then what we do is we just take a broomstick and lay it on the ground and put the rabbit onto the ground as well, and put the broomstick over their neck and step onto the broomstick and then pull very hard on their legs and their neck. So that worked super well. Then we will hang them up by their back feet like on a tree branch and then start the processing. It's super easy. It's very, very quick. Once you get the hang of it, you can get a rabbit done in like 10 or 15 minutes. It's one of the easiest, I think, animals to do. If you want to learn how to process animals, rabbits are the easiest.

    Nicole: Do you use their pelts or anything?

    Audra: They're not valuable at all on the market these days, but if you want to make hats for yourself or gloves, yeah. I'm still learning how to tan and process pelts, but it is a lot of fun once you do come up with a [inaudible 00:23:47]. That's another reason why you should look at the breeds that you're getting, because there's a lot of different colors. That's one of the reasons also I started raising Rexes, because I just loved all the colors that you could get through your pelts.

    Nicole: When you raise the rabbits, what's your advice on that?

    Audra: The day after they're born, you want to go into the nest and look and see if there are any dead ones, because you don't want that, because you'll end up getting flies. You want to go in and check and make sure all the babies are okay, how many are there, take out any dead ones. It is okay to touch them. A lot of people think, "Oh, if I touch the babies, then the mom is not going to want to feed them." That's usually untrue. As long as you don't have any strong scent on your hands, just wash your hands before, you can go in there and clean it all out. Then you pretty much leave them alone until a week or two weeks old, and then you'll see them hopping around and they're really cute. Well, about two or three weeks old, you can take the nest box out. Then at about six to eight weeks old, you can take mom out, they're weaned about that time.

    Audra: You can either divide them up right then from females to males, or you can wait, at the latest, three months. Let's say you just want to keep those rabbits, you need to separate them at at least three months because they could become sexually active and that will not be good. You'll get a bunch of young bred rabbits and that won't be good, so separate them. A lot of people will process them at around 10 or 12 weeks. That's the most economically perfect time to do it, because anytime after that they'll start eating more than what they're worth. We process them around 16 weeks just because we like a larger sized rabbit for cooking and stuff. Also while you're raising the rabbits, keep records of everything; when they were born, how many were in the litter. Keep some notes if mom did something weird, you can remember that for the next time you breed her. I tattoo my rabbits mainly because a lot of them look the same. I don't know who's who if I don't tattoo them. I tattoo them. You don't have to do that, but I just do that to help with my records as well.

    Nicole: When it's time to wean them, is it easy to tell at that age which ones are the males and females?

    Audra: When they're that young, it is actually really hard. Unless you know what you're looking for already, it's very hard to tell the gender of baby rabbits. Either watch a bunch of YouTube videos on it, or try to find somebody who does know how to do that and have them teach you, because to do it with a visual is the only way, I think, to go. It's hard to read in a book or listen to me talk about it and then try to hold a rabbit and try to figure it out. Try to find somebody who can teach you. Once the rabbits are adults, which is between six, eight months old, then you can tell. It will be very easy to tell-

    Nicole: Who's a boy.

    Audra: Yeah, and who's a female. But when they're that small it actually is pretty hard, so watch tons of YouTube videos, try to talk to as many people as you can.

    Nicole: Sure. I know that you guys have a YouTube channel. Do you have any videos like that on there?

    Audra: Not yet. We're just starting the process of our YouTube channel. I don't even think there's any videos on there yet. I don't remember. But maybe one day that'd be a good video.

    Nicole: Yeah. Is there any kind of common health or behavioral issues or other maybe like housing issues that you've run into with the rabbits? Like you said, sometimes they might do something weird or whatever when they have their babies. What maybe can happen?

    Audra: Yeah. Rabbits can be crazy sometimes and unruly. I guess for your question, when rabbits can be "weird" when they're having their babies in their nest box, sometimes they just don't do what they should do. A lot of times first time mom rabbits, they have no idea what's going on and they're like, "Oh my goodness, these things are just coming out of me," and a lot of times they don't even have their babies in the nest box when they should. So that would be a weird thing. Sometimes rabbits don't breed as much as we think. You know the phrase, "Breed like rabbits"? It's actually a little hard sometimes to breed rabbits. Sometimes they just don't want to. In the wintertime, it's very hard to breed rabbits because that natural clock in their system thinks, "Oh, it's winter, I don't want to have babies." So yeah, sometimes rabbits they just don't want to play by the rules.

    Nicole: Sure. Well, I guess just like any other animal, they're not always going to be compliant to what we might want them to do. You said that you repurpose the rabbit waste for your garden. How do you do that? What's your technique with that?

    Audra: Yes. Rabbit fertilizer or manure is super cool. You don't have to compost it, which is fabulous. After it's dried out, you can put it straight onto plants and it won't burn anything. Unlike chicken and horse that has to compost over a long time, you can just throw it straight to wherever you need it and then you're done. I like to take a gallon bucket and fill it up with water and then pour a bunch of rabbit pellets in there and let it sit for a while, because then it will break down a little bit easier and I can spread it so there's not just rabbit pellets just all over the place. But yeah, it's great for gardens. It's also great if you want to sell it. We sell it in 50 pound bags, and that's a great way to make a little side money for your rabbitry as well.

    Nicole: Do you use it on everything like vegetables and all that as well?

    Audra: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, we use it on everything, vegetables, trees, flowers, just everything.

    Nicole: Would you say that you've had any mistakes that you've made when raising rabbits that you have had some good lessons come out of it?

    Audra: Yes, plenty. I can name a lot, but I'll talk about a few. Let's see. So when you're buying rabbits, it's really, really good to health check them. Always health check your rabbits before you buy them. It's very important. It's very hard to tell if a rabbit is sick or has an illness, they don't show it very well at all. So if you do see something wrong with a rabbit, that means something big is probably wrong. This one time I was buying a meat rabbit from somebody and I just got her, I didn't really care at the time. She was pedigreed so I thought, "Oh, they were probably keeping care of her," and then I brought her home and I bred her to one of my rabbits and then all the babies came out to have syphilis, so that was bad. I had to then treat my entire rabbitry with penicillin and giving rabbits shots are not that fun. If I had just checked her and made sure everything was good with her, I could have avoided a huge, huge problem.

    Audra: I fixed the problem but it took a lot of money, and it took a lot of my time, I didn't have to spend if I had just health checked her. Health checking is very important. Some of the key points when you're checking a rabbit that you want to buy is check their eyes, make sure there's no gunk in their eyes. Check their teeth. Most people don't think about checking their teeth, but if rabbits' teeth are compromised, their whole health goes out the window. So check their teeth and make sure they have all of them. Make sure they don't have any broken bones. When they're breathing, kind of listen and if there's any kind of raspiness, don't get that rabbit. So there're just some key points to just look for when you're buying a rabbit. Also, look at the condition where it's a living. If it's living in a rough place, there's a possibility it could have mites, it could have ear mites. So some things to take into consideration when you're buying rabbits.

    Nicole: Is there a better age to the buy them at? I don't know how long their breeding life is, so is there a maximum? Like you don't want to buy a rabbit if it's over a year or two old or something like that?

    Audra: Probably, yeah. I would agree. Probably not more than a year old. If you could find a trio of rabbits and the females have already been proven or have had babies before, that's, I think, the perfect setup because then you could immediately start breeding them. You probably won't have too many problems because the mom is already experienced. But buying babies is totally fine too. If you buy them any older than two years old, you're missing out on a lot of litters and stuff, so don't. I probably wouldn't buy them any older than two years old.

    Nicole: Sure. You mentioned that there's maybe a couple of mistakes that you made along the way. Was there any others that maybe you'd like to share?

    Audra: Yeah.

    Nicole: I don't want to like rehash your past mistakes or anything.

    Audra: No, you're good. No, mistakes are good. You learn from them. No, mistakes can be good. Let's see. Let me think for just a second about another good one. Okay, I got one. Always keep your cages locked because rabbits will find a way to each other.

    Nicole: Oh, no.

    Audra: Yeah, they want to have babies.

    Nicole: Sure.

    Audra: I've accidentally left the latches unlocked right next to each other, but I'll leave the lid maybe unlocked and so they can hop in to it's neighbor's little area. So yeah. Those don't end well because I wasn't expecting litters, so they're born on wire cages. Just make sure you lock cages all the time, because they'll find a way. I'm trying to see if I can think of one more. Okay, so this one, it really wasn't a mistake of mine. But if you're looking at breeds to buy and you see the breeds that anything with the word giant in front of a name, probably don't get those kind of rabbits for just a backyard project because they are huge. If you have little kids and they're playing around with the rabbits, the rabbits can really give a good kick.

    Audra: I've had little kids come over and they're like, "Wow, I want to hold the rabbits," and I tend not to do that that just because even if it's the friendliest rabbits, they want to feel very secure when you're holding them, and so I get nervous when the little kids hold rabbits because those back legs can pack a punch, right in the face sometimes. I had to learn how to hold rabbits properly, because I've gotten kicked in the face a couple times too. Learn how to hold them properly so they feel secure.

    Nicole: At the Raptor Center, when we would get some of the rabbits, I didn't know what I was doing and I got scratched many times down the forearm. Oh my gosh, their little claws are so sharp. So what is the proper way to hold a rabbit to reduce scars?

    Audra: Yeah. Well, one thing, definitely wear long sleeve shirts, that'll help. It probably would be easier to look up a YouTube video on it to know exactly what I'm talking about. But how I hold them is I'll grab them by their scruff and I will pick them up with my right hand, and then I will tuck them under my left hand, almost like holding a football, and then my left hand kind of goes underneath their back feet because they want to feel supported. If they don't feel anything underneath their feet, they're going to feel like they're falling even though you're holding them tight, and then that's when you get all the scratches, and their heads tucked kind of underneath your arm so they can't see. That is the easiest way to hold the rabbits without them squirming and kicking you.

    Nicole: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. I imagine yours are probably... you don't worry about getting nipped too much. I know that we had issues with the... I've been bit a few times too, that's not good.

    Audra: No. Yeah, we also like to breed our rabbits with a friendly temperament. We've had a couple just evil rabbits in the past. We don't tolerate that too much because we're having to handle them all the time, especially if they're show rabbits; we're having to get them out of the cage, the judges are having to hold them. So yeah, if you're buying rabbits and they look or they're biting the cages and running after people, I would avoid that.

    Nicole: Sure.

    Audra: Yeah.

    Nicole: Do you have any advice for somebody that wants to get into raising rabbits either for show or for meat?

    Audra: Yeah, kind of like what we talked about already, be very careful when you're buying the rabbits. Give them a health check over. Research the rabbit breeds that you want, because there's so many out there. If you're going for meat, make sure they're a commercial breed. Those breeds are going to have the highest amount of meat on their bodies. Avoid giant breeds because a lot of the giant breeds are big boned and you want the small boned because the meat will fill the space that the bone isn't. If you want to show go on ARBA, American Rabbit Breeders Association, website, they have a lot of information on showing and shows that are local to you. They also talk about all the different kinds of breeds, so you can look through all those because there's way more than just the commercial meat breeds out there, a lot of fancy ones. 4-H is also a really great way to get kids into rabbits. You can learn a lot. That's where I learned a lot of my information too, it was from my 4-H rabbit project leaders, they're great. I think rabbits for 4-H project are awesome.

    Nicole: Before I started talking to you, if I wanted to get rabbits tomorrow I would have no idea what to do. But I feel like now after talking to you, I am at least armed with enough knowledge that I could make some educated decisions and not totally just wing it.

    Audra: Awesome. I'm glad.

    Nicole: For those that want to find out more about you and your rabbits and your homestead, where can they find you?

    Audra: We're most active on our Instagram, @nomadic_chicks_homestead. We do also have a website at nomadchickshomestead.com, and we're just starting up our YouTube, but not much is going on there just yet. But we're hope to do something fun with that in the future.

    Nicole: Awesome. We'll put links to everything in the description so people can find you easily and they don't have to go searching the internet for you.

    Audra: Awesome.

    Nicole: Well, Audra, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about rabbits and tell us everything that we needed to know. I think that's really interesting what you have going on. I totally understand rabbits a lot better than when we started talking, so thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    Audra: Of course. Thank you so much for having me.

    Nicole: And thank you so much for listening to Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.

    Announcer: Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by heritageacresmarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, please email us at Ask@HeritageAcresMarket.com. Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube @heritageacresmarket. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week.

    Edited by PodSugar Audio Production & Editing

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