Here is my old thread.
we currently have 4 senior does and 2 junior does. I have a doe due to kindle today. We have 2 senior bucks and 1 junior buck.
We raise Californians. Why? Because the feed:meat is excellent. Plus they make me $. We sell meat pens (pens of 4 rabbits) for $150 for county 4-H shows. Then they don't know what to do w/the rabbits if they don't make the sale barn so they bring 'em back for half off a meat pen next season. Sweet deal! I dont' always get them back as we've sold quite a few Grand Champion pens!
We try to butcher at 8 weeks, but absolutely no later than 12 wks. Unless of course we are butchering a breeder who needs to go for some reason.
We don't currently keep the hides, but my oldest dds want to try it. I keep telling them to have their stuff ready after they are done butchering (yes, my 22 and 12 yo dds do the butchering) but they never get it ready, lol.
Tips: Never put rabbits of the opposite sex together unless you are ready to write down the date and the date you should give the doe a nesting box.
Always, always take the doe to the buck, never the other way around unless you want to risk your doe castrating your buck. Do not EVER walk off and leave them alone together. It only takes a minute for them to breed. Not worth walking away. As previously mentioned breed again 8-10 hrs later since the doe doesn't actually release eggs until 8-10 hrs after she is first stimulated. When breeding, watch for the doe to lift her butt and the buck to grunt and fall over on his side and maybe start thumping his back feet. that is a good breeding. Write down the date, and give the nesting box 27 days later--don't miss it! I've had does kindle (give birth) on day 28, and some as late as 34 days. Usually it's day 31. Do not breed in the heat of the summer if it gets hot or very humid where you live.
We keep our rabbits in an air conditioned rabbitry. We converted a carport w/a 10'x20' enclosed shed. We have grow out pens in the outside part, but only use them in the summer if it's only for a few days before butcher day. Usually we have big enough doe pens to accomodate a litter until butcher day. Again, we try to butcher at 8 wks. There is WAY more meat on an 8 wkr than you would realize.
Rabbit meat is more filling than chicken. it has more protein, and less fat and calories than a chicken breast.
I never have to do anything special to make our rabbit tender. We don't really have to chew ours it's so tender! We butcher and toss 'em in some marinade of some sort (blueberry basil vinegar and garlic and sea salt is great!) and then onto the grill whole. Or bbq, or breaded and oven fried. Or sauteed and stir fried, or in a casserole, soup, or sandwich. They are very very versatile. You can use them in any chicken recipe. If we are butchering alot at once (not uncommon for us to have 40-60 to butcher at a time) I'll cut them into "parts" like back legs, front legs, backs, and soup parts.
We feed Purina rabbit pellets. We have more consistent results w/that feed than any other. They don't waste very much because the pellets are the right size. We also give hay (long stem, which is what we feed our goats), and after they kindle the doe gets a special treat of banana or raw sweet potato. Don't feed green stuff and esp. not to bunnies! they can get diahrea and die.
After the doe kindles, pet her, give her a treat, and check those bunnies thoroughly. Pet her first to get her smell on you. Take the nesting box out of the hutch and dig around and count the bunnies. Remove any dead ones (not uncommon), and any uneaten afterbirth. make sure the doe has pulled enough fur, or you can yank some more out of her. I save fur in the summer when they shed or if a doe pulls more than she needs. Check those bunnies every single day (we check twice) because if one dies it can get the rest of the litter chilled and they can die.
If you find what you think is a dead kit, don't give up til you try to bring it back. Often if you catch it soon enough you can save them. Put a chilled kit in between your boobs and rush it into the house. Get warm (*not hot*) water in a bowl or your sink. Put the kit into a sandwich baggie (don't zip closed!). Hold the baggie w/the kit in it down in the water. After a few minutes it may start to wiggle and cry. Keep warming it! Then wrap in a soft towel and make sure it is thoroughly warmed before putting it back into the nest.
A doe may have her litter on the wire (floor of the hutch) the first time. If you are aware that she is about to kindle you can scoop those babies up and put them in the nesting box. Make sure there is plenty of fur. If the doe does this on the next litter, give her one more shot to do it right. On the 3rd try if she doens't have them in the box and make a nice nest, she needs to go in the freezer as that is a bad mother. Sometimes (esp. a first litter) the mom may accidentally stomp the babies to death. That would be because she got startled. Doesn't mean she'll do it next time, necessarily. Don't let dogs or children near the rabbitry if you have does about to kindle.
I've got more experience w/fostering kits, etc. if you ever need it.
FWIW, rabbits have been our best livestock choice and the ones we would keep if we needed to downsize. We really don't even care for chicken anymore.
Oh, and butchering....my dd prefers to use a .22. My dad use to whack them in the head w/a broomstick. then he'd slit the throat and go from there. we dispatch, hang upside down by the hind feet, cut around the ankles, then slit down the inside of the hind leg. Cut out the anus and pull it backwards (towards the back) and let hang there as the rest is done. Pull the fur off rather like a sweater being pulled over your head. Once the fur is pulled down around the neck and front feet, the head and front feet get cut off (there is a 5 gallon bucket underneath for everything to fall into) and the fur "sweater" comes off. Then the guts are removed and the hind feet cut off and meat gets washed in another 5 ga bucket. Then into the cooler waiting w/ice in it.