Just starting out (silver foxes)

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by BekaMarie, Jan 25, 2017.

  1. BekaMarie

    BekaMarie Just Hatched

    23
    0
    12
    Jan 25, 2017
    We are hoping to breed rabbits for meat soon. After a lot of research we have decided on Silver Foxes, found a few breeders (we are in North West Wisconsin) and now looking for some information to help us start.

    Any information on breeding rabbits and Silver Foxes would be very helpful. Some questions I do have is, how many litters does a doe usually have in its life, what types of things should I be on the look out for when buying, whats the best food to feed meat rabbits?


     
  2. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

    23,607
    1,333
    396
    Jul 24, 2013
    First, [​IMG]

    I don't raise Silver Foxes, but I do have some experience breeding rabbits for meat (and show). I currently raise American Sables and Mini Rex, but have raised Cinnamons and Champagne d'Argents in the past (both rare commercial/meat breeds).

    When you buy your Silver Foxes, make sure they are healthy. Nothing can ruin a breeding program faster than a disease like snuffles or vent disease. Check the rabbits' teeth for signs of malclusion, feel for any abscesses, look for signs of vent disease (scabs on the reproductive organs and/or mouth area), make sure the rabbits are the right sex, and watch out for labored breathing or any nasal discharge. If you don't feel comfortable checking for all of those things, have the breeder check while you watch.

    Another factor of buying is the quality of the rabbits. Since you want to raise your Silver Fox for meat, their color and other breed traits are not as important as their body type. Look for large, deep-bodied, wide rabbits with firm flesh. If the rabbits you're buying are seniors, make sure they have at least made senior weight, and perhaps ask the breeder how fast their rabbits tend to grow. Different lines mature at different rates, but you don't want to end up with the really slow growing or small-sized type.If you plan on ever showing, you would also want to make sure the Silver Fox have the correct standing fur and silvering their breed is known for.

    The best feed to feed meat rabbits is quality rabbit pellets, generally with around 16% protein. The pellets provide all the nutrients a rabbit needs to grow quickly and remain healthy. For the best results, buy large bags of feed from common brands, like Nutrena, Kent, or Pen Pals. Buying smaller bags of feed from pet stores isn't usually cost effective, and the feed sold there tends to be of lesser quality, often with dried fruits and other "extras" in addition to the actual pellets. As a large breed, each adult Silver Fox should probably get 1 cup of pellets per day, given at one time or divided into two feedings. Growing rabbits and nursing does should be free fed pellets.

    How many litters a doe can have depends on each rabbit's genetics and individual health, as well as your breeding program. In high production environments, does can be re-bred around two weeks after they have a litter. The first litter is then weaned at around four weeks old, and their mother kindles again a few weeks later. This cycle can continue until the doe loses condition. Naturally, this type of breeding schedule is hard on a doe, and she won't be able to keep it up indefinitely. With that said, many does can remain productive until at least three years of age. I currently have a three year old Sable doe who has had seven litters. I don't breed my Sables for meat production, though, and she could theoretically have had more litters in that same time span if I was breeding more commercially.

    As for actually breeding, the first step is selecting the rabbits to breed. Make sure the doe and buck are of good quality, healthy, and old enough to breed. Bucks mature sexually faster than does, with some even being able to breed at 10-12 weeks of age. A more common age, however, is 5-6 months for bucks. Does should not be bred until they're basically at senior weight for their breed, which may occur anywhere from 5-8 months of age. To a certain extent, the younger you breed a doe, the better, since they don't have time to accumulate internal fat that can lead to infertility problems.

    Once you know which rabbits you want to breed together, bring the doe to the buck's cage, or put the pair in a neutral environment. Never bring a buck to a doe's cage, since does tend to be very territorial and may attack the buck. The buck might also be distracted by all of the other smells in the doe's cage and not notice her. Most bucks know what to do when you put the doe in their cage: they'll begin chasing the doe around the cage and humping her. You'll know a successful breeding has occurred when the buck falls off the doe suddenly or jerks backward rapidly, sometimes with a squeal or grunt. I always like to have the buck cover the doe 1-2 times per breeding session, and preferably 2-3 times in one day. Technically, it only takes one breeding to fertilize a doe, but I like to minimize the chance of the doe "missing" by breeding several times. Do not, however, breed the doe to the buck on different days; if you want multiple "covers," make sure they all happen on the same day.

    Some does are more difficult to breed than others. They may not lift their hindquarters enough for the buck to breed them, and may cower in a corner or attack the buck. In these cases, table breeding may be a better choice. Take the doe and buck out of their cages and put them on a table or other raised surface. Hold the doe still while the buck breeds, lifting her hindquarters a little if it seems necessary.

    10-14 days after a doe is bred, you can try palpating her to feel the developing embryos. Using one hand (while the other hand holds the doe still), gently but firmly squeeze her abdomen, reaching up toward her backbone. In a pregnant doe, you should feel small grape-like structures that are the embryos. Palpating is a tricky skill (at least in my experience), though, so you may not feel anything even if the doe is pregnant. I've been raising rabbits for almost four years, and I still have trouble palpating accurately.

    About 28 days after breeding the doe, give her a nest box (you can find various plans on the internet or in helpful rabbit books). Put some shavings and hay in the nest box, and also give the doe a pile of hay outside of the nest box. Most pregnant does will begin building a nest shortly, carrying mouthfuls of hay into the nest.

    Day 31 is the average kindling day for does, though the exact date can range from 29-33 days, with some going even longer. Each doe's behavior close to kindling is different. Some stop eating much for a few days prior to kindling, while others eat normally. Some drink excessively as day 31 approaches, while others don't. I've had several does pull fur about a day before kindling, but most of mine pull fur only hours or minutes before actually giving birth. The birthing process itself is rather quick, usually accomplished in a half an hour or less. If all goes well, the doe will have her babies in the nest box. In other cases, she may have them outside of the nest box, which can be hazardous in cold conditions.

    Unless the doe is very skittish, you can handle the kits soon after birth. Remove any dead kits (not unusual for first time does), count the live kits, clean out any bloodied nest material, and make sure the kits are covered in fur. The doe's milk should come in 1-2 days after kindling, at which point she'll feed her babies 1-3 times per day. With large litters, there may be runts that don't get enough to eat; in meat production situations, these may be culled to help the others grow faster. Free feeding the doe pellets and supplementing with sunflower seeds or calf manna helps her produce as much milk as possible.

    The kits eyes will open at 10-14 days, and they usually begin climbing out of the nest box by the time they're three weeks old. Assuming the feeders and waterers are low enough for the kits to reach, they'll begin eating some solid food and drinking pretty quickly. Most of my does begin weaning their kits at around four weeks old, and I normally separate the kits from their mothers at 5-6 weeks old. You can then free feed the kits until they reach market weight (generally at 8-10 weeks old). If you keep kits longer than 12-14 weeks old, make sure you separate the males and females so no accidental breedings occur.

    Sorry for such a long post. Hopefully I answered some of your questions. [​IMG]
     
    2 people like this.
  3. BekaMarie

    BekaMarie Just Hatched

    23
    0
    12
    Jan 25, 2017
    Thank you :]] I've been doing research and it seems like something things are all over the place. Your reply was very helpful :]]

    We are currently just breeding for our own consumption. We have two dog that eat about 1 1/4 pound of meat a day and are considering getting a larger dog in the next year or so.

    Another questions.

    Do you recommend buying the doe before or after she has reached the breeding weight? Is there any benefit?
    A few sites I looked at the younger ones where more expensive and others the one who where fully grown where more expensive. We are not buying online but it did make me curious.
     
  4. balloonflower

    balloonflower Chillin' With My Peeps

    281
    28
    86
    Jul 25, 2016
    Hi Beka!

    I too just started with silver foxes in November and have my first litter of kits now. I chose to start with two does and a buck and will be alternating breeding the does to give them a bit of a break, but still have kits often. Hard to say how it will go, as I'm just starting but it's working well for us. Some have suggested breeding two does on the same time frame to allow for fostering kits if needed, but I don't have the growout space for that. And my first time mama is doing good.

    Mine are just about 8 months old. I chose to get just shy of breeding age, even though here they were a bit spendier. I haven't seen any where the kits were more expensive than breeding age or proven. How many are you starting with?
     
  5. BekaMarie

    BekaMarie Just Hatched

    23
    0
    12
    Jan 25, 2017
    We are also going to start with two does and one buck. The only places I found to have prices (posted online) where kinda shady online stores. I contacted a few breeders and have only heard back from one. She has a 2 month old. Hopeful we hear back for the others soon. They are all about 1 1/2 to 3 hours away and I hope we can just make one trip to get all three.
     
  6. balloonflower

    balloonflower Chillin' With My Peeps

    281
    28
    86
    Jul 25, 2016
    Where have you looked? I found one of the breeders I got mine through on the arba website. The other I found through craigslist. I did use two, so that my buck would be unrelated. I did find getting response from breeders to take some time as well. 2 months would be a bit young--personally if you're ready to use the meat right away, waiting at least 6 months for that would be a long haul. But if that's all you can find...
     
  7. BekaMarie

    BekaMarie Just Hatched

    23
    0
    12
    Jan 25, 2017
    Ya, its definitely not ideal. I'm waiting to hear from 3 others, hopefully they have some older ones. I didnt realize they had a breeder list, they are all to far unless we decide to go on a road trip. I got most of the names from rabbitbreeders.us. And I just looked on craigslist and found another breeder!
     
  8. BekaMarie

    BekaMarie Just Hatched

    23
    0
    12
    Jan 25, 2017
    Yay! Just finished talking to the breeder I found on craigslist (Thank you BalloonFlower for reminding me of it). We be going to see 2 does with pedigrees on sunday!

    Is it oky to house them together for a few weeks? I know that rabbits can be territorial, but they have been living together since birth.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  9. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

    23,607
    1,333
    396
    Jul 24, 2013
    Great! Good luck on Sunday.

    You can try to keep the two does together and see if they get along. If they start humping each other, pulling our fur, or acting too nervous, though, you should separate them to avoid injury.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. BekaMarie

    BekaMarie Just Hatched

    23
    0
    12
    Jan 25, 2017
    Oky, we will be keep a close eye on them.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by