Our Story

Our interest in meat rabbits was first sparked after the pet food poisoning recall of 2007.  While we had long felt that the traditional commercial dog food diet was detrimental to the health of our dogs, this series of events was the straw that broke the camel’s back and served our wake-up call to action.  After some research of the alternatives, we eventually switched our dogs to a raw, prey-based diet based on store-bought chicken.  Our research of the dog food industry led us to rethink the sustainability and quality of the food produced by the human food industrial complex.  Documentaries such as “Food Inc.”, “The Future of Food”, and “Forks Over Knives” led us to believe that we are being slowly poisoned just like our dogs had been poisoned by the dog food industry.

Inspired by the self-grow successes exemplified by the Dervaes family, we decided to embark on the journey of growing our food.  When we reached the crossroads of the deciding whether to wean ourselves from commercial vegetable or commercial meat, we decided that raising animals, while more work, just seemed much more enjoyable for us animal lovers.

Our enthusiasm for backyard meat production soon waned when we realized that the typical urban lot could not accommodate the raising of traditional meat sources such as beef, pork, and chicken.  While chickens seemed plausible, when one starts calculating the space requirements to produce enough meat for the consumption of one adult, one quickly realizes that it’s not feasible without considerably more space than the average urban lot.  Our research led us to other meat sources that were more space efficient, such as quails and rabbits.   There was no way an avian species could competed with the cuteness of furry rabbits so the decision was made to begin with  meat rabbit production as the first step in our goal for self-sustaining food farming.  We looked at several meat rabbit breeds and decided to go with the most popular and established New Zealand White breed.  In hindsight this was an excellent decision given the difficulty we later had obtaining quality foundation stock even for this very popular breed.

When we decided to start our meat rabbit operation, we purchased initial foundation stock from numerous Georgia sellers advertising on the Internet.  Most sellers were backyard breeders breeding indiscriminately and selling anything produced without regard for quality.  When financial profit is the main objective, quality suffers as the lowest cost solutions are opted for in the housing, feeding, and care of rabbits.  Even worse, the focus on profits even led many of these sellers to engage in deplorable and unethical sales practices.  One self-touted quality ARBA member breeder in Dawsonville, Georgia tried to sell us a breeding stock New Zealand doe with a severe eye infection.  We were shocked to hear that this doe has had this condition since a very early age and that despite this defect, this breeder still intended to breed her for offsprings.  Despite our request for unrelated rabbits, this same breeder then sold us a buck and a doe that were genetic full brother and sister of two litters from the same parents.   In trying to cut costs, most breeders also had very inbred stock since they kept one, or at most two, bucks and therefore all offsprings produced are closely related.  Despite rigorous searching, our initial herd of 10 New Zealand rabbits purchased from different Georgia sellers netted us the following:

  • 1 New Zealand Red buck from Dawsonville, GA ARBA member breeder never surpassed 7.5 pounds at 8 months of age despite having feed available at all times.
  • 1 New Zealand White buck from Dawsonville, GA ARBA member breeder never surpassed 7 pounds at 8 months of age despite having feed available at all times.
  • 1 New Zealand White buck that had to be shaved completely since he was sold with coat completely covered in urine leading us to believe that his breeder had his cage under another rabbit’s but with no roof to shelter him from urine and feces coming down from above.
  • 1 New Zealand Red doe from Dawsonville, GA ARBA member breeder, despite being the first pick and the largest of her litter, weighed 3.5 pounds at 10 weeks of age when it should have reached market weight of 4.5 to 5 pounds.
  • 3 New Zealand White does under 7.5 pounds of weight at 5 months of age.
  • 1 New Zealand White doe weighing 8 pounds at 1.5 years of age.
  • 1 New Zealand White doe weighing 8.5 pounds at 5 months of age.
  • Once they reached full maturity, none of the bucks and does even met the minimum weight specifications for an adult New Zealand rabbit.  The cause of this was very evident when these rabbits were handled and it became obvious that they all lacked the heavy musculature characteristic of the meat rabbit breeds, especially the New Zealands.
  • All adult bucks and does were extremely skittish due to neglectful rearing practices and lack of personal attention and handling.  Nervous bucks and does are reluctant breeders.  Nervous does harm their youngs after birth due to their survival instinct for self-preservation.

We had no choice but to conclude that we had extremely poor quality rabbits that were unfit as foundation stock for a quality meat rabbit operation.   Unwilling to compromise on our goals of producing quality meat rabbits, we searched outside Georgia.  Fortunately, we came across a professional New Zealand White show breeder rabbitry in Tennessee which boasted winnings at the national level.  This show breeder was a retired gentleman who had been raising rabbits for over 30 years.  His rabbitry population numbered in the hundreds.  Despite the large number of rabbits that was kept, his rabbitry was clean and stench-free and the rabbits were all in great health and condition.  When we arrived home with our first pair from this rabbitry and saw them next to our existing herd we immediately knew that we had finally found our foundation stock.  All rabbits which were purchased previously were immediately eliminated and our operation was started from scratch.  Here are some pictures of our first pair of these fine New Zealand White specimen, Yeti (10.34  pounds) and Velvet (10.81 pounds).  The scale reading are in pounds followed by ounces (16 ounces per pound).  The tiles in the backdrop are 12 inch tiles to give some idea the size of the fine specimen.

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In the months after our initial visit, we made several more trips up to Tennesee.  Each trip took over 12 hours of driving but the results were worth it.  Due to the large population in this rabbitry and the fact that rabbits were routinely introduced from some of the finest New Zealand White show breeders in the country, we were able to obtain a large population of quality, unrelated breeding stock.  After our numerous drives, we netted the following:

  • 4 unrelated New Zealand White bucks with beautiful coats and heavy musculature.  All had mature weight over 9.5 pounds in conformance with the New Zealand White breed specification.
  • 10 unrelated New Zealand White does with beautiful coats and heavy musculature.  All had mature weight over 10.5 pounds in conformance with the New Zealand White breed specification.
  • All bucks were also unrelated to all does.  This diverse foundation population provided us with the ability to produce a wide selection of unrelated offspring for others looking to purchase their initial foundation stock.

This diverse, high-quality population of New Zealand Whites provided us with a solid foundation population for our own meat supply.  Since this initial population came from a breeder who has been selectively breeding for show, we have been and will continue working on selectively breeding for productivity in order to support our pursuit of producing healthy, fresh, high quality meat. Our goal is to produce purebred, high quality foundation breeding stock New Zealand Whites which not only conform to the breed standards for weight and shape but are also proven, productivity meat rabbits.  Our two objectives are symbiotic.  Rabbits not meeting our high standards are harvested for meat and eliminated from future production.  This leaves only high quality rabbits for future breeding stock.

Raising high quality rabbits is an extremely time-consuming endeavor not for the faint of heart.  It requires meticulous record keeping, daily observation of each rabbit,  and comprehensive analysis of voluminous data and our experience has explained to us why we had such difficulty finding quality foundation stock when we first started.  Raising rabbits does not take much work.  However, raising quality rabbits requires significantly more work than the average layman can and is willing to dedicate.  Having a medical degree, decades of experience in an engineering trade, and numerous years of experience in animal husbandry (lizards, snakes, chickens, turtles, kois, dogs, cats, and now rabbits), we are unintimidated and rather enjoy the attention to detail and thoroughness that is required to excel in this endeavor.  Our results speak volumes about our passion for excellence and we find it very rewarding to share our experience through this website and hope other fellow meat rabbit owners find this website useful.

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