How to Raise Jackrabbits

By Lisa Parris

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Items you will need

  • Rabbit shed

  • Cages or pens

  • Feeders

  • Watering cans

  • Rabbit food

  • Leafy greens

  • Rolls of rabbit salt

Raising rabbits is one of the simplest, and most affordable, ways to put food on the table and maybe add a few bucks to your bank account. The initial investment is low, and the profits can be made in several ways--through the sale of fertilizer, skins or meat. The feet can even be marketed as good luck charms. Raising jackrabbits is even simpler than raising domestic rabbits. They are larger and are well-known for their breeding ability, with the females typically giving birth to three to five litters a year, and each litter having approximately six bunnies. They are also less particular about their diet, with adults consuming up to a pound a day of grass, bark and vegetative undergrowth when left in the wild. This sturdiness combined with their innate capacity to procreate makes the jackrabbit a smart choice for beginning farmers.

Find a suitable building for your bunnies. Jackrabbits are highly adaptable and can be situated in an old shed, barn or garage provided it shelters them from the weather and has adequate light and ventilation. Unlike rabbits, jackrabbits do not burrow underground; therefore, they require more illumination than their domesticated cousins who seem to thrive in the dark.

Establish a dirt floor in your rabbit building. Once the pens are built, the dirt will absorb urine and help to keep unpleasant aromas under control.

Purchase your pens. The average jackrabbit will weigh between 5 and 9 lbs. when fully grown and requires approximately 7 ½ square feet of pen space. As the breed is not fully domesticated yet, it will not do well sharing space, so each jackrabbit must have a pen of its own.

Make sure the bottom of each pen is made from galvanized wire mesh sized ½ by ½ inch, as this will allow the waste to fall to the ground while placing the minimum amount of stress on the rabbit's feet. Alternatively, you can make the hutches yourself. For jackrabbits, the approximate pen size would be 3 feet long by 2 ½ feet wide by 1 ½ feet high. Be sure to include a watering bottle and a feeding dish.

Feed your rabbits twice a day. In the morning, give your rabbits 1 oz. of commercial rabbit pellets for each pound of body weight. For example, if your rabbit weighs about 8 lbs., it should be given 8 oz. of food or 1 cup. In the evening, offer them an abundance of leafy greens, garden waste or alfalfa hay. Remove uneaten produce each morning when filling the food trays and changing the water.

Fasten a roll of rabbit salt to the side of each cage, so the jackrabbits have access to it at all times. Without supplemental minerals, jackrabbits may eat their newborn offspring.

Purchase your stock. Locate a reputable breeder by searching the local classified ads, attending the county fair, going to local livestock shows, asking at the nearest extension office or by searching the Internet.

Check your jackrabbit's feet at least once a day. Pick the rabbit up by holding onto the scruff of the neck with one hand while placing the other hand beneath his rear to handle the bulk of the bunny's body weight. Tuck the bunny into your chest and visually inspect the feet for any open wounds.

Treat foot injuries by swabbing them with cotton balls that have been doused in a commercially prepared antiseptic solution, such as Bactine or Campho Phenique. Then, add extra straw to the rabbit's pen for a few days to provide some cushion and to prevent additional injury.

Allow your bunnies to reach the age of 6 months before breeding them. When they have reached the appropriate age, place the female rabbit into the cage with the male rabbit and leave them for an hour or so.

Make a record of the date of the mating and which bunnies were involved. If it all went well, 30 to 32 days later, the female will give birth to a litter of babies. Unlike rabbits, jackrabbits are born fully furred with their eyes open and will be up hopping around almost immediately.

Leave the babies with their mother for 6 to 8 weeks and then transfer them to their own cages.

Tips

  • Provide a bred female with a baby box and additional straw so she can build a nest in preparation for the upcoming birth.

Warnings

  • Do not feed your jackrabbits cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale or brussels sprouts. These particular vegetables can cause enteritis.

Photo Credits

  • wikimedia commons

Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.