Marion student jumpstarts rabbitry
Bunnies, their poop, and baitworms are all just part of plan
When she’s not nuzzling her adorable Dutch rabbits, Marion High School sophomore Kaitlyn Goebel is working out a threefold plan to turn a profit off the colony she’s raising.
In addition to selling the puffball offspring of her first rabbit couple, Callie and Osweld, she plans to transform their droppings into dollars by mixing pellets with other organic matter to make fertilizer.
“They’re so small and fuzzy and cute, but they sure do make a lot of poop,” Kaitlyn said. “They poop mountains.”
Kaitlyn’s plan doesn’t stop with fertilizer. Inside her compost bucket, she also plans to raise baitworms, which she will sell to area anglers.
“I ordered red worms because they live at the surface and breed faster than normal earthworms,” she said. “That way I don’t have to dig so deep to get them.”
Kaitlyn’s said the addition of worms to her compost bucket seemed like a good idea because many people fish in Marion County.
Kaitlyn started raising rabbits last year as part of a supervised agriculture experience.
“Kaitlyn wanted to do a project that she could adapt to her situation,” agriculture education instructor Mark Meyer said. “So she chose rabbits.”
Living in town, Kaitlyn couldn’t raise, cows, sheep, or other livestock, but she discovered there weren’t restrictions on raising rabbits.
She considered raising dogs, but after she passed a test to get her instructional driving permit, and received Callie, a female, from her father as an incentive, her she decided Callie needed a suitable male.
“Callie is quite a character,” Kaitlyn said. “She’s not afraid to show you what she wants. Before I got my other rabbits, she would nip my hand a little to remind me she was hungry.”
In searching for a male companion for Callie, Kaitlyn learned about what it takes to raise healthy rabbits and start a registered rabbitry.
“A rabbitry is a farm for rabbits,” she said. “I applied for the license and I should get certificate back from the American Rabbit Breeders Association anytime now.”
At first, she kept her rabbits in her house, but when they started to stink, she acquired a four-cage rabbit hutch as well as some other rabbit gear and moved the operation outside.
Through corresponding with a woman in Oklahoma, Kaitlyn obtained a male Dutch rabbit she named Osweld, and a second female named Oswelda.
“Both had upper respiratory infections and bad sunburn when we got them,” Kaitlyn said. “We got antibiotics at the vet and they seemed to be fine.”
Osweld and Oswelda had a litter of three together over the winter, but sadly, none of the babies lived, and Oswelda died not long after.
“I think Oswelda had some disease that we didn’t know about because she had seizures when she died, and that’s not normal,” Kaitlyn said.
With an inquisitive mind, a desire to become a doctor or veterinarian, Kaitlyn considered dissecting the rabbits to try to determine the cause of death, but ultimately she decided not to.
“We had dissected a rat in biology and a fetal pig in animal science before, but I didn’t end up dissecting Oswelda or the babies because I figured I’d start crying if I did,” she said.
Meyer said sickness and death are unfortunately part of the learning process for anyone who raises animals. He plans to apply for a district proficiency award for Kaitlyn and her project.
The experience helped Kaitlyn learn the difference between a pet and livestock.
“With livestock you try not to get as emotionally attached as you do with pets,” she said. “I just try to look at some of the rabbits as a way to make money for my business, but it’s hard when you’re starting out.”
In January, Callie and Osweld had a litter of four — Cuddles, Chewy, Rudolph, and Patches. Kaitlyn said she doesn’t plan to name future litters, but she made an exception since it was the first successful one.
She plans to keep one baby and sell the rest. Sometimes Dutch rabbits are sold for meat, but their primary uses are for show and as pets.
“Baby rabbits look like rats when they are born,” she said. “They don’t have any fur, but now they’re like huge cotton balls, and I love them!”
Last modified March 18, 2015