Last week, the rabbits delivered their second litters of kits and we are pleased to announce everything is going very well.
Stormy and Snowball are doing a great job taking care of the kits and we love to check in on the litters daily and marvel at how quickly they are growing.
It’s exciting to have the rabbit department of the farm up and running.
The kits will stay with mama for 5 weeks. Afterwards, they go into a “grazer.” This is a bottomless pen, very similar to the broiler pen Ryan built, but the tarp will be unnecessary for the rabbits. (In fact we may just repurpose the broiler pen for the rabbits…more on that later.) Grazing our cows and sheep through our orchard would be problematic since they would harm the flower blossoms as well as the fruit and trees. Running our rabbits through the orchard instead solves this problem. They will provide a valuable service of keeping the grass in the orchard mown while fertilizing the soil.
The kits reach fryer size (5-6 pounds) around 12 weeks of age.
Why rabbits? Isn’t rabbit a little unconventional? Rabbit is not commonly found in the American diet, however in recent years, a movement has been taking place among urban and rural dwellers alike who are concerned about the health, safety, morality and sustainability of the commercial meat industry and would like an easy, affordable, healthy alternative. When we were told by city council at our previous home we were not allowed to have chickens, we went right out and bought rabbits.
Raising meat rabbits offers a number of advantages.
- Noiseless. Prepping for the apocalypse? Who isn’t, right? Rest easy knowing the rabbits won’t alert marauders (living or otherwise) to your secret location. Less importantly, they won’t elicit noise complaints from your neighbors. 😉
- Odorless (with minimal hutch management).
- Low maintenance. Twice a day they need a one-minute check of their food and water.
- Pound for pound, hands-down the most cost-efficient meat around. There are a multitude of controversial topics in the world; this is not one of them. Four pounds of feed = 1 pound of rabbit meat. 20 pounds of feed is needed per fryer. A 50 pound bag of alfalfa pellets is about $15, rich alfalfa hay (what we feed in winter) runs $4-$5 a square bale or they can eat for free on untreated grass, leaves, twigs, spent garden plants, veggie scraps from the kitchen, weeds, clippings from shrubs or fruit tree pruning…(I can go on).
- Easy to process. Much easier, cleaner and quicker than chickens, so we have heard. Local meat shops will process them as well.
- A great substitute for chicken. It looks and tastes like chicken and can be substituted in recipes calling for chicken.
- A free lawn service. In a moveable pen they’ll eat dandelions, mow the grass, fertilize and aerate the soil and convert the lawn into human food, all without chemicals, fossil fuels, and the ongoing calls asking you to upgrade your service plan.
- Not dependent on space. A yard isn’t required to graze rabbits on. They can be kept in hutches and fed alfalfa pellets, hay and veggie scraps. This makes home-grown meat production open to almost anyone.
- A compost factory. With rabbits, a separate compost pile isn’t necessary. We run most of our veggie scraps through the rabbits. The manure falls to the ground under the hutch along with any discarded hay, which brings us to another benefit…
- Gold for the garden. Rabbit manure is among the best for garden plants. “Bunny berries” can go directly onto the garden without being composted first. It doesn’t even smell. Fo’ reals. Every few weeks, maybe once a month, we shovel the hay/manure mix out from under the hutches for our veggie garden.
- Hardy, disease-free and able to live outdoors year-round in most climates.
So pretty much no time, money, skill, land or experience is required to raise rabbits. 🙂
Find your sense of adventure and break out of the chicken/beef/pork mold! Experiment with rabbit in your recipes!
Rabbits are a great way for anyone to get started being more independent from the current, problematic agricultural system and large food corporations. If raising rabbits isn’t for you, purchase some fryers from a local farmer to sample. You may find eating healthy, pasture-raised rabbit an affordable option.