I have an issue.. this issue of never ceasing to try new things. For that reason, I will never be a master of one thing. That’s probably why my bread baking has never been perfected. Alas, one thing I hunted for this year was another source of meat to raise here on the farm. As hard as it might be to even think about it, I’m eager to raise and grow more of our own food. The newest additions to the farm are these sweet, sweet rabbits. I’m happy to say that these sweet faces get to live their lives out here on the farm. We are NOT eating these rabbits. We are, however, going to be harvesting the rabbits they create. These four rabbits, two does (females) and two bucks (males) will provide us with plenty of meat every year. Depending on the breeding schedule, you can expect over 100 pounds harvested from two does and a buck, although we won’t breed to that level this year. This year, we will ease into the life of raising rabbits.
Our red New Zealand doe, Rose, was breed when we got her just over a week ago, and is due in just a few weeks. She is an experienced Mama (her last litter of 11 kits thrived under her care) so I’m eager to let her due her thing and learn from watching her. She will raise and nurse her kits until they are 7 weeks old. Then, they will be weaned and separated, females will go in one hutch, males in the other. Rose will get a month off. A little vacation from nursing or being pregnant and after that four weeks, she will be breed again. 30 days later, babies. Seven weeks later, weaned, and so on and so forth.
Our black New Zealand doe, Juliet, is just 8 weeks old, so she won’t be breed until the fall when she reaches six months old.
We haven’t settled on names for our bucks, yet. we Are still getting to know their personalities and yes, that has a direct correlation with their name. Thankfully each of our rabbits have distinct coloring to help keep them from getting mixed up.
This sweet red New Zealand buck came to us, retired from show, and he will spend his days snacking on dandelion greens, getting lots of love, helping educate little ones and of course, breeding with our does. Our little broken (spotted) blue New Zealand buck was born 8 weeks ago (same day as our Juliet) so come fall, he’ll be ready for breeding, too. Isn't his face just DREAMY?! He's already warming up to me and gives the sweetest little nose boops.
From all of my research, it seems as though raising and butchering rabbits for meat is fairly simple. After all, they are quiet, don’t require a huge area to live and raise their young, and the bonus when it comes to harvesting them.. NO PLUCKING FEATHERS! If you’ve ever plucked a chicken, duck or turkey, you know how exciting that might be. The other plus of raising rabbits is that with our feeding method, it’s basically FREE. I call our feeding method, the gathering method. It’s incredibly complicated. Every day, I take a bucket around the farm and gather weeds, grasses, dandelions, and soon, overgrown crops or greens that have gone to seed. Each rabbit gets a large handful in the morning and again in the evening. In the winter, we will add hay or pellets to help supplement their caloric intake, but other than that, it’s relatively cost effective to raise them. We chose the “gathering” method of feeding after researching about rabbit feeds. Although pellets have a higher caloric content, we wanted our rabbits to have the most raw source of vitamins and minerals in their diet. After all, we are harvesting them, so it’s important that they be as healthy as possible.
Dylan built incredible rabbit hutches in our barn, safe from predators, wind and rain. Each adult has their own space (2'x3'x2') and once we have babies, at seven weeks, they will be weaned from Mama. Girls will go in one hutch and boys in the other. Six hutches total in our barn and space for more, should we choose!
Rabbits are butchered around twelve weeks but if my schedule serves me right, we will breed and butcher every two months. That gives us on average about ten pounds of meat every month. Plenty of meat for things like rabbit tacos, meat pies, bbq and soups. If you haven’t had rabbit meat before, don’t be alarmed. It takes very similar to chicken! Rabbit has a higher protein content so it must be cooked with a fat such as quality butter, eggs, duck fat or lard.
In just a few months’ time, we will be harvesting our own farm raised rabbit meat. Although butchering day is never fun for us, we are excited for the farm to table recipes we get to bring to the farm.
If you’ve raised rabbits, please send over any and all advice for me!