We have been jumping into the whole rabbit farm thing over the last several months. This week we built yet another double decker hutch, which holds 6 cages. When we have the rabbitry just like we like it, we will have 4 of these banks inside, for a total of 24 holes. I will probably keep one hutch of 3 holes outside as well. Last Saturday, we packed up 22 rabbits (see picture to left) and headed to Charleston for the Sustainability Fair put on by the local Habitat for Humanity Restore. We had a great time, and got to talk to a lot of people. I sold 6 rabbits at the fair, and have had another call to buy a rabbit this week. I hope we made some contacts that will be ready to buy some of the rabbits, and some others looking to purchase manure for fertilizer. Maybe we will open up a market for people looking for rabbits!
Right now, we have 2 litters that are weaned, and 2 litters that are not weaned. I also re-bred 3 does yesterday, and will probably re-breed another today or tomorrow. In about a month, we will have more bunnies than we know what to do with! But, that will be good, as our stock in the freezer has been seriously depleted by not having many litters through the winter.
We are also going to start trying to tan our own hides and (hopefully) sell them. I got a tip from a fellow breeder, suggesting two tanning solutions. The first, DixieTan Paste, is made into a paste, and then put on the hides. This one smells like Sassafras, so I’m really looking forward to trying it. The second is called Johnny Thorpe’s Indian Tan. This is mixed with water in a bucket, and the hides are soaked in it. I’m going to give them both a shot, and see which one works the best for us. I ordered my supplies from F&T Fur Harvester’s Trading Post. If you need any kind of supplies for tanning, I recommend them. They shipped the order very quickly, and were very courteous in their communications. Who could ask for more? I will certainly be using them again for my supplies. They also had the cheapest rates of any suppliers that I could find.
We have expanded into Rex rabbits, which if you have never felt, are much like velvet. They have a short coat, which stands upright, and is very soft. Most people, when they feel them the first time, are amazed at how soft they feel. These rabbits make great garments, and blankets or throws. If all works out well, we hope to fashion some of these pelts into usable goods. Who knows, if we get good at this, we might just expand into doing some of our deer hides next year!
I am going to have to “thin the herd” in the rabbitry soon, so I will try to post about how the tanning procedure works. When I get a surplus, I might even put a few on here…
OK, I thought we would be able to get this done a couple of weeks ago, but we are just getting around to it. I wonder, are you all as incredibly busy this summer as we are? But, after combing through all of the entries, and debating the pros and cons of the ones we liked, we have finally come to an agreement on the name of the rabbitry! We are going to go with a slight variation of one of the entries, and name the rabbitry:
Eva submitted the name, and we will be sending her the prize of the knife that I wrote about in the original post about our Naming Contest. I hope she enjoys it! Thank you all for the many good entries. I believe this name will fit our endeavors for the next several years!
I have the website started, and you can take a look by clicking the link above. I will have to get some more pictures of the shed we are using to house our rabbits, as well as some more pictures of our rabbits. We have a barn full of little bunnies right now, so it may take a while to get everything updated.
Since we are on the topic of rabbits (again), I thought I would share an interesting occurrence from this week. We have a new litter of bunnies, less than a week old. These little guys are quite active, much more so than any other litter we have had so far. These little guys seem to have an uncanny ability to escape from the nest box, even though they are far too little to be out of it. My son went out to tend the rabbits, as he does every morning, and found that not one, but two of the little bunnies had gotten out of the next box, and proceeded to get their heads stuck in the cage wire. I know that they make “baby saver” wire that will make sure that this does not happen, but my cages are not so equipped. I ended up having to cut the wire to free the babies. Go figure, the heads will go through one way, but will not come back out! The next day, there was another little bunny with his head stuck in the wire. I had to cut the wire again to let him out. Now, there are 3 holes in the wire that I will have to repair!
On a much sadder note, one of the litte bunnies was small enough that he actually fell completely out of the cage. He disappeared, and I could not find him. Later, when the yard flooded from all of the rain, we found him in a puddle. I guess I am going to have to build me some cages with the baby saver wire so that these type of things don’t keep happening. This all came as a great surprise to us, since we have not had any problem with this type of thing before. Maybe these rabbits are just more active than the other litters that we have had. If that is the case, we will be in trouble when they get bigger and we have to tend to them…we won’t be able to catch them!
Holly over at NorCal Cazadora asked how we went about slaughtering our rabbits for the freezer. I thought I would do a short post on it, since it is a big part of the process of raising rabbits for food. Many people simply cannot do this part of the job, and send their rabbits off to processors. They end up buying back rabbit meat at a much higher price than what it would cost them to butcher themselves. Having said that, I can certainly understand why many have this hang up. In fact, I was not sure whether I would be able to go through with it until I finally did it. It was much like my first time out deer hunting…I wasn’t sure I could pull that trigger until I had that first buck in my scope!
I used two basic processes for slaughtering the rabbits. The first was the one that Holly alluded to in her comment on my last post. This method is achieved by holding the rabbit by the hips, and then hitting the rabbit on the back of the head with a blunt object. We used a short piece of re-bar, which seemed to work very well. I picked this method up by reading a blog, Life as a Polyface Apprentice. You can click that link and see some pictures of this method “in action” as I did not take any pictures the day we were butchering. If you have never read that blog before, poke around a bit. If you are interested in raising your own food, it is a great resource for material.
The second method also worked well, and we implemented it on a few of the bunnies. This method is called the “broomstick method.” Basically, you lay the rabbit down on the ground, and put a bar across the back of the neck. With a swift motion, you pull up on the hind legs, dislocating (breaking) the neck of the rabbit. It is an extremely quick method for dispatching the rabbits, and leaves little room for a mistake to be made. This method was better on some of the rabbits because my hands are rather small, and the rabbits had very broad backs/hips. This made it difficult for me to hold on to them securely, and I just didn’t feel confident with the first method being quick and humane.
I think it is very important for us to take good care of our animals, and even when it comes time to butcher they need to be handled humanely. I don’t believe in torturing them, or making them suffer. That is why I will use these two methods that dispatch the animals very quickly, and with as little physical pain as possible. I will probably use the second method most often, as my rabbits are growing out nicely and have very broad backs. This second method can be implemented without a fear of dropping the rabbit, and making a poor initial strike to render the rabbit unconscious.
Thanks for the question Holly, it gave me something good to write about while I am suffering from writer’s block! Hopefully that will shake some cobwebs and I can get back to getting some thoughts down on the proverbial paper!
I am going to leave the rabbitry naming contest open for a few more days. If you haven’t entered, make sure and get an entry in. If you don’t want to do a post on it, don’t worry…give some suggestions anyway! I would love to have the perfect name, and give the prize away to a deserving participant!
We started raising rabbits several months ago, without any of us ever having eaten rabbit meat. We have been looking forward to trying it, and finally have had the chance. We butchered our first 6 bunnies a little over a week ago. That was an experience in and of itself. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it wasn’t very difficult. I was afraid that maybe I would be too attached to them to butcher. But, in the end, we ended up with 6 plump bunnies. We gave 3 of them to friends and have now cooked up the last 3. We had the first one barbecued in the slow cooker. It was delicious! Then, last Saturday, we smoked 2 of the rabbits. They came out great! They were very easy to do as well. We mixed some apple juice with oil to marinate them for a while, and then put them on the grill with some lemon pepper seasoning. They came out tender and very tasty. We will certainly be doing that again!
The kids have all taken to the rabbit meat. I was not surprised that they liked it, considering how much they enjoy other meats and are so curious about where their meat comes from. They handled losing the bunnies to the freezer quite well. I am hoping that they will continue to go with it as we grow the rabbitry. Jacob will tell people that he knew we were going to butcher some of them, and that was the agreement when we got them in the first place. So, they are handling losing a few at a time to the table. I am hoping to keep the litters coming so they will always have a few out there replacing the ones that get butchered.
We also kept both the livers and kidneys to the rabbits. The kidneys stay with the carcass, and since we cooked all the rabbits whole, we just cooked the kidneys with the rest. I thought nothing of it, but Jacob asked if people at the kidneys. When I told him that they did, he insisted on tasting them. He has decided that he likes them, and has eaten most of the kidneys from the 3 rabbits that we have cooked. It is amazing what kids will try if they are not prejudiced by others! I tried the kidneys as well. Being organ meat, it is quite different from other meat, but somewhat like what I would imagine for the livers, which I haven’t tried yet.
The contest to name the rabbitry is still open. Please give us a suggestion, and enter the contest! The prize is a nice knife, perfect for collectors or for use as a pocket knife. Don’t need one? Use it for a gift for someone else!
I have been looking for a prize to offer for our “Name Our Rabbitry” contest, and finally was able to find it! I knew our storage area was a mess, but didn’t think it would take that long to remember where I put this! There will be more on the prize at the end of the post…
We are getting along well with the Rabbitry, and so it is time to give it a name. I am not a very creative person, and evidently neither are any of the other people in our house. So, we are reaching out to our online friends to submit entries to name our rabbitry. If we choose your entry, you will win the prize. Before we get to the prize, lets lay down a few guidelines/rules first!
To enter, simply follow the rules below:
We are hoping for many, many entries (so that we will have a lot to choose from)! I appreciate all of your input, and hope you’ll help us find the perfect name.
Now for the prize. I am putting up a Case XX Image Bird Hook Knife. These knives are beautiful and getting harder to find. Many of the online sites are currently sold out. You can see it on Amazon where it is selling for about $75. This is a brand new knife, still in the box. It will be a great knife for the bird hunter, or any hunter that will enjoy the craftsmanship of the Case XX Image knives. Click on the picture to the left to see a larger image, and take a look at the detail on the handle!
I am hoping that whoever submits the winning entry will enjoy this knife. I know that I purchased several of these in different patterns and have given several as gifts. They have been a big hit. I am also hoping that this will encourage many to enter the contest!
So, submit your entry below, and I’ll let you know when I have chosen a winner!
Recently, I have been getting a lot of help about rabbits off of some mailing lists that have to do with raising rabbits and homesteading. There is a ton of good information to be found in these groups. I have been following a lot of “signature” lines to blogs and websites and have found that many people who are raising rabbits are doing so as a part of “homesteading” (returning to a self-sustaining way of living.) This is intriguing to me! Most of you know that we started raising rabbits as a project for the kids, to teach responsibility and to provide good teaching opportunities for our homeschooling. But, I have to admit, there is an appeal for the type of living that many are choosing to get back to. I can imagine living off of the land, and raising all of our own food. However, i would sure miss many of the “conveniences” that we have been spoiled with. I wonder how much more productive we would be without all of those “conveniences” though? I know that I am often more distracted by them, than aided by them!
My question to you all is: would you like to live “off grid” even for a little while? Would you be able to survive? Or would you need all the modern conveniences? Do you see any advantage to the lifestyle? I’m sure most of the “disadvantages” would have to do with conveniences, but other than that can you think of any disadvantages? I’m interested to see what you all come up with!
I am still trying to decide on what to use for a prize to the person who comes up with the best name for our rabbitry. Keep thinking on a name, and I will try to get the contest put up in the next couple of days. I know that there are a lot of creative people out there who will be a big help to me in getting a good, catchy name. Looks like we might be up to butchering this weekend, or next week sometime (if we can get some dry weather!)
I’ll leave you with a picture of my youngest with one of the newer bunnies:
Isn’t that some wild and crazy hair? Good caption: Crazy Hair and Hare?
In my last post, over a month ago now, I said that I was going to try and get back in here an write more…but that just hasn’t happened. I’ve been spending most of my writing time on other projects. Its not that I have lost interest here, it is just that I have been too short on time!
I have been out for some turkey hunting the last couple of days. Season came in here in WV on Monday. Unfortunately, we also got a snap of really warm weather. The turkeys talked a bit on Monday, but Tuesday, they were absolutely silent. We covered several miles of mountain top, and never heard a single bird! Monday, we had one turkey willing to do a bit of gobbling, but we simply could not get him to climb the hill between us, so he never even came close. I am not sure that I will get the opportunity to get out any more, as I don’t have any land close to my house where I can hunt. I guess there is always next year! So far, I haven’t been able to bag a gobbler, but one of these days I suppose I will connect. I’ve only been out a handful of times, so maybe I should take it a bit more seriously and see if I can have a bit better luck.
I also have been able to get out on the trout streams a couple of times. The first day I made it out, it was incredibly cold and windy. We fished for several hours without even a strike. Later in the day, as the water warmed up a bit, I was able to finally get a few nice trout. In fact, I was able to catch 3 trout over 15 inches out of the same lie. Evidently, they were stacked up in there. I know that isn’t huge for those who get to fish in the West, but for here in WV, they are nice stream trout. The second day we were out, the weather was much nicer, with temperatures in the high 70’s. I was able to catch a few trout, as was my fishing partner for the day. It was nice to get away and spend the time on the water, even though we weren’t able to catch a lot of fish.
Things in the rabbitry are going pretty well. We have another litter added to our number. We have expanded from 5 rabbits to our current 29. Of course, that will be fluctuating a lot as we will begin to sell and butcher. We did sell one rabbit as a pet recently. Since we are growing, I am now trying to come up with a name for our rabbitry. I have started to build a website for the rabbitry, to keep everyone updated with what we have on hand, and how we are expanding, but I have no name for it! Hopefully, you all will be able to help me out with this. I am thinking about making a contest out of it, so start thinking about it but don’t tell me yet. Check back in the next couple of days, when I have come up with a good prize, I will have a post about the contest. From all suggestions we will pick the best, and the submitter will win the prize.
A friend of mine sent me this video. For some reason, she said she thought of me when she saw it. I submit it now for your enjoyment!