A few months ago, and much to Ariel’s dismay, I decide to get rabbits! I had already spent a week over the winter building a shelter for them, building cages, and having the whole set up ready, but we didn't have the actual critters yet. So one day I just went ahead and got three of them, two does and a buck. I got quite the scolding look from Ariel when I showed her, cause we hadn’t really discussed it, and therefore we now have a rule: no new animals on the farm unless we have discussed it and agreed together that it is a good idea.
So, rabbits. Yes, they are meat rabbits and the reason we got them is to breed them for meat and fur. I know that will put some of you off, as in this country rabbits are either thought of as pets or pests, but they are really tasty, are easy to raise, make no noise, take up very little space, and make amazing fertilizer that doesn’t need to be composted! Yes, you can put their droppings directly on your garden beds! I did a lot of research this past winter in order to convince Ariel that this is a good idea (see above) and was able to do just that. Mainly by saying that I will take care of them, and do the slaughter when it comes time to do so, etc etc….
Why rabbits for meat instead of chickens? Well, there are a number of reasons. Their meat is healthier than chicken, they are much easier to breed, as stated before, take up a lot less space, and eat a lot less. One doe can have up to 8 litters a year, with each litter averaging 8-12 kits (kits are baby rabbits), that’s 64 to 96 kits a year! Per doe! And we have two! This is an extremely aggressive breeding schedule and one that we won’t follow. Our plan is to breed each doe four to five times a year. This will give us about forty kits per doe, per year. That’s a lot of amazing home raised meat for the freezer, plus a lot of beautiful fur to sell or turn into the fluffiest moccasins you have ever seen.
So, how does this all work? Well, we have all heard the saying “breeding like rabbits,” and that’s because they are very efficient at it. Once bred, a doe will give birth in thirty days to 8-12 kits. There is always a small loss, and we feel that we will likely end up with 6-8 healthy rabbits per litter that will end up growing large enough to be butchered and eaten. After two weeks the kits are weaned and in some large scale rabbit breeding operations, the doe will be re-bred at this stage. We will leave the kits in with the mother for three weeks, and then give her two weeks to relax before breeding her again. The kits will be slaughter age in eight to twelve weeks and will yield 2-3 pounds of meat per animal. If we do a little math here: if we have an average littler size of eight kits per doe, and 5 litters each per year, then we will have eighty rabbits destined for the freezer! That is over two hundred pounds of healthy meat for us! My guess is that because this is our first year and we are still learning, we will end up with quite a bit less, not to mention that I am also planning on selling breeding stock. Yet even with that in mind, I am thinking we will get 150 to 200 pounds of rabbit meat in the freezer by this time next year!
We have two breeds of rabbits, our buck, Hazel, is a sliver fox, and the two does, Blackberry and Dandelion, are Champagne D’Argent. As both names suggest, they are a beautiful silver color, Hazel being a little darker grey silver than the two does. They are all incredibly soft, especially now that they are growing in their winter fur. I chose these two breeds because they are overall greta rabbit breeds! They are a large size, are known to be healthy and have healthy litters, have a great conversion rate of feed to meat, and are absolutely beautiful. I am very much looking forward to learning how to tan their hides, so stay tuned for that!
I am planning on breeding both does on the 9th of November, so I will let you all know how that goes, should be quite an interesting experience.
P.S. Anybody know the source of their names? Reply in the comments…