Sunday, June 4, 2017

Farm and Garden: Rabbits

We have rabbits added to our list of animals that we keep. We are hoping to eventually have them as a meat option in the future when we have the raising and taking care part figured out. We are trying to figure out the best option for keeping them. We do not like the idea of keeping them caged up, so we are trying to figure out how to create a space for them that will give them the opportunity to be on the ground without allowing them to tunnel out of the enclosure.

My hope is that it is a space that allows for rotation between enclosure spaces that have "green spaces" with fresh forage to eat. We have two "nursery pens" (small chicken coops that are for the pregnant does and babies, and would like to create grow-out pens for the weaned bunnies until they reach harvest age or selling age. Our journey began with two white(albino) New Zealand does and a male New Zealand that was white with cinnamon spots.
Our first litter was a surprise and literally scattered around the "rabbit yard". I went in and collected them warmed them put them into a large Rubbermaid type container and brought the babies and the mom inside. It was a mess. she didn't know to make a nest and she didn't know how to nurse so for the first couple of days we had to teach her; thankfully she got the idea and had a start in the right direction. She had a litter of 4 and only one survived. It was Sue(our present buck)who is now known as A Boy Named Sue...or Sue for short. He's white with black spots. Through the year we had a couple more litters, but the Winter showed us that we were not prepared and we lost many of the babies.
We now have three current litters and are now at a point where we have some at butchering age. The kids have decided that they want to keep and tan the skins. I am actually proud of them for wanting to do this because I really like the idea of respecting the animal and making use of as much of it as possible and honoring the animal and being a good steward.

It has been really fun to see what color rabbits come out of each litter. The genetics of rabbits is interesting and we plan to look into it because we have been getting some very interesting color patterns from these bunnies. We started out with two albino bunnies and one red and white bunny and now we have a beautiful mixture of albinos, greys, blacks, browns and variations of spotted.

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