We have now embarked on a new farm adventure: raising meat rabbits.
We headed down to Unity, NH on Monday to meet a nice lady who keeps many kinds of animals on her farm: horses, sheep, beef, chickens, and rabbits.
“Pezzi” is the full-grown doe we bought there. She’s a Flemish Giant / California cross, so she’s pretty big. She was bred to a pure New Zealand White male unrelated to her or to the young male we got. I had thought that the lady I got her from would have taken care of that before I arrived, but she put her in the male’s cage when I got there and it happened three times in rapid succession, right in front of me.
The young male is such a cutie. He’s a New Zealand / Flemish cross, with a bit of Cali. The two rabbits are living in separate halves of a 4’x4′ shelter that I’m still putting the finishing touches on.
We are making our own hay for the rabbits to supplement their pellet feed, using a regular push-mower and raking it up when it’s dried out. My son is in charge of that. For now, we’re storing it in kitchen-sized garbage bags in the greenhouse. This breeding pair can expect a nice long lifespan; it’s their children that will be providing the meat in the future. With a gestation period of about a month, and a weaning age of about six weeks, we should be able to re-breed her before Halloween (though not with our male, who will still be too young) and harvest the males from the first litter at “fryer” size around mid-January.
I recently was reminded that my great-grandfather raised rabbits. I was asking my mom about what her mother told her about living through the Great Depression, and that was one of the ways they kept food on the table. I hope that things don’t get that bad again, but the economy seems somewhat uncertain now. It was a bit scary when the meat-packing plants had to close down for COVID-19, and localizing food sources seems like the right thing to do–not just for us, but for anyone who can.
This is my first time raising rabbits, so I’m no expert. Here are some of the sources I found helpful, though:
- Rabbit: A Great Meat Animal for Small Homesteads | MOTHER EARTH NEWS
- Living the Frugal Life: Meat Rabbits on Pasture
- Polyface Farms rabbits (rabbits forum at permies)
- Life As A Polyface Apprentice: Search results for rabbit
- Watering your rabbits
- Can I Keep Chickens and Rabbits Together? – Poultry Owner
- Backyard Rabbit Keeping, Part 5/15 – Housing | Extopian
- Housing for Meat Rabbits
- The Rabbit Wringer – Humane Meat Rabbit & Poultry Harvesting – How to kill, the best way to kill
- and here’s my Pinterest board for rabbit hutches and other rabbit-related images: https://www.pinterest.com/infojunkie/rabbits/
I’ve also been watching a lot of homesteading / small farm videos lately. I’m a fan of Polyface farm’s methods. I’ve been enjoying hearing about and seeing the farms featured in Justin Rhodes’ YouTube channel. Here are a few videos I found helpful or inspiring for embarking on this rabbit-raising adventure:
More to come! Stay tuned, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram with the links below.