So in addition to baby chicks we (my husband and I) have also added meat rabbits to the menagerie. In my continuing struggle to reconcile my love for animals with my love for eating them and taking responsibility for that, this is going to be a toughie, because really, rabbits are about as adorable as animals get. We have three, so far only one has been named: “Snacks”. She is of course the most engaging of the three, and probably first on the menu, though I am lobbying for her to be a breeder rabbit. I cried when I lost my first chicken (that was serious operator error, I opened the coop when my dog Katie was near, and quick as lightning she grabbed my Rhode Island Red pullet). I didn’t have the heart to kill her then, even though I knew she was probably a goner, and she suffered needlessly because of my lack of courage. So I have made a promise to all my animals that I will do my best to make their lives as pleasant as possible and their deaths merciful and quick (At the moment, my husband who is an experienced hunter and grew up with rabbits and chickens, does all the dirty work). No less than what I would want for myself, although due to human fear of death and litigation I’d say the rabbits will probably fare far better than I will when it is all said and done. In my research I found a great website based here in Portland called the Rabbit Revolution, with lots of thoughtful posts on rabbit care, and diy backyard meat production. I will have to meet those ladies sometime soon.
So, three rabbits, two does and a buck, and one of the does is about a week pregnant. Gestation for rabbits is just over 4 weeks, so on day 28 we will give her a kindling box (a box stuffed with hay big enough for her and her kits) which she will arrange to her liking and then line with fur from her belly. She will care for the kits for about 6 weeks, when they will be weaned. 8 weeks and they should be big enough for eating. That is some pretty fast turn around for home grown backyard homesteader meat! The other big bonus? Like goats, rabbits love blackberry canes, so I can supplement their feed with the spontaneous canes from the corners of the yard, or raspberry canes which I have in plenty. They can also eat extra foodstuffs from the garden, in moderation. Also like goats, they need plenty of roughage, like straw or hay, to balance out the greenstuff, which if over fed can cause diarrhea. Rabbit poop is excellent fertilizer, and this time of year can go straight on to the fallow areas of the garden (I wouldn’t put fresh poop on my greens personally), or into the maw of the compost pile. Rabbits poop in a specific area of their hutches, so all I need to do for easy clean up is strategically place some buckets for collection. We have a gravity feed water system, and feeders big enough to leave them for a weekend away, rabbits are about as low maintenance as chickens really, and not as smelly or loud.
The peeps are now ten days old, and very active. They obligingly lined up on the ramp for me this morning for a photoshoot.