Tiffany S. is what some might call a meat rabbit guru and she’s certain that no matter how cute and fuzzy they are, when it comes down to it, you will be able to do what’s necessary to put food on the table. You can find her over at Raising Rabbits for Meat, a blog appropriately titled since it’s all about how to get started and keep things going if you are interested in raising meat rabbits.
I know you’re probably thinking that the idea of raising rabbits for meat in-and-of-itself is already a very self-sufficient thing to do. And you’re not wrong. But there are actually even more reasons why raising meat rabbits is an incredibly smart thing to do.
1. First and foremost, growing your own healthy meat in your backyard is without a doubt the number one reason why people start raising their own rabbits. What could be more sustainable than that? You breed your rabbits, let them raise their young for a few weeks, cull the young fryer-sized rabbits and start over. You and your kids can get attached to the breeders, there is very little maintenance compared to other small livestock and you rarely have to get your hands dirty when litters arrive.
2. You’ll not only have a nearly endless supply of meat for yourself, but you’ll also have lots of innards and such for your pets to feast on. I know I’m personally not a huge fan of things like liver or loins (although some would consider it a delicacy), but my dog goes ballistic for that kind of thing. Don’t want to feed it to them raw? Make some liver treats…your dog will never leave your side again!
3. Now once you’ve successfully started providing for your own family, you can also start helping other families put food on the table, either by selling/bartering rabbits to butcher or kits for breeding. Depending on how many you sell, you should be able to cover your own costs and possibly even turn a profit. And trust me, people are getting more and more interested in raising meat rabbits every day…especially with all the outbreaks of disease that keep erupting in the US food chain.
4. Oh, did I mention that these bundles of meat are also covered in lovely fur packages? Make hats, vests, jackets and other clothing out of them…or sell/barter the pelts to others so they can do something useful with them. I hear that Boy Scouts troops are often looking for pelts for various projects they do…so don’t think you have to be a huge supplier to find someone to sell to. And besides, the number of pelts you have will add up quickly.
5. Rabbits absolutely love garden waste and yard clippings…although you do have to be careful what you give them. You can raise healthy, happy rabbits strictly off of your scraps although they won’t be the protein powerhouses that you’re probably used to. During The Great Depression, it was extremely common to raise meat rabbits and that’s exactly how people fed them. You can even feed them twigs and branches from some of your trees (and actually should) so they can wear down those teeth that never stop growing.
6. And let us not forget, what goes in must eventually come out. And when it does, you will have some of the most fabulous fertilizer ever. If you want to be really adventurous, you can raise worms in tandem with the rabbits, feed the worms the droppings and end up with the most incredibly rich fertilizer that will NEVER burn your plants (and with very little work.) Plus it’s free!
So have I convinced you yet that raising rabbits is an incredible way to become more self-sufficient? If you’re thinking about raising rabbits (or already raise them), hop over here and get a free cheat sheet of safe and unsafe foods for rabbits from your own garden. Know exactly what to keep out of reach if you let them hop around your garden…or what you can give them from your table and yard waste that will help them thrive.
There’s nothing so fulfilling and comforting on a cold winter’s day than a steaming bowl of thick, creamy, cheesy soup. While the wind is howling and anyone who’s got two brain cells to knock together has bundled back up in their blankets and put on their bunny slippers, a hot bowl of soup can make everything right with the world. Soon there will be Christmas lights to put up, presents to wrap…
I just realized that I never posted how we built our goat barn and chicken coop back in March. Our old chicken coop just wasn’t going to cut it anymore since we had gotten goats. They needed a lot more space than what the chicken run could provide. So we scouted out the largest open area in our yard. Well, along the back fence we had a mostly open space. We would have to move a couple of fruit trees, but they were young so it was definitely doable. We moved an almond tree and a pear tree.
|Barn Location Marked out with String|
Our yard is long and narrow. The width is about 50′. Plenty of space for chickens and Pygmy goats. So I drew up a plan of the barn.
The plan was to attach it to the fence on one side. The area adjacent to the fence would be the storage area for feed. The center room would be the chicken coop and the two other spaces would be the goat area. As it turns out the goat area ended up being just one large room with no divider. But with any informal building projects, the structure always changes in the field.
We first started with putting in pier blocks for the structure to rest in. We didn’t want to do a permanent foundation because we didn’t want to have to worry about getting building permits. Instead, this structure is basically floating on the pier blocks. It is essential to line up the tops of the footings and ensuring they are level.
|Partially Buried Pier Blocks|
Next we started laying out the posts and beams. Anything that was close to the ground and was for structural purposes was pressure treated wood. Redwood or cedar are also options, however they generally cost a lot more.
|Posts and Beams are up!|
After making sure everything was plumb and level, it was time to put on the roofing joists.
|Starting to look like a building|
That was really the hard part – getting everything level and plumb. With everything connected it was now incredibly sturdy. To make it even more sturdy it was time to add the siding. All of our siding was from re-purposed wood from old fences and just old lumber we had come across. It still needs to be pressure washed and painted, but it’s not a top priority right now.
|Siding going up|
We then framed the doors.
|Two of the doors are framed|
After framing and adding siding to the doors and finishing the roof, interior walls and adding wire over openings, the barn was complete. We were able to build it in one weekend. The yard we fenced with chainlink fence and barbed wire posts. So far it’s held up really well to the goats who have discovered the ecstasy from rubbing against it back and forth.
We’ve tried raising chicks several different ways. We’ve let a broody girl take over as mom – which, in my opinion, is the best way to do it as long as you’re not dead set on having hand raised birds. Our hen raised birds are not friendly, but we don’t mind that. And we’ve also raised chicks in a brooder. We don’t really have a place in the house to set up the brooder (cats!) so we set it up in water tower. Now, I won’t get into the exact setup and how to do that exactly, but you can find the information here.
|Our Indoor Brooder|
It worked well for us, but as the birds got older and needed to be introduced to the flock we ran into some problems. The first was getting everyone to, well, get along. The older girls were bossy and didn’t like these newcomers at all! They would chase them around the yard every chance they got. And this was even after we kept them in the brooder, in the coop for a week to get used to everyone’s smells. The second problem was that our chicks all ended up coming down with coccidiosis. The treatment had to go in the shared waterer which meant for 10 days we couldn’t use any of our hens’ eggs.
|Our Outdoor Brooder|
This time we decided to keep the brooder outside in the chicken yard. We also decided to keep the bottom of the crate that we use open so the chicks could scratch the soil as needed. We did add some hay though to soften the ground a bit and plywood around the sides to keep heat (and chicks) in. After a couple of weeks we created an opening in the brooder that the chicks could get in and out through the hens and any predators could not. This of course led them to having full run of not only the chicken yard but all the garden. We noticed a significant decrease in any aggression shown to the chicks by the adult hens. Most were curious about the chicks, but there was no aggressive pecking or chasing. We also have had no issues with coccidiosis. After researching how organic poultry raisers deal with the disease, litter management and early exposure seem to be an effective control. Because we exposed the chicks early on to soil, which can harbor the organism, but in an area that wasn’t highly used by the hens, they have remained healthy. We also use the deep litter method in the barn, which appears to help as well. From the above link:
“Poultry-house litter becomes significantly anti-coccidial after about six months’ use, as organisms that eat coccidia start to thrive and knock down the coccidia population… By never removing more than half the brooder house litter at a time, it can keep its anti-microbial properties indefinitely.”
For us this new way of management seems to be successful. Only time will tell, but as the chicks get older (they are now 7 weeks old) they will be less likely to get sick. Since chicks are most susceptible between 3 and 8 weeks of age they will hopefully come out of this 8th week free and clear.
Do you do a crop of fall veggies? Or do you just let everything go fallow over winter?
I live in Florida, zone 8b, and I feel it just gets too hot too quickly for some of my favorite veggies during the spring.
My plan is to plant my brassicas, peas and other cool-weather crops in the fall, but I’m nervous about turning around and replanting the same areas for my spring/summer veggies.
I’d love to hear if you have any advice for me.
I do both. I don’t have every square inch planted at every moment. This not only allows the soil to rest, but it also allows any compost you add to continue to break down and become less hot, which is important when adding chicken manure like we do.
I also live in Zone 8 so I can understand it getting hot so early. Fortunately for you, it means you can actually plant Spring Veggies in the Winter. You can determine the timing if you use my guide on scheduling plantings.
But with super long seasons there is definitely an overlap, which makes it impossibly to use every square inch of ground if you want seasonal plantings. So what I do is plant my spring crops in half of my beds and then when it warms up plant the rest of the beds with summer crops. When the spring crops are done allow the ground to be fallow until it’s time to put the fall crops in. When the summer crops are done allow that ground to remain fallow until it’s time for the spring crops to go in. The cycle for one bed would then be:
This also ensures that you will have a proper crop rotation as well. Good luck and happy planting!
-1 cup flat latex paint in your desired color
- 2 tbs unsanded tile grout for each cup of paint (avail. at your local hardware store)
- sponge brush
- exacto knife (or scissors)
- label template
This week has been very up and down. We have two new lives to watch over but also lost two.
|The kits are buried under all the fur|
The good news is that Lucy kindled! She had 3 kits, but unfortunately one didn’t make it. The two that survived are healthy so far and quite active. Of course I’ll worry about them for at least another 10 days (they are 3 days old now). I was actually quite surprised at how large they are. Since a rabbit has such a short gestation (averaging 31 days give or take a day or two) I was expecting the kits to be very small. Nope, they’re huge! OK, not “huge” but they are much bigger than expected. I would say they are about the size of a hamster. Only difference is they are blind, hairless, and have the cutest damn ears! Lucy, like a good mom, is very protective of them. I’m a little extra cautious about this litter as it is not only my first but also Lucy’s and rabbits are known to abandon their first litter. So far so good though.
|Chicks trying to find a way behind plywood|
The other sad news is that one of our chicks was killed. They had been going into the garden every day to forage and we had found that they were trying to spend the night out there. So we put up more chicken wire along the chainlink fence to keep them in the chicken yard. Well, our chicken yard shares the back fence with our neighbor. The fence is a chainlink fence with vinyl slats for some privacy. We also have plywood up against the fence, but the chicks have been finding a way between the plywood and fence. The chicks were tormenting her dog – who can see through the fence – and one got a little two close and the dog grabbed her through the hole it had dug under the fence. The hole has been fixed, but my neighbor was very upset. We reassured her that we were OK with it. Dogs will be dogs and the chick should have never gotten that close. Stupid chicken. I told her not to feel bad because we were going to eat it anyways. The look of horror on her face made me realize that I probably shouldn’t have said that.
Raising livestock is not for the faint of heart. I’ve learned that no matter how many precautions you take, you will always lose one occasionally. Sometimes you may lose your whole flock/litter/herd to unforeseen circumstances. This won’t make me stop doing it though. Even with all the downs there are so many more ups.