Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Baby Rabbits! For meat???
Please don't think that I am a horrible person. If you had told me a year ago that I would be breeding meat rabbits, I would have laughed at you. I'm no bunny killer! Unfortunately, I have discovered that having a little urban homestead and seeing just how self-sufficient we can be on our own backyard is addictive.
We haven't bought eggs from the grocery store this year,
we haven't purchased chicken since last October,
we grow most of our own vegetables and some of our fruit,
so as we consider what we still buy but don't want to, I think of ground beef.
I'm too cheap to pay $7.50/lb for grass fed beef at the farmer's market, but it turns out that rabbits are a lean meat that is very healthy and and easy to raise in a small area. Besides, rabbits are quiet, create the best fertilizer for the garden, 90% of their diet can be greens from the yard, and they multiply like, well, rabbits. The meat can be stewed or ground up and used as a replacement for beef or chicken.
And that rationale was the reason that we bought a male and female New Zealand rabbit. At six months old we bred the rabbits and one month later we were thrilled to see seven little babies in the nesting box!
They are about a week old here, the fur is coming in, and the little ears are the only thing that makes them look more like a rabbit than a hamster.
After ten days they open their eyes for the first time to see and explore the world.
By two weeks old they are already eating greens from the garden on their own and learning to drink from the water bottle.
At three weeks old we decided to let them play in the yard and meet our chickens. Our chickens were much more scared of the rabbits than the bunnies were of them, but they had a fun time playing together.
What I like most about having rabbits in general is that they are the best composters ever! I give them all of the leftover greens from my garden whether it is carrot and beet tops, finished plants that need to be pulled up, or even leaves and branches from tree and shrub trimmings. In return I get great fertilizer for the garden, and eventually meat as well. I love it when nothing goes to waste!
Look at that cute bunny! Could I ever eat that cute little bunny???
Our first set of babies will now be three months old in a week, and we have a new set of babies playing in the nesting box with mom. The usual age for rabbits to be processed is three months, and I think we will have the courage to go through with our plan of using this homestead investment for meat. I'll let you know how it goes!
What about you? Have you raised meat rabbits? Would you ever try?