Little Bunny Foo-Foo
Little Bunny Foo-Foo
I'll be the first person to admit that if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would start a farm and begin raising animals for meat, I probably would have believed them, but in an indulgent, "thanks for thinking I could" kind of way. Now, as my mother likes to say, I'm already way too far down the cliff to consider if I should have looked before I jumped.
And since I can’t resist taking chances, we have rolled the dice and added a new animal breed to the farm. Albeit, this post is a few weeks late as we’ve now had Tom and Stella, our American Chinchilla rabbits for a couple of weeks but life has been getting in the way of writing lately (hello El Nino rain storms!).
Since the beginning, we have toyed with the idea of meat rabbits. I’ve always been a fan of rabbit. It is a great protein for those who lean away from beef and tend get sick of eating chicken all of the time. Quick and easy to produce, rabbit has been a staple of many homesteads for generations. They are cheap to raise (by supplementing grass and other green roughage, you can cut production costs down to almost nothing) and the saying, “breed like rabbits”? Yeah – there is a real validity to it. If our basic calculations are right, from our single breeding pair, we could conservatively produce almost 50 rabbits a year. 10-15 kits in each litter x 4 to 5 litters each year = a whole crap-ton of rabbits. A doe can be bred every 5-6 weeks, with her litter being weaned at 6 weeks. Since I’m not looking to have my rabbit population absolutely explode (not to mention that is A LOT of processing), we’re going to wait for at least 8-9 weeks between litters. We are also hoping that we will be able to provide show and market rabbits for local agriculture students as they make a great 4-H and FFA rabbit, since they have great temperaments (I have to admit though, I’ve never met a cranky rabbit) and grow fairly quickly for a heritage breed.
When we first started researching rabbits, our first goal – like all of our other animals – was to find a heritage breed. Since there are roughly a dozen different breeds of heritage rabbits, it was about finding a breed that was hearty and dual purpose, meaning they can be harvested for both their fur and their meat. Not that we have any inclination to go into fur production but it is always another possible income source. We finally chose American Chinchilla Rabbits, a large grey-colored breed that throw big litters and produce good quality meat. After hunting around on The American Livestock Conservancy website for a while, we found a breeder in Sacramento who was will to part with one buck and one doe. We drove out and picked them up a couple of weeks ago and they have since settled on the farm.
Stella, our doe, was born in December so she is still a little too young to breed – we’ll be waiting until May before introducing her to Tom. Tom is our buck, a large, healthy boy who is about 18 months old. His fur isn’t perfect but he has a tendency to produce very large litters (we’re talking 12-15 kits each time) and like I said, fur is not our first priority. He is a sweet boy who loves to run and kick – very cute.
American Chinchilla Rabbits are one of the most critically endangered breed of rabbits in the United States right now. By adding two more to our farm and allowing their population to continue to grow, we are putting one more breed back on the map that might have otherwise disappeared.
Short and sweet – sorry about that – but we’ll have more updates from the farm soon!
With love from our muddy hands and busy hearts,