Thursday, April 7, 2011

a lost pullet and future kits

The little pullet didn't make it. Poor thing. I went into the mud room to check on her and she was cold as the stones outside. It was more of a blow than it usually would have been. I'm not sure what else I could have done within the realm of practicality—losing chicks is part of the story. Even the best of us fail one or two.

Cambridge (the closest town to Cold Antler) is coming alive for the big bike race taking over the town this weekend. Cyclists from all over New England and the Mid Atlantic swarm into town to peddle through Washington County's back roads. It's great for tourism dollars and hell for locals who need to get nails at the hardware store or buy milk at the Co-op. It is nice to see the parking lot at the grand Cambridge Hotel (home of pie ala mode) filling up in every spot. Stores are staying open later. New faces are popping up at Stewart's.

Today was a fairly humdrum day at the farm. I ordered some supplies to brew some new stout beer for the early summer. I renewed my membership to the ARBA, and got more pedigrees for the new kits I hope to be born by fall. I'm already excited to hold those pedigreed bunnies in my arms...

I'm also excited about breeding some meat rabbits. Last year was a flop, but this year I hope to run a very small rabbitry for personal use and extra income. Just two breeding does for wool, and two breeding does for meat. I already have the angora bucks (sons of Benjamin and Bean: my previous foundation stock) and one healthy meat Palamino doe that was born in Vermont and raised here in New York. If I can get her a decent buck and one more doe to share him with at the big Poultry Swap coming up in May: I'll be back in the rabbit business.

You know, I always thought rabbits would be a fad with me. An entry-level livestock I would replace with sheep and meat chickens or grass-fed beef. But rabbits are too good, and too addicting, to stop raising. For how inexpensive they are to raise (and how amazing a crock-potted rabbit tastes in Italian seasoning with red sauce and wine) they really might be the most practical source of backyard meat. A doe can raise three to four litters a year, up to 70 lbs over her own harvest weight in meat! For something that lives in a hutch and can make a home in every backyard in America, that is damn impressive! It's also encouraging to know that there's this wonderful alternative for urban and suburban homesteaders to chickens and eggplant. Do many of you eat rabbit? Or is it still a weird idea to have Thumper kabobs?

Regardless, I gave up giving up rabbits. I'm back in the club and happy to be here.

53 Comments:

Blogger Tami said...

Jenna,
I had angoras until the mister became decidedly against them. To him...they stink. He has said that when we have more land he won't mind them but I have to do all of the butchering. He thinks they smell aweful when butchering (he doesn't mind the chickens) and he plain does not like the meat. I've crockpotted, smoked, roasted, grilled. The ONLY way he ever was okay with it was smoked with bacon, paprika, lemon seasoning and olive oil. The left overs were turned into calzones and frozen. He ate those too. Would you be willing to post tried and true rabbit recipes some time?

April 7, 2011 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

We hunt rabbits and so are now raising them. Two doe and a buck I bought last October. We just bred them last weekend. They do fine in the wild... hope our domestic ones can do the job as well.

I do love the idea of rabbits. Easier to clean than chickens. I am so used to substituting venison for beef that rabbit for chicken seems to be no problem.

April 7, 2011 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

I was just thinking about brewing beer today. it's been a long overdue project for us. Where do you get your supplies from? We are going to do it in June.

April 7, 2011 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

Rabbit is absolutely amazing in the crockpot. My aunt has a great recipe with mushrooms and things that creates such a rich broth... I don't remember it off the top of my head but I can post it some time if anybody's interested.
I only just recently got a larger doe to breed for meat kits, for a while I was using exclusively English Spot culls. Even thin little pedigreed purebreds have enough meat on them for four people. Or more if you ration it or serve it along with rice or some other side dish.

April 7, 2011 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

i had 3 bunnies as pets, and ate rabbit every chance i got. now that my bunns have all passed, i still have rabbit in the freezer (not my pets, but farm raised rabbits from near here, and i love every mouthful.

April 7, 2011 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 7, 2011 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

sorry about your chicken. hopefully it was just a freak thing and the rest of the flock will be fine.

my grandparents hunted rabbits when i was a kid. we had dinner at their house one night, and it was fried chicken and rabbit. my grandmother, a woman who never learned the meaning of picky eaters (me!), or the word no, gave me a plate of the stuff and wouldn't tell me if it was rabbit or chicken. it looked like a chicken thigh, but i figured she was trying to trick me into eating bugs bunny. i cried and refused to eat. i was 14. that was my first and last meat from rabbits experience. i have eaten more squirrel stew than i care to recall, though.

April 8, 2011 at 12:09 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...

I raise American Chinchilla rabbits and have 3 does and 2 bucks, at this time. They are great meat rabbits, good mother and the kits are quick to reach weight.
My problem right now is I am moving and can't bred because I don't know when the house will sell and close escrow. I can hardly wait to get settled and get going again.

I really like this breed it is on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy list and critical. At one time this was one of the most popular rabbits raised. My grandfather raised them in the 1940's.

April 8, 2011 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger Anke said...

My grandparents raised rabbits and it was always a special treat for us when my grandmother cooked them. Still love rabbit to this day!

April 8, 2011 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

I have never eaten rabbit that I am aware of but probably did growing up in the backwoods of NH. We raise Angoras right now exclusively for wool. I just got our ARBA membership last week and we have our first litter of kits born a few weeks ago.

I'm not opposed to eating rabbit or trying it. We've dispatched our own chickens but would probably need someone to show us how to do rabbits. I still have a mental hurdle in my head about them though.

April 8, 2011 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Stace said...

We raise Californians, and you're right, there is nothing like a crock-potted rabbit :)

April 8, 2011 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

So sorry to hear about your loss.

April 8, 2011 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I have a herd of Silver Fox rabbits which are listed as critical by ALBC. I show them in the Maine shows only to have a judge evaluate them so I can continue to breed good quality. I sell some to people interested in getting into the breed and butcher some. They are a very high ratio meat rabbit and also give a lovely black with silver tipping pelt. I use the noose method of dispatching them as you described last year. Very efficient and peaceful.
I am planning to visit Dad the last weekend in April and go to the tailgate swap at Schaghticoke Fair grounds on May 1 with my cousin. If I see you there I'll introduce myself.

April 8, 2011 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

doglady: would you sell some to me? Don't you come down this way often? we could work something out?

April 8, 2011 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Casie said...

Sorry about losing the pullet. I've lost two layers in the last two weeks due to prolapse. The poor girls just kept laying eggs too big for their bodies.

I also have rabbits. Right now I have a pair of American Whites and American Blues. They are listed as Critical on the ALBC site. They are great meat rabbits and easy keepers. I have had a hard time getting the family ok with eating rabbit though. I do find it's a lot more work to keep them through the winter for us, compared to the chickens. We will likely be focusing just on the chickens this year and move on from the rabbits.

April 8, 2011 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Casie said...

I do have a wonderful rabbit recipe to share though.


RABBIT WITH CREAM SAUCE AND MUSHROOMS

2 to 3 lb. fryer rabbit
3 slices bacon, chopped or bacon bits
1 tbls. butter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
1 can cream of celery soup
1 pt. sour cream (yogurt is an excellent substitute).
1/2 lb. button mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine

In a Dutch oven cook bacon until crisp. Add butter, melt and add rabbit pieces and brown lightly. Season with salt and pepper.Add vegetables and saute until just softened. Add wine to deglaze pan. Add sour cream and soup over meat. Cover and cook over low heat for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Serve over noodles.

April 8, 2011 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Stacie said...

My dad has made couple backyard rabbits for meat into a great money-making side venture for himself. I agree they are very low-cost compared to other animals to raise and very easy to take care of. My dad freezes a rabbit, takes it out to thaw a bit, covers it in a "secret spice mixture", and throws it back in the freezer. Then he cooks it on his rotisserie on the grill and hoo boy, it smells the whole neighborhood up something wonderful. Sorry about the pullet, but like you said such is raising chickens. Good luck with the rabbits!

April 8, 2011 at 8:40 AM  
OpenID barntalkblog said...

I love having my rabbits, although I wouldn't be able to eat the ones I have now. I have a Holland Lop, named Holly (buck) and an 8-year-old meat rabbit named Speckles. Maybe in the future I could raise rabbits for meat, but not now, seeing as the hutches are full!

-Autumn

April 8, 2011 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Building A Better Life said...

I don't have animals at all yet, but really want them! I told my son we'll be eating rabbit eventually and he just can't get on board with the idea that we can actually eat them! So I told him he can have some as pets, and he is not to give names to any of the other ones.

I guess I'll be doing all the butchering lol!

April 8, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

This has nothing to do with your post, but thought you all might like to know this. It is about the struggles of Novella Carpenter, the lady in the video from a couple of weeks ago......... http://www.naturalnews.com/031998_Oakland_urban_gardening.html

April 8, 2011 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Spudknit said...

I am so on the fence about the rabbits. I have angoras that are wonderful and give me amazing fiber to spin and knit and I want to be able to also have meat rabbits but my husband refuses to be the one to kill them and I have no idea. I am not squemish about butchering any other animal but I have never had rabbits in the meat category before. How do I get over this? And if you have the time, what is the "best" way to butcher them?

April 8, 2011 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

I spent my teen years in the mtns of NC. I was at a neighbor's house one evening & they offered me fried rabbit. I tried it and found it delish. At 2 in the morning though, I got awfully sick and unfortunately that association has stuck, kinda like the first alcohol one got really drunk on. (Cold Duck for me--*shudder*)

April 8, 2011 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Sonja said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your little chicken. It's so sad when that happens. One of our favorite girls from the original flock recently passed unexpectedly. It's never easy.

You've gotten me interested in rabbits. I have a hutch out near my chicken coop. I had used it for bobwhite quail until they killed each other. Can angoras live outside or are they better off indoors.

April 8, 2011 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger sgtgriffsgirl said...

We have both meat and fiber rabbits. We have 2 angora does and 1 angora buck. For meat we have 2 californian doea and a New Zealand buck. As I type here in the office is one of the does with her 2 week old litter. It will be hard to eat them since they are growing up here in the house and are so cute! I am always posting pictures of them on my blog. If our angoras are pregnant, they will deliver this week. Their cages are stuffed with straw for nests! Love reading about your adventures Jenna!

April 8, 2011 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Sorry to hear about the chicken Jenna. :-( But at least she died knowing in her little chicken heart that someone cared. Sometimes it sucks being a grown-up but that's part of the game.

I'm not sure I could raise meat rabbits yet, but that may change. Just a few years ago I was one of those "the stuff from the store comes from the Meat Fairy, yeah that's it" types, but I'm working on it. Baby steps, right?

April 8, 2011 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

Hmm, rabbits might work for me. My town has a bylaw about chickens, but I'll have to check and see if rabbits might be workable.

April 8, 2011 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I love love love rabbit. I wish they weren't so unusual here which I think makes them all the more expensive. You're right, they should be a great source of meat since they , ahem, breed like rabbits. (Sorry). I do know a lot of people are put off by the idea of Thumper as you say, and I know people keep them as pets which also doesn't help. I have heard they scream when they are processed though?

April 8, 2011 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger karental said...

I haven't eaten rabbit in years. I'm not against it, though. I wonder how they are on cholesterol. Since Mr. Tal had his bypass we are being very careful. Off to check the web!

April 8, 2011 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger karental said...

Part II -

Turns out a study by Alabama A &M finds rabbit "contains far less cholesterol than turkey, chicken, pork or beef" and "has lesser fat content." From http://rabbitminifarm.com/?p=88. Now I'm off to find a local supplier!

April 8, 2011 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

Sara - The only method I've tried (and done all by myself even) is a broomstick layed across their necks. Put your feet on it, pull their back legs up, and snap, they're pretty much dead. I still get a little sick over doing it myself, but I never had to do any of this growing up. The first rabbit I processed entirely myself was my first animal ever that I killed and dressed. I almost passed out! But from then on it hasn't been quite so bad. I'm just not used to killing things. At any rate, it's quick. Rabbits usually only scream if they're injured badly, so if you kill them on the first try they'll probably go silently. Of course there's always going to be the random flopping like with anything that dies, so be prepared for that. :/

As long as I treat them as my pets until they day they go, I'm okay with having bunnies for dinner. It makes me feel better thinking that they had a good life I suppose.

April 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

Karen - try goat as well! It's better for you than chicken in most categories, and it has a nice mild flavor unless it comes from a buck. Truthfully the flavor from a buck is just stronger than the flavor from a doe or wether, but the taste of the meat is sort of a cross between beef and venison without the in your face sort of gamey-ness.

April 8, 2011 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Spudknit said...

Can anyone point me to Jenna's post about dispatching the rabbits? Somehow I missed that one.

April 8, 2011 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Too bad about the pullet, Jenna, but you gave it a good try.

I have only tentative plans for rabbits, which I think a great backyard meat resource. (And I think anybody should be able to keep them, as long as they keep their real purpose under the radar.)

But I won't do rabbits until I know I can dispatch a hen without a problem, by which I mean getting over the whole killing thing. If I can't do it, then I might have to become a vegetarian, much as I love meat. I'm just getting to the point where I think if you want to eat meat, you have to have a hand in getting it for yourself somehow, because as Sharon kind of put it, meat doesn't come from the Meat Fairy at the grocery store. Something has to die, and somebody has to make it die, and I'm starting to feel like a hypocrite by eating meat but not having a hand in raising or killing it.

I think I could do it, and I think I'll feel bad about it, but I also think that if you don't feel bad every time you butcher an animal for food, you should probably not be butchering animals.

April 8, 2011 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

And maybe you shouldn't be eating them either.

April 8, 2011 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

We started raising Californians and New Zealands for DDs 4-H project. And, when she got out of that we kept them for ourselves. We can get 8-10 per litter and fill the freezer with just 2 does. In my book they are a must have for home meat production. And, if we have too many, people around here will pay $20 a piece for all I can raise. Sometimes I raise a litter just to sell.

April 8, 2011 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

We have something of a love-hate relationship with rabbit raising. I adore them as a stock animal. They're delicious, easy to keep, easy to butcher, inexpensive, quiet. Basically perfect. However, we have found it SO difficult to keep them in our climate. It's just so hot here for most of the year. Sometimes we can't keep them cool enough no matter what we do, and as long as it's over 85 or 90, they won't breed (which it is for a solid 6 months). It's complicated. :(

@Paula - I agree that if one wants to eat meat, one should certainly be willing to have a hand in the process, but I don't think it's necessary to feel bad about it. Grateful, yes. Bad, no.

April 8, 2011 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Donna Lovesthe Farm said...

I am with the others that worry about the killing process. I had bunnies as pets as a kid and I worry about hurting them. The only animal I have ever killed was a chicken that had a broken leg. I want to be more logical about it, does it get easier with practice?

April 8, 2011 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger cindycolombo said...

We started raising meat rabbits last year. We are stuck in town due to where I have to live for my job so chickens, bees and rabbits are the extent of what we are allowed.

I think I would do rabbits even if we were able to live in the country though. Slow cooked rabbit in red wine with root veg. Nothing like it!

April 8, 2011 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger cindycolombo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 8, 2011 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

In essence, it does get easier with practice. The more you do it, the greater confidence you build. The first couple animals you ever kill are undoubtedly the hardest you'll ever do, and admittedly rabbits do have a fermented grassy smell when you open them up. But they're so prolific it's almost a shame for a meat eater to not have at least a pair to supplement their grocery store purchase or their garden's produce. They make great fertilizer too, and if you grow grass/hay for them in a corner they can be fed that instead of the pelleted feed just fine. Processing is simple too, as with pretty much any animal it's just get the skin off, take the innards out (without breaking obviously), wash it up, and then part it out or leave it whole.

April 8, 2011 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

As for the emotional side of it, yes, it will be hard. If you get attached to them I'd suggest not forcing yourself to eat them, that will probably only serve to make it harder. As long as you keep in the back of your mind that they will ultimately end up on a plate, it makes it easier to deal with - as with pretty much any other animal destined for food.

April 8, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Jenna,
I would be happy to sell you a breeding pair or trio of Silver Fox rabbits. I have 5 kits, unsexed, now who will be 8 weeks on May 1. Next Saturday, I will be bringing an outside buck home from the show to breed 3 of my does. From those breedings I should be able to come up with a couple of doe kits and get an unrelated buck for you. Because there are so few SF breeders in Maine we are having trouble enlarging the gene pool. If all you want to do is raise meat it doesn't really matter but if you want to go further than that not breeding too tight is good.

April 8, 2011 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Can you email me about it?

jenna@itsafarwalk.com

April 8, 2011 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Kasha said...

Darn...I was hoping she would have made it. At least you did your best to save her.

April 8, 2011 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Christine Izzo said...

Rabbits are awesome! I have French angoras for wool and meat.

April 8, 2011 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger frakier said...

With the chicken what you describe I have seen before when I was a kid. Apparently it happened often enough my grandfathers had a name for it, something off the wall that I cannot remember the name anymore, sounded like "the drops".
If a chicken started showing signs my grandfather would put the chicken down and destroy the remains (burn and bury).
When it happened it always seemed to be in the spring, he always said leaving the chicken with the rest of the chickens could wipe out the whole flock.
I tried to save a couple and it seemed giving them water made it worse, one old timer told me to give them some fresh green, but that did not seem to work either.
Like you said, cannot win em all.

April 9, 2011 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Jessica McFarland said...

I'm a baby homesteader hopeful... just an herb garden last year, but this year we're going full on vegetable and hope by next to start with rabbits (we're still in the city.) I mentioned the rabbits to my family and they were completely scandalized... but I'm interested in tips and LOVE your blog!

April 9, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Tara,
Regarding raising rabbits in the heat. I am in California where is get over 100 degrees for several weeks. I have a mist system that cools the runs when it gets in the 90's it is on a timer and goes off for short times or I set it for longer depending the forecast.
When is is higher then 95 I freeze 1 gallon water bottles and add then to each pen right before the heat of the day about 1:00 PM. It lasts for the heat of the day and they have learned to lay next to the ice. One even climbs on top and perches over it her name is Smarty. I have a second batch of ice bottles I rotate for the next day because it takes a while to freeze solid. I also add fans that keep the air moving. It is a lot of extra steps but it is worth keeping them comfortable. I do not breed in the heat and have to wait for the fall. Hope that helps.
Rosann

April 9, 2011 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Thanks Rosann - we've done the frozen 2 liter bottle thing, and they last for about an hour. We get temps in the 90-105 range for months at a time, and um, all day long. It doesn't cool down here at night in the summer (nights in the upper 80's are common) so it's actually too hot here all the time for the bottles to last. We are considering a mister for the very hottest days. Honestly, we've had the best luck keeping them in small groups in movable tractors outdoors on the grass, and always in the shade. They get a nice breeze, so it's actually cooler for them outside than in the barn. I just have a hard time keeping an animal that's totally unproductive for a full six months of the year (even as easy as rabbits are). We haven't written it off quite yet, though. :)

April 9, 2011 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

In response to Tara. In the cold little sunlight climates we have a hard time getting the buns to breed in the winter. I've had snow on the ground for 6 months now but I finally got a litter of buns March 4.
You'll laugh at this but when it gets hot, 85+, our buns also won't breed successfully. Who said breeds like rabbits?

April 9, 2011 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Almost the exact same thing happened to me last week. The poor girl was simply "failing to thrive." Refusing to eat or drink, about half the size of her coop-mates, sleeping constantly. Rather than let her die and risk the other chicks eating her, or possibly spreading disease to the other chicks, I performed a coup de grace. I knew it was time when I picked up, turned her on her back, and she allowed her neck to relax all the way. She was weak and tired and on her way out...there is a better place for her than in that body.

April 9, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I'm excited that you're getting back into rabbits, because I read your blog all the time and I also am just about to get some rabbits! The cages are here, the planning is sturdy, the setup is under way, and inchallah I will have bunnies by the end of the month, so it's great to have another resource - another story to compare to. I hope to hear a lot about them.
I have a lead on some Silver Foxes, or possibly American Blues, but if those fall through I'm going to the feed store and getting some mutts for the time being.

April 10, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
OpenID clemscritters said...

Rosie, so glad to hear of another American Chin breeder! I am in North Carolina (formerly of NY) and raise American Chins for meat, show and breeding stock, and French Angoras for all of the above plus fiber! I make it my mission to get more chin breeders going! Rabbits are, by far, the most versatile livestock we have..... good luck! If you want some quality American Chin stock, we can work out a barter, I'm sure... deb

April 11, 2011 at 7:01 AM  

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