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Posts Tagged ‘pastured rabbits’

logoIt sure seems like my posts are getting further and further apart. You have my humblest apology for not keeping you better informed, but my silence has been due to many changes and perceived changes around here.

First, we thought we were moving across the country, but that didn’t happen. Still, I had shut down most of the operation in preparation for selling you, so there wasn’t much to write about.

Now, we are staying put here in NW Georgia, but we’ve gone through a rethink of all of our operations, and lifestyle. These changes will dramatically affect East of Eden Farms and Our Edible Suburb.

As for the farm, we are going back to subsistence farming/homesteading, which means a big reduction in livestock and garden. Over the next few months we’ll reduce our flock of chickens to less than a dozen and our rabbit herd to around 6.  The quail are still in the testing phase, so their future is uncertain. We plan to add a pair of dairy goats back in next spring, but only a pair. The pigs will all be processed this fall. We may add a feeder calf in the Spring, or we may just barter pasture land for meat. Stay tuned.

The garden is being transitioned into a testing and education space. I’ve become passionate about helping people feed themselves and want to create different kinds of experimental soil, hydroponic and hydroponic growing systems for observation and learning. I intend to develop some gardening coursed along the way. I’m especially interested in growing methods for developing countries that require minimal inputs yet produce maximum results.  Eliminating hunger and malnutrition matters to me. And doing so using methods that enhance the environment rather than destroy it also matters. So watch for more information on these subjects, too.

Because I hope to document my experiments on video, you should look for more of my updates to be found here and on my youtube channel, “Our Simple Sustainable Life”

Thanks again for not giving up on me. I’m looking forward to getting the fall garden in place. Let’s do this!

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American Chinchilla Rabbit

The days are getting shorter.  The nights are slowly cooling down.  I’m loving it.  In fact, I’m taking my morning coffee out to the front porch about 5:30 a.m. and enjoying the early morning cooler temperatures.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and here in Georgia we have long, very long autumns. It’s one of my favorite things about living here.

Fall is also the time of year we start looking ahead to next year.  We review what went well, what went poorly and what didn’t go at all. It’s the season in which we breed our goats, our cows and our rabbits.

Rabbits love this time of year, too.  From September through May they are in their element.  They thrive in cool and cold weather.  Their coats take on a warm, soft extra layer and their hormones kick into overdrive.  We begin our breeding program the first week of September. That’s sort of my unofficial start of autumn.

Rabbits hate summer. They don’t do well in the heat.  We try and keep them in shady locations where they can get any breezes that might blow and we put plastic jugs of ice in their crates to help keep their body temperatures down.  Despite those extra efforts, over the years we’ve lost some good rabbits and even entire litters of babies to heat stroke. So we rarely have any litters from late May till we breed again in September.

Sure, it impacts our profits, but Our Edible Suburb is about much more than profits. Animal welfare is one of our priorities, too. Each of our does will have a maximum of three litters a year. This way they remain healthier, are less stressed and we prolong both their breeding lives and their lives in general.

Besides, meat is only one of the reasons we raise rabbits. Their by-product is as important to our operation as is their meat. Rabbits produce copious quantities of the finest manure on earth.  It is high in nitrogen and trace minerals, but is not ‘hot’ like chicken manure so it doesn’t have to be composted.  When it IS composted it is the richest, most nutritious garden food you can imagine.  You can kick it up further by using it to feed red wiggler compost worms and let the worms convert it, or at least some of it, into worm castings.  Talk about a feast for your soil!

Even in the dead of winter, the middle of the pile is toasty warm and the wigglers will keep working. We keep our compost pile going year round, so that in the spring we can add a nice thick layer of the stuff to our raised beds.  Even the most inexperienced gardener can have success by using composted rabbit manure.

If you start in the fall, one or two rabbits will give you enough manure for a couple of raised beds by the time spring rolls around.  Unless you’re looking for pedigreed rabbits for showing, you can get a pair of rabbits very cheaply at your local small animal auction, from a local breeder, or even off of Craigslist.

If you’re planning to breed, mature bunnies will cost a bit more, but will pay for themselves in just a few months in either meat, manure or both. Since most does will produce 6 to 8 offspring in a litter that are ready to be processed by 12 weeks, it won’t take long to have your freezer full of nutritious protein, or have your compost heap filled to capacity.

We started with about 12 rabbits. We had a mixed bag of young and mature.  We grew out some of the young males for the table and kept all the young does along with a couple unrelated mature males.  That first winter we had rabbits everywhere. There were weeks we had multiple days with two or more litters arriving.  It was work, but it was also fun.  That next spring we had our best garden ever.

If you have a small space, or are not interested in meat, you could consider some of the dwarf rabbit varieties.  Some of them are really cute, make great pets and can be wonderful with

Dwarf Rabbits

children.  Despite their tiny size, they do a great job in the manure department.

Fall is upon us. If you’ve been thinking about adding rabbits to your farm or garden, now’s the time to get started. If you’ve got questions, please feel free to send them our way. We’d love to hear from you.

For those of you already raising rabbits, we’d like to hear from you, too. When did you get started and why? What has your experience been? Don’t be shy now.  You’re among friends.

 

 

 

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Regular readers know that I believe rabbits are Mother Nature’s secret weapon.  No other livestock, with the possible exception of the Nigerian Dwarf Goat, offers as much diversity and usefulness as the rabbit.

Rabbits of course are an outstanding source of protein.  They are low in cholesterol and fat, mild tasting and versatile.  Many doctors recommend rabbit for patients with heart issues.

For those so inclined, rabbit fur makes warm clothing and a very soft leather.

Rabbit manure is the best fertilizer available for gardeners.  It composts excellently, but can be used uncomposted.  The manure also makes outstanding food for worms in a vermicomposting operation.  Some aqua culturists are also using rabbit manure as fish feed.  Wow.

Oh, and before I forget, rabbits make great pets.  If handled regularly, they are cuddly, cute and quiet.

American Chinchilla rabbits are an American breed developed in the 1920s as a dual purpose meat and fur animal.  They are fairly large, with a good meat to bone ratio.  Their fur is renowned for its chinchilla rings.  During its heyday the American Chinchilla was enormously popular.

In recent years, with the decline in the fur market and the growth in popularity of the New Zealand White rabbit, the American Chinchilla nearly went extinct.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has listed it as Critical.

Brittan and I have been looking for this breed for nearly a year and a half and finally found some just up the road in North Georgia.  We are very excited to participate in the effort to save this outstanding breed from extinction.  We will be breeding purebred American Chinchillas to sell to pet and show homes and will be using the bucks to add hybrid vigor and size to our meat rabbit stock.

If you live in the area, please feel free to stop by and see these little beauties.  If you are not local, watch for photos to appear from time to time.

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After three nice days of rain, mist and drizzle, we are assessing the fall garden and all the animals.  Apart from being really muddy, because most of them refuse to go in a barn or shelter, all the livestock are doing well.  They thoroughly enjoyed the rain.  I think the pigs loved it most because it has given them some softer spots to do a little recreational rooting.  It’s time to start breeding rabbits and goats.

Shylo, our jennet donkey, is showing every sign of giving birth.  She is so big!  She seems to be ‘bagged up’ and ready to go.  She looks absolutely worn out from the pregnancy.  Brittan is thinking of sleeping out at the farm in order to be there if there are any problems.

The fall garden continues to mystify me.  Our pepper plants from summer just go on and on.  The peppers are smaller, but there are still plenty of them.  The fall crops that germinated are doing well, but there are just huge holes where nothing grew.  I’m seriously considering next year, just planting more stuff in the spring and saying to heck with a fall version.  Time will tell.

Apart from those tidbits, not much is happening.  We’re enjoying the break from all the 90 something weather we’ve had since May.

Have a great weekend everyone.

 

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Yikes!  My weekend disappeared.  I can’t find it.  I suspect it’s gone forever now.  Sigh.

Yes, it’s gone, but it was productive.  We got a lot of chores done including getting some watering and fertilizing in the garden.  We will spend evenings this week getting the rest of the garden planted.  At the very least, we’ll get the remaining tomatoes and peppers out.

On Saturday some future farm sitters came by to learn the ropes.  That was fun.  We had an excellent visit.  We have another pair coming this weekend.

Yesterday, after Church we raced through the feeding regime and headed up the road to Gainesville, GA to pick up some rabbits and see some Kiko Goats (More on them in a future post).  We made some new friends and came back with, oh, about 6 more rabbits than the two we intended to bring back.  With recent losses from predation and sickness, we needed some new breeding stock.  We are now back up to capacity.

The new rabbits also bring some color and fresh genetic diversity.  They are NZ/Californian hybrids.  The two does are black, while two others are spotted.  The hybrid vigor they bring is a real plus, while the color is a bonus.  This really helps us get the basis of building our own ‘breed’ as it were.  We are trying to create a large, meaty rabbit that also has the looks and personality for those who are seeking pets and breeding stock.

After getting the rabbits, we dashed over to the other side of Gainesville to visit a goat farm.  They specialize in Kiko goats.  Wow, what an eye opener.  How about 500 goats on 60 some acres to start with.  It was AWESOME.  I’ll tell you more later.  The short version is, we are working with the farmer to get some Kiko/Boer hybrids to start our own meat herd.

Well, look at that, not only is my weekend gone, but so is my morning.  I need to get ready for the office.  Shucks.

 

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Last evening when we went out to the farm to collect eggs and shut up the chickens for the night, we got a bit of an annoying surprise.  Oh, the chickens were fine.  As a matter of fact, none of them had escaped.  That’s pretty rare.  Usually I have twenty five or thirty following me (well, the feed bucket, really) to the chicken tractor.  Last night, though, everyone was close to home.

The surprise came when we went to check on the rabbits.  The babies are about 10 or 11 days old now, so B likes to check on them frequently since a few have started wandering and they need put back into the nest because they aren’t strong enough to hop back in.  Anyway, as we walked up the hill, we spotted one of the rabbits lounging outside her ranger.  She was still inside the perimeter netting, but definitely loose.  As we got closer, we discovered that all the rangers were open.  Also, there was a section of the netting that has been disturbed.  Someone had come in and opened every one of the top doors on the rabbit rangers.  Potentially, we could have lost every rabbit.  We don’t know whether it was a prank, or of someone thought they were agents of PETA and releasing all the rabbits back into the wild.  White rabbits running free are not, I repeat NOT safe.  They are targets for every predator that wanders by.

So, we had to get the trailer, load up all the rangers and rabbits and mover them to a different pasture.  Too bad, because they were on a great mix of grass, clover and blackberry brambles.  It was very frustrating, but it’s one of the hazards of being suburban farmers.  It’s way too easy for knuckleheads to find access.  Fortunately, none of the bunnies was hurt or lost.  Everyone was safely moved to a new neighborhood.

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Kindle

While out at the farm this morning, unloading feed and hay, Brittan flagged me down from the rabbit pasture and asked me to hurry down.  It seems that our rabbit does, Nibbles and Amber had kindled overnight.  It was a bit of good news, bad news.  Both girls had built beautiful nests.  Amber, though, had only had one kit and she killed it.  I won’t disturb you with the details, but she did and ever so effective job.  That’s two litters in a row she has rejected after building super nests and giving birth with no trouble.  That is not good at all.

Nibbles, on the other hand, has 6 warm, snug little bundles in the comfort of her nest box.  I checked on them just a few minutes ago and they are warm and wiggly, just as we would expect them to be.

It was Nibbles sister, Helen that was taken by a predator over the weekend.  We will likely keep a doe from this litter and name her Helen II.

I never get tired of new baby animals around here.

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