Homesteading in the 'burbs

Why bunnies as pets?

I have always loved bunnies. There’s a tape of me when I was 5 or 6 and I’m being interviewed (it was one of those ‘lost kids’ programs) and the guy is asking me what types of things I like
and I end the sentence with “and bunnies” in the cutest voice ever.

Because of my experience and great love of these animals (which you can read more of below) I plan on selling juniors for pets to families who want a rabbit for a younger child who, like me, is enamoured with these wonderful critters.
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But you love bunnies?!?

Actually, the first person I had to field this question from was my daughter… Does that make me a bad parent? I don’t think so.  My daughter is going to know where her food comes from if it kills me (lol).  If she had grown up on a farm, she would have already dealt with this faucet of life.  When she put the question in the scope of ‘how can I kill rabbits if I love them?’ This is where the conversation turned a bit tricky.

I had to put the framework in rather harsh terms, which definitely sounded cruel but I have the agriculture background. Fortunately my daughter has grown up with me so we have “adult” conversations all the time.  I know where commercial meat comes from.  I’ve seen the hells and horrors that our store-bought meat does through and I feel that by growing my own meat I can know that my food was treated with dignity and slaughtered humanely.  I also refuse to think that a cow or chicken is more worthy of the table because I don’t have one in my home to cuddle with.  Cows are smart, beautiful creatures and any argument based on not eating “pets” falls victim to a fallacy of logic that is ridiculous.

I believe that it is within the natural order for some animals to become food for other animals.  In the wild, the hunting and eating of animals builds stronger habitats and stronger animal populations (for both eater and eatee). Hunting is such an effective form of wildlife and wild-area management that most (probably all, but I’m not fact checking this right now) states utilize hunting as part of successful management plans.

If you don’t want to eat meat and you maintain a vegetarian, vegan, or other (fish/egg/dairy vegetarians) then good for you!  That takes a lot of work and dedication to plan your nutrition and I applaud the work that you do!  At the same time, I value meat as part of my diet and I work hard too.  I work hard so that I know not only where my meat comes from, but how it was raised and slaughtered.   Read the rest of this entry »

I want to state that I understand the efficiencies and savings of making sure you’re not feeding more than you have to and reducing the number of things to care for… but I’ll admit that this is a fault I’m pretty okay with in our operation.  When we started to raise rabbits with a purpose, we already had a rather-sizable group of companion rabbits.  (One of whom is the below-pictured ‘mommy to the rescue’ Mollie.)  When we started there was the Brat Pack and our friend’s retired breeding doe – one of the VERY FEW that he actually has/had any sentimental attachment to.  Even our breeding stock – 2 of our does are my friend’s foundation does (and probably the only 2 other rabbits he has any sentimental attachment to).  While we were getting rabbits from him regularly, we ended up with Rorschach (Rory) who was a skinny, puny thing to begin with; MJ squared (Jay-Jay) who is one of Mollie’s grand daughters, her mother is called MJ (Mollie, Jr.); and Sexy Times who we spared because he is a pretty awesome buck.  Rory isn’t a mini-satin and we were pretty sure he wouldn’t make it (because he was all skin and bones) but, despite the fact that my friend expected me to dispatch this 30-pound personality in a pitiful skin sack, we couldn’t kill a rabbit just to kill it… he had absolutely no meat or fur value.  He now pals around in a pod with our 2 biggest brats.  Our other 2 brats were loners but little Simon (who is sweeter than sugar to people) is an aggressive little bastard to the other rabbits after being viciously picked on by the rest of our herd when he was still so little.  Seriously, he needed stitches 3 times (but is so sweet that he laid still and quiet while I stitched him, then gave me kisses afterwards).  He absolutely fell in love with Jay-Jay (who, like her mother is tiny) and so Simon gets to keep his girlfriend.

So what I’m saying is that while creating a breeding herd, our permanent herd grew from 5 to 7.  This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in terms of efficiency of a farming operation.  However, this inefficiency has led to this:

If I had not kept Mollie, I’d have no additional doe to help manage the 12 kits that now need to be fed by 1 doe (who only gave birth to 4 of the 12… that is asking a bit much.)

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Doe Doh’s

I really wanted to title this ‘Bitches be Crazy’ but… Well, there you are. Big Bertha decided last night that she was going to get all hostile and attack the hand that feeds her. No biggie, brood does oft have temperament… inconsistencies. But this morning she was attacking the kits (some of whom managed to escape straight into the buck’s cage). I had wanted to set up my blog a bit more before I got into troubleshooting but I guess nothing is perfect and this is a good time to cover the issues as they happen.

This morning I moved the remaining 4 black babies into Genny’s cage. She was already fostering 1 of BB’s kits so now she had 10. The remaining 2 I put in with a retired doe who promptly nested them, cleaned them, then kept them warm. Mollie is such a good momma.

After BB had some time to herself, we put Ol’ Sexy Times in with her to re-breed her. I’m going to give her a few more hours solo then I’ll try putting 7 of her kits back in with her.

BB is usually an outstanding momma but we have moved her from her normal environment (outdoor, medium breeding cage, surrounded by several other does/litters) and brought her inside. Now there’s climate control, the buck is 2 cages down (she can smell him) and there are 3 pods of non-bedding rabbits along with all the different daily interactions of people/rabbits both direct and indirect.

BB was ‘in the position’ before I got ST all the way into her cage. Fortunately she is in great condition (she burns less calories in her current living situation so she’s actually a little more plump than she would normally be 2 weeks after kindling) and the kits are all plump (@ 2.5 weeks, thankfully). I’m hoping she’ll resume care of the kits as I’d like to keep the kits with their mother till at least 4 weeks.

Rabbits are smart animals and as such they have moods and quirks and they are sometimes frustrating… But they make great additions to a small (or urban) homesteading operation because they are compact, efficient users of groceries, and normally low maintenance. Still, things like this do happen and they can throw a newbie through a loop. Normally the best way to start in rabbit being is to:
1) Obtain experienced does
2) Breed at least 2 together so you can foster if necessary
3) Give them a week in their new digs before breeding

But sometimes, even when you follow all those steps; problems still crop up. That’s why you also will need 4) An experienced breeder ‘on call’ for stuff like this.

Step 1: Rabbits

Okay, that may be misleading. I think our first step to this foray of madness is mostly my fault. Two years ago I took a hunting and firearms safety course. Then at the start of this year I bought a handgun. Then a camo-hunting rifle. Then a 12 gauge shotgun. Then a hunting license. That may have been a bit backwards…

What does that have to do with homesteading and raising rabbits? Nothing. But it does mark the point where apocalypse themes went from zombie video games to wtf at we going to do when the idiots “in charge” tip this country off the rails and straight into the literal crapper (or, more likely, a forecast of snow drives every Kentuckian to clean out every store of bread, milk, beer, and toilet paper).

So I’m already the crazy, gun-toting, survivalist my mother always feared, can’t really shock her any further…
Let’s eat bunnies!

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Starting a homestead…

So as we round out 5 years in our home we know that we love our house and do not wish to move.  We also know that we want to provide more for ourselves.  Two years ago I started a small garden in our front yard (right under our front windows) to grow romaine, parsley, cabbage, oregano, red chard, and other nibbles and herbs for ourselves and our “herd” of pet rabbits.  Over the last 3 years we went from 2 rabbits to 5 and thought, why not have more?  So, being crazy bunny people also concerned with providing our ourselves we took the next (logical? … no, that is definitely the wrong word) step and started a breeding herd.  We also learned that a group of bunnehs is called a “fluffle.”  Which is awesome.

So here we are now with a pet herd of 7, 4 breeders (3 does, 1 buck), and a room full of cute.  Our rabbits live indoors but we take them outside to play and they have an entire room for themselves so everybody gets exercise.  So here I sit – 11 rabbits and 12 kits “richer” – and look ahead to our next step.  I’m not sure what our destination will be, but I think we’ll enjoy the ride.

-Casey