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First of all, I would like to apologize for my absence last week. I had the best of intentions to post a new challenge every week as part of the #SelfRelianceChallenge, but life kinda got in the way. My son (my baby!) got married over the weekend on our little farm, so we had lots of prep work to do! Now that things are somewhat back to normal, it’s back to the Challenge! I hope to make it up and do another post, for Challenge #3, later this week. Stay tuned!
This week, for my Challenge to you, is to think about and consider raising a more sustainable protein source. If you already raise some of your own protein, that’s awesome! I want each of you to take it one step further and decide on something new to raise. With spring in full force for most of us, it’s a perfect time to add another element to your self reliance plan.
We added a new protein source for our homestead a couple of weeks ago. It is one of the most sustainable meat sources available. Can you guess what it is?
I know there are some sensitive people out there (I am normally one of those people, just trying to “toughen up” for the greater good!) that wouldn’t consider raising cute, fluffy little bunnies to eat. I will admit right now, butchering time may be difficult for me. But I also know that meat rabbits are so efficient at providing a family with lots of healthy meat, that it would be a shame to let the cuteness factor deter me. Luckily the hubs isn’t squeamish about dispatching and butchering animals.
Now remember, this is new territory for us and I’m by no means an expert! But I have done lots of homework and research. If you have tips and suggestions for me, I would love to hear them as well!
Meat rabbits are a great way to increase your self reliance. Here, I detail 8 reasons why everyone should consider raising meat rabbits.
1: They don’t take up a lot of space. Rabbits are perfect for the small homesteader. They don’t take up much space and can be raised on a small lot in a subdivision. I have even heard of people in apartments raising meat rabbits! Rabbits only need about 9-12 square feet of space. Wire hutches can be hung on the wall of a barn or garage, or you can build a rabbit tractor to move around the yard. So even if you are limited on space, meat rabbits can be a viable source of meat for your family.
2: They are easy to care for. You can find all sorts of expensive self-watering systems and feeders, however, even without these luxuries, rabbits don’t take a lot of time or energy to care for. Wire bottom cages allow poop, food, and soiled bedding to fall through so there is fairly little cleanup. In fact, you can put a tub underneath the cages to catch the manure for easy disposal, or use in the garden. Some people even put tubs under their rabbit cages to catch the droppings and grow a nice little worm farm.
3: They are inexpensive to feed. Rabbits are 4 times more effective than beef cattle at converting feed to protein. They only need a tuna-can size serving of pellets each day, and supplement with alfalfa or clover. They can also be given weeds from when you weed your garden, and vegetable scraps. You can even grow fodder for them for even less expense! I experimented with a DIY fodder system last winter, and will definitely be doing it again this year. Growing fodder results in higher feed volumes than just the grain itself, in fact about 3-4 times more volume! That means lower feed bills and more efficient meat production.
4: They produce high-protein, low-fat meat. Rabbit is a very healthy, lean, almost cholesterol free white meat. It tastes like chicken, and can be prepared in the same way. If you have had wild rabbit but not domestic rabbit, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Please don’t judge the taste and texture of the domestic rabbit by the stringy, gamey meat of the wild rabbit. Domestic rabbit is sweet and tender, and very good for you.
5: They produce lots of manure. Each adult rabbit produces approximately 50 pounds of manure per year. While this may not be desirable for some people, gardeners love it! Rabbit manure is excellent for gardens. It doesn’t need to be composted prior to use in the garden, and it has higher nitrogen than most other livestock manure.
6: They have beautiful pelts. Rabbits have lovely pelts that you can tan and use for crafts. Most homesteaders like to find a use for everything and not waste the bounty that we grow. Tanning the hides is one way to use up nearly all of the animal. Tanning takes time but it’s fairly easy. And you can sell the hides for profit or, if you can sew, you can turn them into lovely winter items like blankets, hats, or slippers. This is another skill that I am determined to learn this year. Waste not, want not!
7: They are prolific breeders. Rabbits breed like, well, like rabbits! Does ovulate by stimulation, so the act of breeding actually puts them into heat. A healthy doe can get pregnant right after kindling (giving birth), and the gestation period is only 30 days. Most rabbits have 6-10 kits (babies) per litter. Most breeders breed their does 4-6 times a year. That’s 24-60 babies every year! Most people find that a breeding trio (a buck and 2 does) provides plenty of meat for their family.
8: They grow very fast. Most meat rabbits are ready for butchering when they are 10-12 weeks old, with some hybrid breeds being ready as early as 8 weeks old. Meat breed rabbits will typically weigh 4-5 pounds at 8-10 weeks, with about 60% of that weight being meat. With the numbers above, one buck and one doe can produce up to 240 pounds of meat for your table! So with the “average” family having a breeding trio, that’s 480 pounds per year!
Raising meat rabbits is one of the most cost- and time-effective ways to become more self reliant. I am so happy that we got ours. We are looking forward to a nice stocked freezer! What kind of protein do you raise?