A choice a little less obvious for working pets than chickens is rabbits. Before ya’ll get all squeamish about the idea of eating a pet’s babies, hear me out. I swear as a former vegetarian it’s more good news than bad.
Before Ben first suggested getting breeding rabbits, we were looking (as always) for new and exciting recipes. We tried our hand at rabbit cacciatore.
It was delicious; and the seed was planted.
Ben sat on the idea for months. Doing his research on their needs, their maintenance, and where to get them. Turns out they are about as much work as indoor cats. Our rabbits eat a combination of hay and grass pellets. They each have their own homes called hutches, and we are currently waiting until the snow melts on the ground before we can make them something like the chicken run, so they can run around on their own.
After weeks of research, one fine evening I came home to, “I got rabbits.” Turns out there is a breeder in Annapolis that had a good line of American blue rabbits. So, we started a new project: The Rabbit Hutch. About an hour of “planning” (which was out the window once we started), two or three late nights, and three trips to Home Depot later…
Then, while I was away at work, Ben went to Annapolis and picked up two grey buns. He picked up two not so little girls. These rabbits would be our pets. We wouldn’t eat them, and could love and care for them like the cats.
To the left is Rosemary, and the right is Tore, as in cacciatore.
Tore was the first to be held. She’s such a cutie-pie with her fuzzy feets.
Craigslist to the rescue again for two more rabbit hutches, and our [temporary] rabbit village is complete!
There were things we kept in mind with each hutch. First, that it was made from wood and metal and not plastic, and that there was a fully enclosed space in each hutch. The enclosed part will protect them against the elements when it gets below freezing, and the open area would allow them to cool down in the summer heat. Though, the heat is more of a problem for these rabbits, which were breed to withstand cold temps (hence the features like the fuzzy feet). Cleanability was another consideration. Tore’s hutch has two doors, Rosey’s has three doors and a top that hinges, and the third hutch we got has a tray on the bottom as well as a hinged door on the top.
After a new litter was born at the Crabtown Rabbitry, we got to go pick up Stew!
Stew is our buck and will have Tore and Rosey as his lady friends (what a lucky fella). He is the cuddliest of the three and actually likes being held and petted.
Soon, we will be able to put them together and breed some rabbits!
Now onto the Why:
Well, rabbit is delicious for one. We wouldn’t go through the trouble if we didn’t like eating rabbit. For another reason, rabbit is actually a very healthy meat as they go. It is a lean meat with a good amino acid score and errs on the side of anti-inflammatory.
Also, rabbit is pretty darn sustainable. When I was a vegetarian, I was in it for environmental reasons. I loved animals but it turns out, I loved my health more, and found my way back to meat and away from grains, but I digress. Rabbits reproduce, like, well… rabbits. They need relatively cheap feed to produce a high quality meat in large quantity. With the two does, assuming they will have one month pregnant, one month nursing, and one month off (which we have seen in other rabbitries and both agree that the rabbits were healthy and happy at that rate) we will get around 8 litters with about 8 babies at about 5 1/2 pounds each when grown, will yield about 350 pounds of meat a year.
What’s even better about this meat is there is no transportation (besides getting their yearly supply of hay and monthly-ish supply of pellets), no hormones or additives, and I know exactly how each and every rabbit is treated. Even small rabbit farms or meat farms in general can’t be sure every animal gets their daily cuddling, but I can. And furthermore, I can promise to try and find a good use for every bit the rabbits give us! Once we get the rabbit run built in the spring, the rabbits will even get their share of running around outside; right now they get to run around the basement every so often.
Plus, the kittehs will get a special treat every once and a while, and I’ll have to try organ meats at least once.
All and all, I’m super excited to have some new pets to play with, let Stewbie do his thing with his lady friends, and most importantly have me some more rabbit cacciatore!