Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hopping Into A New Adventure (Raising Meat Part 1)

Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
Genesis 9:3

Raising meat part 1 of 3

I have been thinking and praying long and hard for quite a while now about getting some meat rabbits. At least a year to be more exact.  It wasn't a matter of could I raise rabbits? I have raised rabbits off and on over the years since I was a child in 4-H. It was the hard fact of killing rabbits- young rabbits, that I didn't know if I could handle.

The more I have learned about store bought meat. The more I know I don't want to eat it anymore. I am absolutely disgusted by the way the animals are housed, fed and handled. I have learned that you can't even necessarily trust organically raised meat. You must ask lots of questions. Just one example. Many years back, after my mom got into raising chickens we were at a store where she was looking at some oregano oil. I asked her what she was interested in the oil for, and she told me about how the local organic chicken farmer was putting it in their chickens water to prevent them from getting sick. I looked at her shocked! From my knowledge in herbs I know that oregano oil has very strong antibiotic properties. So basically because it is an organic product, you can raise your animals on antibiotics their entire lives and still sell them as organic. Some people might say Well whats the big deal?. Antibiotics affect the animals bodies ability to make vitamin B-12. So if the animal cannot make vitamin B-12, its not going to be in their meat that you are consuming. Please correct me on this if I am wrong.

So back to the killing part. After thinking and praying on it long and hard. I do believe that I can. Of course its not something I'm going to enjoy doing, but its just one of those things that is going to have to be done if I want to know where my food is coming from. If you asked me 10 years ago when I started raising goats if I would dis-bud a baby goat? I would have told you never (I used to think it was a horribly cruel thing to do to an animal). Yet this year my mom and I dis-budded our entire batch of horned kids (probably 15 or more), and it didn't bother me anymore, but I had prayed about it for a year after this dis-budding experience a couple years ago. 

So then I had to make the decision of what breed of meat rabbit to raise. I've never liked Californian's, and New Zealand's  are also plain. Flemish are too big, more like feeding a dog. I decided on the Standard Rex. I have always loved Rex rabbits fur. They have a coat that is just like velvet, and they come in all different colors. So you always have a variety to look at, not just a bunch of plain white rabbits. The other thing I learned when reading about meat rabbits is that all the common meat breeds are right around the same size at the same butchering age. So whether your breeders you are feeding are Flemish Giants (that can weigh 20 lbs.) or Rex rabbits (that weigh around 8 lbs.) You will end up with approximately the same size fryer. So the larger breeds cost a lot more to feed and take longer to reach sexual maturity.
The one problem with STANDARD Rex is they are hard to find. Everyone has the mini's. I found an ad for someone selling their Standard Rex rabbits due to moving. I loaded up 3 small animal crates in the car, and my mom and I made the trip. The couple and their children were extremely nice, and they also raised the rabbits for meat and fur, but were moving into a subdivision. I was a little worried that they only raised them for pets, and would ask me what I was wanting to raises them for. So I was relieved when we got there and the husband was saying what good meat they are.

I had planned to get 2 or 3 does depending on what was available, but I got the 3 does picked out when the wife said that for $75 we could take all the rabbits we want and she would give us two new cages to take them home in, since I didn't come prepared for that many animals. Wow! I was blown away. I looked at my Mom and she was like "OK". The woman just wanted us to take them all, as she had been getting a lot of responses to her ad that were scaring her. So she really didn't want to deal with having anyone else come out to their place. So her husband and kids immediately gathered up two cages and got them cleaned up to put in our car and loaded up their two does with each ones babies, and I picked out a gorgeous 13 week old buck, and loaded up the rest of the young does into my carriers. Whatever we left behind the husband was going to be butchering that evening, so we took the does and left them with the rest of the 13 week old bucks. I'm sure they made a lovely meal that night, and the rabbits were out grazing on the lawn, so they had a nice last meal also. Before we left she even gave me the bag of rabbit food, since they weren't going to need it, and also the crates she bought for nest boxes.

She said she picked these storage containers up at Walmart to use for nest boxes, and they worked great and clean out easily too. Unlike conventional nest boxes that you have to replace the soiled wood bottom all the time.

My mom and I left in shock of what a blessing we had just received. We actually didn't even know how many rabbits we had in our car till we got home and my dad counted them all after we unloaded them. 17! Then I took the buck out of the carrier for my dad to pet. His reply "That's the softest rabbit I have ever felt!" With a look of surprise.

I didn't want to keep these rabbits in tiny little cages, so we put some in these big parrot aviaries. I will probably have to make some changes to prevent them from digging out (some rabbits are diggers and some aren't. It just depends on the animal.) I want them to have the nicest housing possible were they can get plenty of exercise. One of the problems with the Rex breeds are that they don't have as thick of fur on their feet as normal rabbits, because their hair is shorter. This can result in sore hocks if the rabbit spends to much time on wire. Another reason why I preferred to put them on the ground. One of the does did have sore hocks when we got her, so I have started putting some herbal salve on her feet, and hopefully she will heal up nicely.

This is the doe with the sore hocks. She has a very sweet temperament, and didn't give me any problems with putting salve on her sore feet. I sure wouldn't want to sit still for someone to mess with my feet if they looked like hers. (I don't want it to sound as though she was miss treated though. The people had obviously recognized the problem, because they had moved her to the ground. I just didn't feel a need to ask them about it, since I saw it and new what it was and that this is an issue with this breed.)

 This is actually my favorite color. Castor.

 Some babies.

 The other litter of babies in a aviary my mom never finished building. Bonus for the rabbits!

 Lets not get into the benefits of rabbit manure to the garden, but there will be a lot of that around here. My brother already has a request in for his garden.

 This is the gorgeous opal (Edit: I have since learned that he is a blue otter) buck I picked out. I will probably find a different buck later on, because this one is related, and I have noticed that the two adult does aren't as big as they should be. This could be due to being bred before they finished growing, at least that's what I'm hoping. So I think I will find a really big buck to breed up there size.



Harry Flashman said...

This will be our secret. I got rabbits once, but they were so trusting that I couldn't kill them.

An At Home Daughter said...

Why doesn't that surprise me? Your such a softy ; )

Anne said...

Hey Kimberly

I am glad to hear that you start raising meat animals - and I am curious and delighted to learn about your journey.
Re: Oregano though, you can relax a little. The effects of oregano oil are in no way comparable to the ones of antibiotics. I guess, it's more of a psychological effect for the chicken owner. (However, I agree with you that nobody should feed their chicken "medicine" on a daily basis without a sick chicken - even when the medicine does not actually work)

A.N King said...

Hi there! How are the rabbits does? Your buck is so handsome, I can not wait to see more of his kits.

An At Home Daughter said...

A.N. King~
The rabbits have been doing great. We did manage to find another buck, so now we have one to use that's unrelated, and looks identical in color too, but he is to young to breed, and its quite hot right now (95-110 degrees) for kits. I know I need to do another post, things have just been so busy around here. Hopefully I will get a new post up soon.

Leigh said...

Kimberly, what a great post. You are so right that once we start living with animals, things we found distasteful (like disbudding) are seen in a different light. What a blessing about the rabbits! Are you going to finish the series?

An At Home Daughter said...

Hi Leigh~
Thank you so much. Yes we certainly have been blessed. I do plan to finish the series. I just haven't gotten around to it. Hopefully I will get it done soon.