Sunday, May 10, 2015

Waising Wabbits Workshop

Meeting at Alden's Rabbitry, we learned how Alden and his dad raise rabbits as meat for their family and to sell as pets, breeding trios, or live for meat.
They use three different type bucks: New Zealand White, Satin, and Lop. First time does are usually bred to the New Zealand White because he predictably casts the biggest kindles and the fastest growing bunnies. However, for flavor and for delightfully soft hides, Alden prefers the Satins. .. especially prepared with his mom's creamy mustard sauce.
 We agreed that they are wonderful to cuddle.
 Each cage has a removable tray for catching the droppings. Alden and his dad empty the trays directly onto their garden every week, then hose them clean. Rabbit manure is not "hot" and won't burn the plants. However their urine is extremely concentrated and will bleach your clothes if you spill it on them.

Keeping a breeding trio for one year will produce about 150# of rabbit meat for less than $2 a pound That's three litters of 8 bunnies/doe, dressed out at 3# each at 9 weeks of age.

Rabbits need hay every day and pelleted rabbit food. Blue Seal Feeds sells it for $16/50#. Tractor Supply sells organic pellets for $12.50/10 pounds. Jacqui Gueft at / in Millbrook, NY bags organic rabbit feed and resells it almost at cost for $16/25 pounds. Call her at 845-677-9507 to have it delivered to / in Cornwall, CT if that's more convenient. You can feed them almost anything from your garden, but NO cabbage! Cabbage kills rabbits! Too many greens will give them the runs.
Rabbits don't tolerate heat or wind well. They also may not breed if they don't get enough light during the day. Put a doe in the buck's cage to breed and take her out as soon as he falls off or she'll likely tear him up. 33 days later she'll kindle. Put a nest box with steep sides and fresh hay into her pen approximately 26 days after her date with the buck. Right before she gives birth she'll pull hair from her chest/dewlap to make a soft nesting place in the hay in the nest box. Check in the box within three days to be sure there are no dead bunnies rotting in there. 9 weeks later you'll have rabbits ready to harvest.

Next, we went to Local Farm to harvest some rabbits we'd pre-purchased from Alden's Rabbitry. After a pot-luck lunch featuring Rabbit Pot-Pie, Margaret demonstrated and we learned to break the rabbits' necks using a broom handle to hold their heads in place. We were fortunate to find the killing went quickly and relatively humanely. We were also very thankful not to have set off the ear-piercing, heart-wrenching, nervous system vocal spasm that sometimes happens.
  Under the guidance of Margaret and Kate, we skinned and gutted the carcasses.
Margaret told us about her experience tanning rabbit hides and we left ours with her with possible plans to return to help her with that. We washed, cooled and bagged our fresh lapin and went home with plans of how we'd prepare it after thoroughly chilling it for 4 to 12 hours.
Visit fried-rabbit-recipe/ for how to cut up a rabbit and batter fry it. YUM!