Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Kindling, Kits, meat, Rabbits, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
My last post on December 14th showed Ruby, my New Zealand doe, getting ready to have kits. I was a little surprised, because by my math (a rabbit’s gestation period is about 31 days) she was about five days early.
We really try to care for our mommas when they kindle, usually by packing a really large box full of straw/hay, and taking them inside for regulated temperature. I took her in the day after she started kindling but the day came and went with no babies. And the next day. And the next. I had almost given up on her when Christmas eve morning I walked in to discover four tiny little rabbits. This was the smallest litter she had birthed, but they were all warm and well fed. Ruby had made a tight little nest, even though we found during her extended stay inside, that she could escape from her cage, and kept wandering about the birthing room (my office), leaving hair everywhere.
Ruby seemed more nervous than usual this time. Even before she birthed, she had quickly chewed her way through the box we had her in, and kept wandering the office. We’d place her back in the box, barricade the hole, and hope for the best, only to find her wandering the next time we came to check on her. She also seemed more nervous around the kits. This is her second litter (we’ve had a total of three at the Scott homestead), and she was a bit rough on the kits in my opinion. On Christmas day I came in to find that she had escaped once again, and that at some time during the night one of the kits had been separated from the rest, and was squished up against the side of the nesting box, dead.
At that point, I moved Ruby to a full-blown cage and transferred the nest to a shallow cardboard box lid. Ruby has cared for them fine in her new cage (even though she managed to escape a few more times). But I don’t like the cage. Rabbit kits are quickly mobile, and at three days they were already climbing the sides of the lid, falling over the edge to the cage floor, their little feet getting stuck between the holes of the cage. As of today (day 9), they are making the climb, but I’ve also seen them climb back over, managing strictly by feel and smell (?), since they are only today beginning to open their eyes.
These are by far the most active of the 15 kits we’ve raised. They twitch when you barely touch them, even to the point of a crude hop when you pick them up. If you’re not careful, they will jump out of your hand. And it seems they’ve inherited their mom’s disposition; If I was raising show rabbits or pets, Ruby would have been culled long ago. I still have to convince my boys that she’s worth keeping because of the size of her kits. She’s temperamental, she scratches, she bites. I have already been bitten by one of the babies, and so has my 15-year old son (since we handle them the most, we’re more likely to incur their wrath). Again – it makes butchering them a bit easier later, but in the mean time, I’m hoping they’ll chill out. I’ve always attributed Ruby’s nasty temper to the fact that she was kept isolated in a barn until we bought her, with very little human interaction. Our last litter of kits were held often, and turned out to be as sweet as any animal could be. It will be hard to cull them when the time comes.
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Butchering, Food To Table, Livestock, meat, Rabbits, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
Last Saturday we spent three hours butchering our first round of home-grown rabbits. Honestly, it took to long to get to this day. A combination of inconvenience (crazy busy summer), reluctance (what I call “cuddly bunny” syndrome), and inconvenience yet again (we had to find a Saturday when none of our neighbors were peering over the fence to see us cutting off animal heads), made us stretch this cycle out longer than we should have.
That being said, our six month old rabbits were large and plump, and much, much, heavier than they looked. Each rabbit probably weighed in at around five pounds.
I’m not sure what you would want me to say about the process. If you want a step-by-step on how we dressed the rabbits, I’d be glad to share. But if no one’s interested, I hate to waste the words. The only animals I’ve ever dressed were squirrels, and although it was similar, it was very different, especially the aspect of killing.
The killing was hard. What you need to know about me is that I’m a fainter. If I or any of my kids bleed, with even a busted lip, I’m down for the count. I’ve even been permanently banned from our local blood bank for passing out. So working up to this deed was hard. In addition, I truly am an animal lover, and always have been. But the reality is that we eat meat. Lots of meat. Someone is going to do the raising and killing of the animals I eat. I believe that as much as possible, I should be putting healthy food in my body, and the bodies of my family, and I should do my best to make sure the animals I eat are treated with respect and care through their lifetime. As someone put it (Joel Salatin?), give them a great life with only one (albeit really) bad day.
So before we began the process, I gathered the boys together and we prayed. We thanked God for the lives he had entrusted to us, for the food he was providing, and we told him that we hoped we had taken good care of the animals he had created. I explained to the boys that what we were doing was not sport – it was taking a life. Then we set to work.
I might note here that not everyone decided to participate. My oldest son who is 17 has stated emphatically from the beginning that he’d be glad to eat the rabbits, but not kill them. To my surprise, my wife joined us. We deeply needed her help, because she is the expert in carving meat, and isn’t the least bit squeamish. My 13 year old, who had been excited about the arrival of butchering day didn’t stay for even one rabbit. I think it unnerved him (though, I will confess, the rabbit he helped with was a messy affair). And my youngest, my 11 year old, eagerly participated and did well. If you know my 15 year old, then you know his assistance was a given. He’s the one in the photos, below. He’ll most likely be in charge of tanning the hides. For now they are wrapped in wax paper in the freezer. The exercise of butchering five rabbits took three full hours. We didn’t have time to do anything beyond washing the hides and wrapping them for freezing.
Our reward for our work was an herb and beer braised rabbit dish that my wife found, and in her characteristic way, adapted for our tastes. It was absolutely fantastic. Everything we had hoped for and more.
Enjoy the pics, and if you want details of the process, comment below and I’ll provide everything I can.
When you live with four boys you never know what will happen. I came home for a wonderful lunch of home made Reuben sandwiches that my wife had made. Sitting there stuffing my face with fabulous sauerkraut goodness, I was interrupted by my 13 year old, bursting through the door, breathlessly calling me outside.
Broken leg? Treehouse fall, complete with crushed skull? House on fire?
All I could think about were those last two bites of my sandwich. But I put it down and rushed outside. There in the backyard I found my son’s first big kill: he had shot a squirrel out of a tree with his pellet pistol. Before any Peta folks give me a hard time, you have to know how incredibly difficult, and sporting, it is to shoot a squirrel out of our massive oaks with a single shot pellet pistol. My kid’s a heck of a shot.
So the rest of my lunch was spent field dressing a squirrel – a first for us all. If we’re going to be raising meat rabbits – which we’re working on now – then its time I got over my squeamishness and learned how to do this. I prayed over this little gal and did what needed to be done, with much respect. It wasn’t easy for me, and I hope it never becomes easy. I hope all of the Scott family recognizes the responsibility we take upon ourselves when we take a life, or raise a living animal or crop.
The hide is now curing outside (see pic) and the meat’s in the freezer.
And no, I didn’t get to finish my sandwich.