Just the word makes me happy.
It conjures up nostalgic images of old, worn women milking their dairy cow. Or children picking radishes out of the garden. It makes me think of raw honey, preserved fruits, flannel, old books, fresh flowers, fragrant homemade bread, and hot chocolate.
Though, just to be fair, almost everything makes me think of hot chocolate. It's so creamy…so sweet…so comforting…
But let's get back to the homesteading topic at hand.
When we decided a few weeks ago that we'd like to get started in meat rabbit production, frankly, we knew nothing about rabbits. And we still don't. But after doing some research, we were able to settle on a feeding plan that was cost effective for our newest homesteading adventure.
Initially, I was hoping to avoid feeding the rabbits pelleted food, simply because pelleted food is typically more expensive. After meeting with a local feed supplier and rabbit raiser, I was pretty surprised to find out that pellets were actually less expensive than feeder wheat, oats, barley, or corn.
Whelp. That made it a pretty easy decision.
I'm not too worried, at least for the time being, about the processing of the pellets. I've thoroughly looked over the ingredients and am pretty satisfied with the grains and minerals included. It's a 16% protein, 2% fat, 17.5% fiber formula.
In addition to the pellets, the rabbits will also be eating tons of produce ‘scraps' from our local farmer. He is willing to sell the past-prime produce from his garden to me at a very cheap rate. This will currently give the rabbits access to broccoli, mustard greens, turnips & turnip greens, lettuce, kale, etc. Obviously, their produce scraps will change with the season. I will also be foraging for leaves, twigs, and weeds for the rabbits. I figure it'd be fun to do with Georgia – walking around the neighborhood and vacant lots with our buckets of weeds.
Considering we practically live in a jungle, it shouldn't be too hard. I've just got to learn to identify what they can and cannot eat. Below is a picture of the bamboo-sheltered area where the cages will go:
The rabbits will also be given free access to rye grass hay. I am picking up a round bale this week for $25. A great deal!
Eventually, I'd love to work into a system like this for our ‘hay' needs:
But I'll have to wait until I get some ground under me before I start a new undertaking. As much as I love to jump into projects head first, I also want it to be sustainable, doable, and enjoyable long-term. I figure I'll work into the system that works best for us as I gain more experience.
Because we're so tight financially, our adventure into raising meat rabbits has got to make sense fiscally. While I would love to just do it for fun regardless of the cost, we simply don't have that luxury right now. If we're puttin' money into these rabbits, we've got to get meat out of them in the most efficient, responsible, and natural way possible.
Thus far, we're $128 dollars in. $90 for the rabbits and cages, $13 for the 50 pound bag of feed, and $25 for the hay. Obviously, the cages and rabbits were one time expenses, so hopefully the bottom line will look better as time goes in.
The entire system should be set up by Saturday. I'm ready to get them here and get them bred!
We'll start by breeding two of the does. Then, we'll wait another four weeks before breeding the other two. By this time, the first does should already have given birth. This will help us keep a continual cycle of meat.
I'm thinking about setting up a Backyard Meats page which will provide easy access to all the posts on the rabbits, as well as a spreadsheet of the budgeting breakdown. Would this be helpful to anyone else who is contemplating getting rabbits?
I'll make mistakes with the rabbits and blog about them so you don't have to repeat my errors!
Ah yes. Nothin' like trial by fire.