Much like having your own garden, raising small frame livestock (rabbits, or chickens) will provide you a level of food independence from the market. I know rabbits are cute and cuddly, but they can provide a valuable source of meat. Chickens provide humor, eggs, and meat.
By raising your own at home, you can truly understand where this portion of your food comes from.
Let’s answer some of the initial questions you may have been thinking.
Where do I start?
Start by reviewing the different types of rabbit/chicken breeds, and their meat to size ratios. I prefer Rhode Island Red’s for my chicken variety (decent size, great layers and fairly friendly), and New Zealand for my rabbits. Either build or buy the appropriate equipment for the critters.
What is required?
A rabbit hutch or chicken coop (DIY build articles coming soon) of some kind, feeder trays, watering tubes, feed, nail trimmers, patience, rabbits/chickens, time and finally patience. It wouldn’t hurt to have some education or resource material handy.
How long will this take?
That is always the tricky question. The answer depends on the breed of rabbits/chickens that you choose. Some mature a little faster than others but generally you see eggs within the first 5-6 months and edible sized rabbits within 3 months.
What will I get?
You get the knowledge of how to raise your own food, you get the accomplishment of proving your sustainability, and you get great, natural and healthy food. This resource is only inhibited by your space and location.
Now that those are out of the way, we can work on building your mini farm.
This is fairly straightforward, with rabbits the primary feed is going to be timothy hay in loose or pellet form, with a mix of leafy vegetables from your garden. With chickens, it’s going to be layer crumble with oyster shell, and some meal worm or other treats. There are specific herbs that can be grown to help with any health-related issues
This is straightforward, don’t let them run out of water ever.
Being that most city ordinances will not allow roosters, this section will mainly discuss rabbit breeding. This is an easy process, take doe (female) rabbit to the buck. He will sniff for a minute, and then you can stand back and let him do his thing. The process is usually fairly quick and he will fall off when he is done. Put the doe back in her home. If you want a higher rate of success with breeding, you can add the doe back in with the buck about an hour after the initial go round. More info can be found here.
Again, mainly discussing rabbits here, rabbits have a 30-day gestation period. Fast turn around time with long-term survivability reward.
Don’t worry, mama rabbit has got this under control, besides a nesting box, she doesn’t need your help. Make sure that you add fresh straw in the nesting box each new litter.
Rabbit kits are fairly easy to raise. Momma has this under control for the first month or so. After that keep the feeders full and give them some sprouts to help them put on weight. you can give them some leafy greens, carrot tops, and a small amount of carrot at this point. Handle them daily so they develop a level of trust (makes them easier to handle later).
Chickens are a bit more challenging, as their temperatures will need to be highly regulated for the first 90 days. Special food for the short term is needed as well. You will need to clean their container on a very regular basis to help keep them healthy. After 90 days or so, they get easier, they can deal with room temp and are a bit more manageable. Talk to them daily, so they get used to you.
Growing time –
There are lots of thoughts on this, and you need to make your own decision. I normally allow the rabbit kits to grow to between 9-12 weeks old. By 9-12 weeks they are eating like there is no tomorrow, putting on size and weight. This puts them at a decent size meal for 2 people. Chickens will hit full size at about 9 months depending on breed type.
Here lies the hard part. You have hand raised them from day one, and now it’s time to put them down. Remember what you were raising them for. Make a quick painless kill. There are a couple of methods for accomplishing this task; the broomstick method, the arterial bleed and the fatal blow (all can be found here). I found the fatal blow to be the easiest to work with.
The hard part is over, now the work of this process begins. These may be smaller animals, but that means your knife strokes are that much more important. You butcher these out the same way that you would butcher out your waterfowl, or big game hunting. I found this article to be very useful when I started.
Having a freezer with natural organic meat that you raised is a fantastic feeling of accomplishment. It provides a level of security and self-sufficiency. You know that you can continue the cycle and provide for your family regardless of what happens.
There are other benefits raising your own small frame livestock include having organic fertilizers, natural lawn mowers, natural lawn aerators, additional sources of income (selling eggs, selling pelts, selling meat).
I can’t say that raising your own is ultimately more cost effective than store bought; however, knowing what you are eating to me is priceless. Having organic healthy meat that you raised and can say exactly how it lived and died gets high marks in my books. This isn’t for everyone, but you don’t know until you try. My wife thought the rabbit kits were cute and adorable until one bit her, and her immediate quote “that is the first one in the pot”, and by the way, she had never eaten rabbit before.
There is plenty of great sites to help provide more detail on these processes. The ones I found useful are here –
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