Where was I? That’s right, I was going to share the new additions my in-laws brought back for us from their trip over 4th of July weekend! This year is turning out to be a big one for us in terms of expanding our self-reliance when it comes to the meat we eat. Last year we produced nearly all of the chicken we ate ourselves. This year we have 15 young ducks destined for the freezer, and in addition to our first set of pigs, we have added meat rabbits!
I’m excited because the addition of rabbits really takes us to the next level of our homesteading life. It’s a very different meat, not as mainstream even as our ducks. Rabbit meat is very lean, all white meat, and it will add real variety to our diet. But the meat isn’t the only thing rabbits have to offer on the homestead. Their manure is gold in the garden, for one thing. But I’m also determined to learn to put the rabbit pelts to use.
For me, the ultimate way that I show my respect for the animals I eat is to waste as little as possible from their sacrifice. As someone who came from a completely non-farming background, the learning curve on this is a bit steep, and I’m far from perfect, but every time we butcher we are doing more and more. Learning to put things like poultry feet, hearts, livers, gizzards, and such to good use has taken time and effort, but it is important to me. We even save decorative feathers as much as we are able, and compost the waste feathers so nothing is lost. Rabbit fur is warm and soft, and while the skins can be delicate, I’m eager to learn the skills to turn them into useful items.
We are starting with a pair of Californians and a New Zealand White doe. Avery’s uncle has been breeding and showing rabbits for years, as well as raising for meat, and he scouted out our first rabbits for use to help us get good stock. This will let us get a feel for the two main meat producing breeds as we learn. Once we’re more established, I’m interested in exploring other options like the New Zealand Red or the Silver Fox.
These rabbits will be ready to breed late in the fall, around November or so. I’m planning to breed the NZW doe around the first week in December, which should mean we can celebrate Easter with home-raised rabbit for dinner. I’ll stick with breeding one doe at a time in the beginning at least, until we get the feel for how things go!