HOW I FEED OUR MEAT RABBITS FOR FREE

When I set out to raise meat rabbits last year I wasn’t worried about how I would afford to feed them. I simply thought, eh how expensive can they be? Granted they are quite small, but if you plan to pellet feed it will add up, and quick. 

Rabbits will fatten on grass or just about anything green they can get their mouths on so feeding them cheaply is easily done. 

I keep alfalfa pellets around for emergencies and winter months. But from February-March and on through September-October I can feed our rabbitry for free. 

Be patient folks I can be long winded and tend to side track… Like right now…

  
If you’re a returning reader then you know that my family and I rent 5 acres. Fortunately a little more than 75% of the property is irrigated with hand lines, unfortunately as of now we don’t possess the proper attachments for our tractor to mow and re-seed the field. 

What does this all mean you may ask? It means we have a real weed problem. Gallons of water covering the field whilst grass and weeds duke it out for dominance of the pasture… You see if a pasture isn’t maintained properly then weeds will encroach and fight the grass out for ground space and sun exposure.  

 

^^^ See how the grass is barely making a play for space under the dandelion and other weeds?

In many a folks eye this would be seen as a huge problem. Unjustly weed killer would be coating our property, that would be the end of weeds for good, and that’s ok for them. 

But me? I wanted to put my new found permaculture knowledge to the test. And I certainly don’t want weed killer all over the soil that feeds my family and my animals. Isn’t there anyway I can turn this problem into a solution?

And yes there was. There always is.

End side track…

Hey Q wanna feed your rabbits for free and supplement the flocks diet with some fresh greens? Heck yes I do! 

So I just simply note where large patches of weeds are growing in the pasture and around the house or gardens. Usually twice a day  the farm kids and I head outside to ‘pick weeds for the rabbits’ as miss Ireland refers to it. In about 5-10 minutes the rabbits have all they’ll need for day and I’ll even gather enough to please the homestead flock. I’ll do this again in the evening when I check water bottles and bedding.  
I make a point to grab variety for the rabbits so they have a little bit more of a natural choice. After all, they deserve it.  


Of course I always have hay on hand for their bedding and general munching needs. 

It may seem a little crazy to be out in the field twice a day pulling weeds for bunnies eh? But this time of year Im already outside filling water bottles for them twice a day as it is. So for me it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of extra work.

I simply give them enough weeds based on my personal observations of the rabbits individually.(if there’s no greens left the rabbit could still be hungry, if its wilting and going to waste then I could be feeding the rabbit too much) I also determine their rations  according to size and whethe or not the doe is pregnant and/or nursing.

When I do have a doe in one of these stages I will provide her with pellet food once a day while pregnant then free choice once nursing and weaning. The babies are fed both with mom from the time they can jump from the nestbox at will. This way they can be placed into rabbit tractors to fatten on the thicker parts of the pasture until butchering time. 

   

And since I’m weeding a little everyday it doesn’t feel like annoying labor. I enjoy getting something out of these “useless plants” and so do the farm animals. 

I’ve now exhausted all the weeds around the house and have moved to more distant zones. I love how much more aware of the ground we live on I am becoming. I’m getting to know it better everyday. Walking, looking for more weeds to feed the cavies, noticing the grass regrowth, the wildflowers, even the holes dug by the puppies, ahem. 

I don’t hate the weeds like I used to. I’m finding purpose in them now. The animal are getting nourished by them. Little by little the grass is retaking the pasture and backyard. We’re saving more money with the animals then ever before. 

Sunday lazy dayin’ around these parts. Peace and love y’all 

Quincy

SEED STARTING INDOORS

Around my corner of the world starting seeds indoors is a must. Unless you have a green house, in which case, you’re off to a great start. 

But if you don’t have a green house, like me for example… creativity or capital, is a must!

Since I refuse to spend crazy amounts of cash on trays and those little starter pellets (that totally used to be me guys…) I decided to try creativity this season.  

In this case creativity comes in the form of solo cups and some other random dollar store plastic cups. I had some laying around and picked up a few more packs for cheap. 

I normally hate anything plastic but I can recycle these and until I can buy this soil block press, here is how I’m getting creative. 

(I even tried this Pinterest hack in which you use toilet paper rolls as seed blocks, two words… Epic Failure… You can see below how most of them just plain feel apart.. If you want to give this a shot then I suggest buying tp that’s got a reinforced cardboard rolls.)

  

But I’m doing good with the cups and I’m ok with that. 

     
Luckily the homestead husband has an awesome set up of some light hoods perfect for starting seeds. Not that I have always done it like this. Don’t get me wrong starting seeds without lights can and does work great, for most seeds. 

However, for those finicky starts that tend to be on the picky pampered side (tomatoes, peppers, corn, etc), a little light and added warmth makes all the difference. 

For example. Last season I started corn under the lights and it was the first year I’ve ever planted corn, had it grow knee high by 4th of July (to ensure harvest), and proceed to grow 8′ tall! I was astounded when I had tons of silk and cobs, but so to was my horse… Alas she ate them all… I’m sure her belly was full and warm that night. This year she will have no such luck!

My point being that I believe the lights were the key to my success last year. When those corn starts went outside they were stout and hardened off. Ready to for planting. Corn starts in my previous years were lanky and washed out, ending up broken from wind or lack of strength. 

  
(Above: assorted bean starts)

Now that I thoroughly bored you with my corn story… Want to see what else we have started so far?

For convenience I have labeled, in parenthesis, which seed companies I purchased the seeds from. 

SSE= Seed Savers Exchange

 MTG= Mike the Gardener

TSC= Territorial Seed Company

  • Tomatoes: Amish Paste(SSE), German Pink(SSE), Homestead(MTG), Large Cherry(MTG)
  • Cucumber: White Wonder(MTG), A&C Pickling(SSE)
  • Beans: Cherokee Wax(Ferry Morse), Dragons Tongue(SSE), Calypso(SSE), Black Turtle(Ferry Morse)
  • Sunflowers: Lemon Queen(SSE), Velvet Queen(SSE), Taiyo(SSE) 
  • Peas: Amish Snap(SSE)
  • Pumpkin: Small Sugar(TSC)
  • Radish: Cherry Belle(TSC)–direct sow (4/15)
  • Turnip: Shogoin (MTG)–direct sow (4/15)
  • Cabbage: Savoy(MTG)
  • Kale: Dwarf Green Curled(TSC)
  • Corn: Smoke Signals(SSE), Golden Bantam Improved(SSE)
  • Lettuce: Red Iceberg(TSC) 
  • Peppers: Early Jalapeño(TSC), Purple Beauty(MTG) 
  • Squash: Black Beauty Zucchini(SSE) 

It may seem like quite a lot but this is only the beginning. I am going all in this year and I’m extremely motivated to provide as much food for my family as possible. I’m dreaming of shelves full of canned goods and cold storage packed with roots vegetables. 

  

 (Above: assorted sunflower starts… Because their are my favorite… And they do fantastic in my living room window, so I never have to miss out on their beauty!)

Who knows, if I’m satisfied with my gardens production this summer I may put a chicken garden into the works. Wouldn’t it be stellar to have a garden space specially for spoiling our flock of little dinos?

Yes, I totally said stellar. 

Getting to getting outside. Get to work!

Quincy

    OUR NEW PREMIER1 Poultry Fencing

    Ever since our arrival to the property we rent, especially when I got my first batch of chicks… I have hated our coop. It was here when we moved in. Shelves along the western facing wall of our garage under a small eve; that’s all we had to work with. I’m grateful there was anything at all and it was a great place to start. 

    We learned so much. That’s why I’m here to show you the new digs and how I’m spoiling my flock in 2016. 

      
    Don’t get me wrong, we made due for the two years we used the old coop. Sometime around our wedding this last December I learned a great deal about raising chickens and about my specific chickens.

    I knew we needed change. None of my 12 hens were laying, for maybe 5 months this lagged on. And that was a serious problem. 

    Remember when I moved the older half of the hens to the garden? 

     

    Moving the hens and changing their environment jump started their laying and it was the best thing I could have done.  

    Well folks, I am happy to say that all the girls and the Roos are in their new digs! 

    I was tired of them being drenched by the rain, chilled by the wind, and cooked by the sun, season in and season out, everyday. 

      
    The old coop (pictured above) was always soupy, no joke, winter made it into shavings and poop soup. And I am so glad I’m done with that phase of chicken farming. Doing with only what you have, no allowance for change, well peeps, no longer! My birds work hard so our family may eat,  they deserve no less than we hard from us in return. This time in the form of a brand new coop and run. 

    I took the advice of the one and only Jusrin Rhodes of abundantpermaculture.com 

    You can follow Justin and his family on their YouTube channel for awesome vlogs, Instagram for daily inspiration and photographs, and even Periscope from time to time!

    He suggests Premier1 and I jumped at a new challenge. But it’s just the opposite. This fencing is so awesome and easy to use ta boot!

      
     (This is not an advertisement, this is just the fencing we chose for our homestead flock.)

    This way the ground will be able to breathe and there will be zero accumulation of water. The flock has so much space to roam, scratch, poop… And that’s ok with me. It’s as if they are free range and not all at once. Plus there’s no poo on the porch so we’re happy homesteaders!

       
       
    The best part is we were able to reuse the coop from my mothers house, so the only expense was the mobile poultry net. Want a tour of the new coop? 

       
        

      
       
    One day in the future when we hopefully move onto our own spread we can mobilize this coop to make it that much easier to rotate our flock, permaculture style baby! For now they will rotate back forth around the coop, being the fixed point, situated roughly in the southern corner of the mobile run. 

    This will enable them to eat whilst tilling and fertilizing, spreading compost for me, and after I grow a crop they will be moved over it to eat or till it back into the ground. How cool is that? 

    Ok ok maybe I’m a bit of a permaculture newbie nerd, but I’m so excited I could pee. Quite literally… Alright alright, Ahem…

    Even the ducks are stoked, they muddied the water tub to show their approval. And now we’re getting two eggs from this waddling girls, now that I can find the eggs everyday that is.  

    Peace and Love

    Quincy

    GETTING STARTED WITH MEAT RABBITS

    When it comes to homesteading it seems most of my friends and family think you must have property. That is the biggest misconception out there about us modern day homesteaders.

    Not all of us own or even live on a piece of property.

    And yes, I say this as I sip coffee on my back porch watching 5 horses graze the 5 acres we rent. Key word, RENT. Let me just preface this by saying that homesteading is about a sustainable mindset and lifestyle choices… not about your physical location.

    Property is helpful, yes, but it is also lots of back breaking work. And folks you don’t even need 1 acre to be a homesteader.

    So, in the spirit of spring and micro-homesteading possibilites, I thought I would provide some info on one friendly creature who can produce meat for your family, fertilizer for your gardens, gorgeous furs and practically eat for free! Give them a shot and I’m sure they will help you down the road to self sufficiency all within a relatively small space like a garage or shed.   

    Yes I’m talking meat rabbits. As far as homesteading goes rabbits go hand in hand with sustainable permaculture ideas. They produce a lot of babies very quickly and the meat is fantastic. They eat weeds or grass (Wanna see how in spring/summer I feed my rabbits for FREE?) and can live either in or outdoors. If you’re a lover of small cuddly things and can’t bear the thought of eating them….. then maybe raising rabbits is not for you.


    (How can you resist this face ^^^)

    But if you’re someone who needs a small scale meat project, this is right up your ally. You’ll learn something new and be able to stock up on another white meat. The best part is that startup and infrastructure for a rabbitry is minimal. You won’t need big corrals or an extensive pasture. Well, and they’re cute as heck.


    Here’s a few tips to get you started on your own homestead rabbitry.

    1. Water bottles- You’ll need to chose how you want to distribute water to your rabbits, especially does pregnant or nursing. They drink a lot during this day so this is very important. We currently use these water bottles until we can implement nipple watering system. I purchased mine on Amazon here (affiliate link). With these water bottles I summits have to fill them twice a day, in summer, and they more than likely almost always freeze in winter months. This is just something good to keep in mind, no calling in sick for farmers ya know?


    2. Feeders (optional)- I keep these galvanized slow feeders on our cages at all times in case I need to supplement with pellet feeds. But if you’re choosing not to feed by pellet these may not be necessary. I bought mine from a local feed store, but there are also available at a competitive price on Amazon. I have two sizes small and large (affiliate links).
    3. Foot rest mat- If you have a cage like mine or many other breeders then your rabbits have a wire floor, and will have the need for a foot rest. If you chose not to go with a foot rest it is imperative that you give proper bedding for your rabbits to rest on. The reason being that rabbits can develop a condition called ‘sore hocks’ in which large nodule like sores appear all over the back feet from continual resting on their back haunches. No bueno. It can be treated but the more fluffies shouldn’t have to suffer. Ours were like $4 a piece on Amazon (affiliate link) so spend the little extra for quality of life for your bunnies.


    4. Shade- rabbits don’t do very well in high heat nor direct sunlight. If they have adequate water they have a better chance but rabbits can succumb to heat stroke faster than most animals. Providing them ample shade and hydration in the heat of summer is huge. It’s definitely a time commitment, at times in summer I’ll have to fill the water bottles 2-3 times a day, hence my yearning for an ever flow/nipple water system.


    5. Nest boxes- if you plan to breed you’ll need a nest box or two. Each kindling(expectant) doe will need a box from about a week before she kindles to about 4 weeks postpartum so make sure you enough. They also come in a couple different sizes for various sized breeds. There are even some great DIY patterns for them on Pinterest.

    Rabbits don’t need the Four Seasons to produce happily raised and healthy fully grazed meat for you, just know that. Aside from the fact that these little guys are an amazing sustainable meat source they can also make great pets. My breeding stock are calm and one of my girls even LIKES to be held, so it doesn’t have to be sad when butchering day comes. These beauties serve a divine purpose here on our homestead, and our gratitude for their sacrifice is a happy, healthy, and cozy life free of stress.

    Were currently monitoring a doe for labor so I’ll keep y’all updated, gotta get back out there!

    Peace and Love

    Quincy