These little kits grow so fast! When they were a day old I could have held three in one hand, presuming they’d stay still, which they wouldn’t have. Today, at six days old, they had grown enough that only two would have fit in one hand. I had to do a bit of looking for baby number 7 today. I totally forgot the fact that rabbits are perfectly content to have another rabbit sitting right on top of them, which was where the little sweetie was at. I pulled it up and gave it a good look over, but it was just fine. They all seem to be about the same size, with nice round tummies, and with no discernible runt of the litter.
The litter that is now 13.5 weeks old and that came with Piper was just six and one very obvious runt. She did catch up in size to her sisters by ten weeks old. The boys are all quite a bit larger than the girls. I think we could slaughter the boys now, but the girls could use a bit more grow out time to be the size I want. Unfortunately our rabbit wringer has still not arrived and customer service is not returning our phone calls. So we made the call to go ahead and wait until they are sixteen weeks old. The husband leaves for Alaska on Monday and even if it were to arrive at some point, airport days are always too busy with other things to think about trying to slaughter anything. I guess we’ll be using the slow cooker, but I tend to like using it anyway as I prefer not to have to monitor my cooking too closely.
We went to a meat rabbit expo at Hannagan Farm and Garden, a feed store in Lynden. It was put on by The Pacific Northwest Meat Breeders Association. The Pacific Northwest Meat Breeders Association is a small organization of homesteaders who focus on raising rabbits and other livestock in city, urban and rural areas for a sustainable and fresh food source. It was very informative and I fell in love with a cinnamon colored New Zealand Red and a couple of the Blacks. They were so beautiful. But we are not going to add any more rabbits to our rabbitry (except kits) for at least a year. We need to be practical and we have space constraints right now. And we are still learning. I don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. But I really want to branch out into the other colors in the future. And maybe get some American Blues, too. Then I could have patriotic rabbits (in at least three countries), with reds, whites, and blues.
There was a processing demonstration. They used the club to the back of the head method and the broomstick method. The club was really hard to watch and the rabbit screamed because he missed the right spot the first time and had to do it again. A rabbit’s scream is bone-chilling. It was horrible. The broomstick method was better. The rabbit didn’t scream, but the crunch of the neck being dislocated was pretty disconcerting. But not nearly as bad as the club. It made us decide we would definitely wait for the rabbit wringer to come in the mail (which hopefully it will eventually do). If it hasn’t come by the time the husband gets home again, he’s going to buy a pellet pistol.
They showed us how to skin and clean them. They did two rabbits (one that was 16 weeks old and one that was 24 weeks old) and then let a volunteer from the audience do the third one. I was able to get up close and see exactly what needed to be done. I was right about live being more informative than youtube vids. I mean, some of them are pretty good and you learn a lot, but I think actually being there does make a difference in your perspective. I learned that I was not going to be as squeamish as I was worried about. I also learned that the younger one was easier to skin than the older one, as the fur stuck more in places.
There was a worker from Sardis there, too, and she confirmed that they will take the heads and any kits that don’t make it for the raptor and birds of prey recovery program. They just want everything to be frozen for at least 24 hours first before being donated. I am happy about that because it means I will have very little to throw away. The chickens will get most of the insides, we’re going to tan the fur and preserve the feet, and the raptors will get the heads, and we’ll get the meat, hearts and livers (rabbit livers are huge). So pretty much only the bones, the bladders, and the gall bladders will be waste.
I met a couple of other homeschooling moms who are raising rabbits (but haven’t butchered yet) who are also needing a safer food supply due to allergies. One was very religious and the other was an atheist, but we had plenty in common. It’s nice to see other people in the community who are making steps towards sustainability and healthier food supplies. Sometimes it feels like we are alone in such things. I mean, in real life. The internet is a different story, of course. There are lots of you out there, thank goodness, or I’d know even less what I am doing than I do now.
The feed store had a back room with some heritage turkey poults, various heritage chicks, lots of different types of ducks and geese, pheasant and chukkar (which I think are a type of quail). So now I know of a source besides craigslist for such things for future endeavors. Way, way, way future endeavors. This way I won’t have to order 20 from a hatchery just to get the smaller numbers I’d want to start with on turkey or waterfowl.
Aside from all that we got some more added on to the PVC hutch frame. It’s not quite complete yet and will always be able to be added on to, but here’s where it’s at now:
Being able to stack the cages is really helping with our space constraints. Everyone should fit in the shed just fine once the quarantine time is up. I just need to figure out how to move Piper and the newborn kits over to the frame without disturbing them too much. Probably remove the nest box and then remove Piper and then move it, then put them all back in. I could actually just put them in the empty cage and then take her cage out for cleaning. The only thing I worry about is if it would disturb her to put her in a new cage. I’d think it would be okay so long as she was with her kits right away, but I don’t know. She adapted well to this cage when she was two weeks pregnant, but that’s probably not the same thing.
Tomorrow we need to do full scrub downs and bleaching of the wooden hutches, then the two wabbitats need the same treatment so that they will be ready for new occupants when we split up the new breeding stock, two girls in one cage and the boy in the other. We also need to sweep out the straw on the floor and put fresh down and empty the bins under the wooden hutches. It’s going to be a busy day. I sure hope it doesn’t rain.