The Wannabee Farm

Discussion in 'The Fire Hydrant' started by Shai, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    My chicken thread is still in the dog photos section (oops) so I thought I'd re-make a catch-all thread for my non-dog/cat photos here.

    So to start it off -- the rabbit colony is all bundled down for the cold snap with new stacked bales of straw to burrow into.

    Here they all are checking out the new arrangement and deciding whether they like it.
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    And just a recap, we currently have 8 laying hens, (pictured when it was warm)
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    And we recently added a rooster as well. He was integrated into the flock last night because the coop is warmer than the quarantine pen, and so far everyone seems to be getting along well. Had a little display between him and the most dominant hen, but no fighting.
    [​IMG]

    I'd like to start letting the flock free range in the back field this spring, but it depends on putting a fence up back there and how well we fare against these guys, of which there are several in the neighborhood:
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    We also have a garden, which started extremely small two years ago and is slowly expanding as we get a feel for how much we can keep up with. So far we've dealt with an extremely hot and dry summer and an extremely cool and wet summer...would be nice to have something in the middle! Still had a fair bit of success last year, mostly in terms of squash and berries and flowers.
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    So that's about it. We also have vermicomposting worms and mealworms (the latter for the bluebirds, and now also a special treat for the chickens), the start of an orchard which, who knows, may actually produce fruit in a couple years, a delicious old black mulberry tree way out by the woods, which also has wild black rasperries growing along the edge. Lots of bird life, the occasional deer, a roving pack of coyotes, and the occasional suicidal cottontail.
    [​IMG]

    Also thick clay soil, a bunch of invasive brush and trees out in the little woods threatening to choke out native plants, a mostly-wasted front yard, and various other opportunities for improvement, haha

    Always something to do.
     
  2. sillysally

    sillysally Obey the Toad.

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    Love the chicken pics!! What do you do with the rabbits?
     
  3. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    They are raised for meat.

    My dogs do not plan to become vegetarians any time soon so I can at least try to make sure as much of their diet as possible lived a good life first.
     
  4. sillysally

    sillysally Obey the Toad.

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    Out of curiosity, how much meat does a colony of rabbits actually produce? It doesn't seem like it would be much as they are small.

    You guys should eat it too! We have a stand near the rabbit barn at our county fair where the 4-Hers sell food made of rabbit meat. I had BBQ rabbit and DH had rabbit strogeanoff there last summer--the BBQ rabbit was tasty. It was a tad gamey, but otherwise good.
     
  5. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    I think that would be super interesting.

    Do you take the rabbits somewhere for processing, or do it your self? Once Mike and I are in a position to purchase land and stay stationery, I would like to raise as many animals as is convenient for our own meat (and eggs)...but I neither I nor him would be able to do the harvesting ourselves.

    On a similar note, with laying hens, what do you do with them when they are no longer productive? Can you take them to the butcher? I know the laying breeds aren't typically best suited for human consumption, but I'd imagine the dogs would enjoy them.
     
  6. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    We do, but most goes to the dogs.

    These are NZ so a fryer frame weighs about 3lbs after butchering, plus the weight of the other stuff I keep for the dogs.

    Normal litter size is 8-11 for my colony, with occasional litters up in the 13-14 range. If I don't intervene they'd breed almost immediately after kindling which would be a lot of litters every year. In practice I pull out the buck around late September so everyone is grown out and I don't have new kits for the coldest part of the year, which also give the does a nice long break. Still, they have 4-5 litter/year/each.

    So on the conservative side that 8 rabbits/litter x 4 litters/doe x 3 lbs/rabbit = 96 lbs of rabbit per doe per year. Last year I had four does, though one turned out to be a poor mother so counts for maybe half. My dogs eat approximately 1400lbs of raw food every year, so that 350lbs (+offal) helps.
     
  7. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    I process them myself. Taking them to a butcher would really stress them out -- better for my purposes to do it at home. It helps that I was brought up with home butchering and hunting, but it's something I definitely do not enjoy at all. But we get through it and to date they have all had fast, clean deaths.

    The laying hens will probably be stewing hens when they are retired, except for the rose-combed gold laced wyandotte who is extremely people friendly and follows me around, racing to catch up with her awkward chickeny gait so she can perch on my shoe. I...I am pretty sure she will be here til she passes of chickeny old age. Not fair, I know, but that's how it goes.
     
  8. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    Bunnies!!

    Can I ask some questions about your colony? Do you keep them as pets or meat? How does the colony set up work?

    I have a pair who are fixed and lived together indoors, but I don't have any experience with a colony-type set up. I would love to come and snuggle all of them!
     
  9. SaraB

    SaraB New Member

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    Love the pictures!!! I also love your chickens and your rabbits and your life. Adopt me?
     
  10. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    Any particular aspect you are curious about in particular?

    I have a guest room. Visitors welcome :p
     
  11. TuffStuff

    TuffStuff Twin 1

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    Your picture threads are always so entertaining. lol Great shots, as always.
     
  12. Dogdragoness

    Dogdragoness Happy Spring!!!!

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    Wow I am jealous! We have a large ranch and it's not that nice! Lucky you!
     
  13. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    You covered some of it in your other responses, but how do they get along? Do the does just create their own nests away from the others to raise their kits? Do you just separate out and butcher the babies when they're old enough?

    I've never seen anyone raise meat rabbits (or any other breeding rabbits) out of the standard small cages, so I'm intrigued. This seems like a far better and happier life for them.
     
  14. Xandra

    Xandra Active Member

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    Lovely pics. How often do you clean out the rabbit pen? Any reason for straw bedding vs shavings?

    And I'm totally envious of your flock, it's so colorful. Assuming you hatch some out, what will you do with them?
     
  15. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    They mostly mess near where they eat because that's how rabbits roll, and I clean that area up several times a week. Daily, if it's wet weather or there are a lot of kits. The rest I clean as needed. They generally have places they keep neat and places they don't and are pretty consistent about it so it's not difficult to keep things clean.

    It's actually half shavings -- the closer part of the picture is shavings, as is the half I'm in which doesn't appear in the picture due to camera limitations. I give them lots of straw in the winter because it has better insulating properties and they can burrow into it to stay warm if needed. In the summer it's predominantly shavings with just enough straw for them to line their nests.

    I may hatch out some eggs from the wyandottes, australorps, and the partridge rock. Not from the Brahmas or Sussex. If I do I'll keep the best hens and everyone else will be grown out for meat unless I know someone looking for layers. I doubt I'd be able to find people who want mix breed roosters that aren't EE/OE type so they'd probably be processed as well. Not hatching any out unless I'm prepared for that.

    I'd like to get up to 12 hens as we go through eggs pretty fast, The plan is to add 4 hens this year then rotate four in and four out every year from then out. But we'll see, I'm flexible and just seeing how it goes.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  16. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    I raised show/meat rabbits for 7-8 years when I was younger. They did really well at local level shows, never took it farther than that, but they were always in separate pens. Decided to try something new knowing that I could always separate them later and it had really worked out. I love seeing them interact and honestly think they have a better life. They groom each other, have their favorites with whom they hang out, etc. The REW doe is the most dominant doe right now so they others make way and she gets whatever nesting spot she wants, whatever chilling out spot she wants. But I've never seen a scuffle, they get along really well. Just when she comes in, the junior does move over, no biggie.

    I remove the kits after the mothers have thoroughly weaned them and they are out and about on their own (the latter usually happens before the former, but I don't take anyone out til both are done). If I plan to keep a new doe, I will sex them at that time and leave the does a bit longer and keep downselecting and moving the ones I'm definitely not keeping in with her male and other littermates in growout pens until I'm down to my keeper. If I can help it I never remove a replacement doe -- she is raised in the colony hierarchy. I don't know if it helps or not, but I'm just playing it safe and so far so good.

    The mothers carve out their own nesting areas but they don't really defend it or anything. That's just where they return to feed their kits. Other than the one poor mother, they have been very successful.
     
  17. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    I'm having flashbacks to my grandma's farm and I'm jealous. She kept chickens and rabbits for meat; her rabbits were caged raised though. The kits had a lot of interaction and outdoor time when us kids were around. I'd crochet harnesses/leashes and let them hop around the barnyard to eat clover and hang out in the sun.

    I would LOVE to get to a point where I can have a similar set up.
     
  18. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    Thanks for the bunny info!

    Most rabbit colonies I've seen have been at rescues with fixed rabbits. I've rarely heard of anyone keeping a breeding colony intentionally. I love your set up. It looks like they have a great quality of life.

    One thing I've realized since having my pair of house rabbits is how closely rabbits bond and how much they interact socially. People like to say dogs are pack animals, but the dog-dog relationships I've seen are nothing compared to rabbits. Their hierarchy is also really fascinating.
     
  19. xpaeanx

    xpaeanx Active Member

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    While you are adopting people.... Me too please?

    You pretty much have the set up I am looking for when I (finally) finish school. Very jealous right now. LOL.
     
  20. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    Yeah, they are really fascinating and very social with conspecifics. They really do "breed like rabbits" though so I wouldn't keep an intact colony until you have a plan for all the offspring! It would be very easy to find oneself overwhelmed if not prepared.
     

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