Well, we did it. We successfully completed our experiment in raising rabbits for backyard livestock.
Those of you who read my blog post back in November know how ambivalent I was feeling about raising rabbits for meat. For some reason the chickens haven't bothered me, and the ducks bothered me a little, but I was really afraid of the day when the rabbits would become meat. This past Saturday, we hosted a workshop for fellow Baltimoreans interested in raising the rabbits for meat, and we went from 11 rabbits down to 4 rabbits.
I handled the actual processing of the rabbits better than I thought I would. They were put down quickly and cleanly (not sure if I should post the details on a public forum or not?) The furs are now marinating in a 'pickle' of aluminum sulfate and salt to be cured, and the meat is in our freezer.
However, I have realized that I definitely can't eat the meat. It's funny, I was raised vegetarian and for a long time I was never really sure how I felt about eating meat. It didn't bother me as much as people who became vegetarian by choice, and in college I started eating steaks and chicken wings and loving it. I now try to limit the amount of meat I eat and try to eat only sustainably raised meat, but I do still eat it. But I now know what some vegetarians feel at the sight of all meat- there is pretty much no question, I won't be eating this rabbit meat. I am kind of excited to use the furs though, which is sort of a weird conundrum.
We now have two female Rex rabbits, a male Rex rabbit, and a male Chinchilla rabbit. My gentleman friend is all for continuing to breed the rabbits. I am still ambivalent. I am glad to have gone through the process. I "did" one rabbit from beginning to end, and am glad to have had the life experience of that. But to continue breeding more rabbits for the purpose of meat, I'm not sure. Oddly enough, I have no problem planning to get chickens for meat in the spring.
Curious to hear your own experiences raising animals for meat!
Of course, once I figured out the costs of raising rabbits in terms of feed, you can definitely earn a lot of money on your homestead for the furs in addition to the rare product of local rabbit meat. But there is the hidden cost of people looking at you like a monster when you mention raising rabbits for meat. (Of course, I wonder how many of those people would order rabbit off the menu at a restaurant).
For those of you interested in the cost of raising rabbits as backyard livestock, I did figure out the price per rabbit in terms of feed costs:
Feed = we were averaging 2 lbs. per day (not including hay, garden and food scraps)
11 rabbits = about 3 ounces per rabbit per day
average 60 days of feed per rabbit = 120 lbs. of feed
feed costs about $20 per 50 lb. bag = 40 cents per pound
Per rabbit feed costs = (3 oz. x 60 days) = 180 ounces (divided by 16 = 11.25 lbs)
= 11.25 lbs x .40 cents per pound
= $4.50 per rabbit
hay (one bale is about $5-10, we go through about one bale every two months)
chicken wire & lumber to build the hutches (or use pallets)
water bottles (including some that plug in to an electrical outlet if you live somewhere where the water will freeze over the winter)
If you are interested in learning more about my life on the urban homestead in Baltimore City, feel free to visit me at www.baltimorediy.org.