Continuing our blogs to share more about the breeds of animals we raise and why we chose them, I'll focus this one on our meat rabbits. We got our very first rabbits ever a few weeks before we moved to our homestead in June of 2021. We started out with four rabbits two males and two females. They were New Zealand / Californian crosses. Our original intention was to raise the rabbits in a colony system as we were only going to be focused on producing meat for ourselves. However, during those first 9 months we learned a ton, and realized that the survival rate for the litters would be greatly improved if we changed our approach to housing.
For many years, especially while we still lived in suburbia, we followed popular homesteading families on YouTube like Justin Rhodes, The Hollar Homestead, and Weed 'em and Reap. While watching Justin Rhodes and his family, we were introduced to Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Joel and his family have done just about everything a farmer or homesteader can do! One of the buildings they utilize on their farm for their rabbits is called a Rakken. You can watch a video Justin made about the structure while visiting Polyface Farm here. The concept is pretty simple and one we adapted to utilize in the building on our farm we call the Small Barn.
This building houses our breeding does and bucks and their kits until they are old enough to be weaned and moved out onto grass. The photo above shows our Rakken set up this past winter (January 2022) during a particularly cold spell. When it gets super cold, we give all of the rabbits hay to burrow under to help trap their body heat and keep them warm. We also close the windows and hang covers over the front of the barn to prevent cold winds from stealing all of the warmth!
The cages that our breeding stock live in are made of 1/2 by 1/2 inch welded wire on the bottoms with 1 by 1 inch welded wire on the other 5 sides. The cages are then suspended above the floor so that the chickens and ducks who share the space can help to turn the rabbit waste into compost over the course of about a year! It's a great permaculture-type system that leverages the natural tendencies of the chickens to scratch and hunt for bugs to keep the space for the rabbits more sanitary than is would be if we didn't pair them. Our plants and trees also benefit because through the power of heat and chickens we are able to create some amazingly nutritious compost in 12 to 18 months!
The TAMUK rabbits are considered a composite breed as they are a cross of seven different breeds. They were originally begun by Dr. Steven Lukefahr at Texas A&M University - Kingsville. He wanted to create a hardy and vigorous backyard meat breed with a variety of coat colors, high production, strong feed conversion and heat tolerance! The seven breeds are New Zealand Red, Siamese Satin, Californian, New Zealand White, Dutch, Champagne d'Argent, Harlequin, and Havana. Because the TAMUKs have long ears and thin fur coats they are able to tolerate our hot and humid southeast Texas summers much better than any of the other breeds separately.
We sell both pure TAMUK breeding stock as well as utilize them in our meat production. If you're interested in a breeding bucks or does or would like to try some of our rabbit meat, please send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for hanging out with us, and we hope to see you again soon!