Getting Started With Meat Rabbits: Birth to Weaning

Check out the other posts in this series:

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You have a doe with a nest full of hay, fur, and newborn kits.  Now what do you do?

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Once she has had time to settle after giving birth, usually about 12 hours, you need to check on the kits.  Some does are more tolerant of this than others.  Be careful, be quiet, and don’t make sudden movements.  We usually pull the nest box to the front of the cage and pull the fur out of the way to see the kits.

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If it is cold out you need to be careful not to let the kits get chilled.  They stay warm with a combination of cuddling together for body heat, and the fur covering them.  So uncovering them, and separating them from the warmth of one another are ways you might accidentally chill them.  So if it is cold, work fast and try to keep them in groups.

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The kits are usually in a clump way at the back of the nest.  We pull them out one by one, checking them and piling them together in a clump at the front of the nest.  Then we move them back to the back again and cover them back up.

As we pull each one out we are counting them and checking to see that each one:

  • is alive
  • doesn’t have any injuries
  • has been fed

Is Alive:  It is common for rabbits to have stillborns, or to have kits die in the first few days.  When we find a dead kit in the nest we remove and dispose of it immediately to keep the nest healthy.

Doesn’t Have Any Injuries:  Sometimes an overzealous doe will accidentally chew on her kits when she is cleaning them after delivery.  The most common place is on the ears of the kit, but there can be other places as well.  If a kit is injured a decision needs to be made as to the extent of the injury and the chance of survival.  Sometimes the best thing for the animal is to be put down so it doesn’t suffer.  Minor injuries just need to be kept clean and given a chance to heal.  But putting ointments/medication on the wound could make the doe reject the kit, so it is best if you can avoid it.

Has Been Fed:  Does feed their kits twice a day, usually about 12 hours apart, in the morning and evening.  We find most of our does feed around 9-10 pm and 9 am.  The kit will have a very round belly if it has been fed, called a “frog belly.”  It is easiest to see the frog bellies if you check the kits soon after you think she has fed them, but they should be apparent for up to a few hours after.

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Rabbit kit with fully fed “frog” belly

If you find you have a kit that is not being fed you might have to force her to feed it.  We do this by taking the doe out of the cage onto our lap or a tabletop.  Then we put the kit belly up underneath her and make sure it latches on and gets a chance to eat.  Some people do this in the opposite way, with the doe on her back and the kit laid onto her belly.  We find the does really hate this and the battle is not worth it.  It has always worked well for us to do it with the doe right side up.  Plus, the kits are naturally used to eating on their backs, so it seems the best way to feed them.

Sometimes, if a kit is continuing to not get fed you will have to do the force feeding for a few days in a row.  But most of the time one or two feeding is enough to get them going and vigorous enough to eat themselves.

We check on our kits every day for the first 4-5 days to be sure they are all eating, healthy, and growing well.  It is amazing to see how quickly they grow and change.

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Rabbit Kit Day 1

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Rabbit Kit Day 2

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Rabbit Kit Day 3

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Rabbit Kit Day 4

We do not hand rear orphaned or injured kits.  Kits under two weeks of age have an extremely low chance of survival when hand reared.  I have never heard of or seen one that survived, and that is from experience with both domestic and wildlife rehab kits.

But there is an option of what to do with orphaned kits.  We purposefully breed two of our does within 24-48 hours of each other so they will kindle very close to the same time.  We have had excellent success with fostering kits over from one mother to another mother as long as the kits are within a few days of the same age.  As you can see they change and grow quickly so you have to be careful not to try to foster if there is a big difference in size.

We also foster over if one doe has a very large or small litter.  For example, sometimes we have had first time does that only have 1-2 surviving kits.  A litter that small will have a very hard time staying warm.  So if we have another doe that kindled close to the same time we will foster those kits over to that mother and let the other mother’s milk dry up and then re-breed her.  Or, sometimes we have a doe that has a huge litter of 13, and another doe kindles the next day with only 5.  In that case we will foster 4 kits over so that each litter has 9 kits in it.  It will help ease the pressure for the doe to have to feed so many, and they will grow more evenly.

To foster a kit over simply take the kit you want to switch over and gently rub it across the side of the new mother to get some of her scent on it and then tuck it in with her kits in the nest and cover them all with her fur.  We have never had a doe reject a kit put in her nest in this way.  But we always do the foster move-over in the first few days of life.

For the most part, once they survive the first few days they are likely to survive to weaning.  So after day 4 or 5 we stretch out our checks to twice a week or so.  By one week of age, they are fully covered with fur, but their eyes are still closed.

1 week old

1 week old

On the 9th day it is time to clean out the nest box.  Quite a bit of mess can gather in the first 9 days.  Their eyes open on day 10 and it is good to have them opening in a clean environment.  To do this bring a dishpan, or properly sized box to the cage.  Take all the clean fur out and put it in the box, then put all the kits on top of it.  Careful moving the kits, they are surprisingly hard to keep in your hand.  It is best if you have two people for this process, one to clean the nest, the other to take care of the kits.  Kits have very sporadic and spastic movements and can easily jerk themselves right up and out of a box.  Remove all the dirty hay and fur from the box.  If you are using a cardboard nest liner like we discussed in our Pregnancy and Kindling post then remove that as well.  Put a new cardboard liner in and then using fresh hay create a nice nest with a recessed area in it for the kits to go in.  Carefully move the kits back over and re-cover them with the fur you saved.  If it is cold you need to move very quickly so the kits don’t get chilled.

When their eyes are opening sometimes they can get a bit crusty or stuck shut.  If this happens just take a warm wet cloth and gently wipe it over the eye to moisten the crust and help it open.

By two to three weeks the kits have entered the oh-so-cute phase.  Plan to spend a lot of time standing in front of the cage adoring how cute they are – it’s good for your soul.  ;-)

2 weeks old

2 weeks old

They will begin to be able to enter and exit the nest box on their own.  Most of the time they will still choose to sleep together in the nest.103_0017103_0001

Around 4 weeks of age (depending on the weather) they will be spending little to no time in the nest and the box can be removed.  In colder weather leave it longer, in warmer weather maybe shorter.  Let the kits behavior decide.  If they are never in it and it is just taking up needed space then it should definitely go.  They will still cuddle together for warmth and comfort.

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At 5 weeks of age, give your doe a physical exam, if she is in good health and at a good weight then you can re-breed her.  Sometimes, waiting too long between re-breedings can make it difficult to get the doe pregnant again.  However, an unhealthy or underweight doe should NOT be re-bred at 5 weeks postpartum.  She needs time to regain weight and get healthy before she is re-bred.

Once the kits reach 6 weeks of age the cage is getting very crowded and they are eating and drinking on their own.  It is time for them to leave their mama.

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6 weeks old

We will discuss how to wean your rabbits in our next post in this series.

 

Freak Accident

Freak Accident

Warning, there is a graphic photo of an injury in this post.

One of our farm dogs, Finley, had a freak accident on Sunday.  Of course, these things always happen on weekends when the vet office is closed, right?  Thankfully, our small town vet leaves his home number on the voicemail so you can call him in an emergency after hours.

Our temporary livestock panel sections of the barnyard fence have welded wire attached to them with zip ties.

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Finley is quite the escape artist and has figured out that if he pushes hard enough, or bounces against it enough, he can break the zip ties.  Then he pushes, or even pulls (depending on which side of the fence the wire is on) the wire open enough so he can squeeze out.  Each time that he does this, Mtn Man has been replacing the plastic zip ties with steel zip ties hoping he can’t break those.  In some places the wire has been pretty well bent and deformed by Finley, but Mtn Man has been able to bend it back for the most part and use the steel zip ties to hold the gaps where needed.  A few times, Finley has been injured in his escape attempts, just a scratch here or there from the wire as he squeezed out spaces way to small for his size.  But nothing ever that needed anything but some cleaning and salve.

Sunday, I let Finley out of the barn, he ran over and jumped up against the fence, then started screaming and limping back to me.  I looked down and saw a bunch of blood on his back leg near the dew claw.  We took him inside and examined his leg.  Most dogs do not have an actual digit of bone in their rear dew claws, it is quite rare.  But Finley has a full digit in his, including all the toe bones.  He had sliced it half off, including through the bone, and it was dangling off.  We knew with the broken and exposed bone he would have to go to the vet because of the very high chance of serious infection.

Once at the vet’s office he was sedated and the area was shaved and cleaned.  Since he was in the barnyard when it happened the wound had quite a bit of hay and gunk in it.  Then the vet amputated up to the next joint in the digit, removed the broken dangling part, and sewed it all back up.

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It was clear that the wound was a slice wound, not a tear.  The edge of the skin, as well as the bone, was very cleanly cut, not raggedly torn.  We had no idea what could have possibly been sharp enough to do that.  When we got home and had a chance to investigate it became clear.  We found one of the zip ties that had been horizontally closing a gap in the fence was bent and had some of Finley’s hair stuck in it.

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It is crazy to think that his leg came down exactly right on that 1 1/2 inch section of the fence, in a way that there was enough pressure, the tie was sharp enough, and it hit in just the right spot to cut that digit off.  What a freak accident.

Despite the fact that it was such a small chance of it happening, we are rethinking how to deal with these fences because we don’t want anymore emergency injuries from those steel zip ties.  Finley hasn’t ever escaped the permanent fence – it would be nice if we could just finish replacing it all with permanent fence.  But when you live in the Rockies, fencing is a big deal because everywhere to try to put a post hole you hit rock.

Finley will move indoors for the next 10 days or so while we wait for it to heal and the stitches to be taken out.

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Sunday Homestead Update: Projects, Projects, Projects

We have been busy busy with our fall projects around here this week.  Such a great time of year, being productive as a family together outside in beautiful weather!

Smokehouse and Root Cellar

We are SO close to finishing the smokehouse.  Hopefully this week I will be posting the final post showing how we built the smokehouse start to finish and how it turned out.  Mtn Man and Young Man are constantly discussing the details of how they want to smoke some of their elk and deer meat later this year.  They are reading books from our own homestead library, as well and some books we got from the local public library.  We have to wait until the bears go to bed for the winter, otherwise we will draw in every bear for miles to dine at our smokehouse.

The root cellar needs a little more masonry work on the front, and we have to figure out how to secure the old recycled barn door to the house in a way that is as rodent and bear-proof as possible.

Firewood

It is that time of year again…time to put up the firewood we will need to keep us all warm and cozy through the long, cold winter.  Many hands make light work and I am always surprised as the kids get older how fast work can go when we work together as a family.  There is still more to put up, but we made a lot of progress.

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Barnyard Gate and Permanent Fence

We started a new project this week involving the barnyard.  Building fences in the Rockies can be tricky and expensive because at least 50% of the time when you try to dig a post hole you hit rock of some kind and have to tweak your plan.  This often leads to the use of cement, or the fence looking all zigzaggy, or both.  It also means more expense.  We are blessed to have a lot of livestock panels that we can use as fencing, but we do hope to put in permanent fences everywhere eventually.

We decided we wanted to separated off a section of the barnyard as a separate pen and build a little housing shed in it.  We originally called it the ram shed and pen because we are planning to at some point, in the not-so-near future, get a ram and need a place to keep him separate from the ewes.  As we discussed this pen we realized that, built properly, it could be a very useful multi-purpose shed and pen that we could use to house any number of things.  It could be used to wean lambs, calves, or goat kids from their mothers, or to house chickens or turkeys.  We put up the temporary panels for now and have been using the area to separate the animals for various reasons, but the problem is that we only have one panel that has a gate and it is already in use, so we have to scoot the panels and open them where they attach a couple times a day while we move animals around.  So we decided it was time to put in the gate.  Here are the before pictures of that area:

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And here is the new gate:

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We are hoping to do the permanent fence for that area soon.

We also decided to start in on building the shed back there.  We are attaching it to the upper coop, which is attached to the barn.  It will be built with pallets, just like the upper coop was.  We went back and forth about the pros and cons of putting a floor in the shed, and ultimately decided it was necessary to make the shed as secure as possible against digging predators, which we have plenty of.  So we built the floor first:

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We had plenty of “helpers” getting in our way during the work on these two projects, including these ladies,

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and this guy:

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I am always surprised at how very curious sheep are, especially since they are such prey-driven animals.

Rabbits

Our only breeding buck, Uncle Sam, died unexpectedly this week.  He was fine in the evening, the next morning he wouldn’t eat and by afternoon he was dead.  Unfortunately, this is often the case with rabbits.  They usually do not show signs of illness until it is too late to save them.  We don’t know what killed him, but the other rabbits seem fine so we are thankful it wasn’t contagious.

So we are down to our two breeding does, Justice and Indi.  Both are due to kindle this week, so we should have a lot of kits very soon.  We are discussing the options of what to do about the loss of the buck.

Mr. Smiles’ Surgery

Mr. Smiles has recovered from his 5th surgery and a 4-day hospital stay.  The Pediatric Hospital Pajamas I sewed for him worked beautifully and we got many comments from nurses about how convenient and wonderful they were.  He did have tubes coming out of his arms, so the ability to open and close the sleeve was essential and I was very glad to have them for him while we were there.

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We will continue on with our projects this coming week as we take advantage of the weather and time available to work on things.

Saving Seeds From Tomatoes – It’s So Simple!

Time to save some tomato seeds for next year!

Saving seeds is the same as selectively breeding animals.  If you wanted to breed Black Angus cattle you wouldn’t pick the worst looking, skinniest, unhealthiest cow and breed her to a bull that is supposed to be a Black Angus but looks more like a Jersey.  You would choose the nicest looking, healthiest cow and breed her to the nicest looking, healthiest bull – and both of them would look as close to the Black Angus standard look as possible.  That way you would end up with nicely built Black Angus looking calves.  Same with saving tomato seeds.  If you are saving seeds from a Roma variety you need to pick the ones that are shaped like Romas.  You also can selectively pick for ones that ripen earlier or later, depending on what you are wanting.  And of course, if it has pest damage you don’t want to save seeds from that one – pick the one next to it that resisted the pests.

Once you have selected several tomatoes that have the characteristics you want, you need to get a plastic cup and label it with the variety.  Always label everything during this process because the seeds all look the same in the end and you will want to know which variety is which.  Let the tomatoes become fully ripe and then cut them open and put all the seeds, along with the goo that lives around the seeds, into the cup.

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Add a little bit of water to be sure they don’t dry out.  Cover with a paper towel and set out of the way on the counter.  Let it sit for 3-5 days, giving it time to ferment.  If it begins to get dry add a little more water.  After a few days there should be some mold and foam and it should be kind of stinky.  Yuck!

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Now you rinse out all the gunk.  The way I do it is I fill the cup with water and swirl it a bit.  Then I hold it still, giving the seeds a chance to settle.  Then I pour off the water and goo slowly so the seeds in the bottom don’t come out.  I repeat this several times until the water is clean and the seeds are clean.  Some seeds will float – go ahead and pour those ones off with the yucky water because they are not viable.  You only want to keep the healthy seeds that sink.

Once the seeds are clean, lay them out on a labeled paper towel and put them somewhere safe to dry (out of reach of pets, kids, and strong breezes).  Separate them out from each other because they will want to clump together.

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Once they are completely dry you can put them in a labeled envelope and store them for next year.  I store my seeds in envelopes, in airtight containers, in a refrigerator.

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It’s as simple as that!

Getting Started with Meat Rabbits: Pregnancy and Kindling

This is our 5th post in our Getting Started with Meat Rabbits series.  You can use the following links to catch up on the entire series:

Housing

Feed & Water

Buying Breeding Stock

Breeding

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Once you have successfully bred your rabbits, you have a short 31-day gestation to wait for results.  A breeding doe should always live alone in her own cage.  Housing her in a cage with other does will cause problems and she, or the other does, will kill the kits.

Can you check for pregnancy?

We have never been successful checking for pregnancy in our rabbits, though I have read that some people can and do.  We have tried many times, but it never has worked, so we just wait it out.  We feel like it is such a short gestation anyway, that it isn’t worth the risk of us being wrong one way or the other.

Feeding during pregnancy:

It is important to keep your does in good body condition for optimal breeding, pregnancy, and kindling results.

If you have an overweight doe you need to feed her one cup of pellets (1/2 cup twice a day) and unlimited hay for the first three weeks and then give her unlimited pellets and hay for the last week and during lactation.  If your doe is in good condition you can feed her unlimited pellets and hay through the pregnancy.  If she is underweight you should wait to breed her, but if somehow she is now bred and is underweight then definitely give her unlimited pellets and hay throughout the pregnancy.

Nest Boxes

A rabbit needs to be able to build a nest to put her babies (kits) in to keep them warm and safe.  She does this with hay and her own fur.  If a rabbit is not given a place to build her nest she will just do her best to build it in the corner of the cage, but it will not be ideal and will lead to a higher loss of kits.  So it is important to give her a nest box in which to build her nest.  You can buy nest boxes, or you can make them yourself.

We make our own nest boxes with 1 x 12 wood.  We avoid plywood in case the rabbits chew on it.  The finished box is 15 in x 9 in x 9 in.  Each side piece is 15×9.  The front piece is 4×9 so the mama can easily get in and out.  The back piece is 9×9.  We put a resting board for the mama on the top of the back that is 5×9.  We do not make the bottom of the box solid.  We use hardware cloth to enclose the bottom.  This makes it easier to keep the box clean.  Before we give the nest box to an expecting doe we line the bottom with a piece of cardboard cut to fit tightly.  Then we can replace the cardboard as needed to clean the box, and any moisture is able to dry out because of the hardware cloth under the box.  Sometimes she chews up the cardboard to help with nest building, and that is fine.

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We give the nest box to the doe on day 28 of her pregnancy.  We fill the box with hay before we put it in the cage.  We also make sure to keep plenty of hay in the cage from then on so she can build her nest whenever she is ready.  Most does wait to build until right before they kindle, but some take a few days to perfect their nest ahead of time.

The majority of does will kindle between day 31-33 of gestation.  We have had them go as early as day 30 and as late as day 35, although the late ones are always stillborn in our experience.

Signs that your doe is getting ready to give birth (kindle):

The number one sign that you should look for is what we call “hay mustache-ing.”  When a doe wants to start building her nest she will gather a bunch of hay in her mouth and hop around the cage with it.  The hay will be sticking out a couple of inches on each side of her mouth and it looks like a mustache.

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***Hay mustache -ing is a very important thing to watch for.  It has saved a few litters in our time of raising rabbits.  Twice now we have had the following scenario play out: we purchased a doe that was “not pregnant.”  A couple weeks later when we went to feed her we noticed she was hay mustache-ing.  Knowing what that means we gave her a nest box and  a bunch of hay just to be safe.  Sure enough, the next morning we had a surprise litter of kits born.  Thankfully, because we gave her a nest box, they were all alive.  Had we not, they probably wouldn’t have survived.

That being said, we also have had a doe that hay mustaches halfway through every pregnancy.  We would give her a nest box and nothing would happen for two weeks, at which time she would finally kindle.  For some reason the instinct kicked in early for that one, every time.  So we learned to not give her a box until later.

So keep that in mind and pay attention to hay mustache-ing behavior.***

She will begin building a nest, whether there is a box or not.  Sometimes even when there is a box they will try to build in a corner.  We usually try pulling the nest out of the corner and putting all the hay in the box to encourage her where to go.

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Doe trying to build nest in corner.

Once she begins to build a nest it could be a couple of days or just a couple of hours until she begins kindling.  Each doe is different and as you get to know your does you will know what to expect from them.

Once her hay nest is how she wants it she will pull some fur from her belly and line the nest with it.  Then she will begin to kindle.  It can take a few hours for her to give birth to all the kits.  She will go in and out of the nest during the process, giving birth and cleaning up the kits and herself.  The important thing to remember is LEAVE HER ALONE.  DO NOT open the cage or mess with her.  You can quietly check on her every so often, but don’t mess with her or open her cage.  Rabbits have strong prey instincts and will kill or abandon their babies if they think they are in danger.  So I say again…leave her alone!

The exception to the leave-her-alone rule is if she gives birth to any of the kits outside of the nest box on the wire.  If that happens you quietly and carefully reach in and tuck the kit into the nest.  Most first-time kindlers will have their first one or two kits on the wire before they figure out what to do.  Some does will give birth to the whole litter on the wire.  Either way, if you can save them and put them in the nest the mother will likely go ahead and mother them properly.

A good breeding doe, with good strong mothering instincts, should put most of them in the nest the first time, and all of them in there from then on.  You can lose a whole litter if they are born on the wire and freeze to death, so try to be around when a first time doe is kindling and check on her often.  If any of the kits on the wire are dead, remove them as soon as possible because some does will get overzealous cleaning up their kits and can end up eating part of them, especially when they are dead.

When she is done kindling you will find the nest full of kits and a layer of her fur over top of them.

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In the cold months if a doe doesn’t cover them well enough we will help her out by pulling the loose fur off her belly and putting it over them ourselves.  It doesn’t hurt her because her body lets loose that fur naturally in preparation for giving birth.  20150724_164634_resized

You will know she is done because everything will be cleaned up and she will be laying out resting in the cage.  As long as everything looks good don’t mess with the kits yet, not even to count them.  Give her about 12 hours after kindling to settle in.  Then carefully check the nest, count the kits and check they have been fed, and remove any stillborns that might be in there.  Don’t expect to see the mom in the nest.  Does only feed their kits twice a day and usually do it in private, so don’t be worried if you never see her interacting with the kits or getting in the nest at all.  That is normal.

We will discuss more about checking on the kits, how to know if they have been fed, as well as what to do with them from birth to weaning in our next post in this series.

 

Sunday Homestead Update

We are having BEAUTIFUL fall weather here in the mountains.  It has been sunny and 60s-70sF during the day and 30-40s at night.  We are really enjoying working and playing outside.  I love to sit out in the sun knitting while the kids run and play.

Knitting

Speaking of knitting, I haven’t shown any of my knitting projects lately.  Why?  Because I am working on Christmas knitting and everything I am doing right now is for people in my family who view this blog.  So here is all I can show you:

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5 project bags with 5 knitting projects in them.  There wont be much knitting to be shown until after Christmas, except maybe what I will be making for Mr. Smiles – he’s not big on reading the blog yet.  :-)

Butchering

This week we had a litter of 7 rabbits ready to butcher.  Most of our rabbits are sold for pet food, a whole rabbit (bones and guts included – fur off) is the most well balanced food for dogs on the raw food diet.  But this litter we decided to keep for ourselves because we wanted to can the meat.  We have never canned rabbit meat, but have wanted to try for over 8 years now.  It is high time we get around to it!  So we butchered them and cut them into quarters.  The legs and the backstrap were used for canning, and the rib cages were frozen for the dogs.

We soaked the meat in a salt brine (1T salt per 1 Qt water) for an hour.  It was cold water with some ice cubes to cool the meat.

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Then we packed the raw meat into quart jars and processed them in the pressure canner.

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From seven 12-week-old rabbits we got 7 Qts canned meat with one leg and one tenderloin left over, plus 7 rib cages frozen for dog food.

We haven’t tried the meat yet, but we are excited to try it out sometime this week and see how it tastes.  Everyone I have talked to says it tastes much better canned than frozen.  If we really like it we will probably try canning the chickens we will be butchering next month.

Hunting Season

Elk hunting season has opened in our area and Mtn Man and Young Man are anxiously awaiting their chance to put elk meat in the freezer for the family.  They each have a cow elk tag and a buck mule deer tag this year.  It would be wonderful if they filled them all – it would be enough meat for our family for the whole year.  Deer season isn’t open yet, it starts in October, so for now the hunt is on for elk.

After they butchered the rabbits they sharpened their knives so they will be ready to butcher any elk they get.

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Garden

The garden is mostly bare.  There are a few plants left that need to be cleaned out of there, and the pest control tent with beets and turnips in it is still alive and growing.  It will be interesting to see if we can harvest anything from them before it gets cold enough they die.  The tent is helping act as somewhat of a frost shield.

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The green tomatoes we picked before frost are beginning to ripen.  I have set aside ones I want to save for seed, we have eaten fried green tomatoes as well, and the rest will be used to make and can s

paghetti sauce as they ripen.img_2537

Grapes

We were gifted 35lbs of grapes this week from a family member who had a vine produce like crazy this year.  So we will be busy busy making jelly this week.

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Plenty of autumn activities going on around here!

Satisfying Dinner Conversation

As our family enjoyed a meal around the table this week we were discussing that, yet again, most of the meal had come off of our own property.  Roast chicken (meat and herbs we raised, butter we churned from raw milk we buy a share of), creamy cashew green beans (purple bush beans from our garden), brown sugar carrots (carrots from our garden), garlic potatoes (potatoes and part of the seasoning from our garden), and cheesy zucchini (zucchini from our garden).

Then the conversation turned to “How long has it been since we bought….?” and we were very pleasantly surprised by the results.

How long has it been since we bought _______ because we provide enough of it from our own homestead?

Red Meat – 17 years!  Yup, 17 years.  Mtn Man has provided all our red meat through hunting elk and deer for the last 17 years.  And last year Young Man joined in and is now also providing red meat for the family through hunting.  Plus, we raised two calves for beef when we also had a dairy cow.

Lamb – 2 years!

Eggs – 3 1/2 years!  And really it has been 7 1/2 years, with a 1 year break in the middle when we moved.  So 3 years of no egg buying, then a year of buying, then another 3 1/2 years of no buying.

Green Beans – 7 years!  I was able to store up enough for the year we took off of gardening during the move.

Carrots – 7 years!  Same as the beans.

Stewed Tomatoes – 2 years!  We have grown enough tomatoes in the last couple years for me to can enough stewed tomatoes for all our chilis, soups, and stews over the winters.

Some Herbs – 2 years! We have grown and dried all of the basil, parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage that we have used.

And….what do we only buy a small percentage of and raise the rest…?

Chicken – 90% of our white meat needs have been met by our home-raised chicken and rabbits for the last 3 years.  And about 50% of our white meat needs were provided by just the rabbits in the 4 years prior to that.  We do still buy a couple of turkeys a year but hope to someday raise them too.

Salad Greens – for about 4 months out of the year we (6 of us) eat salad at least 5 times a week and it all comes from the garden.  During the rest of the year we buy salad greens, but we eat them a lot less often.

 

What a very satisfying conversation.  We hadn’t thought about some of those things and it was really fun as we all listed them off and realized what we are able to provide for ourselves.  We are nowhere near self-sufficient, but it is nice to know we are providing as much food as we do.  And the fact that we are a family of 7 just adds to it because that is a lot of mouths to feed.  And the struggle that our climate and terrain gives us is another challenge that makes it even more satisfying.  It feels really good!

I know a lot of my blog readers are also homesteading, some on a smaller or larger scale than we are.  What have you not bought and for how long?  Please share in the comments!