Sure I grew up on a farm (a buffalo farm), but I never took a real interest in farming. Even after my husband took over the operation, I didn’t feel compelled to get involved. Then a couple of years ago,after the youngest of our four children started school, I decided that it was time I embrace farm life. Much to my husband’s surprise I asked for chickens for Mother’s Day. From there, my love for farming has grown.
Shortly after we got the chickens, a customer of my husband’s hardware store, offered him three rabbits. Eager to expand my livestock collection, I readily agreed. It has been a great decision, and we’ve learned a lot. Here are some reasons I’m glad we are raising rabbits.
1. Rabbits do not require a trailer. One reason I wanted to get into farming was to have an activity to enjoy with The Littles (this is what we call our two youngest). They had an interest in the farm, but buffalo are not like cattle. They can be aggressive and difficult to deal with. We needed a smaller starter animal. Rabbits seemed like a good choice. However, I don’t even like to parallel park. No way was I hauling a trailer full of sheep, horses, or goats. We can easily fit six or seven rabbit cages in the back of my Suburban if we are taking them to a sale or show.
2. Rabbits are cute. As excited as The Littles were to get rabbits, they aren’t always excited about feeding them. Being able to play the “adorable card” helps. “Poor Little Blossom. Wouldn’t you hate for her to be hungry.” It’s hard to say no to this face.
3. Rabbits are easy to manage. Aside from being easy to haul, rabbits are easy to handle in general. This is important for a beginning farmer and her Littles. Worst-case scenario someone gets a scratch or bite, but on one is going to get kicked in the head or trampled. Larger animals might be in our future. In fact in recent months, I’ve begun helping my husband more with the buffalo. But for now, I prefer The Littles and I get our farming feet wet with small, easily managed livestock.
4. Rabbits are the fastest producing food source – or so I hear. We have not actually eaten our own rabbits yet. I thought we could. In fact, when the offer of rabbits first came up, I thought having rabbits would be a handy way to enjoy some hasenpfeffer. However, within five minutes the Littles had named, claimed, and cuddled my future feasts. And it’s just really hard to eat a cute little fellow named Mr. Fluffington. For now we are content just to breed and show our rabbits. When we do decide to start eating them, we will have to name them things like Stewie. For those who do want a readily available food source, rabbits breed quickly and grow to eating size in a relatively short period of time. They are also easy and free to slaughter. (It costs a fortune to have a buffalo slaughtered.) For those preparing for a “worst case scenario” that might include a life without electricity, rabbits are a one -meal slaughter (requiring no refrigeration). And yet it is easy to maintain a large enough herd to keep a family in meat year round.
5. Rabbits are the pet you can eat. Okay, that is not exactly the slogan we want on our letterhead, but it is the truth. The Littles love to have baby bunnies around. They are ridiculously cute. However, since we aren’t eating them, we can’t just keep them. Fortunately, in a farming community like ours, it is easy to find homes for baby rabbits. Most people want them for pets or to show, but a few people are looking for a food supply. We successfully market to both, and The Littles get a little spending money from their rabbit sales – another incentive to keep the bunnies fed and happy.
For families raising a variety of larger, meatier, more valuable livestock, cute little bunnies might seem frivolous. But for people new to farming or for families with small children, rabbits might be just the ticket. And if you decide raising rabbits isn’t for you, there’s always hasenpfeffer.