Category Archives: Meat Rabbits

Things We’ve Gotten from Raising Rabbits

The Rabbits Bought my KeurigThis morning I made myself a cup of tea and looked hard at the Keurig machine. It’s getting old – not the sleek styles you can find available today, but it still gives me a great amount of joy. Why? Well, because the rabbits bought my Keurig!

We’ve been raising rabbits for several years now. Back in the day, the first time we had any extra money above the feed costs and facility costs, I bought a Keurig with the rabbit money!

There have been seasons where we have bred very hard and seasons where we have not. We have left certain breeds and added others. But in general our principles of raising rabbits as naturally as possible, toward the ARBA standard of perfection, and allowing the rabbits to be part of a larger homesteading lifestyle… well, those things are still there.

We rarely make money with rabbits. On good months we’re able to break even with feed costs. Going to shows can be expensive, especially if you load up your entire car with rabbits when you go like we do! We don’t raise rabbits to make the big bucks, we raise rabbits for the other lessons we get which are invaluable:

Our children value life. We raise our rabbits as a family. As a family we care for them. We process as a family. The kids, generally, value life. They realize that if the animals aren’t fed, they aren’t going to be fed because they have stewardship over these lives and that’s important. They know that each life has a purpose and those purposes may look different but they are all valuable.

Our family understands healthy competition. When we go to a show, of course it’s an opportunity to see how your breeding program is doing. You’d love your rabbit to win the top honors! But it’s more importantly an opportunity to interact with other breeders, to encourage one another, learn best practices, and admire these animals. Showing rabbits has helped us cement that WE are our main competition… if we haven’t done our personal best we aren’t winning at anything.

We’ve learned science in a hands on way. Rabbits are an amazing tool for understanding genetics. I honestly can’t see any other area that would give us as much knowledge in a practical way about genetics as raising rabbits. Now… has that led to some interesting conversations? Why, yes! Once my dear child told me that with my naturally horrible eyesight I ought to be glad I’m not a rabbit because I would have been culled from the breeding program! Ha! But there is a reality that these experiences help us understand natural order and scientific inquiry in a whole new way.

 

I could go on and on, but I will stop now because my tea is getting cold. The tea that came from the hot water from the Keurig that our rabbits bought. These rabbits, they are always bringing us important things!

Falling in Love All Over Again

Image may contain: textGuys… things have been busy around here. The kids are growing up and they have various interests and so I haven’t been puttering around the rabbitry like I used to enjoy doing with my free time – the free time has been minimal!

So let me share with you how exciting it was to evaluated the juniors we have and realize they may be my favorites in a really long time! It made me immediately want to drop all the things and just wander around the rabbitry with my heart going pitter patter.

I think I’m even more aware of how much I love them because we aren’t attending the National Show this year. It’s been on the calendar for two years, since they announced the location and it was closer than a days drive away. But then, in August when the kid’s soccer schedules came out, I learned that having four kids in traveling soccer and trying to attend a rabbit show in October is not a good combination. Sad days.

Alas… we’ll be planning for shows in the future and hopefully change our current lame track record. Showing really adds to the excitement of raising rabbits, and I miss my show friends!

When the Show Must Go On… (Or, how do you take care of the animals when you’re sick yourself?!)

 

Taking Care of Animals When You're Sick Too

What do you do when you’re sick but the animals still need daily care?

One of the worst things about raising animals is how they are so darn needy on a daily basis. Seriously – they want food. They want water. They need milking. They need grooming. It’s just so… regular.

 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week because our family has been hit hard by some type of sickness that’s going around. It’s been about a two week period and it’s cycled through all six of us. Assuming it doesn’t offer the pleasure of a repeat round I think we’re about three days from being totally done of it…

And all during this time we’ve still had to feed and water the rabbits. Milk the goats. Collect the eggs.

Animals don’t care a whit if you have a 103* temperature and chills.

Fortunately in our case the sickness we’ve had has been staggered so there’s always been someone healthy enough to do the chores, but it reminds me of the stories of early pioneers who were found dead in their tracks on the way to the barn while the rest of their family is dead in the bed. The last one standing in that situation was obviously overcome with the immensity of it all.

Morbid, I know. Sorry.

My goal in sharing this was actually not to be depressing and speak of death, doom, and destruction, but to point out the need for a plan when things go bad.

We know that life is always going to through curve balls at us – so when it comes to our animals, how are we prepared? Who is your back up to call and take care of the fur babies if you’re suddenly ill? On vacation?

This has been the greatest discussion in our family when our daughter first brought up wanting dairy goats. We know that with a milking animal our schedule will be much more limited and our travel adventures will slow down. However, we’re moving into a season of our family where that fits… so we can make a sacrifice of time and effort for this season.

How are you prepared for an emergency?

 

 

 

In response to our growing microfarm adventures, I’m taking another look at our emergency plan (initially created after I wrote this post a few years ago) and making sure it’s up to date. My plan is to turn it into a fillable .pdf and make it available to all of YOU so your leg work in creating your own plan is a little less stressful. Hopefully it will be out by the end of next week!

In the meantime, may your animal adventures be calm and that Murphy’s Law thing stay far away from you!

I’d love to hear from you about how you handle emergencies and travel plans! I feel like we should create some sort of a web-based service (like the Babysitters Club) where people could schedule others to come and cover chores!

Our “MicroFarm” is a MacroDeal

Mad Hatter Microfarm LogoOne thing you’ll notice in the future is that we’re expanding our horizons from simply “Mad Hatter Rabbits” to “Mad Hatter MicroFarm.” We admit it, the rabbits were our gateway animal! They got us into this happy homesteading lifestyle and we will always be grateful for this!

Part of our commitment when we first started in rabbits in 2012 was that we would be on the lookout for additional sustainable living options that we could do on our urban property. Over the years that has expanded as we’ve taken one small step at a time toward a more wholesome lifestyle.

Rabbits were our beginning. Lots of research, lots of practice, and we felt like we were getting the hang of it. Four years ago we started with our gardening projects, and the last two years have really ramped it up where we can actually supplement our family’s diet with what we grow. Last spring we ended up with both quail and chickens, and this spring we are expanding our efforts with a dairy goat.

At the root of all of these changes is a desire to be as close to our food processes as possible. We aren’t certified organic anything… but we do our best to be as close to organic as possible. I like to think of it as attempting to copy the way our grandparents lived life, when a full-service WalMart wasn’t within a 20 mile radius of practically everywhere and our meat didn’t come on styrofoam trays!

Our movements toward this lifestyle have been gradual, but our blog will now reflect the various aspects of learning and exploring we do to create this high-altitude homesteading, microfarming experience at 7,000 ft. Hopefully by bringing all of the various aspects of our life underneath one blog you’ll see more frequent posts and find yourself exploring ideas and learning for your own self-sufficient dreams!

You’ll still find this site when you search for “Mad Hatter Rabbits,” but over time we’ll be using Mad Hatter Microfarm more and more. Don’t get confused! It’s still us!

Dr. Seuss’s Guide to Using Heat Lamps with Rabbits

I can take zero credit for the creativity you’re about to see. It is a straight copy from a thread of comments on the Facebook group page Backyard Meat Rabbits. However, it’s pretty fabulous what can happen with the collective creativity of people – and it deserves to be recorded! The advice is also quite sound!

 


 

“When the internal temperature of hay rises above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celcius), a chemical reaction begins to produce flammable gas that can ignite if the temperature goes high enough.”

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

Don’t use heat lamps!

 

 

Could I, should I, in a nest?

You could not, should not, in a nest. Having a fire would not be the best.

 

Could I, should I, in my barn? Surely that will cause no harm.

You could not, SHOULD NOT, in your barn! A blazing fire brings MUCH harm.

 

Do not use them here nor there.

Do not use heat lamps anywhere.

 

You could not, should not, in a barn.

Not in a nest, on any farm!

Not in a cage, not in a herd – they don’t need heat lamps, you silly old bird!

Do not use them here or there, don’t use heat lamps anywhere!

 

Could I, should I, in the cold? My little kits are not too old.

You could not, should not in the cold. The nest has fur, the heat to hold.

 

But if my doe does not pull fur… could I, should I, then for sure?!

You should not not! Not for sure at all! Just grab your doe and pull it all!

Do not use them, Steve, my dear. They’ll be fine! Do not fear!

 

Can we use them for their dad? Frozen water makes him mad.

You cannot use them for their dad. For EVERY bunny, they are bad!

 

 

Credit for this rhyme goes to Justin Beilstein, Stefanie Ryne Godfrey, Nick Gunnells, Jekka Lynn, Steve Detmer, Savannah Berniquez, Linda Wilson, Jeremy Lawson.

 

On our New Pricing…

Can I just tell you my least favorite part of raising rabbits? Selling rabbits.

 

I know this may sound silly, but selling rabbits ranks right around cleaning out the waste pile for me in terms of favorite activities. Partially because there is no right or wrong rule with setting prices, and there is a lot of back and forth variety in what breeders do in specific areas. Add in flaky buyers who fall through at the last minute and, in general, it’s a challenge!

 

We’ve just upped our prices a tad – it’s the first time in three years we’ve done so. It’s always hard to consider raising prices, and I want you to know we are doing so intentionally, not because we suddenly want more bang for our sales.

 

Since we breed rare breeds almost entirely, we keep availability in mind. Yes, it’s extremely difficult to find some of these breeds – and truthfully we have paid a top dollar for most all of our foundation animals. However, we would love these rare breeds to gain in popularity, which means that if you price them too high you run some serious, great breeders out of the game with a high price.

 

We’ve also become pretty choosy with our keeper/sellers and in the past two years we’ve culled hard, which has improved the quality of our herd overall. When I think back to the rabbits we had several years ago, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made with the breeds, and there is a dedication to care and analytical breeding that has been proven in the test of time. Are we perfect, not at all! But do we have better judgement than we did when we were starting out? Absolutely. Are we producing higher quality animals? Yes, we are. People who buy a Mad Hatter Rabbit now receive the benefit of the education we’ve gained over the years – and there’s value to that.

 

I believe you’ll still find us on the “reasonable” spectrum of the prices for our breeds, as our goal is still to provide a quality rabbit at a decent price to encourage other folks to raise these heritage and rare breeds. We thank you for your patience and look forward to working with you!

So, Um… We have fuzzy bunnies now.

IMG_6678Just about 12 months ago we attended a show and happened to set up camp next to a very kind angora breeder who gently and patiently put up with our kid’s questions about angoras and requests to touch and love on angoras. Of course, because angoras are beautiful, they begged to take an angora home. We firmly, repeatedly said, “No.”

I have a grudge against rabbits that can’t clean their own poop up well. We raise meat rabbits. We don’t like high maintenance. NO ANGORA BUNNIES.

Fast forward several months and I learn that one of my favorite breeders ever raises Satin Angoras. We’re negotiating for a trade in bloodlines for some other breeds and she offers to set the kids up with Satin Angoras, “They’re meat bunnies wearing coats. You can do this!” she says. I hem and haw because the kids haven’t stopped bugging me about the fuzzy animals.

We work with the kids to set some goals for responsibility to show us that they’re ready to take on a high maintenance breed. Remarkably, the kids meet their goals. The trade of breeds takes place, our friend tells me she’s doing her best to give the kids a great start, and don’t worry, they’re meat animals – if they’re awful they can go to freezer camp.

In May we came home from West Coast Classic with a trio of Satin Angoras. I don’t want to admit it but I kind of like them – the personality is amazing on these animals. We go on a field trip to a fiber mill and also a fiber festival, realizing we can utilize the wool on these animals to do some cool crafts and learn a new skill.

IMG_0902We trade for more fuzzy bunnies through ARBA nationals.

We breed the fuzzy bunnies. The babies are adorable. We show a fuzzy bunny at a show and realize our original breeder friend took very good care of us in starter stock.

And now, it appears we are breeders of fuzzy bunnies. Also known as Satin Angoras. Lord help us.IMG_0924

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