Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pepperwood Rabbitry

Welcome to Pepperwood Rabbitry

“Ideas are like rabbits, you get a couple, learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen” ~John Steinbeck

         Almost two years ago, my husband and I decided to try our hand at raising rabbits. We have a dream of having our own little homestead and being able to live off the grid. Now, I’m not saying I want to live completely off the grid, but if things come down to it, I want us to be prepared and able to survive the worst. Step 1 was to begin breeding rabbits for meat. So, we bought a male rabbit and a female rabbit and figured things would be smooth sailing from there. WRONG!
            We got a doe that was already pregnant but she had the babies too early and they all died. Then we realized that the buck was too young to breed (only 4 months) so we had to wait until he was old enough. When he finally was, he could not figure out what he was doing. It took us another 3 months before our doe was pregnant again. And then she lost the litter. And then she lost another litter. I called them Panda Rabbits: unable to do the one thing that should come naturally to them.
            It was frustrating! Haven’t they ever heard of the term “breed like rabbits”? Did we get defective rabbits or was it something we were doing wrong? I did lots of research and everyone I talked to was as stumped as I was as to what was going on and the general consensus was “these things happen”.
            Fast forward a year and we start over. We build a big fancy (but not too fancy) hutch and start over with rabbits I adopted from someone moving out of state. The previous owner had raised the rabbits for meat, just like we wanted, and although he said the doe had successfully bred before I was skeptical. But we set up the hutches, gave the rabbits time to adjust to their new homes and then tried again.
            Low and behold! Success! The first time I saw those tiny little hairless rats in the kindling box I literally jumped for joy! Finally! After over a year of trying to breed rabbits, we had done it! Well, the credit should go to the rabbits but I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself. Then, two out of six babies died before 6 weeks old. This made me kind of sad but the others survived and thrived. And they were very tasty!
Our very first litter!

         Soon after, we got another litter from our other female; it was her first litter but all 7 of them survived! No problems, no sick kits, no runts, no wondering what the heck I was doing wrong. It was wonderful. These rabbits were doing exactly what we had hoped! They were breeding successfully and having furry little litters of food!
Partulah and her 7 babies (6 albinos and 1 brown Dutch)

         We stopped over the winter but as spring approached, we started again. We now have a third litter that just weaned. I’m hoping to have another one or two litters coming some time this week. While two of my does are successful breeders, a third that I got in September has yet to breed. We keep trying and I’ve found that even with rabbits, you have to be patient.

Iroquis with 4/5 of her latest litter

         Eventually I will learn how to tan and preserve hides and make things with the very soft and beautiful fur. Everything I’ve read and all the research I’ve done makes it seem very complicated and overwhelming. But I’ve learned that most things seem complicated and overwhelming at first. With time and practice and hands on experience, I usually manage to find a simpler way, or at least understand things better so that they seem simple.

            I’m also very excited and looking forward to breeding my blue-eyed brown Dutch rabbit Tabitha, that came from our second litter. It’s been quite a journey so far, with ups and downs, joys and disappointments. As I gain more knowledge and experience, I feel more confident in myself (and my rabbits). And I am excited to share what I learn and what I experience with you!