Our little farmstead probably would not feel complete without more animals, right? After adding the ducks to the chicken run, we thought we were done. Worms were all we planned to add this year, and possibly bees next year, but they’re hardly pets. The small ducklings that melted Sky into butter and opened his heart like nothing I’d seen before have gotten too large and high-strung to be held by humans. Being that they’re large birds and predator animals, ducks are naturally that way. Sky doesn’t have the therapeutic and relaxing cuddling any more, and we’ve been saddened by that. So, what’s the solution, more ducklings? No way. Cuddling the Chihuahua? Somehow she doesn’t melt him to butter like the ducks did… she’s higher strung and not so fluffy. More cuddle time with Mama? We do that regularly, but it just isn’t the same as nurturing a cute, helpless creature. After a lot of thought and consideration, we’ve decided to enter the world of Flemish Giant rabbits.
Why rabbits? Well, they’re very easy and inexpensive to care for, and we’re planning to have Prasad and Sky take care of 95% of their needs. This includes weekly hutch cleanings, and daily feeding & watering. It will take a few weeks to get their routines down, but we have no doubt it will be a rewarding learning experience for them. Mainly, it will be one of their biggest lessons in responsibility. I had a guinea pig when I was ten years old, and I recall all the feeding and cleaning. It was very good for me. Unlike my little guinea pig, the rabbits will provide several eco-friendly benefits to our family:
1) Fertilizer- You can use both their recycled paper litter and straw bedding with their droppings in a compost pile, which will then fertilize our garden. Like chicken poo, rabbit droppings contain a large amount of nitrogen and phosphorus which is excellent for flower and fruit production. This is not true for carnivorous pets like cats and dogs. Their waste products are not recommended for compost heaps.
2) Feeding them is fairly inexpensive (a 50 lb. bag of Rabbit Chow at the feed store costs around $10.00-$12.00 and lasts a long time), but you can grow a lot of their food yourself in a backyard garden. They eat practically every green imaginable such as romaine and other dark leaf lettuce, collard greens, kale, parsley, and cilantro, which you can grow in a special home garden vegetable patch just for them. Rabbits also love dandelion greens and flowers, violets and clover; we have an abundance of wild foods in our area, so the kids will enjoy gathering those regularly. And did you know the main ingredient in commercial rabbit food is hay? That’s something we always have an abundance of because of the chickens, and eating it in natural form is far more healthy for rabbits. Providing rabbit food ourselves helps the environment by cutting down on energy consumption and waste production caused by manufacturing, packaging, storing and shipping commercial food.
3) This one is one of my favorite benefits- Rabbits are effective paper shredders. No need to waste money and electricity on an electric shredder- rabbits’ teeth grow continuously, so they need objects to chew on a regular basis. They will happily destroy your sensitive documents, shoe boxes, pizza boxes, chipboard packaging. No need to worry as much about the landfill or even your recycle bin. They’ll reduce our waste production, and it will eventually end up in your garden soil. Gotta love that cycle.
4) Toys- Rabbits’ favorite toys consist of items you would normally throw away or recycle. They love playing with toilet paper rolls, outdated phone books, old towels, boxes, etc. Again, this reduces waste associated with manufacturing, packaging, storing, shipping and advertising commercial pet toys. There are countless commercial ‘toys’ out there marketed to rabbits, but they’ll love these free items much more.
5) Health- Rabbits are very clean animals and, in general, they manage to carry on relatively disease-free lives. I can attest to this because I kept one rabbit as a pet in my early twenties. Like any animal in captivity, as long as they’re given adequate space and weekly cleanings, they’re very clean animals. This means a fewer harmful chemicals and drugs associated with pet shampoos, flea and tick treatments, and other medications. These pollutants cause a several problems such as drug-resistant bacteria, contamination of waterways, and health concerns for aquatic animals.
6) Size- Rabbits require a minimal amount of space, even less than chickens. When I say that, I’m not referring to their hutch, but their outdoor pen. Gone are the days of keeping rabbits in small hutches 24/7 for breeding and food consumption. I realize people still do that, but these days more people are giving outdoor bunnies room to hop around, explore, burrow and graze just like they would in their natural habitat. This only requires a 19″ x 6′ of ground area, and can go larger, depending upon your property. Our hutches will have a run that attaches and can move around our property from year to year. It can be beneficial to place the portable run in unused garden beds, then use that same garden next year for veggies since the soil will be rich. Bottom line, rabbits require very little space to be happy and healthy.
6) Our family’s personal benefit- Our kids will love and appreciate animals even more, and develop a sense of pride in caring for them on their own. That was central to our decision. Having small mammals will bring more ‘animal’ energy to our property, which we all love. Having fowl has been great, but there’s something about mammals that we’re also drawn to. The best thing of all is that we’re getting two Flemish Giants, which are known as the largest, most cuddly people-friendly rabbits in the world.
our first bunny
When are the rabbits due to arrive? We’ll get our 6 week old, approximately 6lb. light grey buck this Saturday. He’s pictured at the left, and will be Prasad’s very own rabbit. He’ll be responsible for all his care and feeding. We’ll wait a month to bring home our doe, Sky’s rabbit. She’s from a separate litter and won’t be weaned until then. They’ll be housed separately, but we do hope to breed them at least once this year, considering they are a very rare and wonderful breed, perfect for families and small farms.
Am I building the hutches? No way. It’s an option (one I prefer).. I wish we could this time around, but we’d rather focus on getting the garden going this year and putting the finishing touches on the chicken run and coop. So, I chose a very simple design for both hutches after pricing them online for several hours. They’re two levels each, 36″ x 36″ with den boxes, and a natural grazing area at the bottom. We’ll attach a longer run later. I have no doubt we’ll be applying extra stain, sealant, better latches and such because manufactured coops/hutches never do as well as hand crafted ones. Now, Prasad needs to come up with a name for his little guy!
UPDATE: As of this evening, Prasad has decided to name his boy “Forest Bubba” or “Forest ‘Big’ Bubba” as he says. and Sky decided on a complimentary earthy name- “Meadow“. I’m guessing she’ll end up being called “Meadow Mama“.
Posted by Jill