Results for tag "rabbit-tractor"

frosty frost

After quite a brown & dry beginning to winter, the region has been blanketed with snow. In the mornings, we’ve had relatively warm air currents leading to some spectacular hoar frosts. Don’t you just love it? Our animals are all doing fantastic in this new season- rabbits come with their own fur coat, and we are raising our youngsters outdoors so they can grow healthy and sound with lots of hay and room to romp about in the sun and fresh air. We’ll be offering fresh rabbit throughout the winter, email us to reserve yours. Rabbit is an incredibly nutrient dense meat, very healthy and lean- delicious marinated and grilled, or stewed with herbed dumplings on top.

Rabbit is the new local grass fed meat!The ducks are insulated with not only a down jacket, but also a plump layer of fat. Our lady layers are blessing us with eggs MUCH later in the season than ever before….which can only mean they are very content and happy with their new duck barn, deep bedding, hay for snacking, constant fresh water and days spent sitting outside in the sun. We absolutely love our ducks! Look for the Holiday Special going on now until Christmas at several of the Twin City Co-ops. We did have a couple of episodes with a hawk scoping out our ducks, which is very scary for them and for us. The safety of our ladies is extremely important to us! And so- we got the ducks some guardians, a pair of French Toulouse Geese. They are drop dead gorgeous, very calm and are doing a great job patrolling the duck pasture and keeping an eye on the sky.Still scratching your head over gift ideas? Please know we have set up a PayPal account in order to sell our handmade goatmilk soaps online, and shipped directly to your door! These soaps are the most moisturizing EVER, being made up of 50% goatmilk! There are 8 “flavors” to choose from, let us know if you have any questions about ordering. We can customize your mix of flavors and wrap up gift bundles with festive ribbon so they are ready to go. Our soap is sold by the pound, as the bar sizes vary (they have a rustic look from being handcut.)  Thanks so much for your support!

Chicken/Rabbit Tractor Evolution

For the past couple of years, we have been experimenting with chicken and rabbit tractors. When we first arrived here, we had little experience with building these things, but now with some experience under our belts, it’s getting better. The amount of 2x4s put into these projects is enough to make us seriously consider buying a small sawmill, but luckily our friend Mark down the road is a expert sawyer and we will happily use his services when the time comes to fell our own timber. Meanwhile, the trips to the lumberyard are numerous.

Our first choice was PVC pipe, for ease of construction and durability. We used screws instead of glue, just in case we wanted to take it all apart. Well, so far we haven’t because there is so much else to do. It was about 10’x10′ using 10” lengths of 1 diameter pipe. We wrapped chicken wire around it and covered it with a tarp that collected water and sometimes lay in the middle of the chicken tractor like a big old slip and slide. We quickly decided that we didn’t like this type of tractor for a number of reasons, but it was cheap and did raise up two groups of 60 chickens.

This is it’s final resting place now…

After some more research, we thought the best thing would be to follow Salatin’s lead and make our chicken tractors out of wood, 2x4s ripped into 2x2s. This has been our method now, and we are continually making each tractor a little more easy to use.

The first one was a 2×2 frame that was 4’x8′ and 2′ high, with a middle 2×4 support, like an arch. This one was made into a rabbit tractor, so we surrounded it with hardware cloth instead of chicken wire. One half of the top was OSB, and the other half was some old fencing. This was a pretty sturdy one, but it had no rabbits. Soon it was going to need some modifications…

This was then:

After having rabbits escape underneath the sides we added an inner ring of 2x2s. They still escaped out the ends so we added some board on the ends. Then, when we forgot to adjust these board after moving the tractor, which left a gap on the sides, they escaped out that way. Luckily we caught all but 2 of the escapees but this was no good, for a number of reasons. We finally gave in and added slats on the bottom, as in the Salatin model. Oh yeah, and since they were pretty dang heavy, why not add a 2×4 harness for us to pull or push. Works pretty good so far.

The rabbit tractors are almost good enough, but some small wheels would be helpful as that is a lot of rabbit weight on those slats. Also, they really only want the shade, so we will add a hinged wooden lid as well. Which brings us to the chicken tractors.

It seemed obvious that the chicken tractors didn’t need to be as sturdy as the rabbit tractors, so we did not add the middle bracing. This doesn’t makes a sturdy frame, but it has held up for 60 chickens so far.

yes those are turkeys in the chicken tractor

When you pull it around you just sort of pull it apart as well. All we did for the roof was a piece of steel siding and a 2×8, strapped down with 2 bungee cords. That is awkward. So chicken tractor 2.1 is this:

All grown up

The main new features are: used 2×2 bracing in the middle, full OSB roof with hinged door, reinforced bracing with osb triangles and 1x4s, and definitely the most important, a  2×4 harness attached to the bottom so that all the pressure of pulling or pushing doesn’t just rip the top off. Also the angle makes it easier to grab and pull, which is better because then you can watch and make sure you’re not crushing a chicken. The only downside is that it is quite heavy an requires 2 people to pull it.

We’re pleased with this design. 70 new chicks just went into this one, after brooding in hoophouse. And then it’s off to building more of these tractors. The next big question is: Should we make them bigger? Right now we like the compact size of 4’x8′, but does it make more sense to use less material to build a larger tractor? We shall see…

 

Rabbit Doings

We’re excited to welcome onto our farm four sisters, 6 week old Champagne d’Argent rabbits! They are one of the oldest breeds of rabbit, originating in France. They are born black and slowly grow to be more silver, and they are gentle and relaxed. We’re excited to bring an old breed into our rabbitry.

We’ve decided to add a few more does to the rabbitry, and introduce a heritage breed into the mix for vigor. These young does won’t be ready to breed until December, but keeping breeding livestock is a waiting game. Our goal is to provide our customers with fresh delicious rabbit every month, so we needed a few more momma rabbits to keep our cycle going throughout the year. Since we built the goats a whole new goat shed, the rabbit shed has room for more occupants, but we’re not going to get carried away. We have a working farmstead, and we only have enough labor and money to keep animals that help pay for themselves in some way. One thing we were not quite prepared for was how excellent rabbit poop was for fertilizer. It’s almost worth it to keep rabbits just for their poop.

Merry is getting ready to kindle, hopefully:

And Marshmallow had her second litter, 10 big beautiful kits! We saved two kits that she left on the floor and ground from freezing by dunking them in warm water up to their necks, and bundling them back with their kin. Now they are al about a week old and have a good coating of fur:

This morning it is cool and dewy, wonderful weather for rabbits and humans as well.

 

bunny bonanza

“I took your suggestion and used my raspberry-ginger brew in my slow cooker and the meat fell off the bone.

It is fat-free and very dense.

I stir-fried some scallions, China choy, and beet tops with ginger and garlic in sesame oil and topped the rabbit with teriyaki sauce.

I have enough for lunch today and tomorrow and more bunny goodness for later this week.

I wish I had picked up another, as I love pork ribs with sauerkraut and potatoes, and this would be another perfect white meat for that German comfort food.”

-Terry, LTD Farm Customer and CSA Farmshare Member

Now that we’ve raised a few rabbits in our rabbit tractor and sold them to our appreciative customers, we feel much more confident about this project. We have a few more litters almost ready to go out on pasture, and it is really a great feeling to be able to give these bunnies a really good life in the short time they are with us, with grass to nibble and good cool earth to lay on. We keep the breeding stock, 1 buck and 4 does, in our shed in cages for now, for a few reasons. One is that we need to be able to make sure they have plenty of food and water and have good appetites. We need to be able to breed them on a schedule, and we need to monitor and take care of newborn kits for a few weeks as well. We also like to collect their poop from under the cage and are using that as our primary source of fertilizer in the garden this year.

Now that we’ve started this project, we want to sit back and figure out if it makes sense to continue.

Here are the pros of rabbit raising:

  1. They provide these products: meat, fur, and fertilizer
  2. They are herbivores and can survive on food inedible to humans, i.e. grass, twigs, weeds, hay, leftovers
  3. They have a feed conversions ratio (how much feed per pound of meat produced) of 3-4:1 versus  2:1 for chickens (which are fed mostly grains), and 8:1 for cows
  4. They are quiet and don’t require a lot of space, although like all animals they will enjoy as much space as you can give them
  5. Butchering them takes 1/2 the time as butchering a chicken does for us, and we’re getting better at it every time
  6. Rabbit meat (lapin) is dense and fine grained, has the most protein of any livestock meat, has less cholesterol then any other livestock meat, and is low in calories
  7. Lapin can be used in any dish that calls for chicken. As consummate chefs we will be experimenting with lapin to see where it really shines.
  8. We are two hungry people, and one 2-3 pound rabbit provided us with two meals and a snack. We don’t really know how that happened, but it proved that the dense lapin meat made us feel fuller with less empty calories.
  9. Rabbits are intelligent and inquisitive; Momma rabbits and their kits are delightful to watch and be around.
  10. They are not fazed with cold weather, and can breed year round.
  11. Each of our does can provide us with more then 10 times the amount of their body weight per year, i.e. one 10 pound doe can have up to 5 litters a year, at 8 kits per litter. That’s about 40 kits a year, and at 3 pounds each, she will produce about 120 pounds of meat. That’s a good size pigs worth of food right there, all from one momma, and all contained in a space smaller then the footprint of a compact car.
  12. Their poop comes in a convenient dry pelletized form: organic fertilizer at it’s best.

The Cons:

  1. They are fazed by hot and humid weather, and may suffer from heatstroke or miscarriages.
  2. You do have to clean their cages and nest boxes every now and then.
  3. They can be keen on escaping, and aren’t too fond of humans or hubbub. Unlike chickens, cows, or pigs, once a rabbit escapes, they are probably gone for good. One reason could be that they are closer to their wilder relatives then chickens or pigs.
  4. Some people think they are too cute to eat.
  5. They do have sharp teeth and claws.
  6. They are prey animals to most everything stalking around your house looking for a meal. But so are chickens.

The positives definitely the small list of negatives. When looked at in light of other animal’s negatives, they are certainly an easy and pleasant animal to keep. The only thing that is making it more difficult for us is that we are attempting to raise the rabbits on pasture. This eliminates the convenience and safety factor that caged animals bring to the farmer, but we think it is by far the best way to raise all of our animals; near the nourishing ground, in the sun and rain, with the green grass and bugs.

As we go on prototyping our rabbit raising experiment, we will continue to share with you what works and what doesn’t. Meanwhile, if you would love to taste this unique new pasture based food, please email us at farmers@ltdfarm.com to get on the lapin list.