Guest Post: Aspiring Iowa Homesteaders Austin & Lauren Share Experiences Raising Meat Rabbits

The other day I was subbing in a 7th grade language arts classroom, and I was talking with the students about their upcoming Thanksgiving and winter breaks from school. They almost didn't believe that today, when then returned from Thanksgiving break, that it would already be December. For those of you who work in education or have kids in school, this means you're almost half way done with the school year!

The end is in sight! 

YOU CAN DO THIS!

Alas, today really does mark the second day in December. Yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary, too. So, the beginning of December is a pretty special time of year for John and I. Today is also a special day, because I have another guest post for you!

Back in October, I had the chance to 'meet' Austin ('meet' is such a strange term in Blogger Land, because it's rare that we get to actually, physically meet each other…) and learn a little bit about his homesteading aspirations. I always love hearing from readers and what they are doing to make their lives more sustainable. If you follow us on Facebook, you know that one of our big struggles right now is working with our city council on allowing urban chickens. The livestock aspect of homesteading is one of the biggest struggles in the city, but some are lucky enough to find alternatives to this complication.

With that said, here's Austin, to tell you a little bit about he and his girlfriend's homesteading endeavors and aspirations.



Good day to you all! My name is Austin, and I'm an aspiring homesteader who also happens to live in Iowa. One day in October I stumbled onto Kelli and John's blog and was excited to see some fellow Iowans pursuing sustainability. Since my girlfriend and I are new to the game, it sometimes seems like we're the only ones out there trying to become more self-sufficient (especially when faced with a failure). But I was very excited to read about our dear Sustainable Couple and continue to be encouraged knowing we're not alone.


My girlfriend, Lauren, and I have been developing our homesteading vision for over a year now and while the grand scheme we have cooking is far from coming to fruition, we're very proud of the progress we've made. We are both college students at the University of Northern Iowa, where Lauren is currently a junior studying biotechnology and I am a nontraditional 24-year-old sophomore studying outdoor recreation. I am also in the beginning stage of starting the first curbside composting service in our area. We met at the UNI Archery Club, and have been dating for over a year. Our current urban homestead consists of a vermicompost bin, an under construction aquaponics system, and the subject of my post today: our beloved rabbits.

We wanted to begin an urban homestead while in school but after some research I realized that our city doesn't allow chickens or most agricultural livestock to be raised within the city limits. We were slightly bummed at first until we read carefully and realized that no stipulation existed with regards to rabbits. My father raised rabbits as a kid and said he loved the experience, so I was doubly excited when my landlord said that he would allow rabbits as long as their areas were clean. So we began looking into what to get and how we'd house them and before long (this last June, to be exact), we had our little furballs in a laundry hamper and were on the way home.

There are lots of options with rabbit breeds to choose from, so if you intend to raise any make sure you know to what end (meat, pets, fur, etc.) you will utilize your critters. We are breeding ours primarily as a source of meat, with the notion to sell a few to friends or interested persons. We settled on two does that are pure-blooded Champagne D'Argents and one buck that is an English Spot/New Zealand cross. 

New Zealands and Californians are the most common meat rabbits in the US, but we read great things about Champagnes and have had great experiences so far all around. But there are breeds in a variety of sizes to suit your needs, and even Angora rabbits (they look mildly silly) with fur that you can spin into yarn for home use if anybody crochets or knits as Lauren does. If you're going for a meat breed, one thing to consider is the bone size. Just because you get a large breed doesn't mean you'll get the most efficient amount of meat from them. Some breeds, like our Champagnes, are medium sized but have a smaller skeleton, which creates a more favorable bone:meat ratio for the size of the animal.

Our does, Curious Georgia and Jane Doe, with our buck Fabio (white) in their run made from re-purposed church pews.
Rabbits make a great beginner livestock, especially in an urban setting. Granted, they're the first livestock I've ever owned but my opinion stands. They're a great way to get into the habit of animal-related chores and constantly watching the weather conditions and preparing for the seasons. Rabbits also require relatively little start-up and maintenance costs, they don't make noise or need much space, and they breed quickly (we've all heard the saying, and it's pretty valid). I built their initial setup, pictured below, out of wooden pallets ($4 total), a wooden futon frame we found on the curb (free), and some wire from the local farm & fleet store (about $20 per roll).

We have added a store-bought hutch so that both does have decent nesting areas, as well as building an enclosure of  4-mil construction plastic sheeting on a pvc pipe frame around it all to provide some relief from the cold weather.
Food is relatively cheap, especially if you produce your own veggies to feed them, but we elect to feed them mostly pellets and timothy hay. We insist on pellets because they provide the animals' diet a protein content which straight vegetables would be lacking. Each rabbit has its own food item that they prefer, but neither of these items are terribly expensive. We probably pay $20 or so a month in food costs (not counting special treats) to make sure that there is both hay and pellets available.

Since we just got our rabbits this summer (and we bought them as recently-weaned juveniles), we've only been in the breeding stages for a couple months. One of our does, Curious Georgia, just gave birth to her second litter a few days ago and has had no issue mating since reaching sexual maturity. Her first litter died after about a week but it is pretty standard that most/all of the a doe's first litter doesn't survive; they have to learn how to do their job properly after all. Our other female, Jane Doe, has been significantly more difficult to breed simply because she doesn't let Fabio do his thing very often.
Experts say that virgin does who are difficult at first almost always become easier after their first pregnancy, and we think she's finally got some kits in her tummy so we're looking forward to that phase being done. Overall, we love our rabbits and haven't regretted raising them one bit. When we do get a place of our own and some land on which to build a 'stead, we intend to keep the rabbits around for a long while. They've become part of the family and it's hard to imagine life without them now.

If you're still reading this, thanks for stickin' around ;) I sincerely appreciate the time you've given to learn about us and our lives, and if you're ever curious about what we've got going on you can keep up with us at www.timerewound.blogspot.com.

Our thanks to Kelli and John for letting us share, may God bless you and have a great holiday season!

Austin & Lauren

1 comment:

  1. Been raising meet rabbits for past few years and few other animals. The only problem i face with then is that within months now the count is almost doubled.

    ReplyDelete

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