Why we chose rabbits as a first homestead animal

Typically when you hear someone wants to start a farm or homestead the first animal -they usually get chickens. They are pretty easy to find, inexpensive, don’t require a lot of space, and generally easy to care for. Chickens provide multiple benefits as well: eggs, they eat bugs, and provide meat. Why would we choose rabbits over chickens?

Living in the upper Midwest we have long, very cold winters and just starting out we don’t have a barn or shed to house a flock of chickens. Rabbits are furry, hardy creatures that survive winters up here quite well. They also don’t require a lot of space. A roughly 2’x 3′ cage provides them enough room to move and hop around but also small enough to help them feel safe and cozy. A small enclosed rabbit hutch was a lot easier to build in this busy season of life than to try and build a big barn just to hold a few animals. Eventually, when we do build a barn, the rabbits will be housed there with the chickens and other animals. We will continue to use the hutch near the house to keep pregnant does and their babies until they are big enough to be moved to the barn.

The timing was also important when choosing rabbits over chickens. When we decided to start our adventure with animals we were moving into the fall season, with winter quickly approaching. In the winter everything freezes over so there are no bugs for chickens to eat. With less light they also may stop laying eggs. Other than using them for meat, there was really no benefit at the time to begin our chicken journey at this time. Rabbits are more hardy and can be bred through the winter with extra care that the kits stay warm.

If you are beginning a homestead, farm, or any other endeavor it is vital that you research and learn as much as you can, weigh your pros and cons, so you can make the best decision for your situation and family needs. Even so, it doesn’t mean everything will turn out as planned. Life itself is exciting and unexpected and you never know what is around the next corner.

Thank you for following us, leave a comment or questions below. We look forward to see you next time.

God bless,

Darrick and Kay

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

~ Psalm 16:8

Fall update

Just another day in paradise.

This fall has been very busy with getting rabbits and building the hutch. We are working on installing insulation on the house, Updating our fencing for our garden, and expecting a new baby in January. We are also beginning the process of Darrick adopting Bee.

Last winter we discovered the reason why the previous owners had used the house primarily as a summer cabin: the basement had no insulation from the Northern Minnesota weather. We use mainly wood heat with a furnace in the basement so naturally all the heat from all the wood we put into our furnace was successfully heating the outside instead of the house. We ended up going through somewhere between 7-9 cords of wood. Not this year! Darrick worked hard and insulated all the block around the basement and we already notice the house stays so much warmer. The only downside is the basement will be pink until spring when we plan to finish it.

Our rabbits are moved into their new hutch and loving being outside. Our breeding doe, Gloria, has calmed down significantly. We aren’t sure if it’s due to her liking being outside or if she is enjoying being far away from the bucks. We attempted to breed her in late September so that could have calmed her down somewhat. She had her three babies late October but didn’t pull enough hair to keep them warm. We attempted rebreeding her so we will see if that worked in December. Stay tuned for updates.

Our monofilament wire fence worked for a while. We drove 6 foot stakes into the ground about every 8 feet and tied fishing wire about every 6 inches up the stakes. We read somewhere that if the deer can’t see it, but run into it, they won’t try to jump it. Which is true. We haven’t had deer jump the fence. Instead they’ve been digging under it when the grasses grow up enough to push the wires up, or lately they just chew the wires and step through. Just this fall they have eaten our blueberries down to a foot tall, chewed the raspberries, the strawberries, and even the asparagus! So time for a new plan. We bought 7 foot mesh deer fencing and Darrick is attaching them to the outlying trees. The branches will also prevent them from jumping over so we hope this works!

Yes we are expecting again! This pregnancy has by far been my hardest pregnancy. Severe morning sickness for the first 24 weeks caused me not to gain any weight during that time. During our 20 week ultrasound the baby only measured in the 2nd percentile so was flagged for being small. That means monthly ultrasounds to monitor baby’s weight gain and growth. At our previous appointment baby was in the 13th percentile, he or she started at the 2nd percentile, so that was a big relief to us. I’m a small person, at a whopping 5 foot tall, and Jr is also a lil guy as he is in the less than 1% for his weight and head size, but 7% for height. The doctor we seen told us: I’m a small person, so is our son, and she’s not surprised this little one is either. After several growth scans baby is healthy and growing strong, so we feel comfortable not getting ultrasounds at every appointment. We are excited to meet this new little one in January!

Our newest adventure in country life is we have experienced our first stray cat drop off. We had two cats dropped off near our house. The first one ran off that night but the other one decided to adopt us and would not leave. We called every shelter and person we knew to take a cat, since Darrick is very allergic, but no takers. In the meantime Bee, and her big heart for animals, fell in love with the cat. So we sucked it up, bought some cat food, and decided to take the cat as our own. With Darrick’s allergies we decided an outside cat to hunt mice would be ok. Happy early birthday Bee.

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This is Elvis, named because never stops singing. He sleeps happily in a straw pile under the rabbit hutch and meows at the window all day for Bee to come play with him.

Stay tuned for more updates! Thank you for following us. Please leave comments, questions, or suggestions in the comment box below.

God bless,

Darrick and Kay

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

~Isaiah 41:10

Deer season 2018

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

We interrupt this blog to bring you….deer hunting opener!

We’ve been seeing a number of deer running around our property and several on the trail cameras. Most of them are does and fawns, but we do have a small 8 pointer (for those west coasters that’s a 4×4) and a spike we’ve seen several times. The 8 pointer likes to hang out somewhat near the house on our driveway. Most of the deer we see closer to the garden area, which I’m sure they see as a free food buffet. We are still working on updating the fencing.

Back to hunting; Darrick set up a stand near the garden/ future farm area. The area is covered in regenerating aspen after the logging last year and the deer love nibbling on the small trees.

His second stand is located on the west end of our property covering a ridge that runs between two lakes, as he states a perfect pinch point.  As he went to set up his stand he kicked up the 8 point buck where he was bedded down. We hope he didn’t get scared too bad so he will come back.

Our plan is to hunt the garden/farm stand in the morning, and move to the hill stand in the afternoon to follow the deer’s natural patterns.

We got the big buck! I was so excited to be able to be with him on this harvest.

We love venison and count on a deer or two to get us through a year with some meat. Last year we got two small deer (a spike buck and a doe). This one buck was bigger than those two combined so we are OVERJOYED with the thoughts of venison steaks, chops, stews, bacon, and sausage in our future!

Though not overly impressive in the ground picture he looks massive when hanging up!

With my tag filled Darrick went out hunting on Sunday morning before church and as he had hoped a nice doe and another buck came across the ridge and this buck provided him the perfect opportunity for another successful shot and harvest.  Our freezer is now full!

Good luck and safe hunting to all the hunters out there!

God bless,

Darrick and Kay

Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me,

~Genesis 27:3

Meet our rabbits

We’ve shared some basic information about our rabbits, but we never formally introduced them.

Gloria

Gloria is a pedigree New Zealand white. She was born in January 2018. This girl has a feisty personality and can be very stubborn, but when she’s feeling sweet she can also be very loving and affectionate. It really depends on the day how this little lady will be feeling towards yo (unless you have her favorite treats: apples and bananas). She is the only rabbit we allowed our daughter to name as she will be our main breeding rabbit and not intended as a meat rabbit. The rest of the rabbits have we a nickname or reference to color to help us distinguish which we are talking about.

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“Bucky”

Bucky is our pedigree New Zealand white that we have as Gloria’s main breeding buck. He is a friendly, sweet, very chill guy. He enjoys laying stretched out in the back of his cage and watching the world go by and stealing hay from the grey buck next to him. When the pair of New Zealand whites came to live with us they were very friendly with each other. Separated by wire they would lie next to each other and sniff one another, as the week progressed Gloria got angry, biting, and growling when we went near her. We came to find out that Bucky had been urinating on her and that made her very upset. They are not on positive vibes right now, which has made breeding them difficult, but we are hoping with time they will become friends again.

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“Grey doe” or “DC”

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Grey doe is a Champagne De Argent. The nickname D.C. because of the pedigree number on her ear. She is the sweetest rabbit I’ve ever met. She will push her way under the cage door to get her morning petting and we have to push and hold her back so we can close the door, otherwise she will try to get more loves. She also loves to bury herself in straw and build nests around herself. Even though Bee got to name Gloria, the grey doe is her favorite. She was born in May 2018 so she is several months younger than Gloria and not ready to be bred until January. Keep an eye out for updates on her though, you don’t want to miss this sweet girl as she becomes a mama and her first litters.

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Grey buck or “KC”

This sweet boy is also a Champagne and also nicknamed for the lettering on his ear. He will be the mate to DC, the grey doe, when she is old enough. He can be a rascal at times- knocking over his hay feeder, water dish, and stealing hay from Bucky are a few of his favorite pastimes. He has his days where he loves to be petted and will come greet you at the door and other days he wants to be left alone.

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Baby bunnies

Our plans for baby bunnies are to keep the best of the litter for breeding stock and the rest we will use for meat or, when we are more established, selling our rabbits to others to start their own rabbitry, use for meat, or show.

Please post any comments or questions below. Thank you for following us.

God bless,

Darrick and Kay

Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.

~ Proverbs 12:27

When baby bunnies die

Beginning our homesteading journey we knew that life and death would be an intricate part of the process. Breeding animals to bring new life and harvesting them for their meat to feed us. We also are aware that sometimes things just happen unexpectedly.

Disclaimer, there will be no pictures of the bunnies in this post.

We checked on our baby bunnies before heading off to church. Darrick had seen the doe huddled on the kits, but she jumped off when he got there. The babies had just started growing a layer of white hair and were actively clawing around the nest. Darrick did notice that one of the kits was digging at the bottom of the nest box so he took some of the moms hair and covered it up. We were planning on adding more shavings and straw to the box when we came back from church.

Darrick checked them again later that afternoon and found all three of them cold and stiff. We removed the nest box and brought it inside, remembering somewhere that you can revive baby bunnies if they get cold.

We placed a few of the bunnies on a heating blanket and attempted putting one in warm water to try and warm them. Than we used a hairdryer to dry and warm them more but we had no signs of life even after they felt warm. They had started to look bruised and blue as well, meaning blood had pooled and no longer circulating. The nails, which are normally flesh or light colored, were a dark red. This also indicates that it’s too late. Darrick took the bunnies out into the woods and returned them to nature.

Our first batch of bunnies did not turn out. We messaged the rabbit guy we bought the original rabbits from and he said it’s very common to lose bunnies especially with young moms. Our doe didn’t pull enough hair to cover them and keep them warm but with each batch she will become more experienced, and so will we. Next time we will add more shavings and straw to the nest box and figure out some type of heating lamp or heat tape we can use in the enclosure. Another option would be, since rabbits only feed their babies at dawn and dusk, is to keep the bunnies in the house and bring them out in the morning and at night to feed. We’ve done some research and found, contrary to a previous post, that touching baby bunnies doesn’t mean the mom will kill them. Especially since she already knows our scent. It can actually be a benefit, as long as the handling is very gentle, that gets the kits used to human contact which will make them more calm as they get older. We don’t have any experience with this so far, but we can keep you updated with what works for us.

Our doe, Gloria, has been doing fine. We’ve been continuing to give her a daily treat- apples and bananas are her favorite. The rabbit guy suggested we rebreed Gloria soon so we plan to attempt to rebreed her again and will keep you updated when we do. We post on Wednesdays and Saturdays so stay tuned and thank you for following us. If you have any questions please post them in the comments.

God bless,

Darrick and Kay

For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20