First we did mobile tractors. Didn’t like it. We had to move the rabbits twice a day and they were limited to whatever square of pasture they got dragged to. Also, way too much time.
Then we parked their large tractors and just put one rabbit with kits in each one and harvested their food from the woods, pastures, and garden. Liked that. Much more variety and improved condition, they were still outside, still using feed from the land etc. But again, time was a big one.
Then we started moving our rabbits into a colony system. Again, still bringing plants we collected, but easier care and they loved hopping around. But no matter what we did, they kept escaping. And then, as we do, we asked ourselves if this was a problem or an opportunity.
I still don’t have the answer to that and lord knows I’m not offering instruction here, but we now have our meat rabbits as free range as it gets. They feed themselves and water themselves and hide their babies until they’re big enough to run amok. They live in holes they’ve dug and crevices they’ve excavated.
With the amount of predation we have, I’m astonished that they’ve survived. I’m sure we’ve lost a couple, as is the way, but by and large, they’re thriving.
We’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, to harvest them, it’s just a .22 in the head. Same as what we did before, but now at a distance. No we didn’t use the neck ringer thing and yes it’s because I hate that way of killing a rabbit.
A couple things to note. We live surrounded by forest. Feed is plentiful. Predators are plentiful. Domesticated rabbits have instincts that kick in like any other animal, but nowhere near as savvy as their wild brethren.
This can all go to hell in a hand basket real quick. We’ve been raising meat rabbits for ten years now so at least we have the experience to judge health, litter, meat quality differences. Stay tuned for tales of complete bunny annihilation or wondrous success.
In the meantime, all of our meat rabbit farming and harvesting stuff (including avoiding those terrible hutches and gross rabbit kibble) can be found here #slowdownfarmsteadmeatrabbits