Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In the Shed: Rabbits!

I haven't really ventured into our shed yet on this blog, probably because it has been a disaster zone (in a major way) up until now. We've made marginal progress on the organizing, but more importantly, the shed is now home to our rabbits!

The shed is actually a carport/garage attached to the west side of our house. It is not a permanent structure, with gaps under the eaves, a gravel floor and a couple good leaks in the ceiling. However, it is spacious and relatively secure, and we're very glad to have the extra space. We still are up in the air about what to call it- Matt refers to it as the shed, and I usually call it the garage, but I think shed is winning out.
 (Click on Photos to Enlarge)
 Matt suspended the rabbit cages from the ceiling, and we'll add on a second tier when we start getting litters. At the bottom of the garage door you can see our heap of straw, bag of pine shavings, and a bag of alfalfa hay for the rabbits. I want a better place to store these, but right now this is the only spot available, clear of all the drips that come through the roof when it rains!

 Looking toward the back end of the shed, where Matt has organized our variety of scrap lumber (mostly picked up for free!), plus apple branches we're saving for smoking meat. You can see the makeshift workbenches, the two galvanized pails where the rabbit feed and chicken feed are kept, and hanging from the ceiling, Matt's skin-on-frame kayak. 

The rabbits arrived last week, the beginning of our venture into raising our own rabbit meat. This is mostly Matt's field, but I am determined to get involved with most aspects of it, knowing that I need to get used to dispatching and butchering the meat I eat- as much as I shy away from it, I know I need to experience the reality of how meat comes to the table. Luckily, these first four rabbits are our breeding stock, so we can safely get attached to them, as they are not going to be eaten. Matt managed to find these four American rabbits, which are actually a critically endangered heritage breed. I don't know much about their pedigrees, but I have learned that it is in fact completely normal for bunnies to breed incestuously. There is far less genetic variation in rabbits than there is among humans (they only have 12 genes or something like that) so inbreeding does not actually result in major mutations of any kind. Also, these are meat rabbits, so we're primarily focusing on the quality of their meat, not how they look. 

The two bucks are white, the does "blue" (gray).

 The smaller doe is the daughter of the bigger one. She is also cute as all get-out.

Matt raked back the gravel and we spread straw under the cages to absorb the urine (another fun fact: rabbits can pee a huge volume and distance, for their size. We found this out when Matt got his foot peed on, standing two feet back from the cages!) We were worried about the smell, because rabbits typically have very ammonia-scented urine, but so far the straw and the open soil seem to be doing a good job of absorbing any scent. 

Elsewhere in the shed:
 The disaster area where I dumped all my garden pots when we moved in-- they haven't been touched since. You can see two bright green shelves on the floor- Matt found them on the curb a month or two ago. When I have the chance, I'm going to mount them on the wall and store most of the pots and flats up off the ground.

 We don't have much of a system for storing our tools; this winter I'd like to put in some nails to hang some up and organize a space so they're not so crammed in and cluttered looking. Also I'd like to move all the window screens (which we just took off for winter) down to the basement.

Matt built a rack on the wall for all of our surfboards. Our bikes live here by the door, and that seems to work well. Very slowly, we're getting things organized!


FlowerLady said...

I would have a hard time NOT getting attached to critters. Your bunnies are cute, the gray/blue ones pretty.


Brenna said...

They are so cute! I was wondering, do they stay in their cages all the time or do you allow them to free range (is that the correct term for a rabbit??). Also, do the metal cages hurt their feet? I was just curious, I am completely unfamiliar with raising rabbits!


Liz said...

Brenna, as far as I know, the cages don't hurt their feet. These cages are built specifically for keeping rabbits, and the mesh of the wire is much smaller than their paws, so I don't think it creates a problem for them. They don't really get out much, unless we're holding them- rabbits can escape very easily, and domestic breeds are fairly sedentary anyway. I wish there was a way for them to get out and about, but the gravel floor in the shed isn't ideal for that, and our yard and shed, while secure enough to keep big chickens in, would not keep bunnies from escaping!