Wednesday, January 28

How I Got Started Breeding Rabbits

Rabbits:  The Beginning
By Guest Blogger Alexis Lynch:  An Introduction

Hello! I’m Elizabeth’s daughter and after many requests from my Mom, I agreed to do a little guest blogging.  
I will be blogging about Rabbits: raising, feeding, housing and breeding along with other rabbit concerns.    

As a child I had a pet rabbit. It’s been so many years ago that I no longer remember the exact day I got him but he was a grey short-haired Mini-Rex named Thunder.   He was an average example of his breed, only special because he was my very own and I loved him. He lived near our clubhouse in an outdoor hutch my mother built from salvaged lumber.  I have many happy memories of taking him out to our sunny grassy yard where we spent many hours playing together.  Time passed and as all living things do; sadly including pets, Thunder eventually died. I remember crying and running to tell my parents. I never had another pet rabbit after that; my experience with rabbits thereafter stemming from what I read from books or online, watching nature shows or rabbits I saw at county fairs.

Industrial Chicken Farming, Photo from Nat Geo
Years passed, and in my late teens and early 20’s I started educating myself on topics like environmental sustainability, the pursuit and refinement of petroleum, the industrial agriculture movement which eventually caused the Dust Bowl. I read a lot on “factory farm” livestock practices, the FDA, the EPA, and chemical food additives, Genetically Modified plants used for human consumption, non-biodynamic farming practices in relation to its effect on insects, and on top of all of it; the “traditional” historic counterpart practices of each topic, when applicable. For example; multi-million acre mono-crops as compared to small scale bio-dynamic farms. Interestingly enough; all of these topics turned out to be interconnected in a vast web of implications and questions, and led to more hours spent researching laws and regulations and government policy.
It seems to me that despite technological advancement, and new scientific knowledge, that as a society we have become negligent, naive and have our priorities in the wrong order. Especially when it comes to our food.  Most people know little about what goes into growing or raising the food we eat, how it’s produced and processed, where it comes from, and how it gets to us.  Never in the history of the American people has the general conscious of us as a society, and an individual, ever been so negligent in what we consume and the complete willingness to sacrifice our own “Food Sovereignty”. We live in a time where less than 1% of our country’s population controls what the rest of the 99% eat. 

Our farm fresh eggs from fat healthy chickens

How is it that a government can mandate what someone can or cannot eat? Is liberty not the right to make a choice, and to assume responsibilities of all results and consequences of that choice? Do we not know what it best for our own families to eat? Why is it illegal in some states in some schools for children to not be allowed to pack a lunch from home? Or set up a lemonade stand in their neighborhood without a city permit? Why can’t I sell my chicken eggs to my neighbor-who knows me, has seen my chickens and knows my farming practices? But then it’s okay to eat the commercially produced eggs from “factory farms”; who use poor breeds of chicken raised in horrible conditions on a massive scale in closed over-crowded housing, chemically washing the eggs before delivering to the grocery store. It seems ridiculous that something as simple as drinking raw milk or home-grown cultures of Kampuchea tea is targeted and lobbied against, when the American FDA allows deadly chemical ingredients such as Aspartame and Monosodium Glutamate into our food. 
Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying “If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry as state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
After many discussions about all I read and discovered, my family became more aware of the current agricultural and industrial practices of our society.
We started an overhaul of our food consumption, spending more time reading labels, researching chemical food additives, actively trying to avoid GMO’s when possible, cutting out high fructose corn syrup and highly possessed foods any “artificial replacements”. It has taken time and is a learning process as we go.  
Organic vegetables from our own garden

I had always lived in Ohio, in a city; Columbus, Grove City, Chillicothe, Upper Arlington, Nelsonville. My mother was raised on a small “farm” with 12 siblings and there was always a large garden and animals. My Father’s family grew and sold vegetables in the summer and my father worked summers baling straw and hay.  Though my parents didn’t like living in the city, they did so to allow my younger brother and I to attend a top rated school district in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
We were lucky because we had the best of both worlds. We spent nearly our entire free time outdoors, in parks, in the woods, camping, hiking and going on adventures. Plus my mother spoiled us with home cooking, and has always grown a huge backyard garden filled to overflowing with fresh vegetables, even in the city.
One of my mother's gardens in the city

But a small farm is what my parents really wanted, so when my younger brother finally graduated from High School my parents sold their home and purchased a small farm.
Our farm has enough acreage to double our garden size and then some and raise livestock, which has opened a new world for us.  We finally have more control, not only in what we grow but how we grow it, both vegetable and meat. 
I know it has really changed my life! I remember wishing on every candle I blew out on every birthday cake for us to live on a farm in the country with animals. After purchasing a farm and I had my next Birthday I had to figure out what to wish for! (This was a new and awkward experience for me!) One year I wished for love. And another; honeybees. (I found love, lol, but I’m still trying to lure in and keep honey bees.)
We named our farm “Lynch’s Mt Horb Farm”, after my Grandfather’s hometown in Wisconsin.  We now have a quarter acre garden, which every year my Mother and Brother keep expanding.  

Our farm garden, my mother has doubled it since then

My brother-in-law is rebuilding a Ford 8N tractor for my mother so I’m sure she’s going to plow up even more pasture! 
We also have multiple fruit trees, do lots of canning in season and make our own maple syrup.
As far as animals we have pets and livestock both; Swiss Saanen and Alpine milking goats, duel-purpose heirloom breed chickens, Eastern Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Khaki Campbell Ducks, multiple Dogs, and even a few barn cats.

We raise chickens for eggs and meat

We selected our livestock breeds upon their genetic integrity (usually heirloom breeds) and usefulness as food. 

The goats for milk and meat, (and just all round fun) fowl for eggs and meat, bees for honey, wax, and pollination, and even our dogs and cats proved useful in dispatching varmints. 

Guinea Fowl

Our animals live in a communal environment; all of them, the goats and fowl alike, roam in the pasture together eating scraps my mother gives them from the garden and playing in the creek all day.

And for two summers, we actually did have Honeybees; wild swarms I had caught and put into hives myself. They stayed with us for a couple months each at a time, before swarming off to the neighboring farmer’s 100 plus acres of pumpkins, strawberries and vegetable fields.
Though I am the resident “bee whisperer”, I really wanted another livestock project to occupy my time between swarms. 

Barn kitten

We plan on getting meat pigs in the future, my parent’s said no to horses (hay-burners), and we have also considered pheasants for their meat and feathers, quail for meat and eggs, and even a couple Angus beef calves for meat. But those will all be my mother’s (and father’s) projects.
In the end; I became focused on rabbits

After extensive research I discovered that Rabbit meat is making a huge comeback, being considered an “exotic meat” and sold in stores for around $10-$14 per pound. Currently, more rabbits are being raised for meat in private homes then since WW2, when our country’s supplies of beef cattle were shipped overseas to feed our troops. 

Rabbits are a multi-purpose animal: Used for meat, fur, kept as pets, shown at fairs, used to train hound dogs for hunting and even their waste makes great fertilizer for gardens or to grow worm farms. 
I became a bit obsessed about the prospect and project, and not able to delay any longer around my birthday of March 2014, I found and purchased my very first meat rabbits.  
These original rabbits began my rabbit raising odyssey!  

Mommy rabbit and her babies

Want more information about what we're doing on the farm?
Check out these links:

Canning and Cooking at the farm

Farm DIY Projects

Farm Gardening

Me with one of my wild bee swarms
A little history and information on Rabbits.

Alexis Elizabeth Lynch
Writer. Naturalist. Bee Keeper, Rabbit Breeder, 
Aries. Bookworm. D&D and Xbox gamer. 
House Ravenclaw. Betrothed.


Alexis Elizabeth Lynch said...

Yeah! This is amazing! Great photos! Too cute farm critters! (But where's my big fat little turkeys?) I noticed some changes to my work, deletions so my essays don't have any wierdo creeper stuff. But more brilliant are the additions about dad. Good show ole chap. Love you.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

You did a great job on writing this post so didn't take anything out, only removed if something was doubled in the story. Your father and I are a team so just inserted him in where you mention me sometimes. And Yes, there are a lot of wackos out there! Again, wonderful job, I look forward to the second post in your series. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Yippee! Heidi

Anonymous said...

Hello, just wanted to say, I really enjoyed this blog post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!