I scanned and scoured and looked and looked until I found someone selling New Zealand rabbits somewhat close to me.
Well. Actually. It was close to one of my offices, yet supremely far from my actual house, so I had to make the voyage after work.
No biggie. I've done crazier shit in work slacks.
I found Savage Ranch through CL (Craigslist for the great unwashed) - and the name takes on even more sadistic qualities when you account for what these two lovely people do for a living - mobile butchering. But nicer and more helpful people I could not have hoped for. I felt comfortable and happy just sitting talking with them. And even though I didn't want to take up too much of their evening, I found them wonderful to talk to. Calm, respectful, obviously lovers of what they do and committed to raising quality meat. Just a great couple.
They live only 7 miles from office, yet worlds away. Their property is located on a hill that overlooks pastureland and rolling mountains of evergreens and underbrush. I pulled up their street and literally sucked wind at the beauty of it.
Plus, and an added bonus, on the way to find the bunny Savage Ranch, I found a worm farm as well. Super double score. And 2 miles from my office. This deserves a WHOOT!
I was greeted in the driveway by two very loud and persistent geese, who performed their watchdog jobs with the utmost of perfection. Favorite quote of the evening? "Yeah, I hatched those guys and hand raised them and they're still assholes." Hilarious.
On this ranch there are goats and cows, chickens all around and bunnies, bunnies, bunnies. They sell New Zealands for meat and also for pets and their stock is GORGEOUS. Browns and greys and spotted and all sorts. I had originally told them I wanted all solid colors, but walked out of there with two multicolored rabbits. I just could resist! They were, and are, awesome looking.
We talked shop for a little while - discussed butchering and knives and such and then the BEST thing happened...
The invited me back on Monday to watch/help with their next butchering session of rabbits.
A tear was brought to my eye.
Such NICE PEOPLE.
You just meet the best people in the country, I tell you. Homesteaders and me get along like peas and carrots.
Some information on New Zealand rabbits that helped me decide to get this breed - good meat to bone ratio, cull time of 7-9 weeks for 3-4 lbs of dressed meat. Good mothers, good suppliers of milk to their kits. And average doe can be breed 3-4 times a year and produce a breed of 9-11 kits. The doe will reach an average size of 9-11 lbs full weight and they live a long time. The bucks are similarly heavy, have the same dressed weight and are easy to handle. These rabbits are easy to socialize, enjoy handling (if you, you know, handle them) and can be good pets, good show bunnies, and excellent meat sources.
Of all the rabbits used for meat, New Zealands and Californians seem to be the best in terms of speedy cull dates, dressed weight, and mothering qualities. Usually a loss of 2-4 kits per litter is expected, although some litters may see zero loss. New Zealands have stand up ears, and are calm in temperament. Many colors dominate.
Here are some website resources I used:
Rudolphs Rabbit Ranch
The Family Homestead
29 True Facts about Meat Rabbits
I also read through and relied heavily on Annette Cottrell's Urban Farm Handbook which features a lot of good information about raising rabbits for meat.
For those readers who think raising rabbits for meat is cruel or intolerable or whatever, rest assured that I have heard the objections, just simply don't agree. To each his or her own, right? We live and let live. I hope that any who disagree will continue to read my blog and just skip the rabbit posts!
Let it be said that I do not enjoy butchering animals - or, more accurately, I don't enjoy killing them. But the science geek in me gets excited about evisceration and so on. I used to watch knee replacements on the Discovery Channel (you know, when they actually had quality fucking television) and eat Mac and Cheese at the same time. No problem. It just doesn't make me squeamish. I am averse to the actual killing, but if I'm going to be a carnivore than I need to take on that responsibility.
All of that said and done - let me introduce you to Stuart and Frannie (and if anyone can name the novel that famous couple resides in, I'll send you a FREE bag of bunny poop for your garden), our new matriarch and patriarch of meat rabbits. They will not be eaten. They will be loved and included in our chain of awesome food bearing animals, like the chickens. The chickens aren't named, but the bunnies were so effing cute, they had to have a label.