Thursday, 13 September 2012

Lester builds a rabbit hutch

We keep rabbits. I do not say much about them because people show a tendency not to like the fact that they are our main provider of meat. Rabbits, to most people, are cute little things, to be admired and petted but definitely not to eat. 

To house our rabbits temporarily Lester acquired concrete hutches, this being the practice here, wooden cages less robust and chewable, concrete cages being not so. We don't like these concrete hutches. We think that the rabbits ought to be on the field, doing rabbity things, feeling the sun on their backs and the wind in their fur, and for ages and ages we have been debating as to how to do this. 

Now to make a wooden run and hutch would seem quite a simple thing to do. Well to others it might be, but to us, who have never done any other similar project similar, it felt an awesome task. For ages we searched the Internet for helpful hints and plans, but there weren't any. But what we did see was many videos showing rabbits in various forms of housing, most to do with industrial farming of rabbits. It was horrible. Concrete cages, similar to ours, but not opened up to make longer runs. Concrete cages are tiered, ....

.... with partitions in each tier. Six rabbits can be housed in them, but in quite small spaces. We saw worse on the videos. Lester sometimes has to keep a rabbit in a smaller compartment for a few days, but most times he opens up the compartments so the rabbits have a long run. The cages are deep, deeper than they look in the photograph. 

We felt less guilty about this living environment after we saw how others are keeping rabbits. Nevertheless, the need to get them out on to the field gradually became a driving force, otherwise the Rabbit Project would be closed. The concrete cages were to be broken up for rubble and used to more. 

It was done. After much effort and even more laughter, the field hutch was made. With angles all rather askew, nevertheless is still managed to be strong enough to withstand a fox bouncing about all over it and trying to tip it over, secure enough to withstand the invasion of rats and mice, and light enough to be moved daily. 

It was a good day when we took the hutch out onto the field. A week ago we did that. Into the run went three young rabbits. We spent ages watching them get used to their new home. 

Every time we walked past that area we stopped and watched them as they began a better life. It was not perfect, but at least it was a step in the right direction. Lester wants to make more units, but join them up with wire tunnels so they can run from one to the other. It's a good plan. 

We have had a summer of midges and mozzies. A couple of weeks ago it was dire. Either that or a fox came visiting and sniffed at the rabbits in the concrete hutches and dropped off some of its fleas. 

There are no longer any rabbits out in the field hutch. Lester has had to euthanasia them, and some of the others as well. 

They had myxomotosis. 

Not sure if the other rabbits are going to escape the disease. But the deceased ones did not suffer over long. As soon as their eyes started to swell around the perimeter and become dull and clouded over, as soon as their ears started to flop down, he acted. It was hard. We do not like killing the animals whether they are well or ill. I am glad that we find it hard. I hope that we will always find it hard because it stops us from taking the meat of the healthy animals for granted, the ill ones are put out into the woods to go back into nature. I hope we remain sensitive about this subject about providing out own meat. I hope we always feel a bit lumpy during the transition times of life to freezer. I hope we do not become hardened. If we do, then I shall become a vegetarian. 

The field hutch is looking forlorn out in the field. I feel forlorn when I see it. It was such a joyous and happy moment when we first saw those rabbits set foot on the grass, such a step forward it was for us. So we are going to bring it in and put it into the barn for the moment. 

Having the animals here has taught us a lot, and they give back as much as we give them. They are a delight. And the Limousin hen, her who regularly sits to lay an egg but never actually lays one, well this hen did lay an egg the other day. It is with other eggs in the incubator as a celebration of her endeavours. If the eggs hatch then the chicks will be housed in the ex rabbit field hut. 

The goats are on their way. 


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

That is a sad story as I would have though that it would have been good for the rabbits to enjoy being outside. Obviously if you want to keep disease away you have to house them away from wild life! I must say I love rabbit and our neighbour often brings one around for us. Keep well and I hope you have the disease under control. Diane

Vera said...

Diane, at least those three rabbits in the field hutch had the experience of living out of doors, but when we eventually build the proper rabbit accommodation it will be a place which can be netted and secure to protect the rabbits from any disease carrying insects or wild animals. This would be during the night, dawn and dusk. For daylight hours they will be put out onto the field, then they can have the best of both worlds. Glad you like to eat rabbit. It is a lovely meat.

the fly in the web said...

Rotten disease....rotten thing to happen. Casn you imagine that people spread this deliberately!

We enjoy rabbit too...our favourite recipe is

rabbit jointed and browned in oil, onions almost caramelised in same, equal parts of red wine and chicken stock, a dollop of dijon mustard and one of jam (prefer apricot but anything will do...currently using guava jelly)
bay leaves, thyme, four cloves and twelve crushed juniper berries to a litre of liquid...adjust accordingly.

rosaria williams said...

I just spent some time visiting your earlier posts, wandering about those noises in your house, and smiling about how you and your husband are trying to improve your rabbits's lives!

Vera said...

Fly, glad you enjoy rabbit, and that is a wonderful sounding recipe. Will give it a go in the near future.

Rosaria, I am glad that I made you smile!

Horst in Edmonton said...

Hi Vera, have you thought that the disease the rabbits acquired is actually within the ground on your fields. Here in Canada we can't eat the wild rabbits because they carry a disease. It doesn't hurt them but can be a problem for humans. The only Rabbits the we eat here are domesticated European Rabbits. That are kept in cages.

Vera said...

Hello Horst. Well this virus must be in the vicinity somewhere, but not on the field because it is an airborne virus. Fortunately it is not a problem for other species, including us, but it is fatal to rabbits. There are no wild rabbits round here, but plenty of other wild life, like foxes, who could be the carrier of fleas who would be carrying the virus. A fox visiting the cages at night could transfer these fleas. Or mosquitoes could bite and infect the rabbit as well. We have had a lot of mozzies here this summer, especially about two weeks ago, and that would be the incubation time for the virus to take hold. A friend in the UK, who is a vet, said that the mosquito problem has been excessive this year, resulting in a big outbreak of myxomotosis there. We are in our third year of keeping rabbits, and this is the first time it has happened, but next year we shall take steps to protect the rabbits from mozzies and any other visiting animals.
Hope you are well.

Niall & Antoinette said...

Oh poor bunnies and just as they were installed in 5* accomodation.

We love rabbit [a very healthy meat] and caserole it using a recipe which is pretty similar to Fly's.
Must try adding a dollop of jam. We have plenty of quince jelly from last year's making--will try that.

Anonymous said...

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Horst in Edmonton said...

Wow, a virus. Hope everything is OK for next year. My parents used to keep rabbits for food. We had lots of rabbits on the farm made a great meal on a Sunday. The rabbits were not wild.

Vera said...

Niall and Antoinette, will definitely try that recipe that Fly suggested now! Will also investigate quinces because I don't know what they are!

Horst, hi again. I agree. Rabbit meat makes a great meal, so we shall persevere. Will have to disinfect the hutches out thoroughly, then start again. Such are the ups and downs of farming.

Vera said...

Anonymous, it's a simple Google blog, with no added things in it other than what Google give you in their templates.

John Gray said...

finally here to catch up!
cannot wait to see the goats.... I am still pricing some up as we speak!...I will be re sorting my new allotment beds this autumn and need to surround them with proper fencing.... gad knows where I am going to get the money from... anyhow I think I would draw the line at rabbits....I simply do not like the meat!
hey ho

Vera said...

John, ah the goats! We don't know where we are going to get the money from either because we have got to make a little barn for them. We have the exterior fencing in place, and that was hugely expensive, but there is still more fencing we need to do. And then there is the cow.........!!!