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.