As you already know one of the many things we have decided to do in an effort to become more self-reliant is to raise rabbits. I have been a rabbit lover since my folks let me have them as a kid and have been known to have up to 18 at a time. With our recent move a couple of years ago the only thing I wanted from our farm of animals was my rabbits. I had visions of raising, selling, showing and eating my farm raised rabbits. Well over the first year here at the OLD house on the edge of town two things happened that I could have never foreseen. First was the sickness and later death of my large brood Doe… after about 8 years she caught a cold after our move and died before the antibiotics took effect. Second was the loss of my little Doe that was Christopher’s show bunny. She escaped her cage and we spent days trying to recapture her in our large yard. This was a major set back for me as I had planned to raise a litter of Kits for sale at Easter and/or to show this year at the 4-H shows and State Fair.
So we started the long process of starting over. I wanted a rabbit that was a multi-purpose breed, that could be sold for pets,shown or used as food if I ended up with more than my fair share of off spring. So I found that perfect combination of traits in the Sable Rabbit. We were off and running when a local woman offered to give Christopher a Sable that was not pure bred as a gift. I thought that this would set us up with a nice pet and get my then 4-year-old interested in animals and their care. So we were up and running with this little guy.
Well this wonderful and clam rabbit has won our hearts and has been traveling with us as we take him to local pet shows and 4- H gatherings. By Fall Christopher and Ratchet became a team and we discovered that we had gotten a great starter show bunny for him even if he was not pure bred.
I then started a conversion with some of the local kids and competitors at our local 4-H and many of them suggested that I think seriously about Christopher’s future with rabbits as show animals and how hard some kids work at breeding and showing them. At last count one of our high school girls showed and won multiple trophies with about 28 rabbits last year at state fair. She sold most of them before leaving and come home with enough money to put around 2500.00 dollars in her college fund.
So this sent me on the hunt for a pure bred version of a Sable rabbit. Taking my family on a car trip to southern Pennsylvania .On Christopher’s birthday we purchased another Buck and attended our first rabbit show. I had a wonderful time and could hardly contain my happiness about seeing so many wonderful animals. We were able to pick up our new bunny who was huge at the same age as Ratchet. We named him Diesel.
Christopher has really enjoyed playing with, feeding and holding his first real pets. It has been a good investment of time and money to teach him about the love of animals.
One of the ways we get to spend time with the rabbits and get them some exercise is to walk them around our yard on nice days. It is hard to believe that only 9 months ago the rabbit in the blue harness fit in the palm of my hand. Ratchet is now about 6 pounds and Diesel in the red harness is about 8 pounds. Both are of breeding age and ready to move into the show ring and start paying their way in the homesteading world. We are now in the process of finding a nice Doe to add to our growing rabbitry. This may take another trip to Pennsylvania because we have found no breeders in our local area. The next project on our property is to add a large out-door shelter that will house all of our adult rabbits and an areas for three sets of kits. This will be an addition to a shed that we already have and will be semi enclosed. I hope to get started on it within a month. In the mean time we entertain our neighbors and friends with our walks and we enjoy bringing the boys inside for fun and family time.
There is a far amount or work keeping and raising any animal. Rabbits do have individual personalities and not every one is great for a young person like Christopher who is now 5. Ratchet is the type that loves attention and being held. He will fallow any one around the house from room to room wanting noting more than a rub or pat. He is also more active and loves to run and jump. Where as, his buddy who is a pure bred Sable is shy and lazy. Making him harder to handle but he would rather sit quietly when put down making a real nice confirmation animal.I believe that Christopher will be more confident with Ratchet this year but in time will enjoy both.
We have our first ” Stock Man” class in a couple of weeks where the rules or care and showing animals at the fairs is gone over. It is an important step for both parents and children, sportsman ship is held to a higher standard than the quality of the animal at every 4-h event. This class covers cheating, animal abuse, animal neglect, feeding and health care and general sportsman ship. It is the basis for a wonderful future in 4-H. I am so lucky that Christopher will be learning these lessons so early and in such a supportive way. We can all agree that teaching a child about the needs of others, including animals, how to play fair and the importance of being a good loser are lessons that build a well-rounded child and a better adult.
But in the end their really is nothing quite as wonderful as an Easter bunny.
I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday !