This hub comes out of a personal bunny-interest of mine; curious about adopting one myself, I thought what better way to prepare myself as a future bunny owner than to write a hub about basic rabbit 101.
First thing I learned: they look great in shades.
While my future pet will not be for meat, rabbits are an easy to raise, low input, lean source of meat. While WWOOFing in France I was impressed with the number of rabbit farmers I met. Rabbit were hunted in old Europe, and provided an important source of nutrition for the early American settlers. Rabbits are an abundant pest problem, thus it only makes sense to me that rabbit (as well as deer) find a new place on our menus.
There are good nutritional reasons to eat rabbit. Rabbit meat is all white meat, making it the leanest meat of any livestock raised. It's cholesterol content is also very low. The low fat content however, means that in order to tenderize the meat it is often incorporated into stews with carrots, potatoes, and onions (Rabbit Stew hub coming soon!).
Rabbits are a very sustainable meat - that is they have a very small eco-footprint for the services (meat, fur, fertilizer, weeding) they provide:
- Rabbits can easily be raised in urban areas they require so little space.
- They are very efficient at producing meat. According to Slow Food USA, “Rabbit can produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water it takes a cow to produce just one pound.”
- You can feed them your kitchen scraps, turning what would be waste into food.
- Their poop can be used as fertilizer on your garden. Unlike chicken poop, rabbit feces can be applied directly to garden beds without needing to be composted first.
- Rabbits can be put in "tractors" and used as a natural lawn mower (fertilizing as they go!).
Basic Rabbit Life Cycle
- A rabbit's gestation period is one month, or 31 days. Just a few days after the doe (female rabbit) gives birth to her litter of kits (baby rabbits), she's ready to mate with a buck (male rabbit) again!
- The mother's milk is extremely nutritious, and the kits double their size in just 6 days!
- After 4-5 weeks the kits are ready to be weaned from the mother (this is when I will hope to claim a fuzz ball for myself!).
- Pet rabbits can live for 7-15 years. Astonishing when you think that a wild rabbit usually only lives 2 years, a small fraction of that.
In my research on rabbit nutrition, I was delightfully shocked to learn about "night droppings." It was one of those moments where you just have to sit back and marvel at nature and the brilliant solutions it's crafted.
Rabbits will eagerly eat a lot of your vegetable kitchen scraps, in addition to alfalfa or other grain pellets. But rabbits also need large quantities of indigestible fiber in their diet, such as hay or grass. The fibers get sorted in the large intestinal tract so that they come out first as fecal pellets (poop) while pushing back into the digestive system the smaller fibers. These fall into the cecum, a pouch located between the small and large intestine that contains an ecosystem of beneficial bacteria. There it is fermented and turned into nutritious, digestable balls called cecotropes, or 'night droppings.' The rabbit then pushes these through the large intestinal tract a second time and licks them directly from its anus. Apparently a rabbit exudes pure bliss after licking these slimy chocolate-colored grapenuts out of its butt, and will - according to one bunny owner - adopt a 'cecotrophic smile.'