Rabbits, Ducks, and Worms, Oh My

Sometime before we left for camp this year, we started talking about getting Rabbits. For meat. Yeah, people eat those cute fuzzy things – many rabbits are bred specifically for meat production, the same as chickens. Rabbits are easier to raise though, produce a bit more meat in a little less time, eat less food to do it, and are easier to process. Butchering chickens is a messy, stinky endeavor. Rabbits are easier and less smelly.

Kevin and I talked about it a bit, decided it would probably be a good thing – Kevin is willing to do the butchering, I can process the meat after that (we’ve processed a lot of wild game over the years, so we know what we are getting in for). We need organic meat, and it is very expensive. Turns out rabbit meat has proteins that are a bit easier to digest than chicken, which I haven’t been able to have for a long time, because I can’t break it down (along with soy, and all other beans).

So this fall, after returning to camp, we located some breeder rabbits. We’ll be doing some selective breeding to see if we can come up with a good strain that meets our needs better than the current meat rabbit breeds. I rather dislike the red eyed white breeds – they are a bit ugly, and I dislike those red eyes! We also want a larger breed that is still an efficient producer.

We now have five rabbits, which are each housed in their own cage (after a week of frantic cage building accompanied by a series of small miracles). We have a lovely sandy Flemish doe, a Californian buck, a pure black Satin/Flemish/Silver Marten cross buck, and two Chinchilla gray Satin/Flemish/Silver Marten cross does. We have named our breeders – we won’t name the offspring unless we reserve them out for breeding. We’ll eventually add New Zealand to the mix as well.

The Flemish has already bred, but the two gray does are having a bit of trouble getting the idea. We think they are Feminists, they stomp and threaten the males any time we put the does in the buck cage for breeding. Like Feminists though, the militant is often subdued by mothering instinct, and they do seem to be mellowing gradually.

Then came the idea of ducks… Duck meat is actually a good substitute for red meat (if you get nutritionally deficient, red meat is best for recovery, and this is an issue with Crohn’s disease), but most duck meat is a tad harder to digest than beef. Except one…. Muscovy is easier to digest. Good for someone with certain kinds of protein malabsorption.

Turns out Muscovy is perfect for us in other ways too. They aren’t noisy like other ducks (so you can often keep them in city limits), and they produce more meat (can grow twice as big as other ducks). They are also better foragers, and require a little less poultry food. Between the rabbits, and the ducks, we should eventually be able to meet 100% of our meat needs, and for a fraction of what it is costing us now.

Hard to find Muscovies to buy though. We finally did, in Wyoming even (a miracle, since most places that sell ducklings won’t ship to rural Wyoming). Saturday, we spend the morning building a pen in the garage to house them temporarily – on the other end from the rabbits (our garage now smells like the poultry building at the fair…). Then we went to get the ducks – a three hour drive each way.They were so big they would not fit into the containers we brought, but the farmer kindly provided an additional cage for us, and straw to line it.

Monday, we fenced part of the yard, and Tuesday, after a mighty wrestle with each one (tough little buggers), we clipped their flight feathers (required to do so by law), and turned them loose in the back yard pen. We have 16 ducks feeding on weeds and grasshoppers.

We had intended to get ducklings – grown ducks are simply too costly. So when we found the ducks in Wyoming for the same price we’d seen ducklings for, we assumed they were small. NOT! They were nearly full grown! Some are mature enough to breed already! We got better than we had expected. We also suspect he slipped in more females than we paid for. A few of the breeders have been named – The Count (a large mature drake), Snowflake (a large female with white markings), and Cleopatra (a small duck with a black head, and white eyeliner markings extending back from the corners of her eyes). Some of the drakes will go to the table in the next few weeks.

So if you have rabbits, and a garden, the association of fertilizer and compost is a natural. Which leads the prudent to…


That’s right. And if you have ducks, it is even more logical.

Worms are added to the rabbit waste – it just takes some litter material (sawdust, straw, paper pulp, etc), the rabbit droppings, and worms. This reduces the waste volume, and turns it into nice compost which is perfect for a garden. Those worms end up a tasty treat for the ducks too (they’ll multiply vigorously), and provide extra protein for the table birds. A nice cycle of efficiency. The worms have been ordered, and should be on the way.

Eventually, we’ll try other things – but not where we are now. You can only do so much on a city lot where you have to keep the noise and smells to a minimum.

This isn’t where we intended to go. But it seems to be where we need to go. Spiraling grocery costs dictate that you either produce your own food, or be held hostage by rising prices that consume an ever larger portion of your funds. Currently food takes more than half of what we make – and we are not frivolous (we buy things like wheat, rice, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, almost no processed food). We just require a lot of organic food, and it is very costly. It costs the same amount per WEEK that it used to cost per MONTH to feed the family, and we had more kids home then. Not a sustainable trend.

Ducks, rabbits, worms, and a greenhouse and garden are a sustainable thing. They are a lot of work, but will give more than they take if we manage them wisely.

2 Responses to Rabbits, Ducks, and Worms, Oh My

  • toni says:

    Hi! Been thinking about getting either chickens or muscovy ducks for quite a while now.

    The grasshoppers were miserable this year! They demolished my royal burgundy beans. Hoping that the chickens or muscovy ducks would take care of the problem.

    Where did you get your muscovy ducks? We live in northern Wyoming near Lovell.

  • Laura says:

    We got ours from a guy in Torrington. They are black and white, raised at high altitude, so not too much caruncling. Good animals! My husband really likes taking care of them because they are fun. The ducks cleaned out the grasshoppers in our yard in about three days, and in my mother’s yard in one afternoon.

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