Farmers' Kitchen—Rabbit Revival
Written onSeptember 01 , 2010
Rabbits, they say, are the new chicken. They’re small, fast growing, feed efficiently, and are lower in fat and higher in protein than any other meat, yet you don’t see them much on Vermont farms. Why is that? The few rabbits raised in Vermont are literally out of sight, as in raised indoors, tightly caged and strictly dieted. That method didn’t suit our style of farming, so when we started with rabbits we raised them in chicken tractors, moving them to fresh grass twice daily. (Pasturing rabbits increases the omega fats in their meat.) But even though they were outdoors and on pasture, we still weren’t satisfied.
As farmers we try to raise all of our animals being mindful of how they would live without us. Our birds, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and guinea hens can go wherever they like, and the pigs and lambs live in pastures between movable fences with movable shelters, enjoying organic grains and whatever they can root and forage. The cows and horses munch clover in huge leased fields, spacious enough that it takes an effort to lay our eyes on them some days. In the end the lifestyle shows; happy animals taste better.
The rabbits were our last confinement problem to solve. The tractors worked better than other methods but still lacked in freedom—and in containment, too, as we had our share of escapees. So what we finally did was make a well-fenced area with grass growing up through the fence to discourage tunneling out. And then we let them go. They now laze in the shade on hot days, hide in burrows, and take shelter under roofs and trees. We planted oregano and thyme (herbs good for their digestion) all over their field. And at dusk all the rabbits emerge from their secret places, and we watch them eat, play, and grow. When we pull a scrumptious, juicy rabbit pot pie out of the oven, we enjoy it even more, knowing how well our rabbits live and eat.