At Trickster Hares Farm we are part of a movement of people who are fed up with bad food – be it commercially produced vegetables, processed food, and factory raised meat. The nutrition and chi is just missing from food grown in this way. We would rather grow our own and know its nutritious, and be in contact and know the animals we eat. It is not easy to raise your own animals to eat. And yet, there is a sense of denial if we just buy meat somewhere else and pretend it wasn’t alive. We have great concern on how the animals were raised, whether they had a good life, and a quick death as peaceful as possible.
We don’t look forward to the big day of making food, but we do our best to honor the souls of our rabbits. We conduct a ceremony for our rabbits to help them transition to the other side. We see the difference in what happens during that time frame – the rabbits go from freaked out to a calm sense of peace. Seldom is there even struggle. Giving animals the time they need to adjust to leaving their bodies, being thanked, being asked forgiveness from, all honors the beautiful souls of these creatures we love, and honors the deep cycle of nature that we are part of, eating animals and plants to stay alive. We do not ever harvest carelessly, only on a day we have our full time and attention. Each living creature deserves this.
We are also locavores, preferring to eat food grown close to home – as much as possible. We eat what is in season, not what has been canned up or put in cold storage for months or flown in from Chile. Again, the chi is missing. I can feel it. My body does not come alive with happiness eating food that is old, stale, or from malnourished soil. There is something that roots us and puts us in harmony with our environment, and nature, by eating from the soil under our feet. I do not need to align with the minerals and soils in Chile. I need to be aligned with right here, Sonoma County, California. This is where I live, this is where to find balance, support, nutrition. I am part of this land, this land is part of me, as are alll creatures living on this land.
We don’t eat processed foods but we eat a lot of vegetables – more than we can grow. We’re working on increasing the planting density in our garden to grow even more. We have an ample supply of rabbit manure – one of the best manures for gardens! Rabbit manure doesn’t burn plants, and comes in time-release pellets!
Due to our connection with nature, we feel into our rabbits needs as well, and notice how many of them enjoy living socially. We try to keep sociable rabbits together to live in a more natural family pack. Our pasture pens can hold 15-20 adults, enjoying the colony peaceably. The secret is to introduce does when young. If they are babies, no one is offended by their presence. It is much harder to introduce adults and I don’t even recommend it. The system we’ve developed here that seems to work is to co-house the breeding does, remove them a week before they give birth. They get a private nursery cage for two months which is set right against the colony pen so they never lose touch with their friends. The babies are weaned by putting the doe back into the colony. As the babies grow, the keepers are put into the colony when they are big enough not to slip through the fencing. The remainder are put in a grow out pen which is rotated on the grass pasture.
The show rabbits or non-sociable rabbits are kept in hanging cages and some wooden hutches, for the Belgians. Some are co-housed if they are mother-daughter or sisters, we have even won Best of Breed with co-housed Beveren sisters. If a doe is going to move on to doing a full show circuit she usually will get housed on her own in order to put her into prime condition, watch her weight, etc. Any does that will be used for breeding continue to be co-housed.
For co-housed does, I will often drop down a hanging wall and divide a doe giving birth from her sister or mother, this keeps other rabbits with interfering with her nest or jumping in there. After a few weeks, when the babies are big enough to be hopping around and I feel no longer in danger, I lift the wall again to let the two adults co-mingle. Usually there might be a scuffle for a day or two while they re-establish their dominance and then its over. On rare occasion rabbits don’t take to the re-introduction, sometimes when its not the dominant rabbit who had the litter and she’s mad, in which case I just separate them.
Rabbits do have a hierarchy and who gets to breed are the ones at the top. If an underling gets pregnant she might get picked on, and so if I see that happen she is put into a birthing cage early and set inside the colony pen so she is still part of the herd. It takes watching and maintaining a herd in this way. Why do it? Its rewarding! I love being surrounded by a pack of curious rabbits pressing their noses into my legs, flopping out in the shade together, grooming each other. They clearly enjoy each other’s company. The only time there is disruption in the pack is when a rabbit is re-introduced or the top rabbit is removed for birthing, and a new pecking order has to be established. I’ve seen a lot of boxing but seldom is there serious injury.