Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Raising Meat Rabbits in Alaska (Part 2)

We have all heard the description of some prolific procreators (of any species) as “breeding like rabbits.” So I thought that putting a male and female together would be easy. However, like most things in nature, we have encountered great variability in the rabbits we have raised. Some females are natural mothers; others don't know what to do. Some females successfully evade the efforts of males by speed or by aggressive biting, scratching and pushing; others are passive.  Some males are natural sperm donors and others just want the exercise of chasing a female around, followed by a meal and a nap. (Sound like any people you know?) A congenial mating pair can potentially produce about 4 kindlings (litters) per year, yielding 16 – 32 kits (babies).  A male with two females can possibly double that.  

We have experience with two breeds over two years: Flemish giants and satins (medium size).  We plan to buy additional medium sized breeds in the future, to see which ones work best in our setting and produce the most efficient feed:meat/care ratio.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Raising Ducks in Alaska

For several years, we have raised chickens and enjoyed their company, eggs, and insect eradication quite a bit.  Last winter, my husband suddenly thought, “Let's raise ducks, too. How different can it be?”

Well, four ducks later, I can tell you: VERY DIFFERENT.

Our chickens (Plymouth Rocks and Araucana) are analogous to quiet, diffident librarians, delicately “sipping tea and nibbling scones” in a warm, dry place, before going to bed early.

By contrast, the ducks (harlequins) are like big footed, gangly, noisy, messy teenagers, who strew their stuff all around, taking up space, spewing food and water everywhere, and wanting to stay up all night. When my husband first flew them to our property, in a tall pet carrier, I thought they were geese - they seemed so large.
Ducks leaving the lake, heading home

The woman in Palmer, AK, from whom we bought them, asked us to take a mating pair together, whom we named Mr. and Mrs. But because Mr. bonks the other two females with equal frequency (on land, in the snow or holding their heads under water – it doesn't matter), I can't say that I have observed any of the fidelity so famous in swans and loons. The other females we named Dora (because she was always the early explorer) and Daylate (which in retrospect is not well deserved, but at first, she always seemed “a day late and a dollar short”).

I found that raising ducks involved both “good news” and “bad news” - at least in our setting.