I’ve known since starting this venture that death on the farm was inevitable. The chickens and rabbits we are raising are sources of meat for both our kitchen table and our dog’s bowls. Raising our own meat comes with the hardship of knowing at some point we are going to take a life.
What I wasn’t expecting was that it would happen so soon.
Thumper, our first animal here on the farm, has crossed the rainbow bridge. I went out to toss the bunnies their usual greens and the normally energetic rabbit was not there to greet me. Concerned, I checked around his hutch. He was lifeless in his house, it hadn’t been long since he had passed.
As much as he was a farm animal, Thumper had personality. I remember when we put him in the hutch for the first time. Up until he came here, Thumper spent much of his life living in a dog crate in a garage, so moving to the great outdoors was an adventure for him. At first, he was a little scared of the ramp but after a day or two he could bound up and down that ramp at full speed. He even figured out a way to get into the roof area of the hutch and hang out there. He was a happy bunny and he will be missed.
On a farm, life has a way of being cyclical. Just as Thumper’s life came to an end, new life entered the world. Life he created.
We have six baby bunnies, four dark and two white. We discovered them a week after Thumper’s death when the mound of fur one of the girls had made started moving around. We suspected she may have been pregnant and sure enough, she was. Now we have six baby bunnies to watch grow up.
With new life on the farm comes the likelihood that there will be more death on the farm…. and soon. Everything I have read suggests that eight weeks is optimal slaughter time for rabbits — however some backyard farmers wait 12 weeks. This is the part that scares me. It’s going to be hard. Right now they are sweet and tiny, I can’t imagine taking their lives. Luckily, I think most of this litter will be kept, the females anyway, to build up our breeding stock. So we may have a brief reprieve.
Hopefully by the time we do have to process the rabbits we have already gone through a chicken butchering. Even though I know that will be difficult as well I have no attachment to the flock of miniature velociraptors. I don’t find the chickens cute as I do the rabbits. I keep telling myself it will be easier with the chickens, but deep down I know it will be just as hard. As much as I say they are freeloaders and slightly terrifying they are pretty cool to watch as they peck around the property. I just try to watch the females more since they will find a permanent home in the coop.
That’s life on the farm I suppose. I never for a minute thought that the farm life would be easy and it sure isn’t. But the benefit of all of this is knowing where our food comes from and that to me, is worth all of it, even the hard parts.